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.
Table of Contents
- 1 Should You Actually Rent a Car in Italy
- 2 How to Rent a Car in Italy
- 3 Choosing the Right Vehicle
- 4 Renting and Driving a Car in Italy with Children
- 5 Understanding Car Rental Insurance in Italy
- 6 Navigating Rental Agreements
- 7 Driving in Italy: Rules and Regulations
- 8 Navigating Italian Roads as a Tourist
- 9 Parking in Italy
- 10 Handling Fuel and Maintenance
- 11 Understanding the Restricted Traffic Zones (ZTL)
- 12 Returning the Rental Car
- 13 Avoiding Car Rental Scams in Italy
- 14 Best road trips in Italy
- 15 Conclusion
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 Italy||Renting a Car in Italy|
|Schedules and routes determined by the train and bus network||Freedom to roam at your own pace|
|May require multiple transfers||Direct travel|
|Often crowded (especially during peak hours, around the cities and during public holidays)||Private and comfortable|
|Inexpensive||More 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 transfers||Slower compared to High-Speed trains between major cities. Faster on any other route. Incredibly faster in the countryside.|
|Limited late-night options||Available 24/7|
|Might not reach remote attractions. You may need a taxi to the last leg of the trip||Access to all areas, except most of the historic centres (ZTL, I will talk later about it)|
|Environmental friendly||More carbon footprint|
|No worry about parking||Parking in Italy can be challenging in the main cities|
|No driving stress||Driving in Italy, especially for the first time, can be challenging. I have organised 33 tips you may want to read|
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.
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.
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)
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
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.
More reading about driving in Tuscany
- Renting a car in Tuscany, all you need to know, including possible scams
- Is driving in Tuscany difficult?
- Is it recommended to rent a car in Tuscany? With 3 case scenarios of possible trips in the region
- Best itineraries of Tuscany from 3 to 14 days
Keep reading other cases or jump to the next session on the best way to rent a car in Italy.
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.
More reading about driving in Puglia
- Renting a car in Puglia, all you need to know, including possible scams
- Is driving in Puglia difficult?
- Is it worth hiring a car in Puglia? With 3 case scenarios of possible trips in the region
- Best itineraries of Puglia in 7-10 days
- A great Puglia road trip in 2 weeks
- Getting around Puglia: Car vs train/bus with 2 case scenarios
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.
More reading about driving 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.
More reading about driving 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.
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.
|City||May (€)||June (€)||July (€)||August (€)||September (€)||October (€)||Winter (December, €)|
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 Name||Suggested Transmission||Reason|
|Cities of Art||Automatic||Easier to handle in busy city traffic|
|Dolomites trip||Manual||More control over the car in hilly terrains|
|Skiing trip||Manual||Gives better control in snowy conditions|
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 Car||Best For||Pros||Cons||Average Rental Cost/Day|
|Compact/Economy||Solo travellers or couples||Fuel-efficient, easy to manoeuvre, lower rental cost||Limited luggage space, less comfortable for long drives||€20 – €45|
|Midsize/Sedan||Small families, longer trips||More spacious, comfortable, good balance of size and cost||Higher rental cost, harder to park in tight spaces||€30 – €70|
|SUV||Large families, exploring rural areas||Comfortable, spacious, good ground clearance||Higher rental and fuel costs, harder to manoeuvre||€50 – €100|
|Luxury/Premium||Special occasions, those seeking a luxury experience||Stylish, comfortable, high-end features||Expensive rental and fuel costs, harder to park||€80 – €200+|
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.
