When planning to travel internationally, you probably have a lot of questions. With so many new exciting experiences headed your way, you’ll have a lot of decisions to make about what to book, where to stay, and how to get there! One of those decisions is whether or not to rent a car in Italy.
As a travel company focusing on unique experiences in the hidden gems of Italy, our founder, Sierra Busch, has accumulated experienced the pros and cons of renting a car in Italy first hand. Today, she’s sharing that pro/con list and how exactly to go about renting a car in Italy!
Watch the Coffee Chat replay or read Sierra’s advice below! By the end you’ll understand the pro’s, con’s, and process of acquiring Italian rental cars and be ready to make the right decision for yourself!
Pros to Renting a Car in Italy:
1. Ease - Having a rental car in Italy gives you ultimate freedom during your travels. You can go anywhere anytime without having to worry about the logistics of public transportation! This can help you reach the far-flung villages of Italy and create your own authentic, meaningful, and local experiences that make your trip to Italy so special!
2. Freedom - Your sense of discovery will be at an all time high! You will be able to pull off the road at any point and see anything you want.
3. Optimize Your Time - Logistically, you will save so much time. Since you won’t have to take public transportation, getting places will be so much quicker and will allow you to pack more experiences into your trip.
Cons to Renting a Car in Italy:
1. It can be stressful at times. Obviously, renting a car in Italy can be stressful. There is the added stress of doing the actual renting of the car as well as figuring out a new type of vehicle in a new country and navigating foreing roads However, I find in Italy most roads and signs are intuitive but you can always brush up on driving rules and signs beforehand.
2. It can be hard to park around Italy. You will have to pay for parking and often parallel park. To help with this stress, look ahead of time to find the main parking lot of the place you are going. There is often a main parking lot outside of the city center in villages where you will want to park, this way you won’t have to parallel park in a village. I always make a point to ask a local after I park to be sure it’s ok. “Posso parcheggiare qui?”
3. Cost - Financially, renting a car can be a con for sure. It will be more expensive than using public transportation and you will have to pay for gas. You just have to weigh whether the freedom and time saved is worth the extra cost to you.
4. Pesky ZTLs - There are also limited traffic zones, called ZTL’s (zona traffico limitato), in Italy which are places where tourists and sometimes locals are not allowed to drive during certain hours or anytime. If you drive in one of these zones by accident, a picture will be taken of your license plate and they will fine you. To avoid this, you can usually look up these zones ahead of time online. If you’re not sure whether you’re about to enter a ZTL, roll down your window and ask a local, they can help you! “È un zona traffico limitato? Posso entrare qui?”
All of these cons are “handleable” and manageable, so don’t stress! Once you get past the intimidation factor of renting a car in a foreign country, you will see that the pros of being able to adventure far and wide without any constraints far outweigh any parts that may scare you.
How to Rent a Car in Italy:
1. It is very important to rent your car as far ahead of time as possible! The earlier you are able to rent your car, the cheaper it will be, and the more likely you are to get the type of car that you want.
2. As with most things these days, you can rent your car online. All you need to know is which airport you will be flying into and which airport you will be flying out of. These places will show you where you will pick up and drop off your rental car!
3. When trying to find out where you should rent your car from, you can do some research online to find out where to get the best price. AutoEurope.com is a website that compares prices of rental cars and can help you navigate where you want to get your car.
4. Once you have started looking at Italian rental car companies, be sure to read the customer reviews! While there will often be a lot of negative reviews (rental car companies tend to be rough to work with when you need it most), it can still help to give you some indication on what to expect before choosing to work with a company.
5. As far as choosing a car goes, manual cars will almost always be cheaper than automatic cars, so if you can drive a manual, definitely go that route! To put it into perspective, for a one week vacation, with picking up and dropping off the car at the Rome airport, we found a manual compact car that would cost $264.00. While an automatic car in the same situation would cost $404.00 for the week. There are sometimes glitches where you can find better prices though, so keep your eyes peeled for those!
Note: If you aren’t an experienced manual driver, now is not the time to learn. You will find yourself on many steep hills and tricky situations, so having the peace of mind of an automatic may be worth the extra cost!
6. Be sure to call your credit card company to find out if you have the ability to get car rental insurance through them and what their coverage is. If they do, you can decline the insurance plans that are offered to you at the rental car company (if you pay for the rental car using that credit card). If you cannot get car rental insurance from your credit card company, you will want to purchase it from the company when you pick up your car for your Italian road trip.
7. Don’t worry about buying a GPS to have in your rental car. You can use Google Maps Offline on your phone by downloading a map of the area you’ll be in ahead of time. It will still give you the directions as you go and it won’t cost you anything or even use data or wifi! Give it a test before you get into your Italian rental car.
8. Italian car rental companies can be slow and behind schedule. Plan to get to the rental car company about an hour ahead of time. When you get there, look around to see if there is a waiting system. They’ll often have you take a number from a machine and call the numbers up one by one. It can take a while and you won’t want to miss out on plans you’ve made because it took too long to get your rental car!
9. Once they give you your car, be sure to take pictures of it before you even leave the parking lot so that you have proof if they try to charge you for any scratches or damages that are on the car. Italian car rental companies usually also have you sign a document showing what the existing damages are. Don’t be afraid to ask them to show you where each dent or scratch is written on the paper before signing anything! You’ll also want to take pictures of the car again when you drop it off so that you have proof that you didn’t leave damages on the car. Hold onto those pictures for a few months after you drop the car back off, just in case!
10. Sometimes the rental car companies will try and give you a different car than you ordered. It is usually an upgrade, but it might not always be a good thing. For example, if they try to give you a bigger car when you don’t really need the extra space, you will probably want to decline that offer and ask them to check again for the car you wanted or a different compact car. Bigger cars are harder to park and drive on the narrow roads of Italy! Being able to buzz around in a little Fiat is a lot easier!
11. Lastly, make sure to take all of your belongings with you, or at least hide them. Obviously, you’ll want to always be sure that you lock your car at all times. I’ve never had any issues but there are tons of stories about theft in Italy and you don’t want to deal with the nightmare of having your stuff stolen!
If doing all of this on your own still freaks you out, you might want to consider joining us on one of our immersive small group trips where you can totally relax and enjoy Italy without any logistics to deal with! We can help you have the most authentic Italian experience possible. Click here to check out our upcoming trips and experiences or get in touch for custom trip planning!