Hired driver or rental car in Tuscany?

May 31st, 2014, 06:17 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2014
Posts: 124
Hired driver or rental car in Tuscany?

Hello all! As some of you have read, I am planning my first trip to Italy in 2015. This is my original post with my rough itinerary if necessary http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...ional-trip.cfm

I have planned to spend up to 5 nights of the middle of my trip in Tuscany.
In my other thread we talked about spending at least two of those nights in Firenze and then moving on to somewhere else in the region; an agriturismo, a hill town, Siena...etc so of course car rental came up. So did hiring a private driver. While both sound appealing I think the hired driver sounds a but more attractive to us newbies. However, I'm having a hard time finding prices for divers to price compare. I also realize that not driving ourselves might limit our experience a bit not being able to just roam about on our own time.
I also think renting bicycles sounds pretty great, and would like to hear if you have any experiences to share.
I'm checking out discovertuscany.com and a few other resources. I've found lots of great reviews, but am still having trouble really comparing my two options. How is the price comparison and does the extra cost of private driver (assuming it is much higher) weigh out the hassle of international permits, tolls, and all those other things that intimidate us freshies so much?
A lot of the past threads about this are either old or are not for the area I am going to be in...so I thought it was time for a new one. I thank you in advance for your help
cbgetaway2015 is offline  
May 31st, 2014, 06:45 AM
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Having driven in most of Italy's regions, I always found Tuscany (out of the major towns) to be easy driving, good signage, plenty of gasoline stations, roads well maintained. Driving yourself, would be my suggestion. Freedom adds to the overall experience. Enjoy your fist visit...you'll be back!
tower is offline  
May 31st, 2014, 07:07 AM
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I agree---give Florence 2 nights and then get a car for 3 nights in rural Tuscany. I could get the car at the airport to avoid driving problems and I would drop it in Orvieto and then train into Rome. Look at Terre di Nano in south Tuscany.
bobthenavigator is offline  
May 31st, 2014, 07:08 AM
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You don't need to worry about tolls if you stay off the main north-south highway, the Autostrada del Sole. An International Drivers Permit is quick and easy to get at your local AAA office. For about $25 they'll even take your photo for the IDP. (Be sure to bring your license also; the IDP is only a translation.)

Really three nights is only 2 full days, plus some partial days. You could hire a driver for one full day. But a rental car would make better use of your time. If you do this, pick up the car at Florence's airport, out of the city and the danger of driving into a ZTL (q.v.).
Mimar is offline  
May 31st, 2014, 07:35 AM
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Choose to rent a car, easy to drive in Tuscany and you'll have more freedom.
HappyTrvlr is offline  
May 31st, 2014, 10:43 AM
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I agree with the rent your car opinions. Been driving there for 20 plus years. Easy to get around the small towns.
I would hire a car only if money was no object and you prefer to be taken care of by someone on a vacation as opposed to an adventure on your own.
SkipHudgins is offline  
May 31st, 2014, 10:57 AM
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I can't imagine hiring a driver and not being able to plan my days on my own and take spontaneous detours - plus, just sharing space all day long with someone I don't know, no matter how professional, kind of creeps me out.

You don't need to pay any tolls if driving around rural Tuscany is your goal. The international driver's permit involves a quick trip to AAA before you leave - there's nothing intimidating about that at all.
StCirq is offline  
May 31st, 2014, 06:19 PM
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I concur entirely with previous comments - do your own driving. Our only unfortunate experience was finding a place to park in Siena - after driving through and past innumerable parking lots, we finally found the parking garage at the train station, and got a cab to the main piazza. We certainly could have walked to the piazza, but after wasting 45 minutes looking for parking, we decided the small taxi fare was certainly worth it.
knoxvillecouple is offline  
May 31st, 2014, 07:19 PM
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We rent a car for tuscany and the driving is easy. However, we have also hired a driver for a day or half day to take us on winery visits. That was nice because no one had to abstain due to being the designated driver.
KayTKay is offline  
May 31st, 2014, 08:10 PM
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Ok so after my two nights in Florence should I rent my car on my way out of Florence and drive on to the next? Or should we train to Siena spend the day and pick up our car there? We could then drive on to wherever we decide to stay. Dropping it off in Orvieto as bobthenavagator suggested.
Bobthenavigqtor- when you say airport you mean in Florence?
cbgetaway2015 is offline  
Jun 1st, 2014, 05:10 AM
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Yes, Florence airport.
But,you raise a good point if you plan to spend all day in Siena. Check the car rates for 2 or 3 days--may be about the same. Also, check days of the week. It will need to be dropped before noon on Sat. and not on Sunday.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Jun 1st, 2014, 05:20 AM
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I agree with the majority, hire a car. Meandering through the Tuscan countryside can be enchanting.

The downsides are a) Cities and the dreaded ZTLs (no go areas unless you have a permit - they can result in seriously expensive mistakes).
b) Parking - can be tricky and/or expensive - €1.50 and hour or more.

Slightly at a tangent, but Florence to Siena is better by bus: The bus station is right next to the train station in Florence, but the bus stops at the top of the hill in Siena.
willit is offline  
Jun 1st, 2014, 07:29 AM
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If you can drive a manual transmission, then by all means look into renting a car in Siena. If you only drive automatics, you're more likely to get that at Florence's airport. (You may reserve an automatic to be picked up in a smaller outlet, but they might not have one when you get there.)

Also check the opening hours when dealing with small town car rental offices. In Italy they may close in the afternoon.
Mimar is offline  
Jun 1st, 2014, 09:22 AM
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Join Date: May 2014
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We both can drive manual Mimar. That is great info to have. Great responses and advice as always everyone! Thanks!
Do we have to pay additional fees at hotels/b&bs to park our car while we stay there?
I see that it is pretty much unanimous that renting a car is the best way to see Tuscany. I don't doubt that and I appreciate and value all of your advice! I'm almost convinced! I would like to hear if anyone has experiences to share (either positive or negative) where they didn't rent a car and explored the other, more limiting options.
Also bicycle rental for smaller adventures anyone? What about Vespa/scooter rental?
cbgetaway2015 is offline  
Jun 1st, 2014, 09:32 AM
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Hotels and B&Bs in towns typically do not have parking - but they can give you info on the nearest garage. If on the town outskirts or countryside they typically have parking but you need to check.
nytraveler is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2014, 01:28 AM
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When I was at a language school in Siena, several people hired cycles to explore the areas nearby, but they were all regular cyclists who didn't mind the unpaved "white roads" and for whom 30-50 miles was doable. There is an article here which might explain better.

As for Vespas/Scooters then yes, there are several places to rent them, but I would be careful unless you are an experienced scooter user/motorcyclist. Once out of town, you'll be fine- but I'm not sure I'd want to ride one in , for example, Florence.

There are ways to get around without a car, but it does limit you. For Example you get get buses from Siena to San Gimignano (might need to change at Poggibonsi), but getting to Montalcino or Montepulciano is far trickier.
willit is offline  

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