What I wish I knew before Renting a Car in Italy

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In the months leading up to October’s Italy trip, I realized that a rental car would be necessary. One of the things I love about Europe is the ease of traveling by train, and I try to take advantage as much as possible. But, the rails wouldn’t take me to the isolated Tuscan villa or seaside resort I’d be visiting, and since I’ve found that some of the most difficult places to get to are also the most rewarding, I sucked it up and rented a Citroën. However, there are a few things I wish I knew before renting a car in Italy.

Tips for Renting a Car in Italy

When I’m in the USA, I’m a driving machine. I started driving at age eight and got a super-fast ’66 Mustang when I was twelve. In Houston, public transportation isn’t a viable option, so I’m behind the wheel everywhere I go. I consider myself a very good driver {though a bit aggressive, impatient, and prone to road rage, which makes me basically an Italian driver!}.

I’ve dodged sheep and rock walls on the tiny roads of Ireland and navigated the North and South Islands of New Zealand without issue. I’ve driven in a convoy of 200 Mini Coopers from San Francisco to Albuquerque. There was no problem whatsoever. However, driving in Italy is different. Thus, here are some things I wish I knew before I rented a car in Italy.

Driving Fast in Italy

From the country that’s given the world Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Maserati, you would expect a nation of lead feet. And you’d be right. Italy is no place for the timid driver. Forget leisurely cruising through the Tuscan hills–not going to happen. Highways might as well be racetracks. Frankly, I never knew the speed limit, nor did I care. There were always ten cars driving at least twenty kilometers per hour faster than me. Just move over as soon as possible and let everyone pass.

Tolls Roads in Italy

I am filled with anxiety when it comes to toll roads. When I was teaching and coaching basketball in Houston, I crammed a giant, yellow school bus full of kids between two concrete barriers at a tollbooth during rush hour. This happened over eight years ago, and the humiliation and horror still haunt me.

Now, I’m not particularly concerned about hitting something, but rather choosing the wrong lane. The last thing I need is a warrant out for my arrest in Italy. My advice for using Italian toll roads is to find the cash lane, unless you understand Italian. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT use the credit card line, especially if you don’t have a credit card with a chip. My friend was charged $8 and $37 on her debit card. Subsequently, I later paid €.70 in cash. That’s just highway robbery {pun intended}.

Renting a car in Italy

Manual vs Automatic

I learned to drive a stick shift on a tractor when I was ten. I’m pretty sure I’ve not driven one since {both a tractor and a stick}. You can imagine the look on my face when I climbed in to my trusty Citroën to see three floor pedals and a knob where a cup holder should be. My advice is that unless you’re Giancarlo Fisichella or regularly drive a car with a manual transmission, just go ahead and pay the extra money for the automatic transmission.


First off, it’s important to know the terminology. Gasoline is known as petrol. Secondly, the prices may look much lower than in the USA, but keep in mind that in Italy {and pretty much the entire world}, petrol is sold by the liter, rather than the gallon. So, €20 worth of petrol will get you about three gallons. Lastly, paying for the petrol can be an adventure and varies wildly. Often there’s a central pay station for each bay of pumps. Choose the pump number you’ll be using and follow the Italian instructions. Paying with a credit card without a pin can be difficult, if not impossible. Have cash handy, because some of the machines accept bills.

Using GPS in Italy

With all the construction, tiny roads, and roundabouts, navigating Italy can be a daunting task. I decided against renting the optional GPS and using Siri and Google maps instead. It served me well, but did use a good bit of the international data I’d purchased and ran my iPhone battery down rather quickly. It was, however, entertaining to listen to Siri butcher the beautiful Italian language. If you’re going to be driving a lot then just get the navigation system. It’ll be a good investment.

Car Rentals in Italy: Insure or Not?

Normally, I’m on the fence when it comes to buying insurance. My credit card offers coverage, so in the USA, I decline the coverage offered by car rental companies. Besides, the insurance often costs as much as the rental, and I find that simply ridiculous. When I’m renting a car in Italy, however, I usually buy it. And in some countries, like Ireland, there’s a law requiring the purchase of additional insurance.

Some car rental sites offer insurance at a fraction of what you buy at the rental car counter, so make sure to research that option. Before I picked up my car, I bought a week’s worth of excess protection online for just £28.26. The added piece of mind was absolutely worth it, especially since I may or may not have added a little character to the front bumper of my car. I’d also like to suggest keeping a bottle of Tuscan red handy to give to the inspector upon return, although, I can’t guarantee this to be a foolproof method. Individual results may vary.

