While the major tourist cities in Italy are easy to reach by train, driving makes sense if you have the time and plan ahead. Driving is also great for the adventurous traveler who wants to explore the Italian countryside.
Places in Italy Where You'll Want to Drive
Tuscany and Chianti
Departing from Florence, the A1 highway is a direct link to the vineyards and hill towns of Tuscany, while the S222 is a more scenic route. Travel to the medieval towns of Siena and San Gimignano, sample world-class wines at the vineyards of Greve in Chianti or Montalpulciano, or explore the charming town of Cortona made popular by the book Under the Tuscan Sun.
Umbria is known as il cuor verde d'Italia, the green heart of Italy, for its lush green hills. Assisi, the birthplace of saints, is the most popular Umbrian town. Also, worth a visit is Orvieto, perched high atop a cliff. Perugia is home to chocolate-making and an international Jazz festival. Spoleto offers its tall, ancient Roman aqueaduct. Near Terni, you can see the Falls of Marmore, Italy's tallest waterfall.
From the capital of Venice, visit Bassano del Grappa to sample the Italian liquer, grappa, straight from the source. Then there's the town of Vicenza with its Palladian architecture, and Padua, home to Italy's second-oldest university, founded in the 13th century. Verona, also in the Veneto region, is the site of the famous opera festival held yearly in the city's ancient Roman amphitheater.
While the Amalfi Coast offers public transporation options and traffic can be bad in places, it's hard to beat the thrill of driving on the winding roads of the coast. Plus, a car will give you the freedom to explore the many charming towns of the Amalfi region at your leisure.
Where you don't want to drive
Within Rome, Florence, and Naples, traffic is almost always heavy, chaotic and just plain scary. Also, drivers in some areas of the Amalfi Coast will have to endure heavy backups on narrow, winding roads. Driving in the Italian countryside, on the other hand, is usually much calmer.
Tips for Driving in Italy
* Italians drive on the right side of the road. Steering wheel is on the left.
* The use of seatbelts is required.
* Auto liability insurance is required.
* Because there are so many small towns and ancient roads, consider having a travel planner plot a driving route for your trip. A travel planner will help to ensure that you have necessary documents, get the best value on a car rental and understand the ins and outs of driving in Italy.
* Though there are large lots on the outskirts, parking is a challenge and expensive within the major cities of Italy.
* Manual cars are the norm in Italy. However, automatic vehicles are almost always available for rental.