|Group||Weight Range||Height Range (approx.)||Car Seat Type|
|0||Up to 10 kg (22 lbs)||Birth to 1.5 years||Rear-facing infant carrier|
|0+||Up to 13 kg (29 lbs)||Birth to 2.5 years||Rear-facing infant carrier|
|1||9-18 kg (20-40 lbs)||1.5 to 4 years||Forward or rear-facing child seat with a harness|
|2||15-25 kg (33-55 lbs)||4 to 6 years||High-backed booster seat with a seatbelt|
|3||22-36 kg (48-79 lbs)||6 to 12 years||High-backed booster seat or a booster cushion with a seatbelt|
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 Type||Best For||Pros||Cons||Estimated Price (per day)|
|Third-Party Liability Insurance||Coverage of liabilities outside the rental car||Covers damages to other vehicles, property, or people||Doesn’t cover damages to the rental car itself||Usually included in the rental price|
|CDW/LDW||Basic protection of the rental car||Covers damages to the rental car||High deductible; doesn’t cover other vehicles, property, or people||€15-€25|
(often included but high excess)
|Zero Excess/Super CDW/Full Insurance||Comprehensive coverage with minimal out-of-pocket expenses||Reduces or eliminates deductible for CDW/LDW||Additional cost; not available with all rental companies||€10-€40|
(just €7 with DiscoverCars)
|SLI/Excess Liability Insurance||Extra protection beyond basic third-party liability||Increases coverage limit for third-party liability||Additional cost; may be unnecessary for some||€10-€20|
(not needed if fully insured)
|PAI||Medical expenses and personal accident coverage||Covers medical expenses and personal accident compensation||May be redundant if you have travel insurance||€5-€10|
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 Age Requirement||The 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 Requirements||EU/UK driver’s licenses are accepted. Non-EU license holders need an International Driving Permit (IDP) for Italy.|
|Insurance Coverage||Typically includes Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and Theft Protection (TP); Full insurance is highly recommended.|
|Fuel Policy||Usually “Full-to-Full”: Pick up the car with a full tank and return it full to avoid refuelling charges.|
|Additional Fees||Possible fees include young driver surcharges (usually for drivers under 25), extra equipment (e.g., GPS, child seats), and additional driver fees.|
|Cancellation Policy||Most 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/Modifications||Late returns can lead to extra daily charges and possible penalties; modifications to reservations may result in additional fees or changes in rental rates.|
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 Road||Max Speed (km/h)||Max Speed (mph)|
|Superstrada (similar to Autostrade but only two lanes and no tolls)||110||68|
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.
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.
|Google Maps||Free, easy-to-use, comprehensive, offline maps available||Requires data connection for real-time updates and route changes||More feature-rich and flexible than most in-car systems|
|Waze||Real-time updates from users, integration with music apps, route suggestions to avoid traffic||Requires constant data connection, less accurate in rural areas||Better at avoiding traffic than in-car systems, but less reliable in remote locations|
|Sygic||Offline maps, premium features, heads-up display||Requires a one-time payment, occasional map inaccuracies||More advanced features than in-car systems, but at an additional cost|
|In-car Navigation||No data connection is needed, always available||Less feature-rich, map updates may be less frequent, and limited search options||More convenient in some situations, but smartphone apps generally offer a better experience|
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 Type||Description||Typical Costs|
|On-street Free Parking||White-lined parking spaces, no payment required||Free|
|On-street Paid Parking||Blue-lined parking spaces, payment required (usually via parking meter or mobile app)||€1 – €3 per hour (varies by area)|
|On-street Accessible Parking||Yellow-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 entry||Fines for unauthorized entry|
|Private Parking||Paid parking lots or garages, often operated by private companies||€10 – €50 per day (varies by area)|
|Hotel Parking||Parking offered by hotels, may be included in the room rate or charged separately||€0 – €50 per day (varies by hotel)|
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.
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.
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 Emergency||Phone Number|
|Roadside Assistance – ACI||803116|
|Roadside Assistance – Rental Company||Varies (Check rental documents)|
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.
