Last updated on March 12, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, travelling and renting cars In Italy

Renting a car in Italy: 25 Tips to Avoid Scams & Headaches!

The first two things that come to my mind when contemplating renting a car in Italy, are freedom and flexibility.

With a vehicle, I have explored extensively the country, experiencing unique landscapes and the fabulous cultural heritage of the small towns and villages.

Opting for hiring a car in Italy will give you an opportunity to discover local hotspots and hidden gems often missed with public transport.

I have been renting and driving in Italy for at least 20 years. I have collected in this guide everything you should know based on my actual experience, and the possible scams that you can easily avoid.

But let’s dive into it.

Driving to the Etna Mountain with the lava all around - Very picturesque and unique
Driving to the Etna Mountain, Sicily, with the lava all around – Very picturesque and unique

Should You Actually Rent a Car in Italy

Renting a Car in Italy vs. Taking Public Transport

Renting a car in Italy comes with its own set of advantages and challenges.

On one side, it provides flexibility and convenience. Moreover, it allows for exploring off-the-beaten-path locations.

However, dealing with unfamiliar driving laws, navigating ZTL zones, and finding parking can be stressful.

I have organised below a table for a quick comparison between renting a car and public transportation. I have also written more extensively about getting around Italy with 2 case scenarios and a cost/time comparison about having a vehicle or taking trains/buses.

Using Public Transportation in ItalyRenting a Car in Italy
Schedules and routes determined by the train and bus networkFreedom to roam at your own pace
May require multiple transfersDirect travel
Often crowded (especially during peak hours, around the cities and during public holidays)Private and comfortable
InexpensiveMore cost upfront, but potential savings if travelling in two or more people
Faster on direct train routes, possibly slower with buses, definitely slower in case of multiple transfersSlower compared to High-Speed trains between major cities. Faster on any other route. Incredibly faster in the countryside.
Limited late-night optionsAvailable 24/7
Might not reach remote attractions. You may need a taxi to the last leg of the tripAccess to all areas, except most of the historic centres (ZTL, I will talk later about it)
Environmental friendlyMore carbon footprint
No worry about parkingParking in Italy can be challenging in the main cities
No driving stressDriving in Italy, especially for the first time, can be challenging. I have organised 33 tips you may want to read
Public Transportation Vs Renting a car in Italy

Is it Worth Renting a Car in Italy: 11 Scenarios

Deciding whether to rent a car in Italy can be influenced also by your travel itinerary.

Here are 11 scenarios worth considering, covering the most popular destinations in Italy

If not interested, jump to the next session on the best way to rent a car in Italy.

Art Cities Trip – Best by train

For journeys between major art cities like Milan, Verona, Venice, Florence, Perugia, Rome, and Naples, renting a car can be less convenient due to limited and expensive parking, and ZTL zones.

In these cases, public transport such as trains can offer a more stress-free alternative.

The major cities are nowadays connected by High-Speed trains served by two companies:

  • Trenitalia: the main government-run operator, connecting the major cities with Frecciarossa, Frecciargento and Frecciabianca trains. From the most important centres, you have local trains to the towns and villages in the area.
  • Italo: a private company offering service uniquely on the high-speed tracks. Usually, they provide a better service, however at a higher price too.

For example, if you plan to visit only the city centres of Milan, Venice, Florence and Rome, then you are better off moving by train which is quicker, less expensive and you arrive straight in the centre of the city. Basically, a no-worries experience.

The Adriano Temple facade
The Adriano Temple facade in Rome

Cinque Terre – Best by train

The five picturesque villages of Cinque Terre are car-free zones, making public transport such as trains and boats the ideal choice for exploration.

If you are planning a trip to visit Cinque Terre and a few other cities, like Milan, Florence or Rome, then the train works best.

Tip on Cinque Terre by car: If you are driving around the country already, you are planning to visit this amazing corner of Italy, and you are wondering where to stay in the Cinque Terre with a car, then you should drive to Monterosso, the easiest of the five towns to access with a vehicle.

Here you can find a few accommodations that include parking in the nightly rate, like Seaside Apartments or Mansarda 5 Terre which works so well for families

Alternatively, you can park the car at the Parcheggio Loreto or the Parcheggio Monterosso (up to euro 25/day, based on the season). They are marked as closed on Google Maps, however, they still operate. Pre-book your spot.

Dolomites Trip – Best by car

For a trip to the Dolomites, renting a car is a must.

It will allow you to reach remote locations and enjoy the incredible landscapes at your own pace. The road conditions here are also very good.

I will talk more later about driving in winter. Renting a car for a sky trip in the Dolomites is a fabulous idea. The area is huge and you can visit most of it in a week by car. Just make sure to have winter tyres and snow chains when you pick up the car

Keep reading other cases or jump to the next session on the best way to rent a car in Italy.

Como Lake – Best by train/ferry/bus

With frequent and reliable boat services, renting a car is not necessary for Lake Como.

You can easily take a train from Milan to Como city and from there visit the lake destinations or take a further bus/train/boat to your accommodation.

Boats serve very well most of the beautiful towns on the lake

Tip on Como Lake by car: If you are driving already around Italy and you are wondering where to stay in Como Lake with a car, then you should book your hotel in Bellagio, my favourite town (I was born around Como Lake, so many memories)

Here you can find a few accommodations that have private parking like Villa Serbelloni.

