When it comes to fashion, culture and cuisine, Florence, the art capital of the Italy, certainly knows what it is doing. The art in the city is simply exquisite, with greats like da Vinci, Michelangelo and Giotto all having left their distinctive marks. Exploring the narrow streets of Florence is quite a treat, but reaching out past the city’s boundaries can be even more rewarding. Situated in Tuscany, Florence is a perfect base from which travellers can wander the surrounding areas. Whether a wine tour, an architectural excursion or simply a drive through the stunning Tuscan countryside, the options are endless.
Who to Book With
Travellers are spoiled for choice when it comes to car rental agencies in Florence as most of the major companies, including Hertz, Avis and Budget, are all represented. There are also a few local companies like Italy by Car that come highly recommended. These agencies can usually be found at the central railway station, at the airport and at a few other locations in the city. Online booking is a good way to make sure you aren’t paying inflated high season rates.
Best Time to Go
The peak tourism season in the city is during summer particularly in July and August, when temperatures soar to highs of 35°C. Prices during this time can be expected to soar as well, so advanced bookings on accommodation and car rentals are advised. Winter sees much moisture in the city which tends to make driving conditions a bit more difficult.
Need to Know Essentials
The following items are required for travellers to collect their car:
- An International Driving Permit (even if you are in possession of an EU driving licence)
- The credit card used to make the booking
- A form of photographic ID, like a passport
- Third party insurance – but this can be purchased when making the booking.
For more info read our FAQ's.
Driving in the centre of Florence does not come highly recommended. Not only are the streets in the CBD extremely narrow and difficult to navigate, but most of the centre is also a ‘Limited Traffic Zone’. The only cars allowed in the area are those belonging to residents who are in possession of special permits. Cars found without a permit face being fined an average of €90. Hiring a car in Florence only makes sense if you are planning on visiting the surrounding areas. Otherwise, it could be far more of a hassle and a waste of money.
Parking in the city is just as restrictive, with local residents and tourists residing in hotels (armed with permit, of course) being the only ones allowed to leave their cars on the street. This time, cars found parking without a permit will not incur a fine, but rather be towed immediately.
You can read more about general driving in our guide to Italy.
To make up for the restrictions on vehicles in the centre, the city has put forward a well-run and well-maintained public transport system. The system, operated by ATAF, is comprised of buses and trams. There are also local taxis but unfortunately no local train lines. Most of the centre can actually be navigated by foot, as the city is rather small and the sites are close together.
Tickets can be purchased from bus stations or from vending machines on the actual vehicles. Travellers have their choice of single journey tickets, which are valid for 70 minutes from purchase. Those who plan on staying in the city for longer should consider investing in a three-day pass or, even better, the Firenze Card. The Firenze Card also lasts for 72 hours but allows access to any mode of transport and up to 30 museums.
The main form of public transport in the city is the local bus. The network of over 50 routes is quite extensive with buses travelling to almost everywhere in the city. Services run from 05:30 to 21:00, after which a less frequent night bus takes over until 00:30. A bus route map can be collected, free of charge, from any one of the ATAF kiosks. Journeys on the bus system are not too expensive, with a full day ticket amounting to around €5. All tickets need to be validated before boarding; validation machines can be found at all terminals and on the buses.
Taxis in Florence are definitely an option but are not the most popular form of transport as they can be terribly expensive. In theory, taxis can be flagged down from the side of the road, but in practice this is not so simple. It is often easier to just book a taxi in advance, although travellers will be charged to the distance from the depot to the point of collection. A reputable company offering such services is Radio-Taxi.
Florence is located in the gorgeous region of Tuscany and thus surrounded by many natural, cultural and culinary attractions. The city itself is obviously a gem, but only a few hours outside of the city walls, travellers will find some of the best wines, the most inspiring architecture and a few down-to-earth towns as well.
Chianti Wine Region - If it’s wine you’re looking for, look no farther than the Chianti Wine Region. Located only a couple of hours from Florence, the region is made up of several wine-producing towns and, of course, vineyards as far as the eye can see. Visitors should come ready for a sampling as many of the wineries offer free tasting sessions.
Vinci - Travellers interested in making a daytrip should head to the small town of Vinci, the birthplace of the legendary Leonardo da Vinci. There museum, dedicated to his life and work, is well worth a visit, but the centre of the town is also filled with charm and deserving of an afternoon of curious exploration.
Pisa - Another great daytrip is to the famous city of Pisa, home to the well-known leaning tower. Once the main attraction has been visited, though, travellers can explore the heart of the city, which is rich in medieval architecture. The nearby river makes for a lovely afternoon stroll, and the cafés lining the riverside are the perfect sport for dinner.