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 Name||Example||Avoidance Tips|
|The Upgrade Trick||Jane 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 Scams||John was charged a high fee for fuel.||Opt for the ‘full-to-full’ fuel policy.|
|Insurance Scams||Lucy was coerced into buying additional insurance.||Know your insurance needs and existing coverages.|
|Damage Charges Scam||Mark was billed for ‘damage’ he didn’t cause.||Document the vehicle’s condition at pick-up and drop-off.|
|Additional Charges Scam||Anna found unexpected charges on her card.||Review the rental agreement thoroughly before signing.|
|GPS and Additional Equipment Scams||Peter was charged daily for a GPS.||Consider bringing your own accessories or checking prices in advance.|
|Wrong Car Scam||Emily 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 Scam||Tom was charged extra for allegedly returning the car late.||Document the return time and get acknowledgement from an employee.|
|Prepaid Toll Scam||Sarah was offered a prepaid toll service at a high rate.||Research toll costs and decide if prepaid services are worth it.|
|Drop-off Scam||Carlos was charged a hefty fee for returning his car to a different location.||Check terms and conditions related to one-way rentals.|
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
|Day||Overnight||Suggested Hotel||Approx Km driven||Main sites||Morning activity||Afternoon activity|
|1||Bari||B&B L’annunziata||0km||Basilica di San Nicola, Bari Vecchia||Arrival, Transfer to accommodation||Explore Bari Vecchia and visit the Basilica|
|2||Polignano a Mare||Mareluna||35km||Polignano a Mare, Lama Monachile Beach||Drive to Polignano a Mare||Relax at Lama Monachile Beach|
|3||Alberobello||Il Gabellota Resort||30km||Alberobello||Drive to Alberobello||Explore Alberobello and its trulli districts|
|4||Ostuni||Biancofiore||40km||Ostuni||Drive to Ostuni||Explore Ostuni, “The White City”|
|80km||Lecce, Basilica di Santa Croce||Drive to Lecce||Explore Lecce and visit Basilica di Santa Croce|
|6||Otranto||Maison d’O||50km||Otranto, Otranto Cathedral||Drive to Otranto||Explore Otranto and visit Otranto Cathedral|
|7||Santa Maria di Leuca||B&B Leuca In & Out||60km||Santa Maria di Leuca, Basilica Sanctuary||Drive to Santa Maria di Leuca||Visit Basilica Sanctuary|
|8||Gallipoli||Il Giardino Della Regina||60km||Gallipoli, Old Town||Drive to Gallipoli||Explore Gallipoli Old Town|
|9||Matera (Basilicata)||La Casa di Ele||140km||Matera, Sassi di Matera||Drive to Matera||Explore the ancient city of Matera and its Sassi|
|10||Matera (Basilicata)||La Casa di Ele||0km||Matera, Parco della Murgia Materana||Visit Parco della Murgia Materana||Further explore Matera|
|11||Vieste (Gargano – North of Puglia)||B&B La Rosa dei Venti||260km||Vieste, Gargano National Park||Drive to Vieste||Explore Vieste and its surroundings|
|12||Vieste (Gargano)||B&B La Rosa dei Venti||0km||Vieste, Gargano National Park||Explore the Gargano National Park||Continue exploring the Gargano area|
|13||Vieste (Gargano)||B&B La Rosa dei Venti||0km||Vieste, Gargano National Park||Further exploration of the Gargano National Park||Relax and enjoy the beauty of Gargano|
|14||Bari||240km||Bari||Drive back to Bari||Relax or explore Bari|
You can read more in my detailed Puglia Road Trip, including also the best restaurants with local food along the route.
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.