Otherwise, you can book at the Residence la Limonera and use the free on-street parking (20 minutes walk) or pay for off-street parking (around 25 Euros/day)

Travelling by ferry through the Como Lake
Travelling by ferry with the car through the Como Lake

Skiing Trip in Italy – Best by car

For a skiing trip in Italy, having a car could be a practical option.

I had a fantastic stay in Livigno for example, north of Lake Como, and the car was essential to reach the place and explore other towns around, like Bormio and the famous spas.

Huge Tip. If visiting the area, have a walk to the natural spas (free access) along the river. A real unique experience, existing since I was a kid and still a hidden gem.

If you plan to visit the Val d’Aosta & Mont Blanc, or the Dolomites, a car is once again a must.

You would not need a car only if you buy a ski package where they pick you up and drop yu off at the airport.

Visiting Tuscany – Best by car

Renting a car in Tuscany is highly recommended. It will be easy to move by trains and buses between the major centres (Florence, Siena, Arezzo, Pisa, Lucca).

However, public transport doesn’t reach all the wonderful rural areas and hilltop towns this region is famous for.

A car would let you fully explore this beautiful region.

For example, if you are wondering where to stay in Chianti, be aware that using the buses would take at least 3 times longer to reach your destination, sometimes including taxi rides too.

Keep reading other cases or jump to the next session on the best way to rent a car in Italy.

Renting a car in Tuscany
Renting a car in Tuscany

Amalfi Coast – Best by bus/boat

Staying on the Amalfi Coast is a really dreamy experience. In saying that, don’t drive there, leave it to the bus driver.

Honestly, it is so much better to seat on the back and admire the beautiful coast.

Parking is a nightmare (typically costing 50 Euro/night, at least) and there are only a bunch of viewpoints where you can stop anyway, and these are full too.

If you’re not an experienced driver, getting around the Amalfi Coast with public transport and ferries might be safer, and honestly better anyway.

For example, you can take a train from Naples to Sorrento (not technically on the Amalfi Coast, but so beautiful). From there you can opt for a bus to Positano and Amalfi, or a more romantic boat trip.

Tip. If you are already driving through Italy, then Sorrento is the best access point. There is more parking than anywhere else on the Amalfi Coast. This town is also a great transportation hub to explore Naples, the islands and the Amalfi Coast.

Puglia – Best by car

Renting a car in Puglia is also recommended.

The region is rich with beautiful towns and countryside that is best explored with the flexibility of a car.

You can organise an amazing road trip of Puglia including the unique Matera, in the Basilicata Region, not too far from Bari.

Renting a car in Puglia
Renting a car in Puglia

Sicily tour – Best by car

Renting a car in Sicily is another great idea, especially if you’re planning to explore the many beautiful but sometimes remote locations the island offers.

Getting around Sicily is not as straightforward with public transportation and it takes so much longer compared to driving.

Yes, you can think to visit only the major cities (Catani, Palermo, Agrigento and Trapani) and explore from there with organised tours, but having the flexibility of the car is going to be really something else.

Driving and renting a car in Sicily
Driving and renting a car in Sicily

Sardinia – Best by car

Sardinia has some fantastic beaches and historical sites spread out across the island, making a car necessary for exploration.

Public transportation would make any trip so much longer, sometimes even impossible.

Renting and driving a car in Sardinia
Renting and driving a car in Sardinia

Capri & Ischia – Best by ferry/bus

Given that these are small islands with efficient public transport and strict traffic limitations, renting a car is not suggested at all, besides being not practical.

You can easily reach both from Naples by ferry.

If you have a car I personally suggest leaving it in Naples.

How to Rent a Car in Italy

Booking your car in Italy

This is the easiest part, booking your car on the Internet. But, is it really? 

Selecting the right provider is always the making or breaking decision. Is the local provider better than the global player? Why that car rental is so cheap? Are all of the insurances included? Do they offer a different excess?

These are a few of the questions that come to my mind whenever I book a car. Luckily much less in the last 2 years, and I will tell you why.

But first, if you have a favourite hiring booking site or company you trust and used multiple times, then probably it’s best to go for that provider for a smoother experience.

Personally, for the last two years, I have been booking my cars through the DiscoverCars website. This is an aggregator with 3 great advantages

  • they compare car prices from both local and global competitors providing the best deals at the time of booking
  • they have built a community, of real customers that review and rate the car rental companies, similar to Airbnb for properties. So, you know who you can trust more. I personally rent always from companies rated above 7/10 (safe from the possible scams of rental agencies in Italy)
  • I can add full insurance, no excess for just 7 Euro/day, a real bargain that gives me a real no-worries experience (I will talk later about insurance in a dedicated chapter below)

The documents required for hiring the car are

  • valid EU/UK driver’s license. If you are driving a car in Italy as an American or any other country excluding the EU/UK then you will need an Internation Driving Permit for Italy, besides your valid driving license.
  • an identification card or a passport
  • a credit card. Keep in mind that most renters will not give you the car if you have only a debit card for the deposit. You can still book the car with a debit card but you will need a credit card at pickup.

Internation Driving Permit (IDP) for Italy

If you are driving a car in Italy as a tourist and you do not have a UK/EU license, then you need an IDP besides your driving license, as already explained.

You can find a step-by-step process on how to do the IDP for Italy in my extensive guide. This is where you will find also the offices to approach and an estimate of the cost.

Typically the process to obtain an IDP takes around a week, but it could take longer based on the country.

