Driving holiday in Tuscany - rent a car in Italy
The region of Tuscany in central Italy may be one of the most versatile holiday destinations in Europe.
Whether you are looking for a short city break, a quiet countryside retreat, or some relaxation at a sandy beach, Tuscany has it all. The centuries old wine-making tradition and world-renowned gastronomy are only some from the long list of arguments in favour of visiting Tuscany.
If you enjoy driving and don’t like to be held hostage of organized tours, short schedules and public transportation, Tuscany car hire is the ideal way of exploring this region of Italy. With a hire car at your disposal you will not only be able to get to all the places of interest in Tuscany but also admire some of Europe’s most beautiful landscapes.
Find below a few notes on what not to miss out on when travelling in Tuscany, as well as some useful advice on Tuscany car hire.
See video on Tuscany cultural attractions:
Tuscany facts & figures
Tuscany is one of the largest regions of Italy with nearly 9.000 sq miles, bordering the regions of Liguria, Emilia-Romagna, Umbria and Lazio, clockwise.
The main cities of Tuscany are Florence - the region’s capital (in Italian called Firenze), Pisa and Sienna but quite number of smaller towns, especially in the northern part of Tuscany are worthy of tourist interest. Tuscany breathes history and even in the relatively small towns of Prato, Pistoia, Lucca, Arezzo or Livorno, valuable monuments of architecture and art can be found.
Popular car hire locations in Tuscany:
Most of the over 3.5 million population of Tuscany live in the cities, but the only place struggling with traffic congestion is the largest city of Florence. Anywhere out of the strict city centres driving in Tuscany is, usually, a relaxing experience.
See Tuscany road map.
If visiting Florence, Pisa, Sienna or Lucca in a hire car, do mind the limited traffic zones. Much like in Rome, driving in a ZTL (Zona Traffico Limitato) is prohibited for non-residents and subject to steep fees.
Find out more about ZTL in Florence (ZTL map).
Flying to Tuscany - Airport car hire Italy
There are two international airports in Tuscany.
The main Tuscan airport is Galileo Galilei Airport in Pisa. Amerigo Vespucci Airport in Florence (also known as Peretola) is also significant, with nearly two million passengers per year.
Pisa Airport is mostly a low cost airport, offering cheap flights to Tuscany with Ryanair, Wizzair, Easyjet, Jet2, Germanwings, among others. Regular airlines operate at Florence Airport. An useful hint for tourists planning a roadtrip in Tuscany: Florence Airport offers an easy access to A11 Firence-Pisa motorway and to A1, Autostrada del Sole, connecting Milan to Naples.
For tourists arriving to Tuscany by plane, car hire at Florence or Pisa Airport is frequently an affordable solution, as Tuscany car rental offers tend to be slightly cheaper than car hire in the city centres. Use an internet search engine of car hire, such as Cartrawler to compare prices of rental vehicles at both airports in Tuscany.
Bologna Airport - car hire from an alternative Tuscany airport
Tourists heading to Tuscany, often opt for flying to Bologna Airport and continuing their trip in a hire car.
The city of Bologna is located in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, approx. 67 miles north-east of Florence. Flights from UK (London) to Bologna Airport are available from the low-cost carriers Easyjet and Ryanair, as well as from British Airways.
‘To travel is better than to arrive’ - Tuscany roadtrip tips
As a tourist embarking on a self-drive holiday in Tuscany you come to discover that the pleasure of driving in the Tuscan countryside is comparable to the satisfaction of visiting some of Europe’s most popular landmarks.
In fact, while it only takes around 20 minutes to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the eye-soothing landscapes of Tuscany are available (and for free) anywhere out of a city centre.
Tuscan country side is known for its endless green fields, rolling vineyards and cypress tree-lined winding roads under a perfect blue sky. If you have a chance, try visit Tuscany at different times of the year, to appreciate all the range of colours of Tuscan fields of poppy, sunflower and lavender.
See also: Tuscany climate chart (Florence)
Do not fear monotony while driving in Tuscany as the landscape changes constantly. Charming old villages are scattered all across the area, so you will easily find a place to stop and relax over a cup of excellent Italian coffee.
The traditional Tuscan style architecture is rustic, yet sophisticated and you are most likely to find a charming pension or rooms for rent, even in the smallest town or village.
