Driving in Italy

Dec 28th, 2014, 02:10 PM
Original Poster
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Driving in Italy

We will be traveling to Italy for several weeks and would like to rent a car for the first part of our trip. We have now desire to drive in any of the cities. With that said we want to just park the car outside of some of the cities we go to for a couple of day (for example, Firenze - park in long term parking, then pick up after 3 days to drive into the Tuscany area. We figured this would be both financially better and more efficient. Could anyone give us some input regarding this idea.
jmarks54 is offline  
Dec 28th, 2014, 02:46 PM
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You don't need a car in Florence since you aren't allowed to drive there (many Italian cities restrict access to residents including hill towns and larger cities such as Rome/Florence). Pick up your car as you leave Florence to visit Tuscany as it doesn't make sense to pay for a car and parking (30-40€ per day) just to sit.

How many days will you spend in Tuscany and need a car? What part of Tuscany?
kybourbon is online now  
Dec 28th, 2014, 02:59 PM
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We love doing road trips in Europe - when we have the right itinerary.

Yes, we have parked the car for 3 days in Florence (in hotel garage at about 30 euros per night) and then used it to do day trips into Tuscany. But you need to either find a central hotel with parking or find a reliable garage (NOT lot) in outskirts. But we were using the car for a much longer trip mostly in the countryside and small villages.

But, this is not cheap - and if it makes sense depends on your specific itinerary.
nytraveler is offline  
Dec 28th, 2014, 03:12 PM
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Just to be clear:

You're going to drive from city to city, staying in each city for a few (?) days. And in each city you're going to park the car in a garage for your stay. Right?

How many cities are in your plan?
For how long will you rent the vehicle?

I would need more info on your itinerary before commenting.
vincenzo32951 is offline  
Dec 28th, 2014, 04:14 PM
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There are plenty of hotels on the Oltrarno side of Florence that have parking and are outside the ZTLs. From those hotels you can walk to everything you want to see in Florence. Parking will not be cheap, but it is there.

If you search for hotels on booking.com you can filter the search for only hotels that offer parking in any city you plan to visit. Be careful when reading what the parking arrangements are, because some hotels list themselves as having parking but actually simply are near a paid parking lot. Before booking any hotel that advertises it has parking, contact the hotel directly to make sure you are getting what you want.

Plenty of people -- especially Europeans -- do what you are contemplating. But you must take it seriously that driving in Italian cities is very complicated because they have areas that are forbidden to non-residents, and can photograph the license of your rental car and track you down to issue horrendous fines. So it is not just the stress of city driving -- it's the possibility of ending up with some really unpleasant bills. But you can do it and not get a ticket and be within reach of the important historic sights if you do the research. Hotels will help with information if you contact them.
sandralist is offline  
Dec 28th, 2014, 04:59 PM
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Plan your itinerary to use the car for a time and then drop the car and use the rails. It is all about good planning.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Dec 28th, 2014, 05:03 PM
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This may help as well !


A. Of course you should if your driving skill & confidence would allow you to drive a rental car in Vermont, Colorado or California. But, be advised of these tips:
* Avoid driving in the major cities except for picking up or dropping cars
* Have good maps—study them in advance—and have a GOOD NAVIGATOR.
* Stay in the right lane except when passing and use your rear view mirrors

A. It is best to rent your car before you leave for Europe. The best source we have found is www.autoeurope.com [888-223-5555] who is a broker for several car vendors. They will quote you prices to include the variables that are often omitted by others, such as unlimited mileage, mandatory insurance coverage with some deductibles, and VAT taxes. It is wise to compare prices and coverage with their sister company at www.kemwel.com. Autoeurope will match any comparable quote, and are famous for their customer satisfaction if problems do arise with the vendor. The best model will depend on your needs, but for best value we suggest you select a compact car with manual transmission. Automatics are available but will cost you about 30% more and may limit your model options & pick up locations.

A. Yes & no! They are certainly aggressive, but they are also more skilled than many USA drivers—both are a function of necessity. Italy is one of the most crowded countries in the world and the drivers have evolved these characteristics
* They are notorious tailgaters. If that bothers you, pull over and let them past.
* On the AUTOSTRADE they will drive fast, but will stay in the right lane except when passing and will use their blinkers when passing—YOU SHOULD TOO !
* They will often pass on 2-lane roads with traffic coming. Frankly, they expect you, and the oncoming car, to adjust to the shoulder and make 3 lanes of traffic.

1. Learn the meaning of the sign “ SENSO UNICO” and take heed [ONE WAY ].
2. Be sure to get your ticket when you enter the AUTOSTADA system & be prepared to pay the toll when you exit it [ rule of thumb—300 km=15 Euro]. You can use your credit card in the VIA lane at the toll both, or buy a debit VIACARD in advance.
3. Do NOT attempt to follow road numbers—that will frustrate you. But, do pay attention to the directional signs that point to your destination [ TO MONTALCINO]. And, be aware if that road leads eventually to a larger city [ ROMA—SIENA ETC.]
4. Unless you have a diesel car, you will want to fill the tank with benzina from the green pump. Most stations will pump gas for you and will take credit cards.