Remember. Bring always with you both the IDP and your country license when driving in Italy, otherwise, you may be fined during a police check.

Free thermal baths
Free thermal baths in Umbria, close to the border with Tuscany. Reachable only by car

Pick up your car

Once you arrive at the rental location, review and sign the rental agreement, and pick up your car.

Inspect the car for any damage before leaving the lot. That is a must. Ask the car rental to add any new damage that is not in the rental agreement.

Do this for both the inside and outside of the car, especially if you rent the car in a beach destination. For example, if you are hiring a car in Puglia, make sure to check if the seats have any white halo coming from the salty water

Finally, make photos of every corner of the car that you can possibly use in case of any disagreement at the drop-off time. This has saved me easily 500-600 Euro on one occasion. 

And don’t always think they want to scam you. Sometimes they miss for example a dent from the previous renter and they may give the car to you without having marked that dent on the contract agreement. Do your due diligence to avoid these situations.

Returning your car

Always return the car at the agreed time and location. If you have any delay, let the car rental company know. They may have rented your car to someone else after you drop it off.

Expect a late return fee, unfortunately. One of the car rental scams in Italy that I heard from other drivers is the exorbitant fee they ask for a short delay. So try to avoid it, better earlier than later.

Make sure the car is clean and has the agreed-upon fuel level (usually full-to-full). The last time I rented a car in Sicily, I was so unlucky to experience a sandstorm. You can imagine that after that.

I decided to wash it in one of the 10 Euros automatic car cleaning places. It avoided the possible pain and discussions with the rental company, and that was for just 10 Euro, totally worth it in my opinion.

Cost of renting a car in Italy

I have organised a table with the average price of renting a car in Italy based on the city and the month/period.

This data has been pulled out from a huge database of available cars, with booking at least 2 months in advance.

The price can change based on many factors, including timing, public holidays etc. In saying that, this table gives you a good idea of what to expect.

CityMay (€)June (€)July (€)August (€)September (€)October (€)Winter (December, €)
Milan41424849504142
Venice34354041442520
Florence37383940414243
Rome39414344403940
Naples39404142403935
Bari33343536373819
Catania33343253302516
Average cost of renting a midsize car in Italy
Another snowy day in Livigno
Another snowy day in Livigno

Renting a Car in Italy in Winter

Renting a car in Italy during winter has its challenges, especially if you decide to use the car to go skiing, and you may have to drive in snowy or icy conditions.

Of course, Winter tires are essential, and in some regions (north of Italy and all the mountain areas), snow chains are mandatory. Make sure they are in the car when you pick it up.

Another tip I can give you is based on another experience I had during my stay in Livigno, a ski resort north of Lake Como.

The temperature in some of the mountain villages can drop well below zero Celsius. During my week there, -25°C (-13°F) was the norm at night.

Make sure to book the hotel with an underground garage and anyway book only petrol cars. Diesel fuel starts gelling at cold temperatures, below -12°C (10°F).

Choosing the Right Vehicle

The type of car you rent can greatly affect your driving experience in Italy.

From small city cars to larger SUVs and vans, there’s a wide variety of options.

And it’s not the size but also the type of transmission.

Automatic vs manual car rental in Italy

Automatic cars are generally easier to drive, especially for those unaccustomed to manual transmission.

However, manual cars are usually cheaper to rent.

If you’re not comfortable driving manual, be sure to specify you want an automatic when booking.

Check out my detailed article on rental cars in Italy with automatic transmission.

Scenario NameSuggested TransmissionReason
Cities of ArtAutomaticEasier to handle in busy city traffic
Dolomites tripManualMore control over the car in hilly terrains
Skiing tripManualGives better control in snowy conditions
Automatic vs. Manual – In a nutshell

Best Car Size to rent in Italy

When it comes to the size of the car, you should take your decision based on these 3 important factors

  • number of passengers
  • amount of luggage
  • where you’ll be driving.

Small cars are easier to navigate in cities and crowded places, while larger cars offer more comfort and storage space, ideal for long road trips.

I have written a more specific guide on the best car size to rent in Italy. The table below gives a quick summary of the choice based on the type of trip.

Size of CarBest ForProsConsAverage Rental Cost/Day
Compact/EconomySolo travellers or couplesFuel-efficient, easy to manoeuvre, lower rental costLimited luggage space, less comfortable for long drives€20 – €45
Midsize/SedanSmall families, longer tripsMore spacious, comfortable, good balance of size and costHigher rental cost, harder to park in tight spaces€30 – €70
SUVLarge families, exploring rural areasComfortable, spacious, good ground clearanceHigher rental and fuel costs, harder to manoeuvre€50 – €100
Luxury/PremiumSpecial occasions, those seeking a luxury experienceStylish, comfortable, high-end featuresExpensive rental and fuel costs, harder to park€80 – €200+
Renting a car in Italy – Best car sizes
You can always find surprising cars on sale in Taormina
You can always find surprising cars on sale in Taormina – Just in case you are tired of renting cars 🙂

Renting and Driving a Car in Italy with Children

I am going to leave the generic tips (plan regular breaks, snacks, entertainment, etc) to jump straight to the most important part.

Italian law requires all children under 36 kg or 150 cm to use a child restraint system appropriate to their weight and size. The car seat laws in Italy are exactly the same as in any other EU country.

Here below I have added a table with all the important information if you are driving with kids.

