Renting A Car In Tuscany: 25 Tips To Avoid Scams & Headaches
Renting a car in Tuscany can be the key to unlocking the full potential of your Italian adventure.
This beautiful part of Italy is famous for its art, culture and food, however, so many little gems are hidden in the stunning countryside.
Hiring a car in Tuscany will give you the freedom to visit the unique Val D’Orcia where they filmed part of the Gladiator, stop at any genuine local winery, and explore the amazing thermal baths (some of them are free).
However, navigating a foreign country’s roads and rental rules can be daunting. This guide offers 25 essential tips to help you avoid scams, headaches, and common pitfalls, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable Tuscan driving experience.
But let’s start with the most important thing
Table of Contents
- 1 Driving Side
- 2 Renting A Car And Rental Terms To Know
- 3 Insurance for Renting a Car in Tuscany
- 4 Size of the Rented Car in Tuscany
- 5 Type Of Roads In Tuscany
- 6 Speed limits
- 7 Toll Roads in Tuscany
- 8 GPS and Navigation Systems – How to Drive Around Tuscany
- 9 Avoid the ZTL Areas
- 10 Parking in Tuscany
- 11 Petrol Stations and Fuel
- 12 Seatbelts
- 13 Drinking and Driving
- 14 Child Safety and Car Seats
- 15 Driving Etiquette and Safety Tips
- 16 Roadside Assistance and Emergency Numbers
- 17 Public Transportation Vs Renting a Car in Tuscany
- 18 7 Scams to Avoid when Renting a Car in Tuscany
- 19 5 Amazing Scenic Routes you should Experience in Tuscany
Driving Licence Requisites
Renting a car in Tuscany requires a valid driving license. An EU/UK license will do and in this case, you can skip this section and go to the next one.
You need to organise an IDP (International Driving Permit) for Italy if you do not have an EU or UK license. The IDP is a translation of your domestic license and is recognized in 186 countries.
You can apply for an IDP at the American Automobile Association website in the United States. Canadian drivers can get an IDP from the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), while Australian drivers can obtain one from state and territory motoring clubs or the Australian Automobile Association.
It is an easy process and it takes just a few business days. The cost can vary between USD20 and USD40 based on the country.
Ensure your license is valid for the duration of your trip, and remember to carry both your IDP and your domestic license when driving.
Italians drive on the right side of the road, like in every European country. If you already drive on the right side, you can skip this section and jump to the next one.
I live in Australia and whenever I am in Italy (usually every year) I take it easy for the first couple of days and I magically get used to the right side. Pretty straightforward forward I must say.
These are my best 3 tips.
- Patience: Give yourself time to adapt to the change. It may feel awkward initially, but with time you’ll adjust.
- Practice: Try driving on less busy roads or in a parking lot to get a feel for the new orientation before venturing into heavy traffic. If in panic or confused about the direction, stop on the side and wait for cars to come (they are a great reference)
- Stay Alert: Pay extra attention to road signs, roundabouts, and junctions where it’s easy to revert to left-side driving habits.
Renting A Car And Rental Terms To Know
Renting a car in Tuscany is a relatively easy process. However, for the best rates and options, consider booking your vehicle via an aggregator website. These platforms compare prices from a variety of rental companies, helping you to find the most suitable deal.
I always book my car on DiscoverCars. Besides the great price, they rate every rental agency based on real customer reviews (a sort of AirBnb of cars). This helps a ton to select not only the best price but also a great service, besides avoiding possible scams (more on this later).
Before confirming the booking, it’s crucial to understand the terms of the rental contract. Familiarizing yourself with these terms can save you from unexpected surprises:
- Rental Period: This term refers to the duration for which you are renting the car. Make sure you understand the pickup and drop-off times as returning the car late could result in extra charges.
- Rental Age Requirement: The minimum age to rent a car in Italy is generally 21, with some companies requiring a minimum age of 23 or 25.
- Excess: The maximum amount you’d pay if the car is damaged. I will talk more extensively in the next session about the type of insurance when you rent a car in Italy.
- Fuel Policy: This outlines how you’re charged for fuel. The most common type is ‘full-to-full’, meaning you pick up the car with a full tank and return it full.
- Mileage Policy: This stipulates whether there’s a daily limit to the distance you can travel without incurring extra charges.
- Cancellation Policy: Most companies offer free cancellation up to 24-48 hours before the pick-up time; cancellations within this period may incur charges.
- Additional Fees: Possible fees include young driver surcharges (usually for drivers under 25), extra equipment (e.g., GPS, child seats), and additional driver fees.
Understanding these terms will help you make an informed decision and ensure a smooth car rental experience.
