So we decided to explore Italy! Especially, because Erica and me haven’t been to Tuscany before. Plus, I bought myself two tickets for the Jamiroquai concert in Florence on July 11th and she wanted to accompany me anyway. So we decided to extend our stay and take a ride. We started our road trip through Tuscany with a road trip to Tuscany. Starting point was a spot close to my hometown Nuremberg, in Germany. From there it would be around 850 kilometres to Florence, or Firenze how the Italians call the capital of Tuscany. So here is what to consider when planning your road trip to and through Italy!

 

Our way to Italy

 

Why we drove to Italy by car

At first we were not sure, whether to travel to Florence by plane, train or really drive all the way with a car. Eventually we chose the latter option, simply because we knew that we wanted to visit remote villages, that have this special country feeling to them and of course the romantic simplicity we were looking for. They are hard to reach by and other vehicle than a car. And since renting a car right away would be cheaper than taking a plane to Italy and then renting a car, we just went for the cheaper option for our road trip through Tuscany.

Considering the moderate gas consumption of our rented car (a Seat Leon, which proved to be the perfect size for that trip) we were able to safe even more money compared to the plane option. So it was basically a no brainer and with an awesome playlist in our sound system, the 11 hour trip was a piece of cake for the most part. Yeah, the map shows 8 hours 33 minutes, we know. But we had to take some major breaks. Also, as digital nomads we had to log into some wifi spots every now and then in order to work remotely.

If your want to experience authentic Italian music, check our “Road trip Italy” playlist:

 

How to avoid driving fatigue

Oh, did we just mention that the trip was a piece of cake for the most part? Well, that did not apply to the last two hours. Boy, those were the most uncomfortable two hours of driving in my life and it was just thanks to Erica’s constant talking, that I didn’t pass out and drove down a cliff. I admit, it was not as close to a fatal accident as it sounds but it was already 11:30 pm, we still had more than 90 minutes to drive and I was really really tired. Just 15 minutes more and I would have pulled the car to the sideline and go straight to sleep, in order not to risk too much. But thanks to Erica’s energy, I was able to talk with her, which kept me awake. Who had thought that a road trip through Tuscany can be so exhausting?

 

Careful planning is key

Nevertheless, I was constantly checking myself if I was really able to drive. So the method of talking a lot really just works to a certain extent. Please do me a favour, which I myself will follow closely from now on: Don’t drive if you’re too tired. Search a place like a parking lot or some street where it is safe to stop and then just get a couple of hours of sleep, if you are too tired. Or better: plan your journey more carefully. We started quite late – around 2pm.

Drive behind his wheel, driving to Italy.

More than 10 hours on the road is a lot – even with some resting in between. (Image: Erica Ng)

As a result of our late departure we arrived late at night. From now on, I will handle things as follows: Get my 8 hours of sleep, wake up early and start the trip not later than 9am. Also, if necessary, we will check in to a hotel. Or we get some sleep in the afternoon at some highway parking lot at a restaurant. Whatever works. But no matter if I do a road trip through Tuscany or any other place in the future, I never want to be in that zombielike situation again!

 

Highways and hairpin turns

Another thing to consider when doing a road trip through Tuscany (and his will conclude the chapter dedicated to driving fatigue) is the country roads in Tuscany. Many of them consist of seemingly endlessly repeating hairpin turns, which make you feel sick somehow when you’re already tired. So please be aware that driving in this surroundings at night is a pain! It’s pitch black, you constantly have to pay attention where the next corner is and in addition most of the time you can’t drive faster than 50 or maximum 60 kilometres per hour when going straight, as you have to look for upcoming hairpins.

At daytime however it is much more comfortable and a lot more pleasing to the eye. Then you really see the surroundings and the great landscape, of which you won’t get any glimpse at night. This probably applies to most road trips in general but for a road trip through Tuscany daytime is the way to go!

