Transportation

Driving in Italy: When You Must and When You Shouldn't

One of the biggest conundrums for travelers to Italy is whether or not to rent a car while visiting the country. Driving in this country can be tricky, and if you do decide to rent a car, we suggest you take a look at our tips in Want To Rent A Car In Italy: A Few Things To Consider. In addition, there are some excellent resources online for a quick overview of rules of the road and common road signs to brush up on before taking the wheel.

Arezzo(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Though there are many destinations in Italy for which a car is both unnecessary and a nuisance, there are other situations in which you may enjoy having the freedom and flexibility of your own transportation. Here are some suggestions to help you decide about whether or not you should consider renting a car during your trip to Italy:

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Travel Advisory: Rome Fiumicino Airport

One the night of May 6th, a fire due to a short circuit broke out in Rome Fiumcino's international terminal, gutting a shopping area in Terminal 3 and causing dozens of flights to be cancelled or delayed, and of course travel complications for thousands of passengers. Considering that even more people are flying through Fiumicino (Leonardo da Vinci) airport this year than in past years (up 8% over last year), there is a fair amount of misery in store before and/or after your Italian vacation if you are flying through Rome.

FCO departure gates C(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

More than a month after the fire, the terminal is still not fully functional and travelers can expect some delays and inconvenience. Here's what we found after flying through Fiumicino last week:
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Traveling Between Rome, Florence and Venice: Stopovers to Round Out Your Trip

Whether it’s your first trip to Italy or you’ve traveled the Bel Paese so often that you can almost call it your second home, some cities just never get old. As many times as you might visit the cultural capitals of Rome, Florence, and Venice – with all their history, art, and unmistakable Italian vibe – you are bound to discover something new on each trip. That said, though these three cities are among Italy’s most popular destinations, we’ve got a secret.

There’s a lot of Italy left to explore in between. Read More...

Want To Rent A Car In Italy: A Few Things To Consider

Image: © Concierge in Umbria
UPDATE: Please see our more recent post on Driving in Italy

Visitors often inquire about driving themselves in Italy.

While this may be an option for some travelers, driving in Italy isn't for everyone, there are some important things (beyond the initial shock that you’ll pay three times as much for an automatic and gas costs around $9 a gallon) to keep in mind if you’re contemplating driving in Italy.

Five Crucial Facts About Driving in Italy


Image: © Concierge in Umbria


(1) Driving in Italy is as aggressive as the stands at the Roma vs. Lazio derby

The Italian Auto Club has even recently launched a program to keep foreigners driving in Italy safe, as 13.5% of foreigners who drive in Italy (compared to only 6.4% of Italian drivers) are involved in accidents each year. A private guide with whom we work in Umbria has a very simple but accurate way of describing successful driving in Italy – “drive where there is space.” If there is space on the road, it is up to you or one of your fellow competitive drivers to fill it. On the Italian roadway your one and only job is to not hit what is in front of you.

(2) You can incur hundreds of euros in fines . . . without being pulled over

If you accidentally drive in a pedestrian-only zone (Florence is full of them), you’ll get a fine for every time you pass a traffic camera. But you can also be pulled over at a roadblock for no apparent reason by police looking for insurance and registration violations. In a rental car, these shouldn't be a problem, but having an International Driving Permit (a translated version of your license available at any AAA) will help things go more smoothly.

Image: © Concierge in Umbria


(3) Country roads aren’t quite roads . . .

Italy is full of “white roads,” so named for the light-colored gravel that takes the place of pavement. Think of them more like long driveways. Though they are often so poorly labeled, you’ll be lucky to find them in the first place. FYI: most villas, country hotels and other places worth visiting in the countryside are located at the end of such roads.

(4) DUI limits are incredibly low

In line with European standards, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol level of more than 0.05. For many people that is just one glass of wine. If you are going on a wine tasting excursion, we strongly encourage you to use a driver.

Image: © Concierge in Umbria


(5) Parking is labeled . . . but that doesn’t make it any less confusing

Some parking spots demand that you find the nearest tabaccheria to get your parking ticket, while others require you to place a “parking disk” (like a shop’s “we’ll be back soon” sign) to show when you arrived.

How We Can Help


We book cars for our clients through AutoEurope, the best way to compare rates and get the best price on European car rentals.

But beyond helping you book a car and providing you with a GPS navigator, we can usually have your car dropped off at and picked up from your countryside villa or hotel so there are no worries about getting lost on the way or dealing with the car rental counter after your overnight flight.

We’ll also hook you up with a comprehensive guide to everything you need to know about driving in Italy, from an easy trick to paying less for gas and a guide to navigating Italy’s toll system.

Brian Dore and Maria Gabriella Landers | Contact Us
Condé Nast Traveler Top Travel Specialist: Italy