NOTE: As of 2005, an International Drivers Permit [IDP] is required in Italy.
You can obtain them from your local AAA office. You will need a valid US driver’s license, two passport photos, and $20. The photos can be
bobthenavigator is offline  
Dec 28th, 2014, 05:36 PM
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>>>But you need to either find a central hotel with parking or find a reliable garage (NOT lot) in outskirts.<<<

My understanding of the ZTL in Florence is you are allowed access to the ZTL to drop off and pick up your luggage on arrival/departure days, not daily trips in and out. Do you have a link about daily in/out being allowed?

If you post your entire itinerary, you will get suggestions on tweaking it to optimize car use and public transport.
kybourbon is online now  
Dec 28th, 2014, 06:56 PM
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My husband I hired a car in Italy for 5 days while we stayed Tuscany in Sept this year. We picked it up in Europcar in La Spezia and then dropped it off in Siena (we picked smaller cities with locations on the outskirts of the towns so we didn't need to drive through the town centre). We used www.autoeurope.com to book our car hire and we were happy with the service).
I didn't drive, my husband did, and he said it didn't take him long too get used to driving on the opposite side of the road and a manual (every time he stalled the car he managed to do it in a roundabout ). I will say I think I lost 10 years off my life driving in Tuscany (narrow roads and they drive so fast) but I will admit I'm a sook.
We had a GPS and it was fantastic. We avoided toll roads where possible (the GPS was able to bypass these).
Driving allowed us to travel to lots of little towns and see the beautiful Tuscan country side.
We found the car hire price economical and fuel was cheap (we got 1,000kms to a tank - unheard of in Australia). We got a Fiat 500L and it was a great car (much better than the Renault we hade in France).
rellie2 is offline  
Feb 18th, 2015, 05:26 AM
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I agree with some of the others here. Why pay for a car, then pay extra (24 hour parking can be pretty expensive near the larger cities like Florence)? Instead, plan your trip staying in hotels or agriturismos and consider them as hubs. Look for places within a 1/2 hour drive of Florence or Siena, for example. Drive to the city, park, do the tourist thing, then drive through the countryside... besides, that's where the REAL Italy is, not packed like sardines like in Florence.

Take your time, plan your trip with the help of Google Earth (to see photos of areas and ground level views) and Google Maps (to get driving directions and times between places) and by all means, price out parking and rental fees. Visit forums like this and blogs to find out more.


finzidad is offline  
Feb 18th, 2015, 09:02 AM
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I recently read "Italian Survival Guide: The Language and Culture You Need to Travel with Confidence in Italy" by Elizabeth Bingham. It's a decent intro Italian language book with some interesting side notes on culture. I thought her take on driving in Italy was pretty good.

"Driving in Italy is not for the faint of heart. Driving can be dangerous. Streets and roads are usually narrow and often winding. Traffic is heavy on main roads and in cities. Traffic jams are common. Yet speed is of the essence to Italian drivers, especially on the autostrada (highway—plenty of fatalities there). If you violate Italian traffic rules, you may be fined and have to pay on the spot. Most major highways are toll roads (take a ticket from the automatic dispenser and keep it to show when you leave the tollway). Gas is expensive, and most gas stations are closed for lunch, closed after 7:30 at night, and closed Sundays and holidays. Cities are filled with one-way streets, road and street signs are terrible (often posted only at the corner, not in advance), and parking is a problem almost everywhere. (Rome is said to have 2 million cars but only 300,000 public parking spaces.) Historic city centers limit or ban traffic. And renting a car is expensive. If you decide to drive in Italy, reserve and pay for your car in the U.S. to save money. Get the more easily recognized international driver’s license, even though your U.S. license is legally enough. You should learn to drive a stick shift before arriving because most Italian cars have manual transmissions, even most rentals. Speed limits are marked on road signs; Italians usually ignore them, but tourists should not. Don’t drive in the passing lane unless you are actively passing another vehicle, and try to do that quickly. If someone behind you beeps their horn and flashes their headlights, it means they want to pass you. Be wary when someone passes you, however. On two-way roads, they may continue to pass even with oncoming traffic, expecting both outer drivers to edge onto the shoulder, making a temporary third lane in the middle. On any kind of road, they may cut back in front of you with inches to spare. While many gas stations close for lunch, evenings and holidays, highways have 24-hour service stations. The “Autogrills” are like giant convenience stores and gas stations with impressive fresh buffets. (And wine—but take no chances on alcohol. Italy has very strict drunk driving laws.) "

Just reading that passage it sounds pretty negative about driving in Italy but it's really not. If you just accept the way things are you won't be as frustrated. But the more I go to Italy the more I prefer to take trains (or buses)everywhere and only drive in areas where it's really necessary (e.g. rural Tuscany, Puglia, Val D'Aosta, Dolomiti, etc.).
isabel is offline  
Feb 18th, 2015, 10:20 AM
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I still don;t think driving makes sense for most of this trip.