Insurance for Renting a Car in Tuscany
While Italian law mandates third-party liability insurance, it doesn’t cover damage to the rental car or theft, so it’s advisable to get additional coverage. Rental companies offer a variety of insurance packages, including:
- Collision Damage Waiver (CDW): This limits your liability for the car’s damage.
- Theft Protection (TP): Limits your liability if the car is stolen.
- Full Insurance (No excess): to cover 100% of the excess. Basically no extra cost in case of any accident or damage (dent, scratch, etc)
- Personal Accident Insurance (PAI): Covers medical costs from an accident.
These insurances can be costly if purchased through the rental company. An alternative is standalone car hire excess insurance (Full Insurance), which is much cheaper. DiscoverCars offers one during the booking process for just 7 Euros/day which is a bargain.
This insurance is claimed back, meaning you’ll need to pay the excess upfront and claim it back from your insurer later. I had one occasion I returned the car back with a small damage and DiscoverCars promptly refunded my payment.
Usually CDW, and quite often TP, are included in the rental fee, however with an excess of 1,000 Euros or more. Buying Full Insurance is such peace of mind!
Size of the Rented Car in Tuscany
While larger vehicles offer more space and comfort, they might not be the most practical choice for Tuscan roads.
Many towns in Tuscany, particularly in the historic centres, have narrow and winding streets that can be a challenge to navigate with a large car.
Furthermore, parking spaces in these areas are often limited in size. Therefore, a smaller car is usually a more convenient choice.
Here’s a quick guide to help you decide.
|Small||Easier to manoeuvre and park in narrow streets, consumes less fuel||Less space for passengers and luggage|
|Medium||More space for passengers and luggage, relatively easy to handle||Might be harder to park in tight spaces|
|Large||Maximum comfort and luggage space||Harder to manoeuvre and park, consumes more fuel|
Type Of Roads In Tuscany
Tuscany has a diverse network of roads, each with its unique characteristics.
Here’s a breakdown.
|Type of Road||Description|
|Autostrade (Highways)||These are toll roads and typically have multiple lanes. Speed limits are higher, and these roads connect major cities.|
|Strade Statali (State Roads)||These are main roads that connect smaller towns and are usually dual carriageways.|
|Strade Provinciali (Provincial Roads)||These roads connect smaller towns and rural areas. They can be narrow and winding.|
|Strade Comunali (Municipal Roads)||These are local roads within towns and can be very narrow, particularly in historic centres.|
My favourite roads to drive, and I may add the most picturesque ones, are the Strade Provinciali. You should include driving at least one in any itinerary of Tuscany.
These are the roads that I am sure you have seen in so many pictures, winding down the Chianti area or Val D’Orcia. They are spectacular, sometimes even more than the final destination itself. I know, it’s a bit of a cliché but that’s what you will encounter in Tuscany.
And that is why I highly suggest renting a car in Tuscany, to experience the beautiful countryside, the highlight of the region, in my opinion.
The drawback of these roads is that to get from A to B will take 2 or even 3 times more than on a Hway. That is because these roads are more often than not very winding and you will make several stops along the route for the panoramic view.
Speed limits vary depending on the type of road and the area. Here’s a general guide:
|Type of Road||Speed Limit (km/h)|
|Autostrade (Highways)||130 (110 in adverse weather)|
|Strade extraurbane principali (Main extra-urban roads)||90|
|Strade extraurbane (Other extra-urban roads)||70|
Speed limits are strictly enforced in Italy. Fines for speeding can be quite pricey.
I have been to this region so many times in the last 20 years and I can tell you everything about where to stay in Tuscany. And I can also assure you that there was an incredible increase of Autovelox (speed cameras) installed on both the main roads as well as secondary roads, especially leading to the towns. Watch out!
Also, a few years back, in Italy, they installed a new speed check on the Hway called Tutor. This checks the average speed between two points on the road, and not anymore the peak speed.
Basically, the message here is that you should never pass the limit.
Toll Roads in Tuscany
Tuscany, like other parts of Italy, has a network of Autostrade or highways that are toll roads. Tolls are calculated based on the distance travelled and can be paid in cash or by card at the toll booths.
Avoid using the Telepass system, even if you have a reader on the car. The processing fees may be even more expensive than the toll itself.
The main toll roads in Tuscany are the A1, connecting Florence with Bologna and Rome, and the A11, connecting Florence with the coast (Pisa). Always keep your entry ticket safe as you’ll need it to calculate the toll when you exit.
For an estimate of toll costs, you can use the online calculator provided on the Autostrade per l’Italia website.
