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beachbum2 Nov 20th, 2012 06:47 AM

Where to pick up rental car Rome to San Gimignano
We are heading from Rome to San Gimignano to spend a few nights in Tuscany. It will be my husband, myself and 3 kids. We are trying to figure out the best place to pick up a car. Do we pick it up in Orvieta and drive to San Gimi or take the train somewhere closer to San Gimi and pick it up there? Suggestions?

We are also heading to Levanto after our time in San Gimi. We may or may not need the car in Levanto, but will then head to the Holiday Inn express at Milan MXP airport the night before our flight. Do I drop the car off near Levanto and take a train to the airport and shuttle to the hotel, or just drive the car to the airport hotel, then to the airport in the am?

pizzocchieri Nov 20th, 2012 09:06 AM

Consider taking a morning train to Pisa, stowing luggage in the train station, seeing the Tower of Pisa, and then picking up your luggage and a rental car to drive to San Gimignano.

You will have no use for the car in Levanto or that area, but given that you are traveling with 3 kids, you might find it easier to just keep the car if you are not staying more than a few days there before turning it in MXP. However, if you decide to keep the car, you must book a Levanto lodging with a guarantee of parking.

If you decide not to keep the car, you can either drop of the car in La Spezia (depending on what day it is) or drive to Levanto first to drop off the luggage and then return the car in La Spezia.

Without knowing the age of your kids it is hard to know how much of asset the car is (usually is with small kids and tots) or how much of a millstone around your neck after a point. If your kids are pre-teen and teen, they should be able to haul their luggage and change trains without worry. Small kids? Keep the car until the last minute would be my advice.

kybourbon Nov 20th, 2012 07:55 PM

If you want to drive through southern Tuscany on your way to San G. then you could pick up your car in either Orvieto or Chiusi. You can easily reach either town by train from Rome.

Another option is take the Sena bus to Siena and pick up the car.

Keep in mind that rental companies in smaller towns are usually closed 1-4 in the afternoons, after 1 on Sat. and closed all day Sunday.

Saraho Nov 20th, 2012 11:56 PM

We pick it up in Orvieto, very easy to do right by the train station and we love Orvieto. Be sure to go up the funicular to see the cathedral.

beachbum2 Nov 21st, 2012 05:57 AM

pizzocchieri, thanks for the idea of Pisa. I didn't even consider that. We were considering trying to squeeze in Pisa and Lucca between San Gimi and Levanto, but that could be an option. We are staying at Villa Valentina in Levanto. They do have parking available. I figured it may be nice to have a car there. If the weather is bad, we can always drive to see something else. Our children are 7, 10 and 13.

kybourbon, thanks for the input on closing times of rental locations. Bus to Siena? I may prefer driving vs a bus, but thanks for the idea. My concern is the ease of getting to the car hire locations in Siena.

Saraho, I had not considered spending time in Orvieto, but need to check if our time will work with closing times of the car hire. We are trying to get a tour of the Vatican in the am, before leaving Rome. It's the only day we can get it in with the Easter closings, etc. How long is the train trip to Orvieto? I assume the car hire locations are easily accessible from the station?

Any other locations that are open most of the day? Maybe the Pisa or Siena option? Siena would be a much shorter drive, but I don't think there is a car hire at the train station.

With three kids, I'm looking for ease.
Thanks for the ideas and thoughts. Keep them coming!

Mimar Nov 21st, 2012 06:19 AM

There's always the airport. It's easy to get to, the agencies there are open 24/7 and you'll avoid driving in Rome. Also since you'll probably be paying for the car anyway, you won't pay for train tickets also. (Except maybe to get to the airport.)

I haven't driven in Pisa or La Spezia and wonder about how easy it is to find your way around and avoid ZTLs (locals-only driving zones for which you get a ticket).

The train trip from Levanto to Milan Malpensa airport is a minimum of 5 hours with 2 changes -- or more. The drive is about 3 hours. I'm a train lover but I'd take the car.

kybourbon Nov 21st, 2012 09:31 AM

The bus from Rome to Siena is easier than taking a train (train requires changes) and is just as fast. It's not a city bus, it's a tour bus and your luggage goes underneath. They depart Rome about every two hours.