 

Costs for a Road trip through Tuscany

This is probably very important for most people and we will be glad to answer your question in detail. If you just want us to throw a number at you, well here we go: The costs for the road trip through Tuscany were 600 Euros in our case. But remember: We rented a car. So if you already own a car, this number will be much lower! There are quite some variables that can lead to a very different figure, depending on your situation. Therefore you might want to read through the next couple of sub-paragraphes.

 

Car Rental & Gas

For our road trip through Tuscany we rented a Seat Leon at SIXT, Germany. This is a rather sporty family hatchback with 110 PS and turned out to be a perfect fit. We paid around 330 Euros for 10 days and 3300 kilometres included. However this is without deposit, so you can add another 250 Euros on top of that. The rule of thumb is to double the price you would have to pay in the end. Just to play it safe.

When you return it, you have to hand over the car fully charged. Unfortunately this was no Diesel, so it consumed more and in addition the gas was more expensive. Depending on the country (Germany, Austria or Italy), the particular gas station and the daytime, you pay between 1,30 Euros and 1,70 Euros per litre. Our Seat consumed around 6 litres on average. Keep in mind: This can be more or less, depending on the size of your car. If you want to rent one, we would recommend said hatchback size or bigger. A smaller car can be more economic but probably less comfortable and can’t store as much luggage.

Travel Buddy Advice: Select a car that has at least 6 gears and is a Diesel, if you’re traveling long distances. It will definitely pay off and can cut your expenses for gas significantly.

 

Highway tolls in Italy and Austria

Important reminder: In Austria and Italy you have to pay highway tolls, which you should not try to avoid! If they catch you without toll in Austria, it can get very expensive. 120 Euros is the least.

Austrian highway tolls from 1997 to 2011.

Austrian highway tolls from 1997 to 2011. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

 

Prices of highway tolls in Austria

And don’t try to fool the authorities by using old stickers. They have new colours every year and if they catch you with a fake one, you will have to pay more than 200 Euros. But don’t worry, you just buy the required sticker at a gas station before entering the country and you are fine. In 2017 you can choose between the following tolls:

Cars (up to 3,5t)

  • 10 days (8,90€)
  • 2 months (25,90€)
  • 1 year (86,40€)

Motocycles

  • 10 days (5,10€)
  • 2 months (13,00€)
  • 1 year (34,40€)

You also can buy the tolls online, depending on which country you live in. In Germany you can order them via the online shop of the ADAC, which is the automotive club Germany. For more information about the austrian highway toll stickers, visit the official site.

 

Prices of highway tolls in Italy

Italian highway toll.

Italian highway tolls look like tickets and not all look the same. This is an example for one. (Image: Sebastian Zelada)

In Italy the payment system is a little different. At the highway entrance and the highway exit you will find stations, where you get tickets. As they have barriers, you can not pass them without paying. What you have to do, is get your ticket, enter the highway and when exiting, you pay at another station. Depending which road you use, the fee can vary between just 2 Euros and more than 30 Euros. We paid something between 30 and 40 Euros, from the Italo-Austrian border to Florence. You have several payment options:

You can pay cash or with credit card, a prepaid card named Via Card or the so called Telepass, which is only recommended, when you drive a lot. It is more expensive but also more convenient, as you can use the yellow Telepass lane at the stations, which is faster. You can get the Telepass at the website tolltickets.

 

Eating & Drinking

Not much to say here. If you are on a tight budget then make some sandwiches in advance and get your own drinks. If not, take some pocket money with you for fast food or highway restaurants. For the whole trip to Florence we paid 30 Euros each for lunch and late dinner, plus some refreshments. The total costs for our 10 day road trip through Tuscany were higher of course. But we will leave this one up to you, as there are too many factors coming to play. We mostly visited different cities and had lunch and dinner at local restaurants. When driving to our hotel we sometimes stopped at a gas station for refreshments or snacks but nothing that is worth noting.

 

Italian traffic can get expensive!