Here is a table to give you a quick idea of the costs. Keep in mind that these are estimated Prices and km. They may vary based on where you start in Florence and the actual final exit (for example, Pisa has two exits)
|Route||Est. Distance (km)||Est. Toll Cost|
|Florence-Val D’Orcia (Exit: Chianciano Terme)||137||€10.10|
|Florence-Umbria (Exit: Fabro)||155||€11.50|
Driving around Tuscany can be a real joy. The region’s rolling hills, sunflower fields, vineyards, and olive groves are mesmerizing.
However, it can also be a challenge due to the winding roads and hard-to-find rural locations. That’s where GPS and navigation systems come in.
Investing in a good GPS system or utilizing your smartphone’s GPS can be a game-changer.
Most car rental companies offer GPS systems as an optional extra, but you can also use free apps like Google Maps or Waze. These apps offer turn-by-turn voice guidance and traffic updates, which are particularly useful when navigating Tuscan roads.
I personally suggest using Google Apps or Waze. They are usually updated with new roads in no-time (something missing on the car GPS) and they have traffic and other real-time information.
Waze has also the social aspect of it, to cover sudden accidents or police speed checks
|Google Maps||Free, easy-to-use, comprehensive, offline maps available||Requires data connection for real-time updates and route changes||More feature-rich and flexible than most in-car systems|
|Waze||Real-time updates from users, integration with music apps, route suggestions to avoid traffic||Requires constant data connection, less accurate in rural areas||Better at avoiding traffic than in-car systems, but less reliable in remote locations|
|Sygic||Offline maps, premium features, heads-up display||Requires a one-time payment, occasional map inaccuracies||More advanced features than in-car systems, but at an additional cost|
|In-car Navigation||No data connection is needed, always available||Less feature-rich, map updates may be less frequent, and limited search options||More convenient in some situations, but smartphone apps generally offer a better experience|
Avoid the ZTL Areas
Italian cities, including those in Tuscany, have restricted zones known as Zona Traffico Limitato (ZTL).
These are areas where vehicles are limited at certain times to reduce congestion and pollution. Unauthorized vehicles entering a ZTL are caught on camera and fined. No questions asked.
To avoid these fines, make sure you’re aware of where these zones are located. They are generally well signposted, and your GPS system should alert you.
If you’re staying in the city centre, find out from your accommodation about ZTL rules. The hotels may also send you a special permit or they have special agreements for nearby parking.
These are the ZTL operation times for the 4 major cities in Tuscany. Keep in mind that they could change, so read carefully the sign (as photo below)
|City||ZTL Operation Time|
|Florence||7:30am-8pm (Mon-Fri), 7:30am-4pm (Sat)|
|Siena||24 hours (with some exceptions)|
|Lucca||7:30am-6pm (Mon-Sat), 12pm-6pm (Sun and holidays)|
Parking in Tuscany
Parking in Tuscan cities can be a challenge, especially during peak tourist season. It’s important to know where to park your rental car to avoid fines.
Generally, parking spots are colour-coded. Blue lines indicate paid parking, white lines indicate free parking (though sometimes only for residents), and yellow lines are reserved for special categories (disabled, deliveries, etc.).
|Parking Type||Description||Typical Costs|
|On-street Free Parking||White-lined parking spaces, no payment required||Free|
|On-street Paid Parking||Blue-lined parking spaces, payment required (usually via parking meter or mobile app)||€1 – €3 per hour (varies by area)|
|On-street Accessible Parking||Yellow-lined parking spaces, reserved for individuals with disabilities (with proper permit)||Free for eligible individuals|
|ZTL (Limited Traffic Zone)||Restricted traffic areas, usually in historical city centres; fines for unauthorized entry||Fines for unauthorized entry|
|Private Parking||Paid parking lots or garages, often operated by private companies||€10 – €25 per day (varies by area)|
|Hotel Parking||Parking offered by hotels, may be included in the room rate or charged separately||€0 – €20 per day (varies by hotel)|
You should download EasyParking on your mobile. This is such a handy App for parking. First, you forget about coins, credit cards, etc.
Second, you will pay only for the time you have actually the car there thanks to the possibility of either extending your stay or cutting it short.
Siena is one of the most complicated cities to leave the vehicle and this is why I organised this ultimate guide to parking in Siena. You will find also free parking if you do not mind some walking.
Petrol Stations and Fuel
Petrol stations (gas stations) in Tuscany are quite common, especially along the motorways and in towns.
They usually provide both petrol (benzina) and diesel (also called gasolio). Service hours may vary.
Some stations, especially in the small towns and villages close for a few hours in the afternoon and possibly on Sundays too. Many stations have self-service pumps available 24/7.
