We hear horror stories about driving a car to Florence and Venice. However, we will be traveling by car. Should we skip these wonderful places or can we find safe overnight parking outside the main city areas? Thanks!!
Don't listen to some of the people who give advice here. They post horror stories about car driving in Italy to scare tourists because they are members of a "tourrorist" organization whose aim is prevent Americans from renting cars and forcing them into socialist high speed trains. Their tourrorist organization is called Al Qar-Hater. You can park safely in the parking lots outside the city walls of Florence while you visit the historical center. If you stay in a hotel in town, find it outside of the city walls or even out of town and visit the city from that location. In Venice you will have to park at one of the many carparks in Piazzale Rome or next door at Tronchetto island, just across the Liberty Bridge over the Venetian lagoon. There is nothing to fear but fear itself.
What is your full itinerary? This way, people can advise the best way to see Florence and Venice. There's no need to avoid these places with a car, but for seeing the cities themselves, you will ditching the car for the duration of your stay there. Make sure you know about ZTL's if you're thinking of driving anywhere near Florence. You can park outside the ZTL's and take a bus or taxi in to the center. Or, it may be easier to leave your car in another city and take a train or bus in (if, for example, you're staying in Siena before or after). For Venice, there are parking lots at Piazzale Roma and at Tronchetto (both attached to Venice proper) and on the mainland in Mestre. You leave your car at one of these (mainland is much cheaper), as there is no motorized land transit in Venice itself. Another poster here warned that if you drive over the causeway to Venice (for P. Roma or Tronchetto), watch your speed carefully, as it is patrolled by cameras and you can get a speeding ticket months later. Again, depending on your stops before and after Venice, it may be easier to leave your car at one of these and take the train to Venice. As long as you know about avoiding ZTL's and follow speed limits (and you need to do these things even if you don't go to Florence or Venice), there should be no problem seeing these cities with a car. Just be prepared to pay for parking while your car sits idle during the visit (I think there are free or low cost parking options for Florence - Roberto will probably chime in with all the details).