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Florence First Time-Driving thru Tuscany?

Florence First Time-Driving thru Tuscany?

Aug 27th, 2007, 10:28 AM
  #1  
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Florence First Time-Driving thru Tuscany?

Folks,
Booked a trip to Florence, Italy for the first time next summer. Never been to that country. I just booked the Hotel David and I am curious about renting a car and driving thru Tuscany and the various places of interest in that region. Can anyone help with rental companies? Is there a nearby Avis or Hertz? Is driving there crazy? What do I need beside my Virginia driver's license. Any insights are surely appreciated, including thoughts on a cool route through the country side, neat towns, etc. I'm in Flornece for a week, so I'd figure a 3 day jaunt. Thanks. Mark
Mohawk is offline  
Aug 27th, 2007, 10:41 AM
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I would recommend the train to someplace like Orvieto and pick up your rental car there. Take the train back to Florence. One of my true travel nightmares was returning our car to Florence.

It is my understanding you will need an international driver's license in Italy(we did) and if you have renewed your stateside license in the past year, you will need it wherever you go in Europe. We got our IDL through AAA for $10 each.

I found driving in Italy a bit crazy especially in Chianti. That being said, take heart. We found our way home even in the dark of night. We rented through AutoEurope and always do. We have rented via their own website and also through our travel agent. If you have an American Express Business Account, you might be able to have CDW and an extra driver covered at no additional cost.

Another tip:if parking in Siena follow the signs for parking "Campo".
PamSF is offline  
Aug 27th, 2007, 11:28 AM
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Don't miss Lucca. Also, for a day trip, go to Fiesole, up in the hills. Lovely. And Poppi.

I second PamSF's advice not to drive in Firenze. (Florence) We picked up a car downtown once and it took us an hour just to get to the autostrada. If you look at a map of Firenze, you willsee that the streets run every which way, and the street name changes every few blocks. Plus the street signs are posted high up on the corner buildings, if at all, and many streets are one-way.

I have never gotten a car at the airport there, so maybe you could bus to the airport to start, and return the car there, too. Can anyone comment on that?

Charnee
charnees is offline  
Aug 27th, 2007, 11:41 AM
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> Any insights are surely appreciated <

You'd be better off if you book the car from home. Use Andy at gemut.com 800-521-6722.

You need no International Drivers License to rent the car. In case you get involved with the police, you'd need an International Drivers PERMIT which is basically a translation. For $10 you can get it at your local AAA.

No, the roads are NOT crazy. As a rule, you can't drive into the towns; you need to park outside the walls.

Some of your 'neat towns' would be Siena, San Gimigliano, Montalcino, Pienza, Montepulciano, etc. (there are many more of course.)
TuckH is offline  
Aug 27th, 2007, 12:07 PM
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This may help !

DRIVING IN ITALY & SOUTHERN EUROPE

Q. SHOULD WE DRIVE IN ITALY?
A. Of course you should if your driving skill & confidence would allow you to drive a rental car in Vermont, Colorado or California. But, be advised of these tips:
* Avoid driving in the major cities except for picking up or dropping cars
* Have good maps—study them in advance—and have a GOOD NAVIGATOR.
* Stay in the right lane except when passing and use your rear view mirrors

Q. WHAT CAR SHOULD I GET AND WHERE DO I GET IT?
A. It is best to rent your car before you leave for Europe. The best source we have found is AUTOEUROPE [800-223-5555] who is a broker for several car vendors. They will quote you prices to include the variables that are often omitted by others, such as unlimited mileage, full mandatory insurance coverage, and VAT taxes. The best model will depend on your needs, but for best value we suggest you select a compact car with manual transmission. Automatics are available but will cost you about 30% more and may limit your model options & pick up locations.

Q. ARE ITALIAN DRIVERS AS CRAZY AS I HAVE HEARD?
A. Yes & no! They are certainly aggressive, but they are also more skilled than many USA drivers—both are a function of necessity. Italy is one of the most crowded countries in the world and the drivers have evolved these characteristics
* They are notorious tailgaters. If that bothers you, pull over and let them past.
* On the AUTOSTRADE they will drive fast, but will stay in the right lane except when passing and will use their blinkers when passing—YOU SHOULD TOO !
* They will often pass on 2-lane roads with traffic coming. Frankly, they expect you, and the oncoming car, to adjust to the shoulder and make 3 lanes of traffic.

OTHER ROAD TIPS FOR YOUR DRIVING SANITY:
1. Learn the meaning of the sign “ SENSO UNICO” and take heed [ONE WAY ].
2. Be sure to get your ticket when you enter the AUTOSTADA system & be prepared to pay the toll when you exit it [ rule of thumb—300 km=15 Euro]. You can use your credit card in the VIA lane at the toll both, or buy a debit VIACARD in advance.
3. Do NOT attempt to follow road numbers—that will frustrate you. But, do pay attention to the directional signs that point to your destination [ TO MONTALCINO]. And, be aware if that road leads eventually to a larger city [ ROMA—SIENA ETC.]
4. Unless you have a diesel car, you will want to fill the tank with benzina from the green pump. Most stations will pump gas for you and will take credit cards.

