Driving in Florence
If you decide to come to Florence by car, or rent a car to move around Florence, the following information may prove very useful.
Given its historic nature, the city center is clearly not designed for modern traffic needs and vehicles. The area of greatest tourist interest coincides with the ZTL ("Zona a Traffico Limitato" or Limited Traffic Zone), a restricted traffic area controlled by a network of video cameras. Since Florence's historic center is a UNESCO Heritage Site, it makes sense to protect it in this way and limit the amount of traffic in the historical center.
What does this mean in practice? You need a special ZTL permit to drive in the historical center. You likely WON'T have one, even with a car rental!
If you're staying in the center, you DON'T NEED a car to move around, it is small enough to move around completely by foot or, at the most, on the small electric buses run by ATAF that cross the center.
The Limited Traffic Access Zone (ZTL) - Where and How it works
First of all, here is a map of the ZTL area in Florence. All of the colored areas are part of the ZTL.
The "ZTL" area has several entrance or "access" points which are clearly marked with EU regulation traffic signs and equipped with video surveillance cameras that automatically detect and photograph license plates of all vehicles passing through. Transit through a few of these access points are prohibited at all times, 24/7 so pay attention to the signs. Anyone entering without a ZTL permit will eventually get a fine back home, several months later, assisted through car rental records to find you. So enter the ZTL with care.
All vehicles without a ZTL permit are banned from the city center from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on weekdays. During the summer, generally from June to August, the centre is also closed from midnight to 4am on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
What if my hotel is in the center?
If you have a car and your hotel is in the ZTL area, you CAN reach your hotel to drop off your luggage and passengers but you then have to exit the ZTL area to park outside of its perimeter. Your car's license plates will be photographed, it is up to YOU to tell your hotel your license plate number and car make, etc ahead of time so that they can communicate it to the local city police... in essense, a temporary permit of 2 hours is issued so that you can enter the ZTL on that precise date and time. You cannot stay within the ZTL longer as your car won't have a permit. Private parking garages in the ZTL generally offer the service of temporary permits for when you plan of entering and exiting the ZTL, so that is another option.
Make sure to tell your hotel in advance that you will be reaching them with a car so that they can tell you the best route to take to reach them. Follow their directions closely, and if they don't offer this service (notification to the local police), then you will know you cannot reach them and won't be surprised later when the fine reaches you back home!
To find the car parking lot that is most convenient and suitable for your needs, look at our map of parking lots in Florence. It also includes parking areas where you can park for free, all outside the center, particularly useful when you're visiting Florence for the day. We don't recommend the free parking lots for several days or overnight.
Outside of the ZTL, the city is still divided into controlled parking zones. Non-residents, therefore visitors, should always park in the blue marked spaces and pay for the hours you intend to park ahead of time at the "P" parking ticket machines located nearby. You need to leave this ticket stub inside your car's dashboard where it can be seen. White lines are spaces reserved for residents only.
The "Parterre" (Piazza Libertà), "Oltrarno" (Porta Romana), "Beccaria" and "Fortezza Fiera" (Fortezza da Basso) car parking lots, you'll find discounted daily and night-time rates so these are the best if you're intending to park for longer periods of time or throughout the night.
Don't want the hassle of driving but don't want to use public transportation? Another option to get around by car is to hire one (with the ZTL permit) with a driver, one that can take you around Florence and outside of the city. No hassle of parking and navigating through the streets of Florence!
Disabled permit holders who need to enter the restricted traffic zone (ZTL) with their vehicle should call the toll-free number 800 339891 to get a permit for their use during their stay in Florence.
About Lourdes Flores
An American living in Florence for over 12 years, Lourdes loves to explore and discover new places in Tuscany - trying to maintain the eyes of a "tourist" despite the experience of living in Italy for so many years ;-). She loves to share her experiences through this website, offering help in travel planning on the Forum - if you have questions for Lourdes, post them there!
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