Italy was the third foreign country I have driven in! The plan for my trip to Italy was to see friends near Rome and then go to Venice. I knew there were towns along the way I wanted to see and getting to my friend’s house seemed easier by car. This also made it possible for me to make several stops along the way to Venice.
Once I decided to rent a car, I was faced with how to rent a car in Italy. Most major US car rental companies have branches in Italy, but they weren’t always the cheapest option. Booking through a European rental car agency may be a cheaper option. I have found success using Europcar.
The other issue was that I don’t know how to drive a manual transmission and the Italians love a manual! Most of the rental cars were manuals, and finding the automatic transmission section was hard. Initially, I thought I would drive from Venice to Rome, but Venice didn’t have many automatic options. Automatics are more expensive than manuals though.
Knowing that Italian towns are small and knowing parking could be an issue, I opted for the smallest car they offered. It ended up being the Fiat 500 you see above. This was a real benefit when I had to maneuver through the tiny parking garage at my hotel in Verona. It was also good when parking the car in my friends’ small village. Small cars are very common for these reasons, and there seemed to be plenty of them in the rental car garage.
The actual driving! Here are my tips for driving in Italy both on the highway and in the country. This includes guides to the driving rules.
- Italians drive fast! If you don’t want to drive fast, stay out of the far left-hand lane. If driving fast makes you nervous, drive in the far right-hand lane.
- People cut in and out of lanes quickly and closely. Don’t worry about it as this is common and the Italians know what they are doing. A few Italians flashed their lights at me, telling me they were coming and to get out of their way. Get over if you can, but if you can’t, just use your signal to indicate that you will get over when able.
- Tolls! All the highways have tolls, and they are expensive. I spent almost €40 on tolls. Some toll booths are automated, and some have a person. Be sure you go in the lane that is marked for cash and not the Telepass, which is like a toll tag. A few seemed to take credit cards as well.
- Gas is expensive too. I spent over €100 on gas for a week’s worth of driving. I did pay for the serviced option because I wasn’t sure which gas to put in the car. There were plenty of service stations all along my routes, even in the villages. The ones in the villages might be self-service at some times of the day, and you will have to pay in cash.
- Turn your lights even during the day in the country. This is the law.
- Going fast in a small car isn’t as scary, especially when everyone else is in a small car. However, my car took its time getting up to speed on the highway. The usual speed limit on the highway is 130 KPH, which is about 81 MPH, and everyone was speeding!
- Speed cameras are everywhere. The GPS I rented warned me of them, but the ones in the small towns were not always detected. Thankfully I got no speeding tickets in the mail later. Google “speed camera Italy” to see what they look like. Some were very obvious, and some were not.
- Get a GPS. Get it from the rental car company as it will be the most up-to-date with maps and speed cameras. It was more accurate than my Google maps app on my phone.
Overall, I really enjoyed driving in Italy and am now determined to do more driving in other countries. Have you driven in a foreign country? Tell us your tips for driving in that country in the comments.