car rental in Italy: advice?

Old Oct 5th, 2003, 04:30 PM
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car rental in Italy: advice?

We are flying into Rome in January and renting a car (Florence, Veneto, Venice, Amalfi Coast). Are there particular car rental agencies that you think are good? Awful? Any advice on driving in Italy in general? By the way, although I am listing cities on our itinerary, we won't be driving IN the cities.
Thanks for your thoughts.
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Old Oct 5th, 2003, 04:39 PM
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Many people here, including me, like AutoEurope. They seem to have good rates and are very reliable and honest.

Personally I think Hertz is awful.

I've driven around Tuscany and find it pretty easy. My advice:

1. Get a good map and a navigator who can read it. Italian Touring Club is excellent.

2. Familiarize yourself with the differences between different colored signs. Blue directional vs Green directional signs, e.g. Try to ignore the advertising signs (brown) unless you are looking for a specific hotel or restaurant.

3. Develop a VERY high tolerance for tail-gating. Italian drivers come out of nowhere, sit on your rear bumper until they can pass, then cut in again so quickly you fear for your left front headlight. It's just the way it's done in Italy.

You are wise not to drive in the large cities. Have a great trip!
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Old Oct 5th, 2003, 08:56 PM
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Something we noticed when driving in Italy is that Italians tend to drive down the middle of two-lane roads. They move over to the right when you approach, but often later than we're used to in the US. So don't panic in anticipation of a head-on collision--that Italian driver sees you (usually) and is used to driving that way!
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Old Oct 5th, 2003, 11:22 PM
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Rent from autoeurope.com before you leave as ou will save a bunch of money. As for tips on driving, I have a whole section on my site http://www.cristinasweb.com that has driving info, road sign descriptions, etc. Make sure you get an International Driving Permit from AAA before you leave.
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Old Oct 6th, 2003, 01:41 PM
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I agree with renting from AutoEurope before you go; if you search this site you will see many positive comments about this broker. You will actually get your car from Avis, Europcar, or some other rental agency, so don't be looking for a sign that says "AutoEurope".

We paid to rent the least expensive car, but I requested a diesel, and we got an Alfa Romeo diesel. It was a very nice car, and I presume we were upgraded because the rental agency (Avis in La Spezia) had no subcompacts. I advise getting a diesel if you can as fuel in Italy is very expensive, but diesel fuel is about 15-20% cheaper than gas (about .86 euro a litre as opposed to 1.03 euro or so a litre for gas.)

Have a great time!
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Old Oct 6th, 2003, 01:50 PM
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Be sure and have the attendants at the rental company mark all the previous dents and scratches on a form before you drive away, it will save you money and headaches later, trust me.

On the larger roads, stay to the right except for passing, this is why the faster cars come right up on you and flash your lights, you are only going 80mph! I noticed that they keep their turn signals on while they are in the passing lane to signal cars behind them that they are just in their lane to pass and will be getting back in the slow lane asap.
The road signs may not list the city you are heading for so pick out a larger city farther up the road to focus on. Try to have your navigator keep you updated on smaller towns you are passing to keep making sure you are still heading in the right direction, the directions change really fast.
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Old Oct 6th, 2003, 01:52 PM
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I meant to say the cars come right up behind you and flash their lights to tell you to get over to the right, slowpoke!
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Old Oct 6th, 2003, 02:07 PM
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A question for cristina (siena_us):

What is the advantage - or the need - of the International Driving Permit from AAA? Why do you say to 'make sure' to get it?

I'm a AAA member and this is news to me about a permit and I've driven Europe many times without it.
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Old Oct 6th, 2003, 02:29 PM
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Does any one know if gas stations in Italy accept charge cards? This may be a silly question, but the only times that I've driven outside of the U.S. is in Latin America where gas stations frequently operate on a cash only basis.

Thanks.
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Old Oct 6th, 2003, 02:37 PM
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Currently the main Petrol Station chains are in dispute with the credit companies over the size of the commission charged on each transaction.
Therefore they have decided to boycott credit cards and most stations currently DO NOT accept credit card payments.
The whole issue is being investigated and arbitrated through the auspices of the Italian Dept. of Transport and could take some time (read months, if not years!) to sort out.
So... you will need either cash or a debit card (with chip) as is common throughout Western Europe. I'm not sure whether US banks offer these cards to their customers; I suggest you give yours a call!