Every station has 2 areas:
- Servito pumps indicate that someone will come to put the petrol into your car
- At the Self-Service pumps, you have to do it yourself, however, typically there is a discount of 7-10% on the cost of the petrol.
Remember to check the fuel policy in your rental agreement. Most car rental companies in Tuscany operate on a full-to-full policy, meaning you should return the car with a full tank of fuel to avoid extra charges.
Wear always your seatbelt, doesn’t matter if you are seating in the front or the back.
Law enforcement officials are strict about this rule, and fines can be quite hefty.
Drinking and Driving
Drinking and driving laws in Italy are strict. The legal blood alcohol content limit is 0.05%. This goes down to 0% if you have been driving for less than 3 years.
What does it mean? It means that you should not drink a drop if just starting to drive. Otherwise, limit to 1 glass of wine. The second could take you already over the limit.
If your plans in Tuscany involve visiting wineries and indulging in the region’s renowned wines, here are five tips to do so safely and responsibly:
Designate a Driver: If you’re travelling with a group, choose someone who will abstain from drinking for the day and be the designated driver. This way, everyone else can enjoy the tastings without worry.
Hire a Driver or Tour Guide: Another option is to hire a local driver or book a guided wine tour. Everyone will enjoy the wine tasting and you will benefit from the local knowledge.
Use Public Transportation: In some areas of Tuscany, public transportation can be used to reach wineries. It must be said that this is very rare and it may work well when the wineries are close to a town.
Stay Overnight: Consider booking accommodation close to the winery or at the winery itself. This is actually a great experience to have, besides not being worried if you drink over the limit.
Pace Yourself and Hydrate: If you decide to be the driver and still want to partake in tastings, pace yourself. Have a small taste and then discard the rest. And remember to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water to help mitigate the effects of alcohol.
Enjoy your wine-tasting experience in Tuscany responsibly.
Child Safety and Car Seats
Italy has specific regulations regarding child safety in vehicles that follow the EU legislation.
Children under 36 kg (approximately 79 pounds) or 150 cm (approximately 4.9 feet) must use an appropriate child restraint system.
It’s essential to inform your rental company about your needs in advance to ensure the proper child seat is available.
Here below is a table with all you need when staying in Tuscany with kids.
|Group||Weight Range||Height Range (approx.)||Car Seat Type|
|0||Up to 10 kg (22 lbs)||Birth to 1.5 years||Rear-facing infant carrier|
|0+||Up to 13 kg (29 lbs)||Birth to 2.5 years||Rear-facing infant carrier|
|1||9-18 kg (20-40 lbs)||1.5 to 4 years||Forward or rear-facing child seat with a harness|
|2||15-25 kg (33-55 lbs)||4 to 6 years||High-backed booster seat with a seatbelt|
|3||22-36 kg (48-79 lbs)||6 to 12 years||High-backed booster seat or a booster cushion with a seatbelt|
Driving Etiquette and Safety Tips
When driving in Tuscany, it’s crucial to respect the local driving culture and laws to ensure a safe and pleasant trip.
Here are some key tips:
- Overtaking: Overtake only from the left. Overtaking on the right is generally prohibited unless in a built-up area with multiple lanes in your direction.
- Roundabouts: Vehicles within the roundabout have the right of way.
- Horns: Only use your horn in situations of immediate and severe danger.
- Lights: Use headlights on all roads, day and night. After dark, use full-beam headlights but dip them for oncoming traffic.
- Take it easy: This is especially true when you travel in the countryside and small villages. The locals do not stress and you should not stress them. You are not in a city afterwards. Things are different in Florence, though.
Roadside Assistance and Emergency Numbers
In case of emergencies, while driving in Tuscany, Italy has several emergency numbers.
The general emergency number is 112 (the same as 911 in the U.S.). For roadside assistance, you can call the Automobile Club d’Italia (ACI) at 116.
If you’re renting a car, most car rental agencies provide a dedicated number for roadside assistance, which should be located within your rental documents. Always keep these numbers handy.
|Type of Emergency||Phone Number|
|Roadside Assistance – ACI||803116|
|Roadside Assistance – Rental Company||Varies (Check rental documents)|
Public Transportation Vs Renting a Car in Tuscany
Tuscany has a relatively well-connected public transportation system with regular bus and train services to most towns and cities.
However, renting a car offers a degree of flexibility and convenience that public transport can’t match, especially when exploring the countryside or smaller towns.
My suggestion is to rent a car if you plan to visit the countryside, experience the local culture in the small villages, and travel to the famous spas (some of them are spectacular and free).
