Are you heading to Tuscany and trying to decide if you should rent a car or just use public transport?
Maybe you know you want to explore the countryside with a rental car but you’re not sure about the roads, parking, or where you should go.
Either way, this guide’s for you!
While you can visit Tuscany using other modes of transport (more on that below), you can really get to know the magic of Tuscany by leaving the main cities and exploring its hilltop villages, scenic vineyards and rolling hills, and remote lodging and restaurants.
Having a car allows you flexibility, freedom, and control over your day. Sample pecorino cheese in tiny Pienza, soak in the hot springs at Saturnia, lounge at Tuscan beaches or visit the remote Sant’Antimo abbey near Montalcino.
With some proper planning and preparation, your time driving a rental car in Tuscany can be stress-free and memorable!
Why listen to me? I’ve been driving here since 2003, as a guide, resident, solo traveler, and now mom-of-three. I’ve driven many types of vehicles in Italy, including large vans with trailers, FIAT 500s, sports cars, and station wagons.
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Is It Worth Renting a Car in Tuscany?
Quick Answer: NO, if you’ll only be visiting main cities like Florence, Siena, and Pisa – all of which are easily accessed by public transport (trains and buses). YES, if you want to spend time in the Tuscan countryside exploring small villages.
Renting a Car to Visit Cities in Tuscany
Tuscany’s cities can all be reached by public transport (for example, Florence, Siena, Pisa, Lucca, Pistoia, Empoli, Livorno, Viareggio, Arezzo).
Some smaller cities and villages can almost be reached by public transport – the train gets you close, but then you need to taxi or bus to the city (for example, Montepulciano and Cortona).
Still, if you’re just planning to visit cities and landmarks in cities, don’t rent a car – you don’t need it and it will actually be a pain. You’ll need to find (and pay for) parking, worry about ZTLs, and drive in cities (which isn’t fun).
Renting a Car to Visit the Tuscan Countryside
If you want to explore the Tuscan countryside and its small villages, I highly recommend renting a car.
Having a car allows you the flexibility to go where you want, when you want. You can stop and take photos with sunflowers, chat with a farmer harvesting his crops, or stop in at a small trattoria filled to the brim with locals.
Helpful Tip: Want to take a day trip from a city? Avoid renting a car, if possible. There are many other ways to take a day trip. For example, you could take a day trip from Florence to Siena by bus. Or take a group tour from Florence to San Gimignano and Volterra.
Renting a Car to Travel to Your Next Destination in Italy
You can also rent a car in Tuscany, visit the region, and then drive your rental car to your next destination. Use a Tuscany rental car to:
- Get to your departure airport in another city. Stop to visit towns and landmarks along the way.
- Travel to and explore your next destination in Italy.
- Travel to another place in Italy if you have a lot of luggage and don’t want to lug it on and off trains.
Destinations and Attractions in Tuscany to See with a Rental Car
Tuscany is so much more than its (amazing) major cities. A classic trip to Tuscany should include a visit to its charming and picturesque villages. Some of our favorites:
- Pienza – pecorino cheese in Tuscany’s ‘utopian’ town
- Montepulciano – beautiful views, charming center
- Montalcino – home to Brunello wine
- Cortona – lively, artistic village of ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ fame
- Monteriggioni – perfectly preserved, tiny walled village
- Volterra – city of alabaster
- San Gimignano – ‘medieval Manhattan’ with its imposing towers
- Bagno Vignoni – hot springs
- Pitigliano – Tuscany’s ‘little Jerusalem,’ with its dramatic tufa cliffs
- Arezzo – antiques market and beautiful main square
- San Quirico d’Orcia – charming medieval village
- Chianti Villages – wine, famous butchers, and quaint piazzas (Gaiole, Greve, Panzano, Castellina, Radda)
- Lesser-Known Villages – Certaldo, Montefioralle, Cerreto Guidi, Collodi
Head out of Tuscany’s cities and explore:
- Castles – Some of our favorites in Tuscany include Castello di Brolio with kids and Castelo d’Albola and Castello Meleto for wine tastings.
- Sunflowers and Poppies – Yes, you’ll see them on train rides, but with a rental car you can stop and take photos and see them up close.
- Classic Cypress-Lined Roads – Drive past the iconic tree-lined roads and feel like you’re in a film.
- Sagras – attend a food festival in small Tuscan villages.
- Wine Country – sample famous Chianti wines, Super Tuscans near Bolgheri, Vernaccia in San Gimignano, Brunello in Montalcino, and Montalcino’s vini divini (divine wines). IMPORTANT: Don’t drink and drive! Have a designated driver or buy wines and sample them at your hotel or agriturismo.
