Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Florence Airport (FLR) - Car Rentals
Stew Vreeland, Kerry S. Ouellet
Picking up and dropping off your rental car at Florence airport. Stew wrote these notes in 2004, but a few things have changed since, so Kerry updated them. Further updates occurred based upon forum discussions, specifically to car rental pick up and return.
They call the airport in Florence Aeroporto A. Vespucci, "A" for Amerigo. Amerigo Vespucci was the first one to draw a map with a continent between Europe and Asia and in doing so made a name for himself. And for us Americans. But, now that I think if it ... shouldn't we really be Amerigoans? Ancient typo? Or just too hard to pronounce? I wonder.
But, for my small town Iowa tastes, Amerigo's airport is way better than Rome's. When I land in Italy's capital, the airport system there doesn't seem to be happy until it has misdirected my bags to some other capital, say Paris or Tel Aviv. And that slows down my re-entry to "la dolce vita-land". So, unless there is a rip-snorting discount on a flight to Rome, we aim for Florence.
Flying from North America to Florence Airport (Vespucci)
There are no direct flights from the US to Florence, so you have to fly to a European hub and change to a flight to Florence.
Stew: So far my favorite way to reach Florence is through Frankfurt on Lufthansa because they have awesome security, usually are on time, the food and service are fine and their flight is the earliest to arrive in Florence. All that can change, but that has been my experience to date. Pink sunrises over the snow capped Alps coming in early to Florence are enough to keep me awake - even after the overnight Atlantic crossing.
Kerry: We flew Alitalia from Boston to Rome, and then connected to Florence. Security and customs lines at Rome airport (FCO) were long, but they moved relatively quickly. We were bussed from the terminal in Rome airport to the plane and there was a very long wait on the hot bus before it started moving. But once we were on the plane, away we went to Florence, about 45 minutes.
Note: Delta offers direct flights from New York to Pisa airport, which is not far from Florence.
Arriving at Florence Airport
The Florence airport isn't very big, but it can be confusing. When you arrive at the terminal (you will likely be bussed from the plane to the terminal), the baggage claim is in one big room. Once you're in that room, if you have any questions about anything (like, where the heck is your luggage?), there is no one to ask and all doors to the room are closed. When you get your luggage, you exit on an upward sloping wide hallway that leads to the rest of the terminal. The hallway is bleak, but once you go through the doors at the top, you are back in civilization. There is a sign over this hallway that says something about customs, but since our flight was domestic, we didn't need to go through customs again.
The Florence Arrivals area is a very nice place to arrive because, in a relatively small space, there are bathrooms, a small caffe and an ATM.
To the Car Rental Offices
To get to the car rental lot, leave the baggage area and turn right to a car rental van pickup area (maybe 200 feet). Van takes you to the car rental offices. All the paperwork is completed at the at the counters located at the car rental lots, now off-site.
Bus or Taxi into Florence
There are always taxis outside to sprint you into Florence proper. Not cheaply, but they will certainly take you there. They take maybe 20 minutes to bring you to the train station which is right in the heart of Florence next to Santa Maria Novella.
You can avoid that expense by taking the big blue bus that is almost as close as the taxis. You come out of the Arrivals Building and there it is. It leaves from that kiosk outside the Arrivals Building every half hour from 6:00am in the morning to 8:30pm at night. Then it drops back to once an hour on the half hour, arriving at 9:30pm, 10:30pm and 12:30am. The bus, just like the taxi, is non-stop to the same very central train station and so it also takes about 20 minutes, and only costs 4 Euro (2004 price and hours).
Driving from Florence Airport
The car rental people give you a key with a license plate number on it and a parking space number. The rental car lot is filled with cars from ALL the rental companies, so look for the signs for your rental car company. However, don't necessarily expect that your car is in the space they told you it would be in (or even in nearby spaces). Ours wasn't even close, although it was in the right row.
We spoke to no one when we picked up the car, nor did it seem that anyone was interested in speaking with us. We simply opened the door, got in, and drove away. There was a ticket machine at the exit of the lot, as though you were supposed to pay for parking. We just drove through that as well (there was no gate). I still have no idea what it was all about.
You can get on the Autostrada outside the Florence airport. Look for signs as soon as you pull out. They will be the green A1 (yes, fellow Amerigo-ans, it is just like the Steak Sauce) signs. You want to go south if you're headed to Umbria or southern Tuscany, so follow the signs indicating the direction of "Roma" (Rome). The A1 (autostrada) is a toll road, so make sure you have some Euro cash or a credit card.
