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Driving From Rome To Florence

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Nov 7th, 2015, 03:15 PM
  #1
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Driving From Rome To Florence

This coming December my son and I are traveling to Rome. While we are flying in and out of Rome, we'd like to spend some time in Florence. I'm toying with the idea of renting a car and driving from Rome to Florence. I understand there are alot of great places to visit in between. Has anyone ever done this? Should I be concerned about driving in Italy? Any suggestions on who to use for car rental? Any help would be appreciated. This our first trip to Italy and want to take full advantage.

Thank you.
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Nov 7th, 2015, 03:54 PM
  #2
ira
 
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Hi K,

My suggestion is to take the train to Florence.

You won't need a car unless you wish to do a motor tour of Tuscany.

How long will you be in Italy?

>This our first trip to Italy and want to take full advantage.

Unless one of you is terminally ill, Italy will be there for your next trip.

ira is offline  
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Nov 7th, 2015, 04:34 PM
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Yes, there are a number of great towns to see between Rome and Florence. How many days are you allotting to see these towns? If not a few or more, it may not pay to rent a car. But we can get into that after you reply.

I haven't been to Italy in December but I drove all over in Sept - Oct during my trip and didn't have a problem (solo female traveller).

AutoEurope and Kemwel, sister companies who are US based consolidators, are the most recommended car rental companies.
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Nov 7th, 2015, 05:17 PM
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I would rent a car only if you are spending several days driving in the countryside - since it is impossible in both Rome and Florence (centers of both cities are pedestrian only zones).

Also you need to allow for potentially bad weather. It may be chilly or cold, you make get sunshine or fog or rain or even snow - although the latter is unlikely. Be sure you are comfortable driving on narrow country roads in those conditions.

If you just want to visit a couple of Tuscan hill towns you can easily do by train or bus or tour from Florence - depending on the town. And remember that the days will be short - no long lovely evenings for extra sightseeing as in the summer.
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Nov 7th, 2015, 05:52 PM
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If you really want to see Florence - and your time is limited, I suggest you just take the train. It only takes about 80 min, it's centre to centre and will definitely work out cheaper, as the cost of rental, fuel, toll and parking will come to a lot more than train tickets, and if you book now, you get cheaper tickets with fixed itinerary.
Alec is online now  
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Nov 7th, 2015, 05:57 PM
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You can actually take the train to many of those great places to visit, too.
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Nov 8th, 2015, 02:58 AM
  #7
 
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if you were going in Spring, summer or Autumn, perhaps a drive from Rome to Florence spread over several days might be fun, but in December I think that it would be more trouble that it was worth - short days, the possibility of bad/awful weather, cold and wet when you get to the places you want to see - take the train.
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Nov 8th, 2015, 03:37 AM
  #8
 
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I've driven this in January and apart from the depressing lack of leaves on the trees it is less than inspiring, yet there are some great towns to visit along the way, especially in the Tuscany area but unless you have loads of people in the group I'd take the train, which is warm and dry and spend the money saved on visiting parts of Florence outside the walls.
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Nov 8th, 2015, 04:32 AM
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"I understand there are alot of great places to visit in between."

There are, but do you have enough quality time to visit one or two in your itinerary? Or is this simply a one day thing, stop-the-car, have a quick look-see, and drive on?

For a first-timer, it takes time to visit new places off the beaten path. First, you have to find them and then deal with parking the car. Then there's usually a lot of walking involved. Many first-time visitors don't think about how much time this simple-sounding effort can take. Getting lost is common, and it can add hours that you never considered to calculate. In the planning stages, eyes are often much bigger than the clock on your itinerary can handle.

"Should I be concerned about driving in Italy?"

As a first-timer, the simple answer is yes you should.

Italy has always had its own road code. The answer to this question depends on your driving personality and your driving experience. Also, can you drive a manual transmission if you had to?

The real issue is: Rome and Florence no longer want non-residents to bring cars into their cities. So their ZTL zones have added another layer of complexity to the first-time driver experience. Not only do you need to study and memorize the Italian road signs, you need to study the ZTL zones, and you need to learn some Italian vocabulary. Even if you're good at reading maps, no map tells the whole truth. And learning the ZTL zones on paper is not easy.

Florence is a particular challenge. These days, you have to park on the outskirts of town to safely avoid ZTL, which can add a lot of walking to your visit.