Tuscany is a land of history and valuable monuments of the magnificent Italian past can be found almost everywhere.
While most of the tourists travel to Florence, Sienna and Pisa to ‘tick off’ the most obvious historic sites of Tuscany, almost every town or even smallest village in Tuscany boast monuments from the Middle Ages.
Medieval castles, fortresses and walled towns are found all across the region, but the most complete and best preserved medieval towns are Castello di Gargonza (near Arezzo), Montefioralle and Montalcino.
Medieval fairs and festivals Tuscany
For a fuller experience of medieval Tuscany plan your holiday around some of the medieval fairs and festivals held in the region throughout the year. Medieval feasts, live music, parades, races and contests, including the traditional flag throwing in the costumes from the époque are especially interesting to see as in many cases whole town population teams in, not only of the tourists amusement but for their own satisfaction.
Amongst the most animated medieval events in Tuscany are Monteriggioni di Torre Festival in Siena, held usually in July, the Harvest Festival Fiera delle Messi in San Gimignano, held in June and Calcio Storico, a recreation of an early form of a football game in historic costumes, taking place in June in Florence.
Beach holidays in Tuscany - Versilia Coast, Italy
Although in the common perception Tuscany is not a typical beach holiday destination, several very pleasant beach locations are found along the 150 miles of Tuscan coast by the Tyrrhenian Sea.
The best beaches of Tuscany are located north of Livorno, all the way up to La Spezia, on the so called Versilia Coast.
The main town of the Tuscan Riviera is Viareggio and its beach is particularly popular for offering great conditions for bathers and a vastness of white sand. Forte dei Marmi, north of Viareggio is the most elegant Tuscan beach location and a favourite summer retreat for affluent Italian families.
Tuscan beaches are very clean and in 2013 a Blue Flag distinction was awarded to 17 beaches in Tuscany, for superior safety and environmental conditions.
Wine tours in Tuscany
Wine has been produced in Italy since the 8th century BC and some of the world’s most prestigious wines come from Tuscany.
Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vernaccia di San Gimignano are the most famous of the Tuscan wine regions, but the true wine lovers will surely be interested in visiting many other of the with the 7 DOCG and 26 DOC Tuscan wine production regions.
Organised tours of wineries and wine tasting are widely available in any larger tourist location in Tuscany.
Tuscan cuisine - Michelin star restaurants in Tuscany
Dining, much like wine tasting, ranks high on the list of Tuscany attractions.
Traditional Tuscan cuisine is simple, hearty and based on high-quality, locally produced ingredients: meat, olive oil, seasonal vegetables, cheeses and, naturally, wine. More sophisticated dishes include game meat, boar, hare and deer.
Amongst the Tuscan specialties are: the famous Florentine steak, served nearly raw, pappardelle pasta with wild boar sauce and different dishes of artichoke and truffles.
If you feel adventurous do try Tuscan tripe, lampredotto, served in a sandwich from a street stall.
In 2012 there were 24 Michelin-starred restaurants in Tuscany, being the highest rated Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence (3 stars), Bracali in Massa Marittima (2 stars), Caino in Montemerano (2 stars), Il Pellicano in Porto Ercole and Arnolfo in Colle di Val D’elsa (2 stars).
However, when travelling in the Tuscan countryside you will have plenty of opportunities to try excellent (and very affordable) cuisine in almost any town and village, as cooking is the art celebrated all across the region.
See a video: Tuscany Holiday Attraction:
Tuscany fashion outlets
Textile industry has been one of the pillars of the economy of the Florentine area ever since the 15th century. Today the Tuscan capital is one of the world’s most important centres of fashion and home to many fashion Italian fashion houses.
There is a wide choice of retail areas and shopping malls in Tuscany but, for obvious reasons, discount outlets are the most sought after by the locals and the tourist who shop for designer clothes at more affordable prices.
The luxury brand items from Gucci, Ferragamo, Cavalli, Armani, Valentinocan be purchased with up to 50% discount in large outlets in Tuscany, amongst them are: The Mall in Leccio-Regello, near Florence, Fashion Valley in Regello, Barberino Design Outlet in Florence, Valdichiana Outlet Village, in Arezzo and in several factory outlets of famous brands (Fendi, Dolce & Gabana, Prada, Roberto Cavalli), all in Florence area.