Getting Around Tuscany by car
Touring Tuscany with your own means of transportation gives you maximum flexibility and there are many areas in Tuscany where a car is really the only option to visit them. The main roads are good if often busy. The traffic around Florence, on the autostrade and superstrada between Florence and Siena can be intense at times as they are used by commuters getting to work and back home. So try to avoid driving into or out of Florence around work start and end times (8-9am, 6-8pm)
Remember that the autostrade are toll roads, but there aren't that many in Tuscany. The backbone of the Italian motorway system, the A1 (Autostrada del Sole) goes from Bologna through northern Tuscany, swings around Florence and heads southeast towards Arezzo and Cortona before continuing on to Rome. Off the A1, the Autostrada Firenze Mare A11 motorway connects Florence to Lucca/Pisa and the Autostrada A12 motorway moves along the seacoast from Genoa and La Spezia through Viareggio, Pisa and Livorno. The road continues all the way to Rome but at Rosignano Marittimo, south of Livorno, the roadway ends and the road continues along what is called the "Via Aurelia" which isn't a toll road (yet).
A couple of four-lane, toll free roads do exist as alternatives to the autostrade. For example, the SS1 (Via Aurelia) along the coast is four lanes almost all the way from Livorno Sud (south) down to Tuscany's southern border with Lazio. The SGC highway (known as the Fi-Pi-Li) connects Florence, Pisa and Livorno. The Firenze-Siena, which starts near the A1 "Firenze-Impruneta" entrance/exit, is a toll free, 4 lane road that links Florence and Siena. It almost runs parallel to the SS2, also called La Cassia or Senese, which is an ancient road that links Florence and Siena (and continues on to Rome - don't worry, it is paved). As two lane road, it passes through many hill towns on the western edge of the main Chianti area, so expect a winding road that goes up and down through beautiful landscapes. The Firenze-Siena skips most of these small towns, making it convenient when you are interested in reaching the same parts of Tuscany a little faster or to get to Siena and beyond a bit quicker.
Away from the main centers, the smaller back roads frequently offer pretty drives but be prepared to take your time. Progress around Tuscany's winding roads can be slow - but very beautiful!
For traffic information, you can call CIS Viaggiare Informati at 1518, a number active 24 hours a day.
|Main Roads in Tuscany
||from - to|
|Motorways A1 A11 A12, Firenze, Empoli, Siena, Pontedera, Valdera, Livorno|
|SS 1 Aurelia (state road)||Rome, Grosseto, Livorno, Viareggio, Versilia, Massa, Carrara, La Spezia, Genoa, Motorway A11|
|SS 12 dell'Abetone e del Brennero
|Lucca, Garfagnana, Abetone, Modena|
|SS 224 (state road)||Marina di Pisa, Tirrenia, Valdera, Porto di Livorno|
|SS 67 (state road)||Florence, Empoli, Siena, San Miniato, Pontedera, Valdera, Volterra|
|SS 206 (state road)||Cecina, Castagneto Carducci, San Vincenzo|
|SS 2 (state road)||Florence, Poggibonsi, Siena|
|Main Motorways||from - to|
|A12 (toll road)||Rosignano, La Spezia, Parma, Genoa|
|A11 (toll road)||Bologna and Rome (A1 motorway), Firenze, Prato, Pistoia, Montecatini, Lucca|
|A1 (toll road)||Bologna, Florence, Siena, Arezzo, Cortona|
Basic Road Rules
- In towns, speed limit is 50 km/hr rising to 70 km/hr on secondary roads (as you exit towns) and 110 km/hr on the autostrade.
- Outside of city centers, all cars and motorcycles need to use headlights.
- Roundabouts are common. Cars already on the roundabout generally have the right of way, but this is not always the case. Pay attention to local example and to signs (as local example can be quite chaotic).
Gasoline (benzina) in Italy is among the most expensive in Europe. Prices have been around € 1,70 per liter lately for unleaded (senza piombo) gasoline (about $9 per gallon)! Stations along the autostrade generally cost up to 10 cents more per liter.
Gas stations on the autostrade are open 24 hours a day. Otherwise, hours tend to be from 7.00 am to 12.30 pm and from 3.30 to 7.00 pm. Many are closed on Sundays and holidays, and those that open then are then closed on Mondays. Don't assume you can't fuel up if the station is closed; if you can drive in into the station, it means they likley have self-service pumps that accepts bank notes so you can fuel up anyway.
Breakdown, Accident or Emergency
As a rule, holders of auto insurance with foreign organizations such as AAA (USA), AA (UK) or RAC will be provided with an emergency assistance number while travelling in Italy. You can also call the Automobile Club d'Italia (ACI) for roadside assistance and a tow by calling 116. If you have the appropriate insurance, you should be covered. It is likely in any case that an ACI truck will show up regardless of the number you use.
For more serious trouble, call the Police at 113, Fire department at 115 or Ambulance at 118.
In general, in most cities (such as Florence and Siena) you should park your car and then forget about driving it around town. Driving in the historical center of most towns is either banned or restricted and finding a legal parking spot can be a nightmare. Until you know your way around, park in a designated metered parking area or parking lot/garage. If you leave the car away from the center, you can generally find free street parking.
When you do drive around in the cities such as Florence, it will be a bit chaotic and unnerving initially. Road rules and traffic lights are generally respected, but many drivers will drive very close to you (not respecting safe stopping distances) and many double park (as a way to resolve the problem of looking for and not finding a parking spot). So have a lot of patience and you will survive ;-).
Never leave anything valuable in your parked vehicle. When possible, do not leave anything in the car AT ALL because the sight of suitcases or bags invites thieves to help themselves.
All the big companies have offices in the main cities and airports in Tuscany. These are some numbers for rental companies that you can call from within Italy:
|Auto Europa||800 33440|
|E@sy Car||800 939293|
|Liberty Rent International||050 48088|
|Sixt Rent a Car||800 900666|
|Thrifty Italy by Car||800 846083|
* The 800 numbers are toll-free within Italy; the 199 and 848 are NOT free numbers and generally cost more than a normal phone call (you should be informed of the cost of the call within the first minute of dialing the number - this gives you the option to hang up without being charged).
If you have any further questions, post on our forum. Enjoy driving in Tuscany!
You can also move around Tuscany:
About Lourdes Flores
An American living in Florence for over 12 years, Lourdes loves to explore and discover new places in Tuscany - trying to maintain the eyes of a "tourist" despite the experience of living in Italy for so many years ;-). She loves to share her experiences through this website, offering help in travel planning on the Forum - if you have questions for Lourdes, post them there!
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