|Day||Accommodation||Approx Km driven||Main sites||Morning activity||Lunch||Afternoon activity|
|1||Cagliari||0km||Cagliari city, Poetto Beach||Explore Castello area, Cathedral||Ristorante Martinelli’s||Poetto Beach, Parco di Molentargius|
|2||Cagliari||0km||Roman Amphitheatre, San Benedetto Market, Sella del Diavolo Promontory||Visit Amphitheatre, explore the market||Trattoria Lillicu||Hike to Sella del Diavolo Promontory|
|3||Oristano||100km||Giara of Gesturi, Sinis Peninsula||Visit Giara of Gesturi||Da Leonardo||Explore Sinis Peninsula, visit Tharros ruins|
|4||Oristano||50km||Cabras, Is Arutas Beach||Visit Cabras, Museo Civico||Agriturismo Pinuccia||Visit Is Arutas Beach|
|5||Alghero||90km||Bosa, Alghero Old Town||Visit Bosa||Locanda Di Corte||Explore Alghero Old Town|
|6||Alghero||20km||Neptune’s Grotto, Capo Caccia||Visit Neptune’s Grotto||Ok Pizza Evolution||Alghero market streets, Le Bombarde Beach|
|7||Alghero||150km||Porto Torres and La Pelosa Beach, Stintino||Visit Porto Torres||Ristorante Pizzeria San Gavino||Visit La Pelosa Beach, Stintino|
|8||Santa Teresa Gallura||150km||Arzachena, Nuragic complex, and Costa Smeralda beaches||Visit Nuragic complex||Ristorante La Terrazza||Visit Santa Teresa Gallura and Rena Bianca beach|
|9||Santa Teresa Gallura||55km||La Maddalena||Boat tour of La Maddalena Archipelago||Boat tour lunch||Continue boat tour of La Maddalena Archipelago|
|10||Santa Teresa Gallura||20km||Capo Testa, Rena di Ponente Beach||Trekking in Capo Testa||Martini Beach Restaurant & Bar||Relax at Rena di Ponente Beach|
|11||Porto Rotondo||60km||San Pantaleo, Capriccioli Beach||Visit San Pantaleo||Trattoria da Tito||Visit Capriccioli Beach|
|12||Porto Rotondo||50km||Porto Cervo and Capriccioli Beach||Visit Porto Cervo||Il Pomodoro||Visit Capriccioli Beach|
|13||Porto Rotondo||40km||Promontorio di Capo Figari, Prima Spiaggia, Golfo Aranci||Trekking in Capo Figari||Packed lunch||Relax at Prima Spiaggia|
|14||Cagliari||350km||Orosei and Arbatax|
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 Sicily||Number of KM||Total Driving Time||Number of Stops||List of Stops||Short Description||Best For|
|Taormina to Savoca||63 km||1h 55m||4||Taormina, Castelmola, Savoca, Forza d’Agrò||A 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 Cefalù||76 km||1h 40m||4||Palermo, Santa Flavia, Capo Zafferano & Sant’Elia, Cefalù||An 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 Bianco||48 km||1h 15m||5||Agrigento, Porto Empedocle, Scala dei Turchi, Le Pergole Beach, Capo Bianco & Archaeological Area of Eraclea Minoa||A 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 Noto||88 km||2h||4||Avola, Noto, Modica, Ragusa, Scicli||A 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 Gorges||147 km||3h 20m||4||Catania, Zafferana Etnea, Rifugio Sapienza, Alcantara Gorges||An 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|
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.
|Day 1||Florence||Visit the Uffizi Gallery, Panini Toscani, and the historical center, finishing at Piazza del Duomo.|
|Day 2||Florence||Visit Piazza Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, Oltrarno and the historical centre. Consider visiting Forte di Belvedere.|
|Day 3||Lucca||Drive 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 4||Lucca||Visit Pisa and Leaning Tower in the morning. In the afternoon, return to Lucca to visit the Ducal Palace and the pedestrian wall.|
|Day 5||Chianti Area||Drive to San Gimignano, wine tasting, lunch at RiccaPizza or Le Vecchie Mura, visit Montefioralle. Check into your hotel in Chianti Area.|
|Day 6||Siena||Travel along the Chianti Road with stops at Greve in Chianti, Panzano, and Castellina in Chianti. Check into your hotel in Siena.|
|Day 7||Siena||Explore Siena in the morning, including Piazza del Campo, the Public Palace, and Duomo Cathedral. In the afternoon, visit Montalcino.|
|Day 8||Val D’Orcia||Drive 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 9||Val D’Orcia||Enjoy 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 10||Arezzo||Visit Cortona, then drive to Arezzo. Visit Piazza Grande, Santa Maria della Pieve and the Arezzo Cathedral.|
If you do not feel like driving so much, then you should check my other more relaxed 10 days in Tuscany by car
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.