Rent a Car in Italy Here:


One of the best parts of my Italy trip was dropping off the car at the Rome airport in one piece. I will say that the risk was worth the reward, because I got to see parts of Italy that I couldn’t from a train window. I was on my own schedule and had the freedom to stop when I wanted. I’d totally rent a car in Europe again, but next time, it will be with an automatic transmission.

Renting a car in Italy


Note: There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I make a small commission if you make a purchase through my links. It costs you nothing more, but helps keep me stocked in French wine {and a roof over my head}.

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  • Vid
    November 4, 2014

    Agree with all the tips 🙂 driving in Europe has been one of the best experiences of our lives in the last 6 years but driving in major cities can be daunting. Good you carried that bottle of red for the inspector – always comes in handy in Europe, especially in Italy 🙂

    • Leah Walker
      November 4, 2014

      I’ll have to tell you about that tale over a bottle of Super Tuscan. It was brilliant and totally not planned. I’d like to call it “thinking on my toes.”

      • Fely
        September 4, 2017

        Im not quiet sure what is the purpose of the red Tuscan for inspector. Inspector of what exactly?!
        Also I will be renting a car from FCO from Rome to Florence to Venice to Amalfi (and surroundings) then back to FCO for our flight back home. The car rental purpose is to get to another city from the other. I will be using public transport to explore each cities.

        Should I worry?
        I have driven around Canada/s busiest cities and towns, also include NYC, Boston, DC and MD

        I should be ok right?

        • Leah Walker
          September 10, 2017

          The inspector is the person who looks at your car to make sure you didn’t damage it during the rental. You should be ok. I just wouldn’t drive in the cities at all.

    • Josh
      August 4, 2018

      Very helpful writeup. My wife and I are leaving for Italy next weekend and your article addressed a lot of our concerns regarding the rental car. We too are from Houston and feel prepared after dealing with Houston traffic. After reading reading your article, I’m glad we rented the BMW M3.

    • Bill
      July 23, 2019

      I agree with every point, except stick shift. but that’s just me, I rented a car to explore the south, from Salerno to Lecce despite reading about Italians all thinking they are Mario Andretti, I found it fun as heck to whip along the back roads fueled on espresso and Puglian sun. And yes, never drive in cities. Though in adapting a sort of dolce vita/aggro to get out of Salerno – emulating the merge but allow others to merge fence sitting, I had great fun and my trusty Fiat Panda got by without a single scratch.

  • Katrina
    November 4, 2014

    You are one brave woman. There’s no way in hell I’d drive in Italy! Well, I should say, there’s no way I’d ever drive in any of the big cities. Rome? Ha! Naples? Fuhgedaboutit. Maybe the driving is less stressful in Tuscany and points north, but after what we observed in Campania, I’m more than happy taking public transit!

    Germany, however, is a different story. 🙂

    • Leah Walker
      November 4, 2014

      Honestly, I picked the car up in Florence and went directly to the Tuscan countryside. Then I drove it to the Rome airport. There was NO way I was driving in a city. They highway and winding, country roads were enough. Plus, I couldn’t enjoy wine like I would have liked. 🙂

  • the lazy travelers
    November 4, 2014

    we’ve had our fair share of iffy driving experiences when traveling, though nothing so terrible that we’d swear it off altogether. it is incredibly frustrating how much more expensive it is to get an automatic! we feel you, sister.

    • Leah Walker
      November 17, 2014

      The automatic racket is ridiculous. Unless I’m renting a Ferrari, give me two pedals instead of three.

  • kay dougherty
    November 4, 2014

    When we were in Sicily several years ago I dubbed their style of driving “rectal driving” because they – even on roads with no traffic – drove so close it was like they were in the back seat or up my – oh you know! I’m an aggressive, fast Boston driver and held my own but barely! The other thing is that most countries in Europe technically require an idiotic international driver’s license that you just go to AAA and buy. Then they never ever look at it but if you get in an accident and don’t have one you can supposedly get into a fair bit of trouble. But I still like the freedom of a car in Europe – I tell myself I’m building new neural pathways!

    • Leah Walker
      November 17, 2014

      OH MY…rectal driving might be the funniest thing I’ve read all week. Thank you!

