December 28, 2013, 04:58 PM
Advice/Tuscany 4 days/Driving
I am desparate for some guidance. I'm taking a train from Venice to Florence, the morning of March
15th , I have until March 18th early evening, which is when I'm taking a train to Rome, so I can be in St. Peter's square and hear mass/Pope. Here is what I would like to do but I'm scare since I've never rented a car in Italy and driven in Italy. I would like to spend the day in Florence on the 15th. Then on the 16th, go to Pisa and Lucca. On the 17th, I would like to rent a car in Florence drive through the scenic route, I would like to do a couple of winery and also sight seen along the way, in hopes to catch a castle. I am traveling with my best friend who has never visited Italy and this is a trip of a life time for her. I would like to drive from Florence to Siena, spend the night in Siena. Then I would like to take a drive to Cortona on the 18th. Come back to Siena, drop of the car, hopefully still have some time to be in Siena. Then take the last train to Rome. It sounds like the drive from Florence to Siena is the best known for the beauty I'm hoping that's still the case during March. I just need some reassurance that it's easy to drive out of Florence and get on the scenic route and also that that I can accomplish all that I've mention. I also don't know if I can just walk in to a winery or if I have to make reservations. I need help to fit the best in these four days. The driving would be a first for me, which is what I'm really looking forward to doing it.
I want to thank everyone in advance for your feedback...
Last edited by Jennifer70; December 29, 2013 at 02:38 PM.
January 7, 2014, 05:11 AM
Driving in Italy
I am by no means an expert on the subject, but we've been to Italy and Sicily quite a few times and have driven there, too. First: most European cars are manual, meaning that you would have to know how to use a stick shift rather than and automatic transmission. For a car with an automatic transmission you will have to pay extra and they can be hard to come by, so you need to make plans right away. You will also need an international drivers license, which you can get at your local AAA office. Also check what type of insurance coverage you will have through the credit card you will use to rent the car so that it can supplement anything you purchase. Be careful of what you are sold as far as insurance coverage.
It would also help if you review the roads that you plan to travel. Some of the roads that aren't major can be quite tricky to maneuver on. While the idea of driving around Italy is romantic and exciting, it can be very harrowing. You have to make alternate plans in case the road you want to travel is closed for any reason. When we were in Sicily last year, we had to circumnavigate our original route because of a strike that just started out of nowhere and closed down a whole section of the town.
Speed limits are much faster than in the US. Gas is also very expensive. Many of the larger cities now have limited access by car, if at all, so you have to consider that as well.
Just my opinion, but I hope it helps you. If you have any other questions you think I can answer just let me know. Hopefully, someone else will help you, too!
January 20, 2014, 06:35 PM
Ciao Jennifer and welcome to the forum!
If you're excited at the possibility of driving here, then I think you will be fine!
All of the tips Irene has given about driving here are correct, especially as regards the stick shift and the narrow roads, but as an American myself, I have to say whether you'll find them scary or not depends on what you've driven on before and what you're used to.
Personally, I was used to the wide, multi lane highways in California, but even there, when I had to drive up into a mountain, I got on some pretty narrow roads that were scary. In comparison, the roads you'll find between Florence, Siena and Cortona are not like that at all. They are 2 lanes, and narrow in comparison to US roads but the scenery makes up for it ;-)
So you can do the 15th in Florence, the 16th in Pisa and Lucca (by train) and then on the 18th rent the car in Florence - there are car rental agencies near the train station that are easy to get to and they'll show you the way to drive to get out of the city center so that you won't have problems getting out of it. Check out this page for more details and a map.
From Florence, you basically want to get on the "viali di circovalazione" and head in the direction of "Firenze Sud" - you don't want to take the autostrada, though. Just head toward Bagno a Ripoli and Grassina - follow signs for SS222 which is the Via Chiantigiana. The road is windy and does go up and down, speed limit in towns is 50 kph and 70 outside of towns. Italians like to speed, I just ignore them!! if they want to risk passing me on those roads, it's their problem LOL!
Anyway, I recommend you stop before you reach Greve in Chianti at one of the wine shops along the road - there is Castello Vicchiomaggio right on a curve on the right side of the road in Localita' Vicchio, there are 3 wine barrels in the field to the right so you'll see it a bit before you arrive right at the exit - but if you miss this one, then keep going and after a few more curves you'll also find Castello di Verrazzano, still on your right. There is a group of houses along the road right before, but there is a wide parking lot so you might see it easier as you drive by.
These two are wine shops with wine tastings and tours to their castles that don't require booking ahead of time during the week so you just stop and see when the next tour starts. Verrazzano has more tours in general, and in the mornings, while the Vicchiomaggio has only one in the afternoon.
Then continue on to Greve, Panzano (lunch here), Castellina to arrive in Siena basically for dinner and to sleep. There are more wineries around Panzano too, with signs for the shops on the road - all wine shops offer tastings without need to reserve.
You could head out to Cortona the next morning and have lunch there, that way you can head back and spend more time in Siena. It can be done - the driving between Siena and Cortona I would recommend on the bigger roads so that you spend less time driving - basically the "raccordo" from Siena to the A1 and then the A1 down to the "Bettole" exit. If you want to do some shopping, there is a certain Valdichiana outlet center there so you could stop for a quick peak ;-).
You can do it!! if you have any other questions, do let us know!!