Many travelers to Italy like the freedom that comes with renting a car. You can depart when you want and take your time visiting the destinations you wish to see. For many places within Italy, driving will certainly give you that independence. Still, for some places in Italy, a car will be more of a hassle than a convenience.
When not to rent a car in Italy
It's often a good idea to avoid renting a car if you're traveling to Venice, or staying in the historic centers of Rome or Florence. The tourist sites in Rome, Florence and Venice can be easily reached on foot, by public transportation or taxi.
Traffic is restricted in certain zones in the larger cities, such as Naples and Rome. Drivers can be aggressive. There are few discernible traffic lanes and parking is expensive or next to impossible within certain areas. In fact, in some areas of the city, you'll have to park on the outskirts of town and walk or take a bus or taxi into the center.
When to drive in Italy
There are a number of situations when you'll want to have a car in Italy. You want to explore small Tuscan or Umbrian towns in the countryside that do not have easily accessible rail stations. Or, you prefer not to ride the public buses in . Many of the more touristed towns have train stations, however, the smaller ones do not.
Also, for traveling through the Dolomite mountains, you'll want to have a car.
Some towns on the Amalfi coast are accessible by bus and rail. Private and group tours allow you to explore much of the coast, as does the ferry, in which case you would not need a car. But if you'd like to explore the coast on your own and you don't mind traffic and winding roads on cliffs, then driving in the Amalfi Coast may be for you.
When deciding to rent a car, consider whether you plan to use it as transportation between cities or simply to tour a region once you've arrived there. We often plan trips where travelers stay in the historic center of a town for a few days, but then pick up a car later to explore the countryside after their big city visit.
Also, keep in mind the cost of renting a car for an extended length of time, gas which is more expensive in Europe than the U.S., parking and Italian driving laws.
For help in determining whether to drive in Italy, understanding insurance and the legal requirements, take advantage of our Italy trip planning service.