  • Mike McLellan
    November 4, 2014

    Having driven in Ireland, England, Scotland, Italy, Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland (plus U.S., Mexico and Canada) I would rate Ireland highest on the nerves level. They charge big time for rental insurance and know you are going to hit a hedge row. Italy comes in second because even the smaller towns have restricted zones and one way streets that will cost you big time if you break the law – and they will track you down through the rental the company. Yet, nothing beats driving through the Italian Alps and surviving.

    • Leah Walker
      November 17, 2014

      GREAT! I picked the two most difficult countries to drive in. I guess the rest of my experiences should be a breeze.

  • A Cook Not Mad (Nat)
    November 4, 2014

    Great post, we’ve rented cars every time we’ve been in Europe and learn something new each time. Renting a GPS sounds like a good idea but often, if you’re in the countryside, it’ll send you on un-driveable roads so keep that in mind. Also, declining the insurance isn’t always a good thing. We found out that most credit cards cover you for 30 days only and don’t cover liability. Just some food for thought.

    • Leah Walker
      November 17, 2014

      Totally! The GPS I rented in Ireland was terrible. I was in Cork and it still had me in Dublin–totally useless. You’re right about the insurance. There is no hard-fast rule and needs to be analyzed by each individual.

  • I’d like to add “parking” to the list…. the spots are not big and if you need to enter a parking garage in an old town, it is a challenge indeed, I remain impressed with some of my recent maneuvering in Spain….

    stay adventurous, Craig

    • Leah Walker
      November 17, 2014

      OH, yes, how could I forget parking? Thank goodness I never had the car in an actual city. That has disaster written all over it. #StayImpressed

  • Joelle
    November 5, 2014

    Great tips! I’d also like to add that you can get insurance through most major card companies as long as you use the card to book the rental. It’s part of your card benefits. For rentals in Italy fewer companies offer insurance however, but there are some like Capital One for example.

    • Leah Walker
      November 17, 2014

      Yes, but often the credit card only pays the deductible for the insurance you pay for on your private car at home. Then your private car insurance kicks in for the rest of the damage, resulting in an increase in your premiums. It varies and can be quite complicated to figure out.

  • Charles McCool
    November 5, 2014

    Entertaining write up, Leah. I love renting cars, anywhere in the world. Great tip about the insurance.

    • Leah Walker
      November 17, 2014

      Thanks, Charles. 🙂

  • Traveling Ted
    November 5, 2014

    This was a prescient read as I will be driving for the first time overseas this December in Costa Rica. I need to find CarRentalsCR.

    • Leah Walker
      November 17, 2014

      Seriously, the first time? I’m shocked!

    • Wally
      June 11, 2024

      I just returned recently (5/20) from a trip to Costa Rica. Rented from Alamo. Had no problems with them however the driving in Costa Rica is Crazy. I had been there on 4 other trips previously but that was 14 years ago. I experienced a lot of changes mostly in the volume of people and traffic. Signage is Very poor and the roads are very dangerous in the mountains. It is a very mountainous country which is beautiful but be ready for very poor road construction. I am a Very experienced driver and hold a commercial driver’s license in the U.S. I really don’t know if I would return to Costa Rica or not. I am a senior citizen and there are so many other places that I would still like to visit.

  • The Guy
    November 6, 2014

    It’s true that driving in Italy can be manic, in most places. We were fortunate enough to hire a car in Sardinia and to be honest the driving there was a lot more leisurely and orderly than the mainland. Much to my relief!

    Driving with a gear stick is something which I now miss since I moved to a Prius (which appear to be automatic by default). With a gear stick I find I have more control of the car. I have a wealth of experience of both manual and automatic although must admit that automatics are becoming more fuel efficient than ever before.

    I was actually in Houston last week, with a hire car. In spite of what you say about Italian drivers do you remember the way some people drive in Houston? Honestly, when you take the 59 or the 10 you are at times relying on a fate of God that those idiots weaving in and out of lanes at high speed don’t hit you!

    I do remember speaking to a girl in Houston last week who said that she’s never been on a train, due to the lack of transport options in Houston. She can’t wait until her trip to Europe next year which includes train journeys.

    As a non-American I must admit that we are often confused by why you use the term “gas”. The fuel that it is refers to is in a liquid form, not a gas form so we find it quite odd. You’ll find that outside of North America, the term “petrol” or “petroleum” is used in most cases.