Siena rentals won't be open any more hours than Orvieto or Chiusi. There's one or two convenient to the center (closer to the bus drop) and one closer to the train station (Hertz is walking distance from the train station).

Pisa is a distance from San G. so you would be overshooting your destination and backtracking.

>>>We are trying to get a tour of the Vatican in the am, before leaving Rome.<<<

That means you will need to store your luggage somewhere and then retrieve it. You won't be getting an early start so the rental companies will probably be open by the time you arrive (usually reopen 3:30 or 4). Train from Rome to Orvieto is a bit over an hour and most of the trains are about 7€. If you choose Orvieto or Chiusi (same trains) be sure you know the stops and be ready to get off (at the door with your luggage). Many trains on this route only schedule a 1 minute stop. A few trains stop a couple of minutes.

Another option for pick up would Villa Borghese in Rome. There are multiple rental companies and open longer hours. With three kids, I think car pick up in Rome would be easiest and keep it until Milan. You could still stop off a few places on the way to San G. Orvieto is right off the highway and has free parking behind the train station. You take the funicular up to the hill town across the street from the train station.

zoecat Nov 21st, 2012 02:45 PM

Your younger kids (and you!) may enjoy this treasure hunt for San Gimignano (unless you understand Italian, you'll need to translate on your computer)-

There is also some nice info on the site about the area and activities/events.

beachbum2 Nov 26th, 2012 07:58 AM

Thanks for the Villa Borghese recommendation. I will look that one up with the rental agencies. Are you familiar with Roma Via Sardegna (Close to Via Veneto) location? There is an Avis agency there. We live close to Washington DC, so we are used to insane traffic, but it's a whole different ball game when you are in a city you are unfamiliar with.

I do think it would be easier with the 3 kids to just rent in Rome vs get to the train station, train, car etc.

We can leave our luggage in our rental apt. late on our departure day from Rome, so we do not need to worry about luggage on Tuesday am.

annhig Nov 26th, 2012 08:19 AM

if you do decide to go to Pisa, here's the link for booking your obligatory climb of the Tower:

lovely, especially at night.

beachbum2 Nov 26th, 2012 08:25 AM

Or do we go to the train station? Which will be the easiest to get to from Piazza Navona with the kids and easiest to get out of town?

annhig Nov 26th, 2012 10:53 AM

beachbum -from the Piazza Navona you can easily get a cab along to Termini station or even get the bus from the Corso Emanuale - the no 45 or 60 i think.

of course you could get a cab to the car hire office too, or the bus; I'm afraid I don't know which one, but here's a great website which has loads of good information about Rome, including buses:

personally i think that i would opt for the train- once you're on it, it'll be far less stressful than driving and fun for the kids to be on the train. and the campo dei miracoli in Pisa should not be missed - ignore the hawkers and all the rubbish, it's still amazing.

just27 Nov 26th, 2012 11:05 AM

We just rented a car (through Kemwel, vs Auto Europe) to leave Rome, and found that to get a station wagon big enough for five people, we pretty much had to pick it up at the Termini, or one of the airports. Although we're very comfortable, driving in cities such as Boston and San Francisco, the traffic experience in central Rome is fairly terrifying.

If you can schedule Walks of Italy's Pristine Sistine tour, it's well worth getting up for the 7:45 am start.

Mimar Nov 26th, 2012 11:46 AM

Re: just27's post, the availability of a station wagon or bigger car might depend on whether you need an automatic transmission. Manual shifts are much more common in Europe.

While we've driven in Rome several times with no problem*, I don't know if I'd want to start my driving-in-Italy experience there. You do have to get used to the Italian driving style, no lanes (observed) free-for-all. Starting on a freeway or a country road is easier.

*Except that time we were dropping the car at the Stazione Termini and trying to find a gas station first for a fill up. You have to tune your eye. Ancient Rome didn't allow for gas stations; they are just pumps in the sidewalk. And, if you see one on the other side of a boulevard strip, you can't just go around the block; there are no blocks. It may be a long way back. Never before or since have I heard my husband swear so much.

beachbum2 Nov 26th, 2012 12:56 PM

annhig, we need the car for Tuscany, so it's the decision of getting it in Rome at the train station or another location within rome or going to another location by train to the car rental location to drive the remainder of the distance. We will definitely do Pisa, probably on our way fron San Gimi to Levanto. Thanks for the link.

