Renting a car is easy in Italy and the rental agencies ask only for a valid driver license from you own country and a credit card – debit cards are not usually accepted. International driver licenses are not mandatory, but are useful should you have an accident. When renting a car you should ask what type of fuel the car uses. Some cars run on unleaded (benzina senza piombo), however diesel (Gasolio) and some even run on natural gas. You want to make sure you put in the right fuel when you stop at a petrol station – as putting the wrong fuel in will cause you to be stranded on the road and once you are towed back to a service station, the petrol tank will have to be drained – which is expensive.
In Italy you will find many full service gas stations who will pump your gas for you and accept most credit cards. But, with the exception of those on the autostradas (super highway) most of these stations are staffed only from 8 o’clock in the morning until 12.30 and then from 3 o’clock until 7. When they are unstaffed these stations are self service and you pay via a machine at the pump. The gas stations take cash, but do not accept credit cards.
In Italy you need to pay attention to the speed limit. Unlike in other countries you will not be chased by a policeman when you are speeding. Speeds are recorded by radar units, called Autovelox, which are big grey boxes on the side of the road that record your speed and take a picture of your license plate. If caught the police contact your rental car agency and several months later you will receive a very expensive ticket – that you will ultimately be forced to pay.
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.
The other thing to know is we have very few traffic lights in Italy. Instead we have traffic circles, and the rule is cars in the traffic circle have the right of way
The other helpful driving tip when navigating via GPS is to know there are many towns with the same name. There are at least six different towns with the name San Donato – so make sure you have the postal code when entering information into your GPS or otherwise you have an unanticipated adventure.
Getting lost is easy in Tuscany – but from our own experience, the good news is that when you do get lost people are not only extremely friendly and helpful putting you back on track – but you also discover lots of off the beaten track traditional Italian villages which may provide some of your most enjoyable memories.