Only residents have permits to park within the city. There are car parks around, often tucked away (there's one under S. M. Novella station), and some hotels have parking facilities. I wouldn't bother with a car though. The city authorities are very hot on towing away vehicles parked inappropriately (signs are everywhere to warn you), and I regularly saw the tow-trucks cruising around looking for custom. This one in the photo was causing much interest as it removed a car, parked on a corner so the bus couldn't get round (and thus creating a huge, horn-honking tailback). I saw a police scooter being similarly lifted, but didn't dare take a photo as a (rather cross-looking) police lady was standing by! So park in permitted places, or expect your car to disappear (and you'll have to pay to get it back).
In December the city of Florence has started a new system to keep traffic out of the city. No one except residents or people working there, with special permits is allowed to drive into the historic center. People with permits have wireless transmitters in their cars and when they pass certain entry points systems installed in the streets check whether they have the permit if not a camera shoots a picture of the car right away and you get a fine. So if you have a hotel in the center check with the reception how that works for their guests.
Depending on where I want to go I either park at Piazzale Michelangelo, there you can park for free and either walk (about 15min. to Ponte Vecchio) or take the bus downtown. The other option is to park at the train station "Santa Maria Novella". There is a big parking garage there, it's about a ten minute walk to the Duomo unless your like me and can't resist all the shops on the way then it might take you 2hrs or more
Florence is small and easy to navigate on foot, however, you have to be very careful when walking. There are an abundance of cars that drive rather fiercely along the narrow cobblestoned streets of Florence (you would wonder how they have any front-end alignment or shocks left at all!!!) Be very careful when crossing streets and watch out for the circles, they come out of nowhere!!!
All guides tell you that driving in Italy can be dangerous. Well, that is true of some sort. Driving between cities on highways takes places very civilized, more civilized than I've expected. Than, in most of the smaller cities you can find a parking place - blue lines spaces but preferably a private enclosed parking - paying of course, taking your worries for a couple of hours while you look around. But, first of all you will not be happy to pay for 5 to 7 hours for parking, while you enjoy Ufizzi and shopping street, and second you will not like the parkings in downtown Florence. Take a closer look at the pictures. The cars have their mirrors folded and then pushed one between each other. Same procedure when you want your car back. No place to loose :) But this is not for the faint hearted for the sake of their car. I preffered to be very cautious when parking in Italy, and for Florence I was staying in Prato (parked on a low traffic street - there are also there streets where big busses passes 2 cm from your car), and took the train to Florence - as simple as that - no parking worries :)
They are like bees buzzing around Florence. The drivers of these mopeds think they are immune to the law, so it is not unusual for them to drive up the street in the wrong direction. So, if you should be walking in the street because the sidewalk is too narrow, they could be right behind you. Be alert.
Most Italians have a scooter (motorini), as they don't like being stuck in traffic jams. Unfortuntaly especially the young Italians quite often ignore the traffic rules: They go the wrong way down one-way streets or overtake on the left and right and don't respect pedestrians.
So when in Italy always beware of the motorini drivers!
It is very easy to become captivated by the beauty and romance of Florence. This can cost you your life, however. Remember that Vespas rule the road, and if you're not careful, they will run you over! If you want to live to tell your friends about your trip, snap out of your trance while crossing the streets.
Traffic is intense from 7.30 am to 10.00 am and from 5.30 pm to almost 8.00 pm. So be careful in using the car during those hours. It can take more than a hour to cover small distances. Don't go in the city center with your private car because only residencial, taxis and buses are allowed to go there
Well Florence has ever been a cahotic city, expecially in the area close to the "fortezza". For a while the situation seemed to go better but now they are makeing new works for the "tram", so lots of streets are closed or they changed the direction. Take it easy if you come here by car. And don't think to let the car in the blue signs withouth paying the parking. Police pay lots of attention at it, so you can find the car blocked or maybe you don't find the car at all 'couse the police get it away. Remember you can park inside the blue lines..the white are for resident only (so even if you see there is a place for parking, it's better you don't stop there).
Traffic around the city center is awful, messy and polluted! Moreover there are many street works for the new suburban bus and subway line. The wors traffic is from 8.00 a.m to 7.00 p.m. of working days. In week ends traffic gets a little better.
Urban Police have placed a lot of Cameras close to traffic lights (so they make fines to drivers who cross with red light!), in avenues (so they make fines to drivers whose speed limit is higher than 50 km per hour), and at the entrance of the city center (the city center is forbidden to everybody but those who live in the city center or tourists whose hotel is located in the city center, so if you cross the border you get a high fine!!!).
When arriving in Florence, you will soon notice
many scooters buzzing down the streets. You will
need to be very aware of them when walking down the usually narrow streets with narrower
sidewalks, already busy with many people. The
scooters are noisy, so you will hear them coming
your way ahead of time, but they don't often slow
down for people walking or crossing. So beware!
When walking around Florence, you'll be struck by how incredibly narrow its sidewalks are--a lot of the time, there's room for exactly one person to get by! You'll have to step into the street on many occasions, but be very careful that you don't get run down by a motorbike. They come whizzing out of nowhere and can be pretty hazardous.
Motorcycles! Be very careful when crossing the street motorcycles buzz around the corner with no warning and do not stop for anything. The guide books warn about gypsies and pick pockets. We didn't encounter them, but saw many potential traffic disasters.
Lots of people, surrounding buildings, mixing with spread statues, filling your photos.
I was there in winter, so... I may imagine what happens in summer. It's "forbidden" to make a picture without a multitude of heads and backs.
We missed the deadline to return our rental car and tried to drive to the hotel which supposedly had a garage. BIG MISTAKE! We spent 45 minutes driving around, mostly in circles, trying to navigate the one-way streets. We finally came across the Garage Duomo, that charged us 25E to park the car for the night. The garage attendant was the only person who gave us accurate directions back to the car rental location on the edge of town--the staff at the front desk at the hotel gave us directions that took us the wrong way on one-way streets. Our 2004 Streetwise Florence map was also had errors. Bottom line--don't drive into Florence!