Roads and Driving in Tuscany

The joys and terrors of motoring in Tuscany.

Driving in Tuscany motoring inTuscany


Most roads in Tuscany are sealed and reasonably but not brilliantly signposted. On remote roads, locals typically drive along the middle of the road and move to the right when they see a car ahead. There is definitely an element of "spontaneity" in the driving style of Italians who are, nevertheless, very good drivers on the whole. Country roads can be unpaved, and driveways to rural villas and farmhouses can be winding, hilly or rutted. If this is a concern for you, be sure to clarify it with the owner when selecting your vacation accommodation. For many visitors, the unpaved country roads - the strade bianche - are part of the charm of exploring Tuscany and they are indeed well worth following on foot, by bicycle or in a car, as they often lead to extremely picturesque farmhouses, castles and even monasteries.

GPS systems are useful but should be used in combination with a large dose of common sense. The routes they propose between one small village and another are not always optimal. The GPS coordinates that appear on your GPS when you enter the address of your villa might not always correspond with reality. Discuss this with the owner prior to arrival.

Driving in a foreign country is easier than most people think, but there are a few issues to consider when choosing a rental car. Note that Italian towns are not minibus- nor camper wagon-friendly with their ancient, narrow streets. Automatic gear shifts are the exception rather than the rule in Italy. Italian drivers like to have full control of their vehicles and a manual shift is part of that. If you need an automatic, be sure to reserve one well in advance of your arrival. Traffic regulations are almost the same as in other countries except, of course, that UK, Australian and NZ visitors must remember to drive on the right.

Be sure to make yourself familiar with the Limited Traffic Zones (ZTL) in the historic centres of many Tuscan cities and towns.

Many foreign driving licenses are valid in Italy but must be accompanied by a translation, obtainable from your local Automobile Association. In order to drive in Italy, Americans need to get an International Driver's License before leaving the United States. Any branch of the American Automobile Association (AAA) (800 222 1134 in the U.S. or 613 247 0117 in Canada) ( issues them. You have to fill out a form and provide a 2x2 photo of yourself, a photocopy of your U.S. driver's license, and $10. Don't forget to bring your U.S. license with you to Italy, though, because the International license is only good in combination with your regular license. An alternative to the IDL is to take an Italian translation of your U.S. license (prepared by AAA) to an office of the Automobile Club d'Italia (06.4477 for 24-hr inf and assistance) in Italy to receive a special driving permit.

If you propose to drive from the UK to Italy you must also take your vehicle registration document and proof of car insurance cover. A green card, obtainable through your insurance company, is advisable. Without one, your cover might be reduced to Third Party only. Some policies now extend your UK cover to certain European countries - please check with your insurance company.

Despite all of the above, "motoring" is still a pleasure in many parts of Tuscany and by far the best way to explore the Region. For example, one of the best motoring routes is the Via Chiantigiana from Florence to Sienna but there are numerous other routes offering spectacular scenery and endless historical and picturesque views.

More about getting around Tuscany.

More about exploring Chianti without a car.

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