GroupWeight RangeHeight Range (approx.)Car Seat Type
0Up to 10 kg (22 lbs)Birth to 1.5 yearsRear-facing infant carrier
0+Up to 13 kg (29 lbs)Birth to 2.5 yearsRear-facing infant carrier
19-18 kg (20-40 lbs)1.5 to 4 yearsForward or rear-facing child seat with a harness
215-25 kg (33-55 lbs)4 to 6 yearsHigh-backed booster seat with a seatbelt
322-36 kg (48-79 lbs)6 to 12 yearsHigh-backed booster seat or a booster cushion with a seatbelt
Italy follows the European ECE R44/04 or ECE R129 standards for child car seats

My tip: if your kids need only a booster seat you are surely better off if you take it from home. When I decided to hire a car in Puglia for four weeks I bought the car seat (35 Euro) in a shopping centre close to the airport, much cheaper than paying 8 Euro/day.

Understanding Car Rental Insurance in Italy

All rental cars in Italy are required to have third-party liability insurance (TPL), which is usually included in the rental price.

However, this may not cover damage or theft of the rental car, so you should consider additional insurance coverage.

Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and Theft Protection are also often included in the hiring price but with a very high excess, usually 1,000 Euros or more.

I have written extensively about car rental insurance in Italy. As already said, I have driven everywhere in Italy, streets can be narrow and parking even narrower.

As a result, it is so easy to scratch or dent a car. If you have an excess of 1,000 Euros you may end up with a big bill once you drop off your car and the holiday turns into a bad memory. Which should not happen.

That is why I usually rent my car from DiscoverCars. Besides the great price, I can add for just 7 Euros a Full Insurance (No excess), so I never worry about the drop-off time. In case of problems, it’s all paid for. I had once a 3,000 Euros damage and it was such a relief to have full insurance. DiscoverCars paid back everything.

Here is a quick summary table, however, check out my guide to car rental insurance in Italy for a few case scenarios, based also on my experience.

Insurance TypeBest ForProsConsEstimated Price (per day)
Third-Party Liability InsuranceCoverage of liabilities outside the rental carCovers damages to other vehicles, property, or peopleDoesn’t cover damages to the rental car itselfUsually included in the rental price
CDW/LDWBasic protection of the rental carCovers damages to the rental carHigh deductible; doesn’t cover other vehicles, property, or people€15-€25
(often included but high excess)
Zero Excess/Super CDW/Full InsuranceComprehensive coverage with minimal out-of-pocket expensesReduces or eliminates deductible for CDW/LDWAdditional cost; not available with all rental companies€10-€40
(just €7 with DiscoverCars)
SLI/Excess Liability InsuranceExtra protection beyond basic third-party liabilityIncreases coverage limit for third-party liabilityAdditional cost; may be unnecessary for some€10-€20
(not needed if fully insured)
PAIMedical expenses and personal accident coverageCovers medical expenses and personal accident compensationMay be redundant if you have travel insurance€5-€10
Summary of the possible car insurance in Italy
Taking the ferry from Sicily to Calabria
Taking the ferry from Sicily to Calabria

Navigating Rental Agreements

Rental agreements contain important terms that you should understand.

This includes insurance coverage, fuel policy, mileage limit, and more.

Watch out for hidden charges, such as early or late return fees, additional driver fees, or cleaning charges.

Also, make sure you understand the company’s policy on damages and their procedure for reporting any issues with the car.

Here is a table with most of the terms you will have to deal with

Rental AspectDescription
Rental Age RequirementThe minimum age to rent a car in Italy is generally 21, with some companies requiring a minimum age of 23 or 25.
Driver’s License RequirementsEU/UK driver’s licenses are accepted. Non-EU license holders need an International Driving Permit (IDP) for Italy.
Insurance CoverageTypically includes Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and Theft Protection (TP); Full insurance is highly recommended.
Fuel PolicyUsually “Full-to-Full”: Pick up the car with a full tank and return it full to avoid refuelling charges.
Additional FeesPossible fees include young driver surcharges (usually for drivers under 25), extra equipment (e.g., GPS, child seats), and additional driver fees.
Cancellation PolicyMost companies offer free cancellation up to 24-48 hours before the pick-up time; cancellations within this period may incur charges.
Penalties for Late Returns/ModificationsLate returns can lead to extra daily charges and possible penalties; modifications to reservations may result in additional fees or changes in rental rates.
Typical rentals terms you can expect when renting a car in Italy

Driving in Italy: Rules and Regulations

Italian driving laws may differ from those in your home country.

Expect similar rules if you come from another EU country.

Signs are usually in Italian, except in the north east of the country where you will often find German and maybe also Italian.

In Italy, they drive on the right side of the road, similarly to any other country in Europe, the USA, Canada and most of the world.

If you come from a country that drives on the left (as I do from Australia), then always pay extra attention in the first couple of days. That’s usually the time that the body and brain take to adapt to the new system.

It’s not complicated, honestly but keep in mind these two quick tips:

  • in the first two days, try to go slower than usual and follow the traffic. Having a reference car helps immensely!
  • if your car is the only one on the road and you are suddenly unsure of which lane is correct, stop immediately on the side of the road and wait for other cars to come. You are probably already on the incorrect part of the road.

I wrote extensively about driving in Italy as a tourist, where I have highlighted all the differences between Italy and most of the countries in the world.

I have added also a section specifically for Canadians and Australians on how to get an International Driving Permit for Italy.

I also organised a specific guide about driving in Italy as an American where I go into major details with special tips.

