Driving in Tuscany
This is by far the “riskiest” of things to do. Speed traps, limited traffic zones and parking are but a few of the hazards one faces when driving yourselves around in Tuscany. However the only way to comfortably enjoy the marvel of Tuscany’s countryside while staying at a villa or farm is renting your own vehicle. Public transportation in rural areas is scarce and irregular, you will need to travel to local shops and supermarkets as most of the accommodations do not offer meals and often even breakfast.
There is of course an abundance of car rental agencies and sites offering all the different solutions, we will not list them for you that is something Google can do far better than us... The only thing to note is that Automatic cars are not as common in Europe, if you are uncomfortable with the stick shift, we recommend you book your automatic car as soon as you can as they run out quickly! Other aspects of renting in Italy is the same as other countries, insurance (we always recommend full insurance), damage assessment, fuel, etc.
There are many traps and things to look out for when travelling in Italy. For instance; most historical town centres, even the smaller ones have limited traffic zones, off limits to regular vehicles. If you have accidentally strayed into a historical centre with your car, know that you might receive a fine of €100 for every time you crossed a “Varco” or gate and the digital camera photographed your license plate. The fine will be forwarded directly to the rental company that will then process your credit card.
Parking can also be a bit of a challenge in Tuscany, the towns were not built for cars. Close to city centres, free parking is close to impossible. Whenever you have parked in blue lines on the pavement, parking must be paid. There will be a column close by where you can pay for parking, the receipt with the time parking is paid on it should be set up inside the car on the dashboard where it can be seen from outside.
Parking on Yellow lines is forbidden, these sports are reserved for invalids, authorities, taxi’s, etc.
Parking on white lines is free! Sometimes the time you may stay there is limited to a few minutes (close to city centres, train stations and other busy areas). There will be a paper clock you can set somewhere in the car (usually on the front windshield) with the arrival time, if you do not have the clock in your car you can also write on a piece of paper “arrivo ore __:__” using the 24 hour clock, this will not guarantee that you will not get a ticket anyway, but it helps.
Speed Traps are a plenty, you must either stick to the speed limit (even if no one else does) or be on guard against electronic traps, these are more common on main roads, but can also be found on quiet rural roads or close to villages and schools. By Italian regulation however, you must be notified before the trap with a sign preceding it. Somewhere on the sign you will read:
The trap itself is usually a grey column on the side of the road or a camera. These fines vary according to the speed you where travelling in but can reach into the hundreds and will also be automatically forwarded to the authorities that will then charge the rental company that holds rights on the credit card number you left as a deposit.
Generally most roads in Tuscany have good road signs, it is generally fairly easy to get around just following the signs when you know what you are look for and the route you have chosen. There are just a few things to know in order to read the properly.
Blue signs with white characters are usually for towns and cities, these are sometimes however not the fastest way to get there, green signs are for motorways or roads leading to motorways which can be a faster option. Browns signs with white lettering are usually for tourist sites and monuments. To get to the city centre you can usually follow white signs with black lettering with either Centro or a black and white bullseye logo on it.
Italy has a very good railway network that can take you to even the smallest of towns, however sometimes the station can be quite far from the town, even km’s, it is recommended to check on Google maps the whereabouts of stations particularly if in rural areas and small towns. For travelling between the main cities and regional capitals there are plenty of high speed trains that will take you to the city centres quickly and comfortably.
You can check timetables and make reservations on the National Railway Site www.trenitalia.com , If you purchase your ticket from the ticket office or automatic teller they will most probably need to be stamped with the time and date before entering the train. Close to the tracks there will be a small machine for entering the ticket to get validated.
Some towns and areas are only served by Buses. Tickets can be purchased at bus stations, local buses can usually be found also in tobacconists and news agents close to the bus stops. These need to be validated when boarding the bus in the machine (usually close to the driver). If you are stopping in rural or isolated areas it is recommended you advise the driver to tell you when you have arrived.
In City centres, airports and stations there will be an abundance of Taxi stands where you can get a ride to where you need to go. However according to Italian regulation you cannot “flag down” a taxi, you must take it from an allocated taxi stand or book a pick up. We suggest you ask either the restaurant or hotel to book one for you. In larger town centres and cities a 24 hour phone service is available:
Here are the numbers for the Taxi call centres in Tuscany:
Taxi service Siena: +39 0577 49222
Florence Taxi service: +39 055 4390
Pisa Taxi Service: +39 050 541600
Lucca Taxi Service: +39 02 5353
Livorno Taxi Service: +39 0586 886266
Here are some useful sites that can help you plan your trip.
Siena city and Siena-Florence bus timetable
Low cost long haul buses from and to Siena
Florence museum reservations (only in Italian)
Florence urban buses
Reliable weather forecast for Tuscany
Ambulance – 118
Police – 113
Yellow pages - 892424