One of the best ways to see Tuscany is by car. Here are our top tips for renting a car and driving in Tuscany.
To rent a car, you will need to present a valid driver’s license from your home country and a credit card. When renting a car, debit cards are not usually accepted. International driver’s permits are needed in Italy to be able to rent and operate a vehicle legally.
International Driver’s Permit
If you are traveling to Italy from America and would like to get an international driver’s permit, you can get it through AAA. You do not need to be a AAA member to receive your international driver’s permit from AAA. You can either get your permit by mailing your information into AAA or by visiting a location in-person. Based on our research, it is not possible to get an international driver’s permit online.
To Apply (as of October, 2023)
Access the AAA application here. The information you will need in America to apply is as follows:
- Your name
- Your photo
- Your home address
- Your date and location of birth
- A valid USA driver’s license that is good through over 6 months after your visit to Italy.
- You must be 18+
Bring the following with you to your AAA location:
- A valid US driver’s license
- Two American passport size photos
- Your completed international driver’s permit application with the information listed above.
When renting a car, we recommend asking which type of fuel the car uses. Some cars run on unleaded (benzina senza piombo), diesel (Gasolio), and some even run on natural gas. Be sure you select the correct fuel when stopping at our petrol stations to maximize your experience while driving in Tuscany. Unfortunately, using the wrong fuel can be catastrophic. If you use the wrong type of fuel, you will likely be stranded on the road until you are towed back to a service station. Once at the service station, the petrol tank will have to be drained – which is expensive.
Be extra cautious and check with your rental car agency before departing the agency.
Manual or Automatic?
Another very important question to ask when renting a car, especially for Americans, is whether the car is manual or automatic. We know that most cars in America are automatic, but here in Italy, most of our cars are manual, or a stick shift. Automatic cars are available at most rental car locations in our major cities, but they are typically more expensive to rent and needs to be requested in advance. This is something to plan for and to keep in mind when planning your trip to Italy.
Driving in a new country is hard enough without learning a new operating system! If you’re booking your car ahead of time online, be sure to check that your car is automatic, if that’s what your prefer while driving in Tuscany.
Which Side of the Road?
After receiving this question numerous times, it’s important for us to also note that here in Italy, we drive on the same size of the road as one would in America! We do not follow suit with the United Kingdom in driving on the left side of the road. So, you won’t need to adjust to the way in which we drive here which makes driving in Italy a little bit easier.
In Italy you will find many full service gas stations who will pump your gas for you. These full service stations do accept most credit cards with the exception of those on the autostradas (super highway). Most of these stations are staffed only from 8 am – 12.30 pm, and then from 3 pm – 7 pm. If you visit these gas stations outside of these hours, they will be unstaffed, meaning that the stations become self serviced and will you pay via a machine at the pump. The gas stations take cash, but do not accept credit cards.
In Italy you need to obey the speed limit. Unlike in other countries you will not be chased by a policeman when you are speeding here in Italy. This can be misleading, as it may seem like our police are not enforcing the speed limit.
Actually, speeds are recorded by radar units, called Autovelox, which are big grey boxes on the side of the road. These boxes record your speed and take a picture of your license plate when they sense that you are speeding.
If caught, the police will contact your rental car agency and several months later you will receive a very expensive ticket that you will ultimately be forced to pay. You can find the speed limit in obvious places, like the speed limit signs on the street, but if you are navigating with Google or Apple Maps, you will see the speed limit there too. From us to you, be mindful with your speed when driving in Italy.
In many cities, including Florence, people without special resident permits are not allowed to drive in the historical districts. If you see a sign with a circle outlined in red, saying “Traffico limitato) do not enter! Violators will be subject to fines of 140 Euros. It can be confusing when you first start driving in Italy. Please keep an eye out for these signs and use intuition to not bring your car near old and historic city centers like the hearts of Florence, Siena, Rome, and more.
The other thing to know is we have very few traffic lights in Italy. Instead of traffic lights we have roundabouts. As with any roundabout, the cars in the roundabout have the right of way. Any driver looking to pass through the traffic circle must yield to all oncoming drivers already in the circle.
Towns With The Same Name
Another helpful driving tip when navigating via GPS is to know there are many towns with the same name. For example, there are at least six different towns with the name San Donato. Make sure you have the postal code when entering information into your GPS to avoid navigating to the wrong town.
Driving in Tuscany
Getting lost is easy in Tuscany, but it may not always be a negative thing. From our experience, the good news is that when you do get lost people are extremely friendly and helpful in putting you back on track. You will also discover lots of off the beaten track traditional Italian villages which may provide some of your most enjoyable memories. The best experiences in life are unplanned, right?
Please do not hesitate to reach out to us with any other questions about driving in Tuscany! We know that renting a car and driving in a foreign country can be nerve wracking and our team at TuscanDream is here to help.