Shortly, keep in mind these important things:

  • the speed limits vary depending on the type of road (these are indicated in kilometers per hour),
  • the legal alcohol limit is lower than in many countries,
  • using a mobile phone while driving is strictly prohibited,
  • don’t park in orange areas (assigned to disabled people). I have more on parking below
  • don’t venture into areas with the ZTL signs, which indicate restricted traffic zones. I have more on this later, too,
  • always wear your seatbelts, both front and back seats
  • keep an eye out for motorbikes, scooters and cyclists, especially in cities, they are everywhere
Type of RoadMax Speed (km/h)Max Speed (mph)
Autostrade13081
Superstrada (similar to Autostrade but only two lanes and no tolls)11068
Urban Roads5031
Non-Urban Roads9056
School Zones3019
Residential Zones3019
Typical speed limits in Italy (check local restrictions)
A lovely corner of Venice
A lovely corner of Venice, reachable by car (parking outside the heritage city)

Navigating Italian Roads as a Tourist

Understanding Different Types of Roads in Italy

Driving experiences in Italy can vary dramatically depending on the location.

Cities like Rome and Florence often have heavy traffic and challenging navigation due to narrow, winding streets.

Nevertheless, if you plan to explore the outskirts, renting a car in Rome or renting a car in Florence, is surely a great idea.

The Autostrada, or the highway system, offers a faster way to travel between cities like Milan and Venice but involves tolls.

However, driving in the countryside is a unique experience.

I had an amazing time when I rented a car to explore the Val D’Orcia in a great itinerary of Tuscany.

I also still remember when I rented a car in Sicily to explore the coast and interior of the island, otherwise impossible by bus/train. These regions have usually much less traffic, beautiful landscapes, and a scenic, relaxed driving environment.

Drive to Milazzo Cape - Another amazing tour you can organised when you rent a car in Sicily
Drive to Milazzo Cape – Another amazing tour you can organise when you rent a car in Sicily

Tips for Using GPS and Maps while driving in Italy

A GPS can be a valuable tool for navigating in Italy, especially in cities with complex road systems.

However, a physical map is a useful backup, especially in remote areas where signal coverage might be poor.

If you’re planning to use your phone for navigation, make sure you have a car charger and a suitable phone mount.

Based on my experience, use Google Maps or Waze to navigate Italy. I had in a few occasions the car GPS system, but it was never updated with the last work on the roads.

Moreover, the Apps have real-time traffic information, which is a life safer once you approach the big cities.

Tip: Download the Italian map when you have wifi, you will save a ton of data. Alternatively, use Sygic or MapsMe but you won’t have real-time traffic conditions.

Here below is a quick table of the pros and cons of all systems.

Navigation OptionProsConsComparison
Google MapsFree, easy-to-use, comprehensive, offline maps availableRequires data connection for real-time updates and route changesMore feature-rich and flexible than most in-car systems
WazeReal-time updates from users, integration with music apps, route suggestions to avoid trafficRequires constant data connection, less accurate in rural areasBetter at avoiding traffic than in-car systems, but less reliable in remote locations
SygicOffline maps, premium features, heads-up displayRequires a one-time payment, occasional map inaccuraciesMore advanced features than in-car systems, but at an additional cost
In-car NavigationNo data connection is needed, always availableLess feature-rich, map updates may be less frequent, and limited search optionsMore convenient in some situations, but smartphone apps generally offer a better experience
GPS and Navigation Apps – What works best in Italy

Parking in Italy

Finding parking in Italian cities can be challenging.

Be aware of parking regulations to avoid fines.

  • blue lines indicate paid parking,
  • white lines are for free parking,
  • yellow/orange lines are reserved for specific users (like residents or disabled drivers).

Also, be aware of ZTL zones where parking is typically restricted to residents. Sometimes the hotel may give you a temporary pass for the ZTL but it is more of a special occasion than the norm.

Once again, I wrote extensively about parking in Italy, including how to save money. Here is a quick table that summarizes Most of the information.

Parking TypeDescriptionTypical Costs
On-street Free ParkingWhite-lined parking spaces, no payment requiredFree
On-street Paid ParkingBlue-lined parking spaces, payment required (usually via parking meter or mobile app)€1 – €3 per hour (varies by area)
On-street Accessible ParkingYellow-lined parking spaces, reserved for individuals with disabilities (with proper permit)Free for eligible individuals
ZTL (Limited Traffic Zone)Restricted traffic areas, usually in historical city centres; fines for unauthorized entryFines for unauthorized entry
Private ParkingPaid parking lots or garages, often operated by private companies€10 – €50 per day (varies by area)
Hotel ParkingParking offered by hotels, may be included in the room rate or charged separately€0 – €50 per day (varies by hotel)
Summary of Parking in Italy

Usually, you can pay for parking at the local ticket machines or at the newsstands.

Apps are becoming also very popular, with EasyPark probably the most used of all.

The great thing about it is that you can extend or cut short the time at the parking spot from the mobile, so practical when the dinner takes longer than originally planned.

Pay you parking at the station or download the EasyPark App to save money
Pay your parking at the station or download the EasyPark App to save money

Handling Fuel and Maintenance

Italy has numerous petrol stations spread throughout the country, offering both petrol (benzina) and diesel (diesel or gasolio).

Prices fluctuate and are typically higher than the European average.

Also, stations in rural areas and on Autostrade tend to be more expensive than those in urban settings.