- Hot Springs – Tuscany boasts some of Italy’s best thermal springs and baths
- Giardino dei Tarocchi – delight in a Gaudi-inspired garden in the countryside
- Kids Attractions – from the Pistoia Zoo to the Chianti Sculpture Park, there are so many fun things to do with kids in Tuscany if you have a rental car
- Beaches – although some beaches on the Tuscan coast can be reached by train, most of the area’s prime beaches are best accessed by car.
- Val d’Orcia – the UNESCO World Heritage site in Southern Tuscany boasts photographer hotspots (cypresses, Vitaleta chapel, dramatic hills), pecorino cheese, and hilltop villages
- Sporting Events – Watch the Giro d’Italia or the Tirreno Adriatico cycling races blaze through the region or drive to a stadium to see a calcio (soccer) match.
- Outlet Malls – Take your own two wheels to shopping centers like The Mall (luxury outlet)
- Off-The-Beaten-Path Accommodation & Dining – Stop in at roadside trattorie or sleep in an agriturismo at the end of a cypress-lined road
- The Apuan Alps – hike or ski in Tuscany’s alps
- Isola d’Elba (Elba Island) – ferry or fly to Elba and explore the island’s beaches and villages by car
Where to Rent a Car in Tuscany
The main places to rent a car in Tuscany are at the major airports or city centers:
- Florence Amerigo Vespucci Airport (FLR) – easiest, where I usually rent from
- Florence City Center
- Pisa Galileo Galilei Airport (PSA)
- Pisa City Center
You can also rent cars in other cities and towns like:
Tips for deciding where to rent a car in Tuscany:
- It may make sense to book a one-way rental (pick-up and drop-off at different places). There is a one-way fee (usually around 75-100€) which may be less than your gas/tolls/time to travel back to the pick-up location.
- Pick up in airports or smaller towns to avoid the stress of driving in a city. It’s easier to drive out of the Florence airport rental car location than the Florence city center location. Equally, it’s easier to drive out of smaller towns like Arezzo and Chiusi than cities like Florence or Pisa. Check rates to see if it makes sense for your trip.
Car Rental Agencies in Tuscany
You can rent a car from a major international agency or a local agency.
Note: Yes, our family has our own cars here but sometimes we rent them if we fly to our destination (like Sicily) or we’re traveling in a large group and need a minivan.
Some of the car rental companies you can find in Tuscany:
- Sicily by Car
Documents Needed for Renting a Car in Tuscany
- Driver’s License
- Passport (International ID)
- International Driver’s License (except EU license holders)
- Credit Card (in the name of the driver)
Good To Know: If you want to add drivers to the reservation, they will need to show their driver’s license and international driver’s license.
Good To Know: You need to bring the physical copies of these documents to the car rental office when you sign your contract. Photocopies or copies on your phone won’t be accepted.
Tuscany Rental Car Tips
Confirm that you can drive on strade bianche (gravel roads) or that your car rental insurance covers any undercarriage damage.
Before you leave the rental car lot, make sure you check for dings and dents on the car, know how to put the car in reverse, know which type of gas use, how to use the A/C, how to operate the GPS (if you’ve reserved one), and where the nearest gas station is for filling up when you return the car.
Renting a Car in Tuscany with Kids
Rent the smallest vehicle you can (that will still fit your family, luggage, and baby equipment).
Some Italian rental cars have sliding side doors, which are helpful in narrow Italian parking spaces. You can’t always reserve, but you can ask at the agency.
Staying in an agriturismo in Tuscany with kids is often a trip highlight (swimming pool, animals, working farm). You’ll need a car to reach the properties.
See our post on Renting a Car in Italy for more tips for renting a car in Italy with kids.
Driving in Tuscany
Italian Road Signs – Know the important ones. Read our post on Important Italian Road Signs, which includes photos of real signs.
Road Quality – Fairly good, but expect the occasional pothole, especially in cities. Strade bianche are ‘white roads’ (gravel roads).
Roads – Tuscany roads are narrow and there is often no shoulder.
Types of Roads – Road types in Tuscany include strada provinciale/regionale/statale (provincial/regional/national road), superstrada (highway), Autostrada (toll road), and strada bianca (gravel road).
Autostrada – While you’ll mostly be on smaller roads if you’re exploring the countryside, if you want to cover large distances quickly, use Italian toll roads (Autostrade). Tuscany’s Autostrade include the A1 (Milan-Naples), A11 (Pisa-Florence), and A12 (Genoa-Rosignano). Read our complete guide to Italy’s Autostrada and How to Pay Tolls in Italy.
Parking – Spaces are narrow, make sure you know how to tell free vs paid parking. In general, it’s simplest to park outside city/town/village walls and walk or take a taxi or public transport into the center. Read more about Parking in Italy.
Gas Stations – Available in cities and the countryside. Learn more in our post on Getting Gas in Italy.
