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Renting a car for Tuscany

ivorius007

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Before heading to Tuscany we will be staying in Florence for a few days. The present plan is to pick up a rental car near the train station, drive it around Tuscany, then return it to the rental office in Florence near the train station and take the train to our next destination, Venice.

This plan sounded very neat but I'm worried about picking up and dropping off the car in the Prohibited Zone of Florence. Does anyone know if the car rental offices have a special pass so that we won't end up with some very expensive traffic tickets??? Would there be an alternate place to pick up the car outside of the Prohibited Zona?

Also I'm wondering if it might be better to drive the car to Venice and drop it off there. It would involve an extra drop off cost, but might be faster and even cheaper than 5 people going by train from Florence to Venice. I'd appreciate your input on this too. Many thanks.
 

dsmrp

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I would NOT recommend picking up a car and dropping it off in central Florence. The safe routes in and out of Florence are very specific, and it is so easy to miss your turn, and then you're in the prohibited zone with intersection cameras taking pictures of your license plates. Every infraction is a fine.

I suggest from the train station, taking a taxi to & from the Florence airport to rent a car. At least that way, you're avoiding the prohibited zone.

We rented a car at the Rome airport, drove to Tuscany, and later to our Florence hotel to drop off our bags before returning car. The hotel called in an exception to the traffic police for our car. I've read that most hotels will do this for you. Best you confirm with your hotel in advance.

We just had go to 4-5 blocks down one way street to return garage, and as it turns out there were 2 return garages for different agencies, and we had a hard time finding ours. The garage sign was small and not easy to see from the street. We rented from a national US car chain, but no way was the Florence garage guy going to call in an exception for us. We stayed at the Westin, and the bellman said the exception was only for a very short time period, and he seemed a bit hesitant about calling in a 2nd exception.
Fortunately we did not get any fines in the mail months after our trip.

Haven't been to Venice, but hazard to guess the traffic by the airport or train station would be kinda crazy? Suggest you google driving in Tuscany and Venice; Rick Steve's site had some threads on this. Good luck and enjoy!

Also GPS with italian maps was invaluable for driving around small towns; there were many rotaries by Assisi where we stayed. Printed road maps would have been quite lacking.
 
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ivorius007

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Thanks

This is really helpful. Thanks. Renting a car from the airport seems a lot better plan.

Could you expand a bit on where you got the maps and GPS please? I was hoping I could use the GPS on my phone, but maybe there's a better one?? Thanks
 

Passepartout

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Could you expand a bit on where you got the maps and GPS please? I was hoping I could use the GPS on my phone, but maybe there's a better one?? Thanks

eBay. You'll find units and pre-loaded maps & cards.
 

PStreet1

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This is really helpful. Thanks. Renting a car from the airport seems a lot better plan.

Could you expand a bit on where you got the maps and GPS please? I was hoping I could use the GPS on my phone, but maybe there's a better one?? Thanks

When we decide to get a new GPS, we always wind up getting them at Costco or Sams. The new ones take chips for maps and you can buy the chip for the country you want, in your case Italy. Passepartout's suggestion of Ebay is an excellent one; they are probably even less expensive than at Costco, but be sure you get one with chip capability.

I think you'll find that one made for the car which will give you verbal directions and very clear views of the roads, including the lane you need to be in will be far superior to using your phone.
 

dsmrp

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Ditto, Passepartout's suggestion of eBay was a good one. I hadn't even considered eBay when we had to get the Italian maps. We have a small Garmin a few years old, certainly not top of the line. We ordered the micro SD card with the european maps online from Garmin for about $75. Could have gotten just Italy maps for about half that but we hope to drive in other european countries in the future ;) Yes be sure whatever unit you get has an external slot for a SD card. Our unit had the US maps pre-loaded; could not download Italian maps to it.

ivorius, even if your phone worked in Italy, I think the data cost for a GPS type app would be $$$. The GPS was also amusing at times: it mangled the italian pronunciation for street names even worse than we did ! But it showed graphically the correct exit to take from the rotaries. And if we took a wrong turn, we'd hear the dreaded "Recalculating..."

Another suggestion for car rental is the city of Siena.
You could take train down from Florence, rent a car there, and also look around Siena. It's an interesting city and you won't run the risk of a ZTL.
 

ivorius007

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Anyone tried the Michelin app??

It sounds like a dedicated GPS would be much better. I did use the GPS on my phone in England last year (I have an unlocked phone and used a local pre-paid SIM card which was really inexpensive), however, I found Google maps GPS not always all that great. I saw that Michelin maps have an app you can download and thought that might be a lot better for Europe. Has anyone tried this??

On the subject of picking up the car in Sienna, wouldn't we run into the same problem with the central area being prohibited?
 

dsmrp

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It sounds like a dedicated GPS would be much better. I did use the GPS on my phone in England last year (I have an unlocked phone and used a local pre-paid SIM card which was really inexpensive), however, I found Google maps GPS not always all that great. I saw that Michelin maps have an app you can download and thought that might be a lot better for Europe. Has anyone tried this??

On the subject of picking up the car in Sienna, wouldn't we run into the same problem with the central area being prohibited?

We went to Siena on a day trip and parked in the Stadium parking lot. It was pretty easy to avoid driving in their prohibited area. The siena parcheggi site has good info on their garages.

I found good maps to print on Michelin site. But didn't use for much else because I wouldn't have data plan on my phone. Still GPS was much better. Enjoy your trip!
 

sheweeble

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We were in Europe in September. We took the night train from Munich to Florence. Took a cab from the train station and picked up a car at the airport. The car rental office opens at 8:00 am. We returned the car to the airport, took a cab to the train station and continued on our journey from there. Other years we have picked up a car in Siena, which is more outside the ZLT area. There are many great GPS's, we own a TomTom and love it.
 

Laurie

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I third the suggestion of using Florence airport. We've done both - driven inside the city, and due to that hair-raising experience we used the airport the next time. Shuttle/bus transportation to and from the airport is cheap and frequent, runs right to the Florence train station as I recall.

And yes, you can drive to Venice! There is NO extra drop-off charge to any other office within the same country from most rental agencies such as autoeurope.com, you can see a lot on the way if you wish, and it's easy to drive right to the rental agency in Venice to drop it off. You might have to get there before they close, like 5 or 6 p.m., check. At least we did, to avoid having to park it for a few days in the big parking lot over the weekend. Definitely cheaper than 5 train tickets, often cheaper than 2 tickets.

Driving around Italy - aside from inside cities and towns - is easier than its reputation. Forget inside cities, and for towns and smaller cities like Siena, you can usually park just outside the historic areas in designated parking lots. If you drive to Siena, drive up the hill following the signs with a soccer ball, there is (or was) a huge soccer field for parking.

Enjoy your trip!
 
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