This is real: Driving in Italy is very different from driving in Germany! If you’re from France, China or you are Italian yourself, you can consider yourself lucky! You are probably used to traffic like this and won’t feel very stressed. As a German however, I am just not used to that kind of crazy traffic. If you drive an old car which you own, it probably won’t annoy you that much. But with a rented car, it will boost your blood pressure to new levels. In roundabouts you can feel like a TIE Fighter in a space battle. You desperately try avoid damage while all those vehicles come out of nowhere, constantly close to crashing into you.

Ok, I am exaggerating a bit but basically this is not far from the truth. Many of the local cars have plenty of bulges from previous encounters with other traffic participants. Moreover many drivers just don’t seem to care if their cars get damaged, by bumping into other vehicles. It is of course possible to get through the Italian city traffic safely. However, compared to let’s say Germany, you will have to pay much more attention.

 

Florence: Parking lots and hookers

Palace of Justice in Florence.

Close to the palace of justice you can find free parking lots. But also hookers at night. (Image: Sebastian Zelada)

Hookers anyone? Thanks to our experiences with Italian traffic on our first day in Florence, we tried to play it safe. So we parked the car at the outskirts and then walk to our destinations. What we didn’t consider was that there are lots of places that seem totally normal in daylight. However, at night they become a playground for hookers. Not that we have anything against hookers in general, not the least. But you can imagine nicer places to walk with your girlfriend or female buddy at nighttime. So please consider this, if you are a woman or are travelling together with a woman.

It might be a better idea to drive to the inner city and pay for a decent parking lot. Oh, and before we forget about it: If you are in the heart of a city like Florence, there are some private parking lots, located very close to the main sights and in side streets which are mainly used by pedestrians. Those are convenient but expensive, with a capital EXPENSIVE.

However, if you are willing to pay up to 40 Euros a day, you can safe quite some time. We did this once but we rather prefer walking a bit more and paying less. With a little bit of research it is fairly easy to find cheap or even free parking lots.

 

A word on possible dangers

We love Italy and its friendly people. But in some places the risk of people robbing you or encounter fraudsters is real. So just to play it safe, we offer you some Travel Buddy Advice with rules how to prevent unpleasant encounters during your road trip through Tuscany or any other parts of Italy. Basically these apply to all countries as they can happen anywhere and most of them are common sense. But we bet you didn’t know all of them before.

 

Three rules to be safe from fraudsters

  • Don’t fall for fraudsters telling you your car has a problem with its tires or something else. Even if they want to “help” you. Especially after stopping for lunch, at gas stations or parking lots. The risk is pretty high that this is a set up. There are even reports about fake street workers, offering a helping hand and then stealing stuff from the cars, when getting access to it. You best call officials with your own phone when you run into problems.
  • Always double check when using your remote to lock the car at parking lots or gas stations. Pull the doors, to be sure they are locked. Some criminals use signals to interfere with the connection between the remote and the car. Thus the car does not lock, even if you correctly pushed the button on the remote.
  • When driving slow in city traffic or on unfamiliar roads, lock the car from the inside. There are cases of people getting dragged out of their cars by unscrupulous criminals who then steal their vehicles.

Probably nothing will happen and just to underline it: We only made awesome experiences with people in Italy but as a tourist you always should prepare yourself for the worst case.

 

Road trip through Tuscany in a nutshell

When preparing a road trip through Tuscany or whatever other country, the most important thing is to make sure to drive a reliable car and to check the costs in advance. Check and plan your route carefully and do some research if you have to pay for the use of the highways in the respective country. If yes, calculate how much you will have to pay for them and don’t try to cheat, as it can get super expensive.

If you are an unexperienced driver you also might want to consider the crazy Italian traffic and check for parking lots in advance. Don’t forget that some small private parking houses can be very expensive. And most importantly: Don’t be scared of some of the downsides we mentioned! Just be aware of it, as they exist. But as we said: We had not a single problem on our trip and made lots of friends and met a bunch of interesting and lovely people!

Our total expenses for this trip: 900 Euros for ten days (all inclusive).

 

By the way: Check out our relaxing highway playlist, we made for you. Hope you like it 🙂

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