If you’re planning to stay in and around Florence, you’re unlikely to need a car. But if you want to get a real feeling for Tuscany, a car is essential. It’ll allow you to see the smaller towns, explore the region’s hidden corners, and enjoy some of Italy’s most scenic drives.
Do I need a car to travel around in Tuscany?
If you’re travelling to southern Tuscany, Chianti, Maremma or Val d’Orcia, a car is a must. Public transport does exist but it’s not frequent or planned with the needs of tourists in mind. Getting between the smaller centres by bus can be very time consuming. Not ideal for those wanting to visit the small towns that are often the highlight of a Tuscan holiday.
With a car it’s easy to organise a trip based around scenic drives, travelling between quiet, out of the way little towns. Tuscany is a land of hidden surprises, with ancient country churches, hilltop towns, and spectacular views around every corner. And the real beauty is being able to explore all this at your leisure and go where your instincts lead you.
If you’re planning a stay in one of the areas’ many agriturismi or country bed and breakfasts, a car is your best option as it gives you the freedom to roam around the country without having to worry about timing. If on the other hand you’re based in Florence and you only want to have a couple of excursions in the nearby area, you can easily use public transport to get to Siena, Pisa, Lucca or Arezzo for the day.
Is it easy to drive in Tuscany?
First things first, driving in Italy requires a bit of concentration. The country roads are a pleasure to drive and the motorways are fairly well maintained. But Italy does have its share of impatient drivers that often overtake on curves, like to flash their lights and don’t respect a safe distance. So be extra careful, and pay particular attention to passing scooters that like to zip in and out of traffic.
Driving in Florence
We don’t advise driving around in Florence unless you have to. The main reason being that the city centre is out of bounds to non-resident drivers, and you get fined if you pass one of the check points without a permit. If you’re staying in a hotel in the centre, make sure you organise permission to drive around in the ZTL area (Limited Traffic Zone) to avoid any problems. It’s good to make sure you organise parking beforehand as well. Please note that the ZTL restricted areas exist in all main cities where the centre is usually reserved for residents.
PARKING IN FLORENCE city centre is very expensive. Ask your hotel if there’s dedicated parking or if they can book you parking nearby. If you’re just there for a day and you’re driving, you can also park at the outdoor parking areas, though you’ll need to seek them out. The blue bays are ‘pay and display’ areas for visitors – the white ones are for residents. In other cities the colours of the parking zones may differ, so make sure you check beforehand.
Tips for driving in Tuscany
In general if you’re travelling in high season, parking can be a struggle even in smaller towns. As a general rule of thumb it’s best to try and find parking just outside the city centres, and walk or bus the rest of the way. Alternatively you can pay for private parking in the city centre, but it’s usually quite pricey especially in bigger and more popular towns.
DRIVING LICENCE – European driving licences are valid. Anyone else is encouraged to have an International Driving Permit along with their licence, but this is rarely enforced.
RENTING A CAR – Renting a car at Pisa or Florence airport is comparatively easy. Bring proof of address, passport and credit card. Remember to choose a smaller car, it’ll save you parking hassles.
SPEEDING – There are speed cameras on most motorways now, and there are signs to warn you of them in advance. Speed limits: 130 km/h motorway – 50 km/h towns – 70 km/h outside towns; unless otherwise indicated.⇒⇒
MOTORWAYS – Motorways are indicated with green signs, and are all toll roads. You get a ticket when you enter the motorway, and pay when you exit. Cards are accepted but it’s easier to pay with change. Main routes are: A1 (Bologna- Firenze-Arezzo-Roma) – A11 (Firenze-Prato-Pistoia-Lucca) – A12 (runs along the coast, Genova-Viareggio-Pisa-Livorno)
STATE ROADS – These indicated by blue signs and are abbreviated to “SS“. These aren’t toll roads and only have two lanes.
Check out our article Where is Tuscany for a geographical introduction to the region.