Here comes another post “prompted by laziness”, just like the post on how to get from Pisa to Florence and viceversa. Another question that I often read in forums and am asked by our guests is “where can we park in Pisa/Siena”? So I thought it might be a good topic for another (hopefully) useful post. And remember, if you don’t have a car like the one above, you should probably be careful where you park!
Where to park in Pisa
The first thing to remember is that most parking spots in Pisa are pay and display parking spots. Pay parking is marked by blue lines; white lines are for free parking spaces and yellow lines are for reserved parking spaces (incuding parking spaces for the disabled).
Parking is generally unsupervised, even in the private parking lots.
If you park in one of the pay parking spots along the road, you need to go to the nearest parking meter and pre-pay for the parking, estimating the amount of time you will need to leave your car there. Most of the automatic machines only work with coins, so remember to keep some change in the car. They are usually located under white and blue and white and black signs with the symbol of a parking meter and the cost per hour of stay which varies from 60 cents to 2.50 euros per hour, depending on the zone. There is a minimum amount you must pay (usually 60 cents or 30 mins – whichever is higher) depending on the zone. Of course, the closer you are to the tourist areas, the more expensive parking will be. You need to insert coins and you will see on a small display the amount of time you are allowed to stay. When you are done, you need to push the green button and the machine will print a ticket that you need to leave clearly on display inside your car on the dash.
Another option is to go to one of the enclosed parking lots: the two largest ones are on Via Cameo (Parcheggio di Piazza dei Miracoli), just a few steps away from the Leaning Tower, and just around the corner from that, by the Pam Supermarket (turn left at the roundabout at the end of Via Cameo). There you need to obtain a ticket when you go in, but you only pay when you are ready to leave the parking lot. There are actual parking attendants. A tip: the entrance to the Parcheggio di Piazza dei Miracoli can be tricky because there are two identical entrances, but one is for the university cafeteria. I see tourists stuck there trying to reverse all the time. The entrance to the parking lot is the one on the left.
If you plan on spending the day and want to save on parking, there is a private parking lot behind the Agip Gas Station in Via Bonanno, opposite the former Emergency Room. They apply a daily fee which is much lower than hourly parking rates. Also, in the same area, the parking spaces in Via Padre Bruno Fedi and in the Via Lucchese area are free after 2pm.
The cheapest option of course is free parking, which is available in the two park and ride parking lots called Parcheggio Via Pietrasantina (ideal if you come from the Autostrada and exit at Pisa Nord – there is a Tamoil gas station at the entrance of the parking lot that you can use as a reference point), and Parcheggio del Brennero (ideal if you arrive via Lucca). The former is only a 10 minute walk to the Leaning Tower, and the city bus line LAM Rossa stops there every 10 to 15 minutes so it’s very convenient. The latter is a bit farther away, but it is served by the city bus Navetta E, which will take you right downtown to Piazza Santa Caterina or Via Santa Maria. Something to remember: Parcheggio del Brennero is where the city market is held, so it is taken up by the market stalls on Wednesday and Saturday morning.
Here is a Google map with some of the most accessible parking areas in Pisa.
A word of caution: if you are in an area with white parking spots (except in the two large parking lots that I have just mentioned), you are probably where you should not be… they are usually only for residents and therefore in areas restricted to non-residential traffic.
ZTL – Zone a Traffico Limitato… or Limited Traffic Zones
This is another very common topic in forums, especially those which deal with Pisa and Florence.
ZTLs are a way to reduce the pressure of non residential traffic in highly touristic destinations. They are also a way to guarantee that some areas stay exclusively pedestrian, and that traffic does not damage the oldest parts of the cities more than is strictly necessary.
Some people believe they are a scam for tourists, but believe me: they’re not. They support their thesis with the argument that the city council even has English and German speaking clerks helping people pay ZTL fines. This is such a stupid argument… it’s a service that is meant to help people who were distracted or didn’t do their homework and entered one of these areas.
Italians get fined too. But not, as some believe, because ZTLs are so difficult to identify that not even Italians can see them, but because when you navigate an unknown city, you get distracted, whatever your nationality. Any car, Italian or foreign, that enters a ZTL without a valid permit for that ZTL will be fined. And it is expensive. So the first thing to do is to learn to identify the ZTLs. They are all clearly marked with (very confusing) signs and most of them will also have cameras on big poles and well marked entry lanes…
What I always recommend is that you learn about Italian road signs before getting behind the wheel on an Italian road.
In the photo above, I have added the standard sign you find before entering a ZTL, the ZTL entrance to the Santa Maria Quarter, and a third sign that might be confusing. The rightmost sign is found at the entrance of the Lungarno for those who come from the airport. They will also see cameras. The ZTL on the Lungarno is only active in the summer after 9pm when the locales on the river are open and thriving. There are usually traffic policemen too, so as to reduce the number of confused drivers, and the sign says “varco attivo” (active cameras). When the sign is like this “varco non attivo” (inactive cameras), it means you can drive there.
In Pisa, you will be fine if you drive along the Lungarni (the roads that run along the river banks) without taking ANY side roads. Stay on the Lungarni, or outside the city walls. I am not sure where people get fined the most in Pisa, but I am ready to bet it is in Via Mazzini, which is a relatively big road off the Lungarno where buses are allowed to drive, but not cars. Stay on the Lungarno and outside the city walls and you will be fine.
Here is the ZTL entrance to Via Mazzini:
It can be a bit confusing, because you only see it once you have already turned into Via Mazzini, and backing up into the Lungarno is not an option.
However, if you pay attention to the signs on the Lungarno, you will see that you will have passed signs indicating that you must go straight.
Where to park in Siena
The same general rules apply in Siena. There are several main areas where you can park at the street level: near the city gate Porta Camollia, near the city gate Porta Romana, near the city gate Porta Laterina, by the Soccer Stadium and the Fortress, and by Fontebranda.
We always recommend parking at the Soccer Stadium-Fortress area, but keep in mind that on Wednesdays it is taken up by the weekly market.
There are several other underground parking lots such as Parcheggio Il Campo and Parcheggio il Duomo, and also the parking lot at the train station.