    • Leah Walker
      November 17, 2014

      So true about Houston! However, I am very comfortable with the laws and roads, so it’s no big deal to me. And yes, it is weird that Americans use the term ‘gas’ for the liquid version. Who knows why we do it?

      • ALBA
        May 17, 2018


        • Leah Walker
          May 18, 2018

          Yes, of course. I mention gasoline (only one s in that word) in the petrol section. I’m wondering why we don’t call it petrol like most of the rest of the world. But thanks for your comment and all caps.

      • Evan Jones
        November 7, 2018

        I lived in Houston for 4 years and though it may be mean, I want to say that you are all crazy drivers! Thank you for the helpful article though!

  • Francesca (@WorkMomTravels)
    November 6, 2014

    We’ve rented cars in Italy on two separate trips and really had no issues. I agree with the toll-booth anxiety, though. Mark and I both have freaked out over tolls in Italy and in Costa Rica. I just don’t want to do anything incorrectly and piss off other drivers, ya know? I cannot agree with you more about the GPS! So vital when driving in Italy (and in other countries, too, based on our experiences).

    • Leah Walker
      November 17, 2014

      I was OK when I had someone else in the car that could help navigate and such. However, on my own I really needed the GPS and a second pair of eyes.

  • Lance | Trips By Lance
    November 6, 2014

    I haven’t driven in Italy but I still have nightmares about being stuck in Paris traffic for three hours on the city streets. I agree about paying extra for an automatic. I learned on a stick when I was probably around 10 as well and haven’t driven one a whole lot since. I am on the fence about insurance. I also have issues with tolls no matter the country. When I lived in Texas I avoided the toll roads as much as possible. And being back in Tennessee where they don’t exist, I’m happy. But I always get nervous when I approach a toll road, no matter the country or if there are a hundred cars or I’m the only one.

    • Leah Walker
      November 17, 2014

      I still think you’re crazy for even attempting to drive in Paris, but it’s still better than navigating Rome. Toll roads suck, no matter if they’re in Texas or Italy. 🙁

  • Pola (Jetting Around)
    November 8, 2014

    I was wondering if you could drive stick! (A tractor, huh? That will do it.) Really sound advice here, I actually would like to tackle driving in Italy. See what Argentina did to me? I *think* I’m ready for some road time in Italy, haha…

    • Leah Walker
      November 17, 2014

      Haha…yeah, a tractor! Can you imagine? I’ll take an Italian road trip with you, but I’ll be the navigator.

  • Kieu
    November 11, 2014

    Renting a car and driving through Europe is something I’ve always wanted to do but the thought of it is also terrifying. For one, I definitely need an automatic, no question about that.

    • Leah Walker
      November 17, 2014

      The trains are so great in Europe, it’s difficult to fathom even wanting a car. It does provide a certain freedom, however.

  • Fiona
    November 16, 2014

    You’re far braver than I – driving in Italy is not something I would ever volunteer for! 😉

    • Leah Walker
      November 17, 2014

      Brave or stupid? There’s a fine line in this case.

  • Lee
    November 16, 2014

    I used a credit card for tolls last time I was in Italy with no problem. It was very convenient.

    • Leah Walker
      November 17, 2014

      You’re lucky then. It cost my friend 50X the actual price.

  • Dana (@WantedAdventure)
    December 22, 2014

    ooooh yes — those gas prices will get you! I was SHOCKED the first time we did a road trip and I started doing the math of euros per liter to US dollars per gallon. WOWZA! My husband was equally as shocked, the other way around, when we went to America for the first time and did a little driving 😀

  • Travel Adventure
    March 3, 2015

    Hi Leah, you are one brave woman! You have a courageous spirit considering you are in a foreign land. Italy is so amazing, this is one of my dreamed holiday destinations because of Vatican and Tuscany, such a romantic region! I am wondering how much is the budget of visiting Ital?

    • Leah Walker
      March 7, 2015

      It depends on what sort of holiday you want, where you’re traveling from, and for how long. There are inexpensive places and super luxury. Give me a little more information of what you’d like and I can give you a general idea.

  • chloe
    May 2, 2016

    Hi Leah,

    I just wondered if you would be able to help.. I am taking my partner to drive around Italy next month however he is only 20 and I’m struggling to find anywhere that will let us hire a car?? Do you have any suggestions??