If you plan to visit the cities/towns (for example Florence, Siena and Pisa) and have a day trip to the Chianti wineries, then public transportation works better.
Here is a quick table comparing the two options.
|Public Transportation||Renting a Car|
|Cost||Lower initial cost, ongoing ticket costs||Higher initial cost, plus fuel and potential tolls + parking costs|
|Flexibility||Fixed schedules and routes||Complete freedom to explore at your own pace|
|Convenience||Limited to urban areas, not ideal for the countryside||Access to all areas, including rural|
|Experience||City experience, less stress||Potential stress, but more personal experience with a local touch|
7 Scams to Avoid when Renting a Car in Tuscany
- High Pressure Insurance Sales: The rental agency may try to sell you additional insurance, even if you already have coverage. Know your insurance status before you arrive. I always suggest buying the Full Insurance from DiscoverCars, a real bargain at just 7 Euros/day.
- Fuel Charges: Some rental companies may charge exorbitant prices for fuel if you don’t return the car with a full tank. Always refuel before returning the car.
- Extra Equipment Charges: It’s not really a scam but be aware that items like GPS devices or child car seats can come with hefty rental fees. Consider bringing your own if possible.
- Damage Charges: Some unscrupulous companies may try to charge you for pre-existing damage. Always inspect the car thoroughly before driving off. Make photos to every side of the car as well as the inside.
- Traffic and Parking Ticket Scams: Some scams involve fake traffic or parking tickets. Always verify any fines with local authorities.
- Airport and ‘Premium Location’ Fees: Picking up a car from an airport or certain ‘premium’ locations can attract an additional fee. Check this before booking. Usually, these fees are included in the final price when booking online.
- Unwanted Upgrades: Sometimes, you might be ‘upgraded’ to a larger, more expensive car without your consent, leading to higher fuel costs.
5 Amazing Scenic Routes you should Experience in Tuscany
Chianti Wine Route (Via Chiantigiana SR222)
The Chianti wine route is perhaps one of the most iconic scenic drives in Tuscany.
It winds through the heart of the Chianti wine region, connecting Florence to Siena.
You will drive through characteristic medieval villages, wineries, and the typical rolling hills of the region.
|Stop||Distance (from start)||Description|
|Florence||0 km||Start your journey in the Renaissance city of Florence, famous for its art and architecture.|
|Greve in Chianti||31 km||Known as the ‘gateway to Chianti’, Greve offers numerous wine-tasting opportunities.|
|Panzano in Chianti||42 km||Visit the Castle of Panzano and enjoy panoramic views of the Chianti region.|
|Castellina in Chianti||58 km||Explore this ancient town’s charming streets and the impressive Rocca (fortress).|
|Siena||100 km||End your journey in Siena, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its medieval brick buildings.|
Val d’Orcia Route
The Val d’Orcia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, renowned for its beautiful landscapes, picturesque villages, and cypress-lined roads.
|Stop||Distance (from start)||Description|
|Pienza||0 km||Start in Pienza, a perfect example of Renaissance architecture.|
|San Quirico d’Orcia||12 km||Visit the Collegiata Church and the Horti Leonini gardens.|
|Bagno Vignoni||16 km||This village is famous for its thermal waters.|
|Montalcino||37 km||Home of the world-renowned Brunello di Montalcino wine.|
|Montepulciano||58 km||End in Montepulciano, known for its wine and the beautiful Piazza Grande.|
Maremma Coastal Route
This is not the typical scenic drive you would expect from Tuscany.
It does not go through hills, but instead along the coast in the Maremma Area.
This is where you will find unspoiled beaches, amazing nature and some lovely local restaurants
|Stop||Distance (from start)||Description|
|Grosseto||0 km||Start in Grosseto, the largest city in Maremma.|
|Marina di Grosseto||14 km||Enjoy some beach time in this popular seaside resort.|
|Castiglione della Pescaia||24 km||Visit the medieval castle and the bustling harbour.|
|Punta Ala||38 km||This luxury resort is known for its beautiful beaches and marina.|
|Follonica||55 km||End in Follonica, a popular family resort with beautiful sandy beaches.|
Lucca to the Apuan Alps
This route takes you from the walled city of Lucca to the majestic Apuan Alps, passing through several charming Tuscan towns along the way.
It’s one of the still-unknown gems of Tuscany, a beautiful area not too far from the coast
|Stop||Distance (from start)||Description|
|Lucca||0 km||Start in Lucca, known for its well-preserved Renaissance walls.|
|Barga||35 km||Visit this beautiful hilltop town, known for its views and historic architecture.|
|Castelnuovo di Garfagnana||45 km||Explore the town’s charming historic center and the Rocca|