For most Umbria locations, exit the Autostrada at "Bettolle/Perugia". For southern Tuscany, exit at "Chiusi/Chianciano". For the Chianti region, exit the Autostrada soon after you get on, at "Firenze/Certosa" and follow the Florence-Siena (Firenze-Siena) Raccordo towards Siena.
That First Stop for Coffee
We love the ritual of stopping at the first AutoGrill we come to on the A1 Autostrada del Sole and loading up on cappuccinos, spremuta (the juice of three or four blood oranges squeezed, fresh-from-the-fruit, into your tall, thin glass), either pastries or sandwiches, depending on time of day. Surprisingly, good food in these gas station rest stops. Beats the heck out of the Sbarro's on the Maine Turnpike.
Returning to Florence Airport
From the South
Get on the A1 autostrada, direction "Firenze" (Florence). There are several "Firenze" exits but just let them go by.After the Firenze Signa exit, look for signs for the A11-Firenze with the white sign marking the Firenze Centro and the airport. Take this exit and you will see the toll booths ahead. This will put you onto the A11/E76. Follow the directions from the A11 below.
Exit to A11 from A1 heading North
If you miss this exit, a few minutes down the road you will see the bilious green "Our Lady of Perpetual Ugliness" church on the right. It is a good landmark and the Firenze Nord exit you want is just past it.
Church indicates Firenze Nord exit is just up the road
Firenze Nord exit (just past the green church)
Once you exit, bear left following the signs for Firenze Nord.
Eventually, you will go through the toll booths. Once through, you'll see gas stations on the left if you need to refuel. Past the gas stations, bear to the left, following the sign for A11 Firenze-Pisa nord.
Past the gas stations, bear left
At the next split, bear right to again following signs for the A11, Firenze, Aeroporto.
Bear right, following sign for Aeroporto
At the next split, bear right, continuing to follow signs for the A11. You will get on the A11 just past the toll plazas. Continue following the directions below.
From the North
Get off at Firenze Nord following signs to the A11, Firenze centro and the airport. Once on the exit, at the split, bear left.
You will be running parallel to the A1 for a bit, and then you will come to another split in the road, where you will bear right (if you go straight, you will return to the A1).
Bear right here
Again, following signs for the A11 and Firenze Centro (white and black sign with the word Firenze and what looks like a bulls-eye on it).
Don't worry the next sign displays both the Centro and airplane icon on it like above. At the next split, bear left. The above church will be on your left. Eventually you will go through the toll booths and can follow the directions below, From the A11.
From the A11/E76
Along the A11 there are service areas at which you can refuel.
Past the Ikea (big blue and yellow building on your right), you will come to a fork in the road.
Bear right to return your rental car, left for the airport
To return your rental car, you want to bear to the right (for the airport, bear left), following the sign for Ikea and the tiny sign at the bottom of the post that looks like this:
You will go under the railroad tracks, and keep bearing to the right, so that you are driving parallel to the tracks. Keep going; you'll see the rental car returns to your right on the other side of the tracks.
Route to return from the split at he end of the A11
You will see this sign, a blue P with an arrow to the right and again the words Rent Car.
Just after that, there will be a road to your right that goes under the tracks.
Go right, under the tracks. The rental car return lots will now be on your left.
Dropping off the Rental Car
Dropping off the rental car can be a bit daunting, at least at the time we did it (9:00am on a Saturday). Again, there may be no one to help you. There will be cars being left everywhere, and no one seems to know what they're doing. You need to drop your car off in the correct lane of cars for your rental company (they'll yell at you if you don't), but you needn't find an empty numbered space. Just pull in behind other cars that are being dropped off. Then empty the car and wait for someone from the company to check your papers. Hand him your keys, get a copy of the paperwork, and off you go, via shuttle or taxi, to begin the terminal for the departure process.
Go to the Departures building and then - treat yourself to the best coffee in Italy. It's upstairs in the Departures building and I do allow time for it. The pastries are fine, the spremuta is red orange and juicy, but for me, their cappuccino is my dream cappuccino - it seems to be all warm, highly caffinated, perfectly frothed foam, no apparent liquid espresso and I have no idea how they do it, but a big Bravo to the whole All-Amerigo cappuccino crew there at the airport lounge. One last sip, and we're gone.
Read Stew's Rant about changes at the Florence airport.
Parking in Florence: Slow Travel notes about parking in Florence
Driving on the Autostrada: Slow Travel notes about the highways in Italy
The Autogrill: Slow Travel notes about the rest areas on the Autostrada
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