    • Leah Walker
      May 3, 2016

      How old are you? If you’re older than him then I wouldn’t even mention him as a driver. If you’re under 25 and over 21, you’ll likely have a young driver surcharge, but should be able to rent a car. Have you thought about trains and buses? I just got back from Italy and used a train several times.

  • Chloe
    May 3, 2016

    I am 20 too – the reason we’re going is mainly so that my partner can drive around Italy so we wouldn’t be getting trains or buses? I have notice that the company’s that do allow you to have a surcharge too.

  • Mike
    July 13, 2016

    Hey Leah,
    I noticed you picked up the car in Florence and dropped it off in Rome. I plan on doing something similar except picking up in Milan and dropping off in Florence. Did you have any issue with additional charges for one way drop off? or was the rate you got online the rate you paid. Nervous about getting hit with a large fee at the end. Thanks for your help!

    • Leah Walker
      July 13, 2016

      There was a one-way surcharge, but I don’t remember it being that much. It should show up when you book the car online, if there is one. It could certainly vary by company, however.

      • Mike
        July 13, 2016

        Great thanks. Im renting through Hertz and I think I’m ok based on what I’m reading and when I called the main office. Couldn’t speak with the actual office cause she didn’t speak english. I saw enterprise the charge was $60 so if its a fee like that, I’m good. Just didn’t wanna get hit with a per mileage thing on top. Thanks again!

        • Leah Walker
          July 13, 2016

          I’ve never heard of there being a mileage additional charge, but I’ve not rented from every company there is. Just watch out for the speed cameras! I’d google that, just so you know how they work on the highways in Italy.

  • Raymundo
    April 22, 2017

    Hi Leah. Thanks for sharing your experiences. We are currently in Tuscany and I do wish I had read your forum sooner. We were stung €60.00 at a toll booth for what our accommodation said should’ve been no more than €4.00 and we DID go through the cash lane. Apparently we needed a ticket which we encountered on later “Autostrade” (highways). How we missed one on the first highway is a genuine mystery. Highway robbery is an accurate call.

    Today we also learned that it is illegal to enter the old cities around Tuscany which can earn a fine of up to €130 if you’re in a rental (€50 if you’re a local)

    Whilst I now understand the need to minimise congestion in the narrow lanes of these ancient & beautiful cities, I was bewildered as to why there was no warnings from the rental car company about ZTL’s. Whilst I also agree, that I am at fault for not having done more research about such pitfalls, not all blogs make even a mention of it thus my contribution.

    Furthermore, the feedback from the company was that, & I quote “We are not responsible for your ignorance”. I have worked in the hospitality & service industry for over 30 years & it is my duty to provide the best experience possible to tourists, including advising of things to beware of as my reputation and that of my business and country go on the line. This occurs as a deliberate and very lucrative source of income that has sadly impacted on our experience.

    I hope that by sharing here, that someone else may not have this experience. The driving I found easy, despite coming from Australia and driving with right handed columns on the opposite side of the road.

    As for the company, let’s just say they have no ‘Heartz’!

    • Elizabeth
      April 26, 2017

      Even if you had known about the ZTL’s it is almost impossible to navigate Florence when you don’t know where you are going without crossing into one. I got slapped with two fines on the same day while searching for a parking garage, and I knew about the ZTLs. Once I didn’t even know I had crossed over and the other time, I knew I was going in it but was trapped in traffic and could not avoid entering the zone without angering 100 other drivers.

    • Leah Walker
      June 2, 2017

      Oh my! Thanks for sharing your experiences. I had no idea about driving into the old cities. Wow!

  • Lewis Vermeulen
    June 8, 2017

    What is the maximum age for renting a car in Italy?
    Officially there is no upper limit, but the fine print often shows 65 or 70.
    I am over 75.

    • Leah Walker
      June 9, 2017

      Hi Lewis. I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to your question. Perhaps it varies with the rental company.

  • cassie
    June 20, 2017

    Hey Leah, did you need an international drivers permit? thanks!

    • Leah Walker
      June 21, 2017

      Technically, it’s good to have. Some rental places will ask you for it. If you’re ever stopped by the police you’ll need to have one. I didn’t have one, nor was I asked. You can get one from AAA for about $20 a year. Easy to get, if you already have a license.