Nowadays, I always use Google Maps to look for stations. The petrol/gas prices are advertised directly on the App so I can compare and get the best.

When filling up in Italy, you have the choice between ‘self-service’ and ‘full-service’ (servito).

In self-service, you fill-up the car yourself, usually paying at an automated machine.

In full service, an attendant fills up the car, and you pay them directly, usually at a slightly higher rate.

Attention. There is typically a difference of 10-15% between the two services, so you can save quite a bit of money with servito on a long trip.

Petro stations usually advertise how much more expensive is the petrol in the serviced areas
Petro stations usually advertise how much more expensive is the petrol in the serviced areas

Basic Car Maintenance Expectations During the Rental Period

It’s important to keep an eye on the vehicle’s basic maintenance during your rental period.

This includes checking the oil and coolant levels, tire pressure, and ensuring the lights and wipers are working correctly.

When renting a car, ensure you have all the necessary phone numbers in case of a breakdown. This includes the rental company’s hotline, roadside assistance, and the local emergency number.

If your rental car breaks down, contact the rental company immediately. They’ll advise you on the next steps, which might include sending roadside assistance.

Even in case of small issues, always call your rental agency to ask for the next steps. Do not go to a mechanic to do any work because it has to be first approved by the provider.

Type of EmergencyPhone Number
General Emergencies112
Roadside Assistance – ACI803116
Roadside Assistance – Rental CompanyVaries (Check rental documents)
Roadside Assistance and Emergency Numbers

Understanding the Restricted Traffic Zones (ZTL)

Restricted Traffic Zones (ZTLs) are areas in Italian cities where access is limited to certain types of vehicles or at specific times.

Unauthorised vehicles entering a ZTL are caught on camera and automatically fined.

The best way to avoid ZTL fines is by planning your route in advance and being aware of ZTLs in the area you’ll be driving.

Always keep an eye out for ZTL signs (white signs with a red circle).

Most GPS systems can alert you to ZTL zones, however, do not fully trust them, the red circle signs are still the most important reference to look after.

Here is a detailed guide on ZTL zones in Italy with a few maps that may help navigating around.

I just want to add a simple thing. In most cases, ZTLs are there to preserve the old heritage centres. These are places with small narrow lanes you don’t want to venture with a car anyway.

In my guide to parking in Italy, I highlighted the parking areas to leave your car before walking or taking a bus/metro to the centre of the major cities of Italy, including difficult ones like Venice and Rome.

ZTL - Zona Traffico Limitato - in the beautiful Scicli
ZTL – Zona Traffico Limitato – in the beautiful Scicli

Returning the Rental Car

When returning your rental car, ensure it’s in the same condition as when you picked it up.

This includes the fuel level, cleanliness, and no new damage. Be prepared to pay for any discrepancies.

If you decided to take the 7 Euros Full Insurance with DiscoverCars, then be aware that you will have to pay for any damage to the Rental company and send your bill to DiscoverCars for a full refund, as easy as that.

Avoid dropping off the car extremely dirty. If, for any reason, your car is not clean, organise a quick wash otherwise they may charge an extra fee for the service.

Most rental companies charge a full day’s rental fee for late returns, so ensure you return the car on time. Check your rental agreement for the exact late return policy.

My Tip. I usually rent the car for longer than I need. Dropping off the car prior to the organised time typically doesn’t cost anything. For example, If I pick up the car at 6 pm on Friday and I have my flight back home at 5pm on Sunday, I usually rent for exactly 48 hours with the drop off time at 6pm even if I will be very likely at the airport at 3 pm on Sunday. This gives me a buffer of three hours in case of my delays or if the flight is moved forward and I could use the car for a bit longer. Remember that renting a car for 48 or 45 hours has exactly the same cost that increases when you put in 49 hours, or three days for the booking system.

Avoiding Car Rental Scams in Italy

Scams can happen anywhere, and the car rental industry is no exception. Be aware of scams such as overcharging, damage scams, fuel scams, and insurance upsells.

Also in this case, I have written a full guide about the 10 most common car rental scams in Italy, and most importantly, how to avoid them. This is another great read before starting your trip.

Here is a quick table of them

Scam NameExampleAvoidance Tips
The Upgrade TrickJane was pushed to pay extra for a ‘superior’ model.Insist on a vehicle in the same class you booked, with no additional charges.
Fuel Charge ScamsJohn was charged a high fee for fuel.Opt for the ‘full-to-full’ fuel policy.
Insurance ScamsLucy was coerced into buying additional insurance.Know your insurance needs and existing coverages.
Damage Charges ScamMark was billed for ‘damage’ he didn’t cause.Document the vehicle’s condition at pick-up and drop-off.
Additional Charges ScamAnna found unexpected charges on her card.Review the rental agreement thoroughly before signing.
GPS and Additional Equipment ScamsPeter was charged daily for a GPS.Consider bringing your own accessories or checking prices in advance.
Wrong Car ScamEmily booked a luxury model but got an inferior car.Insist on the model you booked or a better model at no additional cost.
Late Return ScamTom was charged extra for allegedly returning the car late.Document the return time and get acknowledgement from an employee.
Prepaid Toll ScamSarah was offered a prepaid toll service at a high rate.Research toll costs and decide if prepaid services are worth it.
Drop-off ScamCarlos was charged a hefty fee for returning his car to a different location.Check terms and conditions related to one-way rentals.
Quick summary of the 10 most common car rental scams in Italy
Exploring the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento
Exploring the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, easily reachable by car

Best road trips in Italy

I am very honest with you, there are so many “best road trips in Italy” based on who you ask.