As for driving in Italy we have done it many times and love doing it. But there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

You must be a confident, very competent driver to do this - if you are hesitant about your skills under the local conditions don't do it

Italian drivers are by and large assertive (I would NOT say aggressive) and much more skilled than many drivers in the US. (It's much harder to get a license there; the test are much more difficult - and other drivers are expected to be skilled.)

For a ocuple of rules:

Left lane is for passing only - not just sitting. This is true in many places in the US and widely ignored. It is NOT ignored in Italy. Drive on the left only if actively passing and move back to the right as soon as you have cleared the traffic there. And keep your right blinker on while in the left lane to anyone following knows you will be moving back.

Don't lollygag. If you are not comfortable with the local speed, either take smaller roads with lower limits - or, if a line of cars piles up behind you - pull over off the road and let them pass.

Brush up on your parallel parking - be prepared to park in spaces only a little larger than the car - and on either side of the street. And always fold in side mirrors when you have parked.
nytraveler is offline  
Feb 18th, 2015, 10:20 AM
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Both of these pieces of advice for driving in Italy exaggerate the risk and in some respects are outright wrong. Your US drivers license is legal for driving in Italy. You need an International Drivers Permit (IDP) along with a US license. All EU licenses, if they're in the new EU format, are legal for driving in Italy, though.

In the past, rental agencies didn't usually check to see that drivers had an IDP, but lately they're checking and some refuse to rent cars to those who don't have one.

The wild and crazy drivers mentioned in these articles are largely an urban phenomenon. In rural Italy, very slow drivers are more likely to be a problem, and most of them are not skilled at all. Occasionally we even encounter a driver going the wrong way around a roundabout, and we often find ourselves stuck on a rural road, with no place to overtake, behind a car going 15 mph or less. And then there are the elderly farmers who stop at every field to have a look at the crop.

I have a sense that the habit of tailgating is declining. It's been a long time since I've had someone hugging my rear bumper, although I do see tailgaters behind other vehicles, mostly of those very slow elderly farmers.
bvlenci is online now  
Feb 18th, 2015, 10:23 AM
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That should have been: Your US drivers license is not legal for driving in Italy unless accompanied by an International Drivers Permit (IDP).
bvlenci is online now  
Apr 2nd, 2015, 04:56 PM
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thank you bvlenci for giving the other side of Italian drivers. we are trying to decide if we want to be herded into a tour of Italy, or rent a car and enjoy the smaller roads. We have driven in Germany and England, and try to not drive in the big cities! I will continue to haunt these forums in making our decision!
roguemckenzie is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2015, 08:08 PM
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We drove for three months in several countries in Europe, including Italy for one month. We did encounter tailgating and a lot of faster drivers in Italy. Frustrating sometimes but it wasn't a problem, just keep to the right and let them whiz by. We loved the freedom of having a car in the small towns of Tuscany but definitely didn't need one in the cities. A combination of train and a car for a few days seems to be the best choice.
michele_d is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2015, 11:19 PM
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We rented a car while visiting our son in Florence and used it for day trips over a period of four or five days. I highly recommend driving for getting the real feel of the countryside - for both flexibility and for getting off the beaten path. We like trains for getting from A to B, but nothing beats your own vehicle for experiencing the journey, rather than the destination.

Some nights we parked in the car rental parking lot (Sixt downtown) for free and others at our hotel in the Oltrano. We LOVED driving in Tuscany and did not find it even remotely challenging, but we are both used to manuals, European roads, as well as crazy traffic at home n LA. We did get international permits, which takes about 5 minutes at the AAA, but nobody ever looked at them. As others have said, the rental wasn't very pricey - we booked one of the cheapest compacts and were upgraded to a very cool B class Mercedes. If you like driving and spontaneity, go for it!
crosscheck is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2015, 04:54 AM
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Saraho is offline  
Apr 6th, 2015, 05:26 PM
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Is there any problem with renting a car in one country and driving to another? Plan is to get car in Paris, drive around France, over to Italy and back to Paris to drop off (4 weeks). Really like a lot of the info on this thread, thanks
roguemckenzie is offline  
Apr 7th, 2015, 02:45 AM
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Providing you drop the car in the same place that you rented it from, there's usually no charge. If you drop it elsewhere in the same country, there may be a charge. If you leave that country during your rental you need to advise the rental company and there may be a charge.
Rubicund is online now  
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