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Driving in Italy in January

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Nov 15th, 2014, 10:42 AM
  #1
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Driving in Italy in January

We are planning a trip to Italy in January. We will arrive January 1 in Rome, and then go directly to an apartment outside of Sorrento. We've been told that we will want a car in Sorrento and Amalfi coast that time of year as there will be less traffic and less public transportation available. We are also staying outside town and up a steep hill - the owner of the apartment says that a car is advisable. Our itinerary thus far is below. Advice requested!

Jan 1: Arrive in Rome and drive rental car to apartment outside Sorrento. We think it will be nice to have a rental car that time of year for touring around. Yes?
Jan 7: Naples? Were hoping to spend one night there but not sure we want to drive here. Perhaps just stay another day in Sorrento and take ferry to Naples for a day trip? Or drive to Naples and drop off car at a rental location, then use public transportation to get into the city and then back to Rome next day?
Jan 8: Drive back to Rome, drop off car, and head to apartment in Rome for remainder of stay using public transportation

We have itinerary pretty well figured out, just have some concerns about transportation:
1. Is driving Amalfi coast road and between villages and towns while staying in Sorrento really as dangerous as some posters claim? We would like the convenience - and surely there will be less traffic in January.
2. Drive from Rome airport to Sorrento fairly basic?
3. What to do about Naples? We know it is difficult to drive there, but it seems logical to spend a night there in the middle between Rome and Sorrento apartments. I have left one day open just for this reason.

Last question: Reliable car rental company in Italy? Pickup at Rome airport and drop off in different location?
Thank you!!!
TripGoer is offline  
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Nov 15th, 2014, 11:19 AM
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Factoring in the time of year:

1. The drive to Sorrento isn't bad. Once you go south of Sorrento, the road starts to get narrow and a bit hairy. Of course, there will be very little traffic to contend with, but if you're not comfortable with cliffside roads and steep dropoffs, it's no fun. And it's especially no fun for the driver, who won't get to see much scenery or relax.

2. Not a bad drive from Rome to Sorrento. Traffic in and around Rome is a bit of a hassle, but if you can time your departure or make it on a weekend, it will be less of a hassle. South of Rome, it's basically Autostrada (with tolls) until you get near Sorrento.

3. Naples isn't car-friendly. Your idea of stopping there between Rome and Sorrento isn't a bad one. I've never had a car in Naples (and don't ever plan on having one there) so I can't give you a whole lot of advice on that.

Let me make a suggestion. I don't know how many people are in your party or their mobility. Had you considered taking the train out of Rome to Naples, spending some time there, and then taking the train to Sorrento? You can always rent a car when you get to Sorrento. (Or instead of taking the train from Naples to Sorrento, hire a driver for about 100 euros -- just giving you all the possibilities.)

I assume you're flying into Rome from the US(?). If so, you're going to be groggy from jet lag, and that long drive is going to be tiring.

Another possibility: Do your stay in Rome first when you land, and then continue south to Naples and Sorrento, and fly out of Naples. Of course, maybe all your arrangements are made, and you can't change the itinerary. Just mentioning it in case you can.
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Nov 15th, 2014, 01:37 PM
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There's a lot written here about driving in Italy.... They like to drive FAST, but they're excellent drivers. As long as you keep to the right on any highway, you're good. On narrow road you may notice a car tailgating you (very close!), don't panic, just keep driving and find a place to pull aside and let that Italian pass you.

I agree with vincenzo (who must know Italy much better than me). Landing from a long overseas flight and hop into a rental car for a long drive -- not a good idea.

Also, extremely helpful is some kind of a GPS, whether using your phone (and pay for the data!) or buy or rent a GPS (but check that it has the local maps!). You can't afford to slow down, hesitating on an Italian road, you must know where you're going!
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Nov 15th, 2014, 04:59 PM
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Driving the Amalfi coast road isn;t dangerous - it;s the traffic that's the issue - and that's in high season. But do be prepared for a lot of blind entrances, having to slow down to nothing or stop to get around a large coach or truck - and finding it very difficult to park anyplace. (Be sure your parallel parking is up to par in spaces barely bigger than the car and on both sides. Also, when you park always be sure to fold in the mirrors.)

Not sure what you will do in a seaside resort off season - unless you just ant to tour roman ruins But be sure to check opening times in the off season. And be aware that ferries (best views of the coast) run much less often and may not run at all if the seas are rough.

Obviously it's your decision - but to me a seaside resort in midwinter is not ideal (esp with many restaurants closed for the season).
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Nov 15th, 2014, 05:44 PM
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Take the train from Sorrento to Naples as a day trip. It's only an hour each way.

I don't know that I would want a car in Sorrento. The apartment owner, who is advising this, knows the streets and how to get places. If you want to walk around the town or have dinner in town, where will you park your car? Plus do you want to be driving around the narrow, winding streets in the dark? The pretty part of Sorrento is quite small and easy to walk. You could ask about taxi service into town or to the port or train station.

Check AutoEurope for car rentals. They are a consolidator and can find good prices for the type of car you want and they are easy to work with.

I don't think the Amalfi Coast road is dangerous but you would need to be comfortable driving on narrow, winding streets with only Belgian blocks between the car and the cliff. You also need to be able to reverse if you meet a bus on a curve as the cars must give way to buses. If it's raining or foggy I would not do the drive.
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Nov 15th, 2014, 06:23 PM
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Have you driven after an overnight flight before?

You could take the train to Naples and stay there a night before heading to Sorrento. There is a commuter train line between Naples/Sorrento which takes about 70 minutes (4€_ between them. You could pick up a car in Sorrento and drop it there when finished with it. Take the train to Rome. Pompeii and Herculaneum are on the train line between Naples/Sorrento if you plan to visit them.
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Nov 16th, 2014, 12:41 PM
  #7
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Thanks for all your wonderful advice!

Our apartments are already rented, so we don't have option of changing where we stay when.

Perhaps we should just take train from Rome to Sorrento, then from Sorrento to Naples, and then from Naples to Rome. We really think we would enjoy having a car when on Amalfi coast. My husband is pretty good at driving narrow roads and roads with steep drop-offs. Colorado mountains and New England country roads are common for us - and we've done some Europe driving as well. I would panic, but I will let him drive!

Appreciate the great thoughts from all of you!
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