  • Paulo Valente
    June 22, 2017

    Manual gear box is standard in Europe. Thus an automatic fitted car will always be a more expansive car. Therefore always expect to pay a large fee for an automatic gear box on a rented car in Europe.
    On the other way round, I once tried to rent a manual gear box fitted car in the USA, just to find out that I would have to rent an European sports car (at a ridiculous daily rate) to get one. I finally gave up and rented an automatic one., just feel quite unsafe while driving it, as the automatic gear box has a mind of it own. I remember driving along the Big Sur at night, wondering
    whether I would remain in the road in the next curve.

  • william
    September 27, 2017

    Sounds awesome, I’ll be renting a car in Italy to get to some of the smaller cities, seems more convenient and cost efficient. What was the name of the company you used?

  • Elizabeth kormoczi
    October 23, 2017

    I am going to be in nice next year , wondering if i should rent a car
    We drive on the left side at home , and i am asking anyone if it is hard to drive on the right
    Is it scarry or will i adjust quickly not sure what to do
    Want to drive from st paul de vence to fenestrelle fort in italy as well or would it be better for public transport

    • Leah Walker
      October 23, 2017

      When I drive on the left I adjust pretty quickly. I guess it’s just up to the individual person.

  • Eric Wortman
    January 26, 2018

    Hi Leah,

    I loathe most public transportation and drive everywhere I possibly can. However, on our upcoming first trip to Italy, there are several places I cannot use a car, such as Venice, Florence, Siena and Civita. My question is about Rome. I am undaunted by even the most aggressive city driving and have done so in London, Paris and San Francisco. I have read several statements by writers, including Rick Steve that advises against using a car in Rome, but I don’t know HOW bad it is comparative to the other crazy cities I have driven before. If similar, I would risk it. If, however, there are many areas you are not permitted to drive, or parking is nearly impossible, it may make sense to return the car on this last leg of our journey and resort to walking and taxis. I hope my question is clear and you can help me in my decision. Thanks!

    • Leah Walker
      January 26, 2018

      You seriously don’t want a car in Rome. It’s not so much the crazy driving, but the parking and navigation. Even with GPS, there are twists and turns that will make you pull your hair out. And if there is a strike or protest in the streets, you’re totally screwed! I walk much of Rome, exploring a particular area each day.

  • Alex
    February 22, 2018

    Hey Leah!! Thank you so much for providing such great insight! My girlfriend and I are going to Italy for 2 weeks. We are flying into Naples and wanted to rent a car and just drive throughout Italy for the remainder of our stay just going wherever we felt like. We want it to be a stress free trip and leisurely trip. Do you think it would be more stressful driving (I.e with tolls,parking and other madness) or using public transit with luggage (1 carry on and handbag each)?

    • Leah Walker
      February 25, 2018

      Hi Alex. I’d say that if you want to be just be in the cities, taking public transport is the best idea. But if you want to get off the beaten path, then rent a car. Navigating, driving, and parking will be a nightmare in places like Naples and Rome. If you do rent a car, do get a navigation system! As long as you know some of what to expect, you should be ok if you’re an experienced city driver.

  • tony b
    May 21, 2018

    could write a book Have driven in AFRICA Kenya ,South America Argentina, Iran,Saudi , Spain, Portugal France ,Loads in Italy ,UK ,Florida, Romania,Greece,
    The arab countries are the most scary mainly due to poor vehicle maintenance, terrible judgement by drivers and carelessness .No religious debates here but get the picture ???

    A brit with 48 years driving experience Hiring a vehicle in Italy from an airport late at night without a sat nav can be a little daunting .
    For example from Venice I arrived around midnight .The SAT nav they gave me was out of date (Madrid Too) with the new roads not programmed .(Madrid was worse ) . The best thing to do is to use your smart phone and invest in a proper sucker contraption . put it on the windscreen at home to check it is a good one , so it is easy to see directions without taking your eye off the road . Before leaving the airport prepare your journey on the smartphone via airport internet using google maps or waze . Once you leave airport I find using phone data to connect on line sometimes does nt work . Always invest in a good quality torch . and a cigarette lighter type charger aswell for old cars plus a number long usb cables to connect into smartphone to charge . The torch came in handy at midnight when my flight was delayed .It took 10 minutes to find the usb socket in the car which on An OPEL was between the seats but behind my elbow in the back at low level . in mpossible to find in the dark .
    Any Autostrade requires tolls at some stage . Normally you pay cash unless resident . .You collect a ticket from an automatic machine .Make sure you drive slowly when approaching the booths as there a number of choices .TELEPASS for example must be a prepaid SMART way of paying .Normally I pay cash .You need to look for the lane choices that show coins or cash pictorially when collecting autoticket . Warning—– look in your mirror and indicate .Italians are tail gaiters and have little patience if you are dawdling slowly and changing lanes can be a bit dodgy …Once you collect your ticket . drive slowly away from booths but put your foot down once committed to the exit lane . When reaching the toll booths to pay with your auto ticket you can choose an auto pay with cash lane or in most cases you can hand into a human . He /she simply shows the price digitally and you pay through the window . Ensure you are close enough to the booth or you will need to open the door .. Where no human is available you pay with coins or notes… Make sure you have coins and 5 or 10 euro notes easily available next to you . allow 15 euros in coins and small notes . Tolls are not expensive but increasing as they build more roads