The ZTL cameras are ubiquitous, and in the mad rush to see whether you're turning at the correct street, the cameras are easy to miss. First-timers must be prepared in their budget to pay the fines associated with ZTL infractions, and they can quickly rise to the hundreds of dollars.

Driving in Italy requires more work for a tourist than it ever has. And you have to decide whether or not the work will add the trip enhancement you're seeking.

Good luck.
NYCFoodSnob is offline  
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Nov 8th, 2015, 05:36 AM
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I wonder how many of those suggesting - no telling - you to take the train or bus do the same at home and I presume that they (almost 100%) are based in the US. And how many - apart from those living in NYC and perhaps Chicago - use public transport to get around. Why not? Because the car offers greater flexibility apart from anything else.

Some have mentioned the warmth of the train (this applies also to buses) but overlook the fact that you might have to wait some time in the cold for transport to turn up.

I think that in December a car is probably the optimum form of transport. When you want to leave you leave and you do not need to hang around in the cold.

Also a car allows you to stay on longer in aplace you like and leave earlier if you prefer. You are master of your travel plans rather than be dictated by train or bus timetables. Train or bus routes which only allow you to go to limited locations unless you invest a huge amount of time to allow you to visit the more obscure towns as far as most posters ignore.

I would suggest driving North following one arc and returning following another. The two arcs could be Viterbo - Volterra/Tarquinia - Lucca/Pisa - Florence and returning via Arezzo - Orvieto.

Some comments have mentioned the problem of ZTLs in Rome and Florence. If you have a car you do not need to stay in Florence. You have the flexibility to stay outside and travel into Florence by train or bus.

Whilst in the Florence area a car will enable you to visit Siena, San Gimignano, Castellina, Gaiole, Monteriggioni, Greve all within a day or two. Criss-crossing Tuscany in a car allows you to stop at an unexpected location or whatever which is not possible in a train or bus.

From your posting I do not feel that you must tick off certain locations. The beauty of Italy is the unexpected and a car gives you greater opportunity to experience the uniqueness of this beautiful country.
nochblad is online now  
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Nov 8th, 2015, 07:51 AM
  #11
 
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I can see both points of view, but it depends on what you want to see and do. I agree that if you mainly just want to get to Florence and spend most of your time in Rome and Florence, a car will be more of a burden than a convenience. If you can spend at least a few days on the journey, a car will allow you more flexibility.

Italy uses the standard EU road signs, with some slight local variation. Here is a summary of European road signs, showing local variations.

The warning about ZTLs should be taken seriously. I live in Italy and would be very hesitant to drive in the center of a city I don't know well.

If you want to take the train to Florence, stopping off in some smaller city, three that come immediately to mind are Orvieto, Assisi, and Arezzo. You should spend at least one night in the intermediate city, both to be able to see more than a glimpse, and also to solve the problem of where to leave your bags while you explore.
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Nov 8th, 2015, 10:51 AM
  #12
 
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For me, it would come down to how many days were available for this part of the trip. I don't much like driving in the dark in unfamiliar places, and sunsets come early in December. I agree that driving in Italy as a tourist requires research and attentiveness. Having GPS helps a bit, and each driver must have an International Drivers Permit. Personally, I'd rather explore Tuscany in the spring or fall.
Jean is offline  
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Nov 8th, 2015, 11:57 AM
  #13
 
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I wonder how many of those suggesting - no telling - you to take the train or bus do the same at home and I presume that they (almost 100%) are based in the US. And how many - apart from those living in NYC and perhaps Chicago - use public transport to get around. Why not? Because the car offers greater flexibility apart from anything else.>>

I'm a brit and I take the train quite a lot, especially to travel longish distances. It would be my transport of choice in December to go from Rome to Florence which is what the OP is asking about.

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IME train stations are pretty warm, as are trains. Buses and bus stations can vary but the obvious choice here is a train from Roma Termini to Firenze SMN. Simples.
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Nov 8th, 2015, 01:08 PM
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We had a car that we used to visit Siena, San Gimignano, Villa d'Este and taking some small roads and seeing some watercascades etc.

Quite handy to have a car.