Dr D.
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Old Oct 6th, 2003, 02:57 PM
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TuckH--Italian law requires foreign drivers to carry an IDP in addition to their regular license. You would only need it if stopped by the police for some reason, and a particular policeindividual might or might not ask for it if you were stopped. But if a policeindividual does ask and you don't have it, you can be fined.

Austria also requires one--or at least did the last time checked on it. Germany and France do not as I remember.
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Old Oct 7th, 2003, 02:37 AM
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As Rufus said, it is required by law. Not only can they fine you but if you get a cop in a really bad mood they can impound your car on the spot. That can really ruin a vacation. Check out the info here http://www.cristinasweb.com/italy/Dr...nItaly/idp.htm
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Old Oct 7th, 2003, 05:45 AM
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The signs in Italy can be intimidating and confusing. It pays to have a navigator.

You will learn the the green signs lead you to the Autostrada and the blue signs to cities/towns.

I took a picture of a street sign that might help to prepare you.

http://www.worldisround.com/articles/20521/photo11.html
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Old Oct 7th, 2003, 05:51 AM
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Thank you, Rufus and Cristina.

Cristina, I checked your website...mi piace!
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Old Oct 7th, 2003, 05:59 AM
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Dr_DoGood's message surprised me -- this must be a very recent development because I charged most of my gas station fill-ups on my recent trip, the last one occurring on Sep. 12. Are other recent travellers finding that gas stations in Italy will not accept credit cards?
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Old Oct 7th, 2003, 06:17 AM
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Yes it is a new thing about credit cards and gas stations but I think it was from some time in August. You may have just been lucky and found one that accepts them.

As for road sign confusion, on my site (link given above) you can find pictures of all of the road signs with English and Italian descriptions. HTH
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Old Oct 7th, 2003, 10:12 AM
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Dick - yes very recent. It was reported within the last couple of weekends in the saturday travel section of one of The Independent, The Guardian or The Telegraph newspapers. I can't be sure which because I take all of them.
I'm sure if you search their individual websites you'll quickly pull up the story.
Dr D.
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Old Oct 7th, 2003, 10:23 AM
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Cristina, your website is terrific. I am going to bookmark it and recommend it to people who plan to drive in Italy. Thanks!
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Old Oct 7th, 2003, 10:34 AM
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I agree that AutoEurope is the best choice. I've rented from them on my last 5 trips and have been happy each time. We picked up a car in Naples and drove to the Amalfi Coast several years ago. Once you're on the Coast, the drive is beautiful and scarey. Driving through Naples was the worst. The rental car agent told us not to stop if someone hits the car, because that's how they rob you. They paid no attention to stoplights or street signs in that city.

Florence was very easy to get in & out of and Tuscany was a breeze. It is necessary to have a navigator though.

I would suggest taking the train from city to city (Venice to Florence to Rome to Naples, etc.) and picking the rental car up at the train station so you don't have to deal with the car in the cities much. On the Amalfi Coast and in Tuscany, you are much better off with the rental car.

Good luck!
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Old Oct 7th, 2003, 10:42 AM
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We just returned from Italy, and rented a car through AutoEurope from Sunday, September 28 until Thursday, October 2. A few thoughts:

- I would highly recommend AutoEurope, and rent prior to leaving the US. You'll prepay in dollars. Our car was from Europcar (just a Fiat Punto), and picking it up was very easy, even though it was during the blackout, so there was no electricity).
- We didn't plan to drive IN the cities either, but had to drive out of Rome from the rental car pickup (this was especially difficult since it was during the blackout, so none of the traffic lights worked!). We also drove to Florence for the day from our hotel in Chianti. Big mistake. Even though we only meant to drive to the city, park and explore by foot, we couldn't find a parking lot, and ended up paying 30E to park under the big market right in the middle of the city.
- We used a Michelin map, which worked well. We also got a map from a vineyard in Chianti that was great of Chianti. I can't remember the website, but you can do a search on this site to find it.
- The advice about signs is great - only look at blue and green, and look for names of any city or town that is on the same route as you're going. Also, be very aware - my husband was bad about passing a slow truck, and the sign that told us to turn would be hidden by that truck, so we'd miss it! Sometimes the signs will give you lots of advance notice, and other times the sign will be immediately before a turn.
- We had no problems using our credit card at gas stations. We filled up on Tuesday (the 30th) at a station outside Greve in Chianti and used a mastercard, and filled up on Thursday (October 2) at a station on the A1 just before Rome, and again used a mastercard.

Good luck, and have a great trip!
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