    BEWARE Northern Italy . They can rip you off . SICILY BY CAR in Venice Marco Polo once charged me for snow chains in April which can be law for them but they deducted from my credit card insurance and when I disputed It they never gave it back .BEWARE of any minor damage they may not have put on the hire document .they can try it on although HERTZ and AVIS being more expensive to start tend to be more reliable .NOTE they all seem to have cheaper options so for instance Firefly Thrifty and Budget are all part of bigger GROUPS such as AVIS HERTZ etc just marketed differently . Check all their rates .
    In Northern Spain in 2016 I had an accident and it was my fault .on a roundabout I was in the wrong lane I had the full insurance and the POLICE and driver of other vehicle were great .No road rage .The police helped me fill out the form no arguments . I paid nothing so was so happy I had the insurance ….ot sure but would have been stung if no insurance.
    Read the small print but suggest a pre booking including Insurance with no extras at the counter dont be fooled.
    Ensure you fill up with gas (Petrol) or diesel just before returning the car .They will charge extortionately .
    I hate returning the car to airports as the sign posting is never clear and some idiot behind hoots because he knows exactly where he is . Road rage on my part . But he rarely cares …Its just the culture . so keep your cool and take your time . h getting in the wrong car return car park can be a pain ..
    Finally the Autoroute signing is also daunting .and vehicles suddenly join from the right so beware of side swiping by trucks as they pull out to avoid joining vehicles .Also exit slip roads in all w europe seem to me as a brit very tight . Make sure you put your foot down to get out of trouble .
    Positive driving helps if you cant beat them join them

  • krista
    June 2, 2018

    hey leah! thanks for the great tips. we are thinking of heading to northern italy in july – milan to courmayeur, through lake lugano and back to bologna. any thoughts on rentals and driving in that region? I saw a comment above about surviving the alps….eeek! i am super comfy with train travel, but want to be-bop around the country side on our own accord – hike, wander, relax, etc. no real schedule yet, which is why i’m opting for a car this time around. whaddyou think?! thanks!!

    • Leah Walker
      June 3, 2018

      I think that sounds fantastic! I’d just be mindful of the speed cameras. Also, make sure you can actually drive in some of the fortified city centers. Have a great trip!

    • Shon
      December 24, 2018

      How did your trip go in July? We drove through that region back in 2014 and plan to again next month–it was just fine, but there were some really, really narrow roads! We were glad to be driving a little Fiat Panda that made fitting in narrow spaces simple.

  • Samantha
    August 7, 2018

    Thanks for the great tips! I will be renting a car in September at the FCO airport and curious if you have any advice on how difficult it is to return a car? I ask because my flight to Milan leaves at 9:50 am and the car rental counters don’t open until 7 am. I am hoping that if I am at the counter before they open that I will still be able to make it to my flight. Also, do you recommend any rental companies for ease? I have been looking at enrolling in the preferred or gold memberships for Avis or Hertz in hopes that would help.

  • Dave D.
    March 11, 2019

    Thanks for the tips. Did you arrange rental through AAA or through an Italian rental office?

    • Leah Walker
      March 19, 2019

      I got the rental online through the link I provided.

  • Dan Parsley
    April 27, 2024

    Leah, love your advise. BTW, we are the Parsleys from Houston.

    thanks for the info on rental cars in Italy. Do you recommend a particular car company?

    We are starting in Rome (and ending in Milan 2 weeks later) and want to rent a car to then drive to our villa near Lucca in Tuscany. We are staying in the center of Rome and hoping not to have to go to the airport to pick up our car (that will add another few hours to the trip). 7 of us so we’ll need 2 cars. We are there the two middle weeks in June.

    Thanks, Dan


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