It really all depends on the region you are planning to visit.

In this section, I just want to highlight a few covering Sardinia, Sicily, Puglia and Tuscany.

Once again, don’t bombard me 🙂 with emails asking why did I leave out this one or that one. This post would become a book if I had to include all of the amazing road trips of Italy.

A Puglia road trip – Itinerary in 14 days

On this road trip, you will be able to experience most of the region including a detour to the beautiful Matera, one of the most unique cities in the world, in the nearby region of Basilicata.

The trip starts in Bari where you will spend the first day without a car. You can also think to skip Bari altogether, rent the car and spend the first 2 nights in Polignano Mare

DayOvernightSuggested HotelApprox Km drivenMain sitesMorning activityAfternoon activity
1BariB&B L’annunziata0kmBasilica di San Nicola, Bari VecchiaArrival, Transfer to accommodationExplore Bari Vecchia and visit the Basilica
2Polignano a MareMareluna35kmPolignano a Mare, Lama Monachile BeachDrive to Polignano a MareRelax at Lama Monachile Beach
3AlberobelloIl Gabellota Resort30kmAlberobelloDrive to AlberobelloExplore Alberobello and its trulli districts
4OstuniBiancofiore40kmOstuniDrive to OstuniExplore Ostuni, “The White City”
5LeccePalazzo
Massari
80kmLecce, Basilica di Santa CroceDrive to LecceExplore Lecce and visit Basilica di Santa Croce
6OtrantoMaison d’O50kmOtranto, Otranto CathedralDrive to OtrantoExplore Otranto and visit Otranto Cathedral
7Santa Maria di LeucaB&B Leuca In & Out60kmSanta Maria di Leuca, Basilica SanctuaryDrive to Santa Maria di LeucaVisit Basilica Sanctuary
8GallipoliIl Giardino Della Regina60kmGallipoli, Old TownDrive to GallipoliExplore Gallipoli Old Town
9Matera (Basilicata)La Casa di Ele140kmMatera, Sassi di MateraDrive to MateraExplore the ancient city of Matera and its Sassi
10Matera (Basilicata)La Casa di Ele0kmMatera, Parco della Murgia MateranaVisit Parco della Murgia MateranaFurther explore Matera
11Vieste (Gargano – North of Puglia)B&B La Rosa dei Venti260kmVieste, Gargano National ParkDrive to ViesteExplore Vieste and its surroundings
12Vieste (Gargano)B&B La Rosa dei Venti0kmVieste, Gargano National ParkExplore the Gargano National ParkContinue exploring the Gargano area
13Vieste (Gargano)B&B La Rosa dei Venti0kmVieste, Gargano National ParkFurther exploration of the Gargano National ParkRelax and enjoy the beauty of Gargano
14Bari240kmBariDrive back to BariRelax or explore Bari
Puglia road trip – Itinerary in 14 days on a table

You can read more in my detailed Puglia Road Trip, including also the best restaurants with local food along the route.

PUGLIA ROAD TRIP - Itinerary in 14 days
PUGLIA ROAD TRIP – Itinerary in 14 days

A Sardinia road trip – Itinerary in 14 days

Another amazing part of Italy that you really need to explore by car. It would be impossible to see and experience so much using public transportation.

Also in this case you can read the detailed plan for the Sardinia Road Trip that I have summarised in this table below.

DayAccommodationApprox Km drivenMain sitesMorning activityLunchAfternoon activity
1Cagliari0kmCagliari city, Poetto BeachExplore Castello area, CathedralRistorante Martinelli’sPoetto Beach, Parco di Molentargius
2Cagliari0kmRoman Amphitheatre, San Benedetto Market, Sella del Diavolo PromontoryVisit Amphitheatre, explore the marketTrattoria LillicuHike to Sella del Diavolo Promontory
3Oristano100kmGiara of Gesturi, Sinis PeninsulaVisit Giara of GesturiDa LeonardoExplore Sinis Peninsula, visit Tharros ruins
4Oristano50kmCabras, Is Arutas BeachVisit Cabras, Museo CivicoAgriturismo PinucciaVisit Is Arutas Beach
5Alghero90kmBosa, Alghero Old TownVisit BosaLocanda Di CorteExplore Alghero Old Town
6Alghero20kmNeptune’s Grotto, Capo CacciaVisit Neptune’s GrottoOk Pizza EvolutionAlghero market streets, Le Bombarde Beach
7Alghero150kmPorto Torres and La Pelosa Beach, StintinoVisit Porto TorresRistorante Pizzeria San GavinoVisit La Pelosa Beach, Stintino
8Santa Teresa Gallura150kmArzachena, Nuragic complex, and Costa Smeralda beachesVisit Nuragic complexRistorante La TerrazzaVisit Santa Teresa Gallura and Rena Bianca beach
9Santa Teresa Gallura55kmLa MaddalenaBoat tour of La Maddalena ArchipelagoBoat tour lunchContinue boat tour of La Maddalena Archipelago
10Santa Teresa Gallura20kmCapo Testa, Rena di Ponente BeachTrekking in Capo TestaMartini Beach Restaurant & BarRelax at Rena di Ponente Beach
11Porto Rotondo60kmSan Pantaleo, Capriccioli BeachVisit San PantaleoTrattoria da TitoVisit Capriccioli Beach
12Porto Rotondo50kmPorto Cervo and Capriccioli BeachVisit Porto CervoIl PomodoroVisit Capriccioli Beach
13Porto Rotondo40kmPromontorio di Capo Figari, Prima Spiaggia, Golfo AranciTrekking in Capo FigariPacked lunchRelax at Prima Spiaggia
14Cagliari350kmOrosei and Arbatax
A Sardinia road trip – Itinerary in 14 days
Sardinia - Scenic Strada Statale on the Sea Coast
Sardinia – Scenic Strada Statale on the Sea Coast

Five great road trips in Sicily

For this region, I have actually organised 5 scenic drives around Sicily that you can do in sequence or from you base, for example, Taormina or Palermo, possibly even on a day trip by car.