(We had a terminally ill with us, but it is not mandatory to have one, I could do it again without - the one we had did die 1 month after the trip).
pariswat is offline  
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Nov 8th, 2015, 01:32 PM
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whether it makes any sense to drive -- depends almost entirely (or at least to a major degree) on how much time Kelly can devote to the trip. Until she returns and answers that we are mostly shooting in the dark.

(She did register yesterday and this is her first post, I do hope she knows how to get back to her thread and isn't waiting for notification from Fodors)
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Nov 8th, 2015, 01:41 PM
  #16
 
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I live in the US, and no, I do not take a train here often because our train system goes only up and down the East Coast, connecting major cities, and one route cross country. Public transportation system in general does not connect anything except large cities and within large cities. Also, trains, even if they did offer service, which they do not, by comparison with Italy are expensive here.

So, when I can, I do use our public transportation and many people do on the East Coast. DD takes the bus or train from Baltimore to NYC to work all the time. She has never driven it. In the NE, many people do because the system is good. Around DC, many people drive to outplaying parking lots and take public transportation into the city. Away from there, however, and you have absolutely no choice. There simply are no local or short distance trains or buses connecting major cities to rural ones or rural one to other rural ones. Nothing connects our small towns. I wish it did. Why do we not use public transport? It is not available. In Italy, it is available, fast, frequent, cheap and city center to city center.
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Nov 10th, 2015, 02:32 AM
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A good public transportation system requires a certain population density, which the USA doesn't have in most parts of the country.

Even in Italy, there are not many public transportation options once you get out of the densely populated areas. Small towns usually have no train station, and only limited bus service. Typically there are a few buses that go to a larger town in the morning and a few that make the return trip in the afternoon. (That's usually the reverse of what a tourist using the larger town as a base would want.) Bus service on Sundays and holidays is very sparse.

As an example, someone staying in Siena can get a bus to Montepulciano or a bus to Montalcino, but scheduling it to get to these towns in the morning and return to Siena in the afternoon is a bit of a challenge. And there are no buses connecting Montalcino and Montepulciano; it's a hub and spoke system. Buses connecting towns in different provinces are also hard to find.

I realize that in much of the USA there isn't even sparse public transportation. My daughter teaches at a large university in the Midwest USA, and there is no public transportation at all from that town to any other towns nearby. There is some local transportation in the town. One would think that there might be enough students to support publice transportation to other towns, but in reality almost all the students have cars. They have cars because there are no buses, and there are no buses because all the students have cars.
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Nov 10th, 2015, 12:19 PM
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"I think that in December a car is probably the optimum form of transport."

I think that in December train is the optimum for of transport. Bad weather can really become a concern, and in the section around Arezzo fog is frequent. Trains will bring you from city center to city center in 90 minutes while the same trip by car, even in good weather, would be three to four hours. A car makes sense if you have very bulky luggage or you plan long detours to minor destinations.
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Nov 10th, 2015, 01:03 PM
  #19
 
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I recently stayed in Rome, Umbria and Florence. We took the train from Rome to Orvieto. We rented our car from Hertz. Three days later we returned it to the Hertz in Chiusi and took the train from there to Florence and then eventually Florence back to Rome. I had no problem driving around Tuscany & Umbria (once I got used to the signs and roundabouts) but I would not be comfortable driving anywhere near Rome or Florence, personally.
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Nov 10th, 2015, 02:26 PM
  #20
 
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asps and others - read the original posting. The OP queried hiring a car to better explore places between Rome and Florence. If her intention was just to travel between the two it is obvious that the train is the optimal solution.

As bvlenci points out it is not easy to move from one part of Tuscany to the other apart from certain clear routes. As I said and repeat your travel plan is determined by train or bus times and this does not necessarily give you sufficient flexibilty if you want to leave a place earlier or later than initially planned. With a car you have control and you do not spend time in a cold train station or at a cold bus stop waiting for your connection. Not all train stations have waiting rooms or even heated ones.

I agree that driving in Rome and Florence is not easy - quite apart from the question of ZTL areas. But why should you even have to drive in Florence. Find a place just outside and take the train or bus into the centre when you actually want to see Florence rather than the other towns where parking is easier.

Sure it gets dark early in December but do you stop driving when it gets dark back home? If you have or get a decent data plan you will find that Google maps works in Italy with voice instructions. OK the info is not as good as in certain countries regarding real time traffic info but it will still tell you how to get to your destination.
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