I am asked so often about transportation in Italy, from trains to cars. You will hear that the train system is very good and that’s true (when: you are on the correct route, correct train line, in the correct region, the train isn’t late, and the train does not break down, and you don’t mind spending at least a third of each day waiting for and on the train). AKA…when it’s working, it’s great.
That leaves car rental. I do drive in Italy and I speak and understand Italian. But I don’t drive everywhere, and I never drive in Rome. One honest blogger recently wrote about driving in Italy and said that “it can be done” (interesting choice of words), if you are willing:
- to put up with a little adventure;
- to spend some time looking at maps;
(Note: Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) navigation is found for a price on many rental cars, and route planners off the web can reduce the amount of time with foldable maps.)
- to get lost without getting too upset about it;
- to experience traffic in a “new” way…
Which leads me to recommend to most travelers, especially those who are in Italy only for a short time or don’t read or speak Italian, just don’t drive. Not only will it not add to your enjoyment of your trip, it will likely be the one negative thing you experience. Even if you can read Italian, you would need to do some homework about driving in Italy before your trip. In my experience, travelers don’t get a little bit lost, they get a lot lost. In addition, the rules around accident insurance are very different in Italy; if you do have an accident, you cannot leave the country without paying an exorbitant deductible. I have never regretted spending the extra money to hire a driver. Not only does it make travel more pleasant, drivers are often very informative about local food, events, customs and are often very proud to share their country’s best with engaged travelers!