NOTE: As of 2005, an International Drivers Permit[IDP] is required in Italy.
You can obtain them from your local AAA office. You will need a valid US driver’s license, two passport photos, and $10. The photos can be taken at the AAA office.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Aug 27th, 2007, 12:13 PM
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Hi

My wife and I went to Florence and Tuscany in July this year. We started out with 4 days in Florence and then we rented a car from Avis and we drove into Tuscany and had a short stop in Pisa as well. In Tuscany there was not much traffic so we didn't have a problem but it might be useful to have a GPS Send me a mail on [email protected] and I'll let you know when my trip report is ready

Regards
Gard
http://gardkarlsen.com - trip reports and pictures
gard is offline  
Aug 27th, 2007, 01:05 PM
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We rented a car from Siena (Autoeurope) last September. We got a taxi from the hotel out to the car rental place just outside the city and drove off from there through Chianti - Grieve - San Giminano, etc. Once we got off the motorway coming out of Siena it was very easy to travel. Very quiet country roads; very little traffic. We took train travel from Pisa to Lucca and to Siena, but the car is a must for Chianti and other parts of Tuscany. Had no problems at all.
Padhraicin is offline  
Aug 27th, 2007, 01:55 PM
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And when they pass you and have the left blinker on it means they intend to re-enter the right hand lane!
PamSF is offline  
Aug 27th, 2007, 03:06 PM
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Most of us suggest you use Autoeurope to book your car. They are very competitive with few surprises. They are a broker and you may end up with Hertz or Avis which have downtown and airport pick-up locations. You pay in advance and are given a voucher(all cancellable).

Your first time driving into or out of Florence will be a challenge but properly prepared, it is doable. Heed Bob's advice and study the maps and one way streets. I find the drivers predictably aggressive(like all europeans) but skillful and attentive--much more so than Americans.(no cell phones and only in fast lane if passing)

Get the IDP and you won't worry. A car is the only practicable way to explore Tuscany as trains don't go everywhere and the schedules can put a crimp in your visits. Enjoy yourself and the adventure. Paul
macanimals is offline  
Aug 27th, 2007, 04:07 PM
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I think bobthenavigator has given a lot of good info about driving in Italy. Except:

I would characterize the drivers as assertive - not aggressive. You won't see lots of road rage - but most drivers have no patience if you don't follow the rules - by clogging up the left land - WHICH IS FOR PASSING ONLY. (The latter is dead serious. Italians take driving much more seriously than americans - and are generally much better drivers.)

The other issue is parking. Many Americans are used to mall style parking - while in europe most parking will be parallel - in spaces barely bigger than the car. So - if you don;t do a lot of parallel parking brush up on your skills - from both sides (many streets are one-way, so you can park on either side).
nytraveler is offline  
Aug 27th, 2007, 04:10 PM
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By the way - we do road trips in europe all the time - and love the driving there. We're also not hesitant to drive into or out of any of the big cities (but not around in them - which is just silly for anyone - except in a movie.)

Caveat: we're both used to driving in New York - and I've been known to scare the cab drivers.
nytraveler is offline  
Aug 27th, 2007, 09:47 PM
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bookmarking - great suggestions!
2010 is offline  
Aug 28th, 2007, 01:16 AM
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You can pick up the car in the Florence airport - we used Kemwell and actually got the car from EuropCar. One piece of advice - take along a portable GPS system - one that can input maps of Europe - we did that and it was invaluable - saved a lot of grief and map reading.

Driving in Tuscany with that was not a problem at all. We drove from Certaldo to Lucca, Assisi, San Gimnignano, Greve in Chianti, Montereggioni, Poggibonsi and Montefioralle - beautiful countryside.
jstangl is offline  
Aug 28th, 2007, 03:19 AM
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Mohawk:
We rented a car through AutoEurope, picked it up at the Florence Airport and dropped off my Dad and his wife at the Hotel David before continuing to Siena. Bob the Navigator's driving advice is perfect: you MUST know the major cities towards which you'll be traveling, as the signs for turn offs will not generally state "north" or "south". Leaving Florence airport, for example, heading for Hotel David, you need to take the Roma exit (not Milano). Other than this, the Hotel David driving directions got us there without a hitch.

As you approach your hotel you'll see a sign for route SS 222 - the Chianti Way, so you'll easily find your way from the hotel onto one of the greatest drives: towards Siena - breathtaking like all the driving through Tuscany appeared to me. You'll have the greatest time!
blueridge is offline  

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