Arriving in Florence by car
How to get to Florence by car—and where to park in Florence once you arrive
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You cannot drive anywhere in the historic center of Florence without permission. This map of the "Zona Traffico Limitato" shows where you will get a ticket if you drive without having your hotel provide the police with your license plate number. Driving to Florence is easy. It's only two hours north of Rome—though add in another hour or more for threading your way out of one city and into the other. The problems begin once you arrive.
You cannot drive in the center of Florence without notifying the police
Almost all cars are now banned from the historic center. This is indicated by signs with a red circle on white (see the picture below to the right) accompanied either by the abbreviation "ZTL" or spelled out Zona Traffico Limitato, ("Zone of Limited Traffic"). Only residents or merchants with special permits are allowed in.
The city has recently installed traffic cams that will take a picture of your license plate when you enter and you will receive a €100 fine by mail. (They can—and will—track you down via your rental agency.)
A ZTL sign in Florence. Not that, technically, the ZTL is only in effect from 7:30am to 7:30pm Mondays to Fridays, but the city often imposes it on weekends as well, and the fine print on the signs is hard to figure out, so it's best to err on the side of prudence and assume the centro storico always off-limits.If you must drive into the ZTL to reach your hotel, make sure the very first thing you say to the person at the reception desk (after "Buon giorno!" and giving your name) is that you drove in and have a car idling out front.
Have your car's make, model, and license plate number ready to hand to them on a slip of paper so they can phone this into the police.
You now officially have two hours either to get the car safely into a garage (keep reading), or drive it back out of the ZTL.
The practical upshot and real solution: Simply do not drive within the ring road that follows the line of the old medieval walls. Instead, follow this ring road around to a parking lot:
Parking lots and garages in Florence
If you don't wish to avail yourself of the hotel's garage (usually nearby but rather expensive, on the order of €30–€50 per day), there are five vast, underground public garages just outside the ring road that circles the historic center, each of which is open 24 hours and charges a flat €18 daily rate (or €1.50 per hour). Each is pictured as blue "P" on the ReidsItaly.com map.
Park in whichever lot is closest to your hotel:
- North side/Duomo area: Use Parcheggio Parterre, a public underground parking garage just north of Piazza della Libertà at Via Madonna Della Tosse 9. It's a fair hike of about 20 minutes north of the historic center, or grab a bus on Piazza Libertà. Buses no. 1 and 7 head straight down Via Cavour to the Duomo area, then turn west past Santa Maria Novella to the train station.
Note: If you're staying near the station but there's a trade fair and both Fortezza lots (described below) are full, park here and hop buses no. 25 or 33, which go down Via Cavour, hang a right at Piazza San Marco onto Via XXVII Aprile, then left down Via Nazionale; get off at the second or third stop on Via Nazionale, just before or after Via Faenza.
- West side/near the train station or Santa Maria Novella area: Use one of two public underground parking garages located under the massive Fortezza del Basso (Medici fortress-turned-convention center) on the city's northwest corner.
The easiest is Parcheggio Stazione Binario 16, at Piazzale Montelungo at the fortress's southwest corner; turn off Viale Filippo Strozzi up Via Guido Spadolini and it's immediately on your right. However, it only has 96 spots, so it fills fast.
Back around on the back side of the fortress, on Piazzale Caduti nei Lager (just continue up Via Guido Spadolini), is the much larger Parcheggio Fortezza Fiera, with 521 spots.
After you park, walk back around the fortress to the southeast side, cross the viale, and head down Via Dionisi, which changes its name in a block to Via Faenza, the epicenter of cheap hotels in Florence.
- East side/Santa Croce area: Use Parcheggio Piazza Beccaria, a underground public parking garage just inside the ring road on Piazza Beccaria Cesare, which lies just east of the Sant'Ambrogio market area. From here, it's easy to walk, or the A minibus heads into the city center.
- In the Oltrarno: Use Parcheggio Oltrarno Calza, a public outdoor parking lot on Piazza della Calza, just inside the Porta Romana where Via Romana (the continuation of Via Guicciardini past Piazza Pitti), Via de' Serragli, and Via F. Petrarca meet.
This is actually convenient to much of the historic center's west side as well, given the easy bus connections. Buses 11, 36, and 37 all head down Via Romana, then Via Maggio, across Ponte S. Trìnita, and up Via de' Tornabuoni, where 11 peels off right to head past the Duomo and up Via Cavour while 36 and 27 turn left to the train station.
There are other public lots, but they are either out in the suburbs, or—like the highly visible Santa Maria Novella one under Piazza della Stazione at the train station—charge higher rates and actively discourage long-term parking (€2 per hour for the first two hours, then up to €3 per hour) with no daily rates, so just avoid them.
Parking on the street in Florence
Whatever you do, do not park your car overnight on the street in Florence. If you're ticketed (almost assuredly) and towed (highly likely), it will set you back substantially—and the headaches to retrieve your car are beyond description. Yes, I speak from experience.
Note that, on the edges of the historic center of Florence (outside the ZTL) there is, indeed, streetside parking. It is marked by blue lines, and there will be, somewhere up or down the block (often in the middle), a computerized meter where you can buy yourself some time. Put in some money (the digital display will start moving the clock forward; the more you feed it, the longer you get), then push the indicated button and it will spit out a slip of paper printed with the time by which you have to leave. Return to your car and leave this slip of paper on the dashboard where it will be visible to passing meter cops. (This is standard in Italy, where there is one common computerized meter for a whole block, rather than a single meter for each space, as is often the case in America.)
Only ever park outside the ZTL and only ever in a space indicated by blue lines.
Note that in many other parts of Italy, spaces marked by white lines are free and open to the public. This is not the case in Florence (or Fiesole). In Florence, you cannot park in white-marked spaces, which are reserved for residents with permits. You will get a ticket. (Yes, I learned this one the hard way).
(Just to round out the color-coded parking system: Spaces marked by yellow lines are for official or municipal vehicles; no one else can park there.)
- The ReidsItaly.com map of Florence
- Florence city layout
- Tips on driving in Italy
- Road signs in Italy
- Getting around Florence by bus
- Hotels in Florence
This material was last updated January 2011. All information was accurate at the time.
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