As the stereotype goes, Italians don’t exactly love rules. As you can imagine, this stereotype applies to Italians who drive in Florence.
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Driving in Italy isn’t the easiest task, especially if you come from a Northern European country or North America, where people tend to stick to the rules a bit more. Of course, different regions of Italy behave differently – the north is much more disciplined and the south is more easy-going. Since Florence lies in the middle, you can expect a mixture of both attitudes.
Overall, Florentine drivers respect rules, but they can be quite hot-tempered and don’t like long waits. Here’s what you can expect while driving in Florence!
Road signs tend to be very clear, especially on the highway. As a traveller, you might want to use a GPS. However, up until a few years ago, drivers used books and booklets to move around, and with the help of road signs, it was fairly easy to get to most places. So, if you run out of data or your GPS device is out of battery, fear not, as signs will be there to support you.
If you like hidden trails in the countryside, you might run into fewer signs as you pass through small villages. If you come across locals, it’s common to stop and ask for advice – not just on directions but also about restaurants or cafés.
Parking in Florence is perhaps the biggest challenge locals have to face daily, especially when going to work. This is because parking is difficult to find, and it’s expensive.
In Florence, you can recognize parking spots by blue lines on the ground. This indicates where you are allowed to park and pay a ticket at a machine on the street you’ve parked in or nearby. There are also white lines, which are dedicated to residents, and that cannot be used by non-residents. Finally, there are yellow lines for disabled drivers, which must be left free at all times.
Other spots where you mustn’t park are where stand the signs ‘scarico merci’ (freight yard) and ‘passo carrabile’ (vehicle entrance).
There are many underground parking lots you can also park in, such as Sant’Ambrogio, San Lorenzo, in Piazza Leon Battista Alberti, at Santa Maria Novella Station and more. You can usually pay at the end of your stay.
If you want to get a permit or need to pay a fine, you can go to the ‘polizia municipale’, the street police.
In order to drive into Florence’s city centre, you need to check whether ‘ZTL’ (‘zona a traffico limitato’, limited-traffic area) is active or not by looking at the small traffic lights around the city centre that have a sign saying ‘ZTL’ underneath. If you enter when the traffic lights are red, you will get fined.
You can either enter the centre by public transport or on foot.
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Here is some general information on how to drive in Florence that you should probably know:
Pedestrians often try and cross the street even if there is no zebra crossing;
Cars often don’t stop at zebra crossings, but they might stop in the middle of the road (see point above) as, by Italian law, pedestrians are always right;
It is very challenging to drive along the ‘viali di circonvallazione’, the avenues going from Piazza Beccaria to Ponte alla Vittoria and vice versa, so you might want to be extra careful there;
Drivers like to honk, even if it’s not strictly necessary;
Peak hours are 7.45-9.00 am and 5.30-7 pm.
©Photo Credits: Road (Photo by Riccardo Pallaoro), Driving (Photo by Why Kei)