Click on the scenic drive for the full route and interesting attractions along the drive.

Scenic Drives of SicilyNumber of KMTotal Driving TimeNumber of StopsList of StopsShort DescriptionBest For
Taormina to Savoca63 km1h 55m4Taormina, Castelmola, Savoca, Forza d’AgròA scenic drive through the East Coast, exploring charming villages, historic sites, and stunning coastal views.History lovers, movie buffs, those seeking stunning views
Palermo to Cefalù76 km1h 40m4Palermo, Santa Flavia, Capo Zafferano & Sant’Elia, CefalùAn exploration of the North Coast, featuring stunning sea views, archaeological sites, and enchanting coastal towns.History enthusiasts, beach lovers, those seeking scenic views
Agrigento to Capo Bianco48 km1h 15m5Agrigento, Porto Empedocle, Scala dei Turchi, Le Pergole Beach, Capo Bianco & Archaeological Area of Eraclea MinoaA journey through history and nature, combining ancient temples, charming port towns, and pristine beaches.History and nature lovers, beachgoers, families
The Baroque towns of Val di Noto88 km2h4Avola, Noto, Modica, Ragusa, ScicliA drive through the UNESCO World Heritage site of Val di Noto, featuring exquisite Baroque architecture and captivating landscapes.History and architecture enthusiasts, wine and chocolate lovers
Mount Etna and the Alcantara Gorges147 km3h 20m4Catania, Zafferana Etnea, Rifugio Sapienza, Alcantara GorgesAn awe-inspiring journey through nature’s raw magnificence, featuring a mighty Mount Etna tour and the stunning Alcantara Gorges.Adventurers, nature lovers, seeking breathtaking landscapes
5 best scenic drives of Sicily
Scenic drives in Sicily
Scenic drives in Sicily

A Tuscany road trip – Itinerary in 10 days

Here below you will find a map and the full itinerary for 10 days in Tuscany.

It is a great road trip that will allow you to cover the best of the region.

10 days in Tuscany with a car on the go
DayLocationActivities
Day 1FlorenceVisit the Uffizi Gallery, Panini Toscani, and the historical center, finishing at Piazza del Duomo.
Day 2FlorenceVisit Piazza Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, Oltrarno and the historical centre. Consider visiting Forte di Belvedere.
Day 3LuccaDrive through Carfagnana Valley, stop at Bagni di Lucca, visit Canyon Park and Chains Bridge, stop at Castelnuovo di Carfagnana, and if time allows, visit Carrara. End in Lucca.
Day 4LuccaVisit Pisa and Leaning Tower in the morning. In the afternoon, return to Lucca to visit the Ducal Palace and the pedestrian wall.
Day 5Chianti AreaDrive to San Gimignano, wine tasting, lunch at RiccaPizza or Le Vecchie Mura, visit Montefioralle. Check into your hotel in Chianti Area.
Day 6SienaTravel along the Chianti Road with stops at Greve in Chianti, Panzano, and Castellina in Chianti. Check into your hotel in Siena.
Day 7SienaExplore Siena in the morning, including Piazza del Campo, the Public Palace, and Duomo Cathedral. In the afternoon, visit Montalcino.
Day 8Val D’OrciaDrive to Val D’Orcia, visit panoramic viewpoints and Gladiator Point, lunch at Podere Il Casale, visit Montepulciano, and wine tasting at Vecchia Cantina di Montepulciano.
Day 9Val D’OrciaEnjoy a relaxing day at thermal baths, such as Terme di Petriolo, Bagni di San Filippo, Cascate del Mulino in Saturnia, San Casciano dei Bagni or Chianciano Terme.
Day 10ArezzoVisit Cortona, then drive to Arezzo. Visit Piazza Grande, Santa Maria della Pieve and the Arezzo Cathedral.
A Tuscany road trip – Itinerary in 10 days

If you do not feel like driving so much, then you should check my other more relaxed 10 days in Tuscany by car

Tuscany itinerary - The best options for 3, 5, 7, 10 and 14 days
Tuscany itinerary – The best options for 3, 5, 7, 10 and 14 days

Conclusion

Renting a car in Italy offers the freedom to explore at your own pace.

While there may be challenges, the benefits of having your own vehicle make it absolutely worth the choice.

Remember to choose the right vehicle, understand the rental agreement and insurance, and familiarise yourself with Italian driving laws.

By being prepared, you can enjoy your road trip through Italy’s stunning landscapes, historical sites, and vibrant cities.

From the breathtaking drives around the Dolomites to the hilltop towns of Tuscany, and from the rugged landscapes of Sardinia to the historical sites of Sicily, Italy offers a wealth of experiences to discover by car.

Safe travels!

Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

Leave a Comment