Navigation – Use GPS or Google Maps but don’t rely on them. Speed limits are often wrong, they made lead you into ZTLs, and sometimes they direct you onto small dirt roads. Service in the countryside can be spotty, so download your maps.
Paper Maps – I always recommend one for countryside driving. My favorites are the yellow and green Touring Editore maps. There’s a Toscana (Tuscany) 1:200,000 scale map. It’s accurate, easy-to-read, and water and rip-proof. You can find them online, or purchase them less-expensively at Italian gas stations and book shops when you get here.
Speed Limits – On country roads, the speed limit is between 50-70 km/h (check the signs), on highways it’s 90 km/hr, and if you’re driving on the Autostrada (toll road) the speed limit is 130 km/hr. Always follow the posted limits and know that on the highway and Autostrada the limit is reduced by 20 km/hr if it’s raining or the weather conditions are dangerous.
Autovelox – There are roadside speed cameras on highways, toll roads, and small country roads (especially as you enter a town). You’ll always be warned ahead of time about the ‘controllo elettronico della velocità’ and you’ll likely see cars ahead of you slamming on their brakes.
Sistema Tutor – Italy’s Autostrade (toll roads) have stretches with a point-to-point speed camera. It takes a photo of your license plate at point A, then again at point B. It averages your speed between A & B and if you’re speeding, you’ll receive a fine in the mail. Currently, only a small stretch of the A1 Direttissima between Florence and Bologna has the Tutor, but check the Autostrada’s official site for the up-to-date list. You’ll be forewarned with a sign about the ‘Sistema Tutor’ or ‘Safety Tutor.’
Traffic – Expect commuter traffic in and around cities on weekday mornings and evenings. The FI-PI-LI (highway between Florence and Livorno) and the A11 between Florence and Lucca both have heavy traffic toward the beach on Fridays in the summer, and heavy traffic back toward Florence on Sundays in the summer. Expect heavy traffic on highways and Autostrade around major holidays (Easter, Ferragosto, Christmas).
Alcohol Limits – Italy has strict drinking and driving laws and the BAC limits are very low. Use a designated driver, use public transport, hire a private driver, or go on an organized wine-tasting tour.
Driving in Cities in Tuscany
Expect occasional potholes and cobblestones.
Lanes sometimes feel like suggestions.
Streets are busy with other cars, buses, trams, scooters, cyclists, and pedestrians.
ZTLs are limited traffic zones and you cannot drive into them without permission or you’ll be fined. As a visitor, you can get permission if you’re using a parking garage or staying at a hotel in a ZTL. You must make sure your license plate is registered with the local police or you will receive a fine. The parking garage or hotel reception will communicate your plate number, but always double-check that it’s been done. Read more about ZTLs in Italy.
Driving in the Countryside in Tuscany
Winding Roads – If you’re prone to carsickness, take it easy and take breaks if necessary. Also, winding roads mean it takes longer to get from point A to point B. Slow down and don’t overpack your itinerary.
Expect little or no shoulder on many country roads and highways (superstrade).
Countryside roads in Tuscany are full of cyclists and they often ride in packs. Wait until it’s safe to pass. If they don’t move over to let you pass, it’s fine to give a little ‘toot’ on your horn.
You may get stuck behind a tractor or farm equipment. The drivers may or may not pull over to let you pass. If not, don’t worry, they don’t cover long distances.
Country roads are full of animals at night. In fact, our family goes on summer ‘night safaris’ on the Chianti roads and we see foxes, cinghiali (wild boar), deer, and porcupines.
Don’t hire a low-to-the-ground sports car if you’ll be driving on dirt roads or staying at an agriturismo with a dirt driveway.
Read more general tips and advice in Driving in Italy
Alternatives to Renting a Car in Tuscany
Still not sure if you want to rent a car in Tuscany? Don’t worry, you can explore the region in other ways:
- Stay in one city and really get to know it
- Stay in a city and travel to other Tuscany cities by public transport
- Hire a private driver (NCC) to take you into the Tuscan countryside
- Go on an organized group (or private) tour of the Tuscan countryside
- Ride a bicycle. Either rent a bike and ride on your own, or join a cycling tour
- Hike! Tuscany has tons of hiking trails, including two important routes – the Via Francigena and the Renaissance Ring.
Tuscany Rental Car FAQs
If you’ll be visiting between April and October, I recommend booking your rental car as soon as you’ve reserved your flight. May through September tend to be especially busy. If the rates you’re seeing are high, look at smaller cities. For example, instead of renting a car in Florence, you could take a train to Arezzo to pick up a car.
Rates vary greatly depending on the size of car, rental dates, rental location, and features (automatic transmission, GPS, etc). Expect rates in the range of €10-500/day. Additional costs include insurance, gas, tolls, and parking.