Mimar, Your post sounds like one of our adventures in Belgium/Germany with my husband swearing more than I've ever heard and not able to get help as we didn't speak

We are ok with a Manual, both of us had them for years. Like riding a bike right?

We need to exit Rome and will return the car to MXP airport, so I only need to deal with one way out toward San Gimi. It looks like some of the smaller towns (Orvieta)agencies close between 1-4, when we are hoping to leave Rome by 1 or 2. That's another reason we are looking for the easiest pick up area.

Just27, we are looking into some type of wagon. Many are available right now, but I'm sure availability will decline with time. Where did you leave from? We are looking into the tour. Thanks for the info. It may work well as that is where we plan to be that morning. How long was the tour? If we start at 8, will we be back to Piazza Navona by noon? It will help me figure out rental car pick up times.

Had I realized the rental car would be this difficult, I may have planned a different part of Tuscany to stay in....too late now. On to the adventure.

kybourbon Nov 26th, 2012 05:04 PM

>>>Are you familiar with Roma Via Sardegna (Close to Via Veneto) location?<<<

Just a few blocks from Villa Borghese also.

>>>We live close to Washington DC, so we are used to insane traffic, but it's a whole different ball game when you are in a city you are unfamiliar with.<<<

DC traffic will be quite calm compared to Rome although Rome traffic isn't as crazy as Naples.

just27 Nov 26th, 2012 11:19 PM

The Pristine Sistine tour was advertised as 3.5 hours. In fact, our tour was closer to 4 hours, which was fine with us. There is a taxi stand in St. Peter's Square, so if your tour did end at 11:30, you could conceivably race across the square for a cab, and be back in Piazza Navona by noon. I guess you could bail, if the tour was was running over schedule. How old are your children?

We chose to pick up the car (a stick shift, Peugot wagon, which fit five of us, and our luggage with no problem) at Ciampini airport. But, we were driving east, so it made more sense. It was nice to get the feel for the car, and the Italian driving habits, a bit out of town.

At one point, in the planning of this trip, the car rental section of the trip was keeping me awake at night! Now, sitting comfortably in our Florence rental apartment, looking at the Arno, it was an interesting adventure in the middle of a marvellous trip. (BTW, they did ask to see both drivers' international licenses.)

beachbum2 Nov 28th, 2012 05:24 AM

kybourbon, I am not familiar with Rome at all. First visit for our family. That also makes this so difficult and why I'm trying to figure out the easiest location to drive out of the city with 3 kids in tow :-)

just27, Our kids will be 13, 10 and 7 when we travel. Will they be bored? Is it worth the money for a tour the kids? We usually don't do long tours as I always feel they would be painfully boring for the children, but it seems it may be worth it just to avoid some of the lines, etc for the Vatican.

This is not quite keeping me up at night, but I am spending WAY too much time trying to figure this

If we did not need to see the Vatican on Tuesday am, I would probably take a train to Orvieto, but that is the only day while in Rome (Easter weekend), it will be open and by the time we get out of there and to Orvieto, it will be around 2 and the rental car agencies are closed. We also want to get to San Gimi in the daylight as I hear it can be a little tricky getting to our agriturismo.

annhig Nov 28th, 2012 05:38 AM

beachbum - bearing all this in mind, and trying to work in the tour, here's a plan:

early Tues morning do tour. should be over by 1pm. taxi back to apartment [everything packed the night before right?] quick picnic lunch whilst you hand over keys to owner/agent and get deposit back.

book car service to take to airport [Fiumicino]. pick up car. [won't matter what time you get there as it's the airport and they are always open]

drive directly to san gim. says that it's 3 1/2 hours. according to this app which gives you the times of sunrise and sunset, you should get there in daylight, hopefully, so long as you don't try to see anything else. [sunset at about 19.45 apparently].

buon viaggio!

just27 Nov 28th, 2012 12:11 PM

You know your childrens' tolerence level best for educational tours. I'd sure hate to miss seeing the Chapel without the crowds, but have no illusions about my 12 year old enjoying that much time in the Vatican. Maybe just milling around St. Peter's Square for photo ops, and considering the Swiss guards, would suffice?

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