Get the lowdown on getting around Tuscany without a car, from how to do it to the best places to stay.
I’m not going to dress it up. In terms of convenience, flexibility and accessibility, it’s hard to beat exploring Tuscany by car. However, this is not for everyone and is certainly not for me.
The good news is that getting around Tuscany by public transport is easy, affordable, reaches the region’s main attractions and is user-friendly. And for the places that are more challenging to visit, there are always day tours or private drivers.
The key is knowing how to do it and identifying the best places to stay in Tuscany without a car.
Leave your driver’s licence at home and start planning with this guide to a car-free visit to one of Italy’s most enchanting regions.
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TUSCANY WITHOUT A CAR AT A GLANCE
How to get around Tuscany without a car
- Day tour
- Taxi / private driver
Where to stay in Tuscany without a car
- First choice: Florence
- Good alternatives: Siena, Pisa, Lucca, Viareggio
Recommended day tours
Is a Car Necessary in Tuscany?
You do not need a car if you are confining your itinerary to the major Tuscan towns and cities. However, a car is convenient to experience the rolling landscapes and vineyards for which the region is famous.
Convenient, yes. But not essential. Buses and trains serve most places in Tuscany and for the rest, there is a good choice of day tours from the main hubs.
Having a car in Tuscany’s towns and cities is of little value. Driving in the historical centre of many towns, including Florence and Siena, is either prohibited or restricted. Finding a legal parking spot can be challenging and it may cost a premium to park near your hotel or apartment.
For me, one of the biggest disadvantages of not driving is that it puts a quintessential Tuscan experience out of reach.
Staying in an agriturismo is still on my Italy bucket list. However, unsurprisingly, these are usually not close to a town and not served by public transport.
Although this is also the case with wineries, you can usually pick up a day tour if a vineyard visit is on your agenda.
Getting Around Tuscany Without a Car
Broadly speaking there are four ways of getting around Tuscany without a car:
- By train
- By bus
- On a day tour
- By taxi / private driver
Over the years, I have tried all of these transport options.
Exploring Tuscany by Train
All of Tuscany’s cities and major towns, not to mention some of its smaller towns, are connected by rail. For example; Pisa, Lucca and Siena all have direct rail connections to Florence, meaning you can visit them as day trips
When it comes to planning your car-free Tuscany itinerary, the rail network map and train timetables are your best friends.
The state-owned Trenitalia is your best bet for getting around Tuscany by train. You can check train times here. For planning on the go and to book and download your ticket, grab the Trenitalia app here.
Most of your train travel in Tuscany will be on the regional services. There is no advantage in booking your ticket in advance. The ticket price is fixed and as a reservation is not necessary – or even possible – the train can never ‘sell out’.
Booking your ticket in advance is advisable for the high-speed Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, Frecciabianca & InterCity services.
Italo has cherry-picked the most lucrative Italian train routes. However, in my experience, it is of limited value when travelling in Tuscany.
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Exploring Tuscany by Bus
For the parts of Tuscany that trains do not reach, there is usually a bus. They are especially useful for reaching most of the region’s hilltop towns – Montepulciano and Volterra, for example –and its smaller towns and villages.
Fares are based on the distance travelled and it can be cheaper to buy your tickets in advance.
Florence is far and away the best place in which to base yourself if you plan to travel around Tuscany by bus. Many of the bus companies use Florence as their hub and the services stop close to Firenze Santa Maria Novella, Florence’s main train station.
Exploring Tuscany on Day Tours
Even as an independent traveller, I am a huge fan of day tours.
Not only do they get you to places that are difficult to reach but you also benefit from the knowledge of a guide. A day tour allows you to squeeze more than one place into your day’s itinerary and there’s much to be said for letting someone else take care of the arrangements for you.
Day excursions are a stress-free way of exploring Tuscany’s cypress tree-studded landscape and visiting its many vineyards.
Here are a few examples of day tours that would fit the bill:
This tour from Florence packs in a lot into one day. There’s a guided tour of Siena, free time in San Gimignano and Pisa, and lunch and wine tasting at a vineyard in the Chianti hills.
>>> CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE
This half-day tour from Siena visits two wineries and makes a number of stops, including Castellina in Chianti. I like that one of the wineries visited is exclusive to this tour company.
>>> CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE
There are day tours to fit every traveller, from coach tours to a more bespoke experience with a smaller group. My go-to platform for sourcing and booking day excursions is GetYourGuide which usually offers the reassurance of free cancellation within 24 hours of your tour should your plans change.
Personally, I avoid the larger groups and opt for a minibus-sized group at the largest. This is a popular tourist destination and won’t want to be even more lost in the crowd than you have to be.
Exploring Tuscany with a Private Driver
For a completely bespoke experience, you can hire a private driver to take you where you want to go. Of course, a private guide is not cheap, but if there are a few of you this may not be much more expensive than joining a group tour.
This does pretty much what it says on the tin. Pisa, San Gimignano, Siena, Monteriggioni, Panzano and Greve, not to mention wine tasting.
For something slightly more adventurous, why not take a ride on a Vespa through the Tuscan hills? This 3-hour tour includes a 4-course lunch and wine tasting and leaves from Sam Gimignano.
If you want to stay in a more remote corner of Tuscany without a car – perhaps that agriturismo – using a local driver is another option. This is where local knowledge is your best tool and I suggest asking your host who they would recommend.
Currently, Uber and Lyft do not operate in Tuscany.
Best Places to Stay in Tuscany Without a Car
The key to a successful car-free holiday in Tuscany is choosing the right base. Pick a base and stick with it. Vacation time is too precious to waste on changing accommodation every one or two days.
If you stay in one of the larger towns in Tuscany, you can then use this as a base to visit other cities, towns and villages by public transport on day trips.
Florence is the best place to stay in Tuscany without a car
Florence is the region’s most important transport hub with frequent trains and buses to all of the best bits of Tuscany, including the great cities of Siena and Pisa as well the smaller gems of Lucca and Arezzo. You can even visit Venice from Florence, or Rome for that matter.
Firenze Santa Maria Novella train station is an easy ten-minute walk from the city’s historic centre, and Florence has accommodation to suit every budget.
READ THIS NEXT: Where to Stay in Florence, Italy: The 7 Best Areas
It almost goes without saying that Florence is one of the most attractive and alluring cities on the planet. From the masterpieces of the Uffizi Galleries to the sculptures of Michelangelo, it has a wealth of artistic treasures that are hard to equal.
Other places to stay to explore Tuscany without a car
If you are a return visitor, you may want to consider other places to stay in Tuscany.
READ THIS NEXT: How to Take a Florence to Lucca Day Trip
Tips for Visiting Tuscany Without a Car
I have travelled around Tuscany without a car on multiple occasions. It is easy but there are two caveats:
#1 Pick the right base for your itinerary (but you can’t go far wrong with Florence)
#2 Sketch out an itinerary and, with the help of a timetable and online journey planners, figure out where it will be useful to join a day tour or hire a private driver. To avoid disappointment, organise these before you arrive in Italy.
There is one other option for a stress-free way of visiting multiple destinations in Tuscany.
Small group tours of a week or more can be an excellent way of getting under the skin of a country and offering experiences that would be otherwise hard to come by. For example; well-travelled friends have recommended this walking and wine tour of Southern Tuscany. It would work for me!