Renting a car in Italy: should you or shouldn’t you?

[This is an excerpt from our Driving in Italy ebook, which you can download for free here.

Having a car on your Italian vacation can be an expensive hassle, or it can be a means to more independence and a way to get off the beaten track. But which is it? The answer is, it depends. On whether you are visiting the countryside; on how light you are traveling; and on whether you are traveling on a budget. 

Bottom line: do not assume renting a car in Italy is necessary.

renting a car in Italy

But first: The 3 questions below aren’t even relevant to you unless you’re comfortable driving in Italy. You are? Great, read on. You think you probably aren’t? Read no further. Do not rent a car. The stress and hassle will not be worth it.

1) Are you visiting only cities or also venturing into the countryside?

Driving in Italian cities is a huge pain: plan to spend time stuck in traffic, getting lost, and circling for parking. Expect frustration when trying to interpret foreign road signs, avoid limited traffic zones, and navigate winding, narrow, and one-way roads. Conveniently, trains run frequently between all major and many smaller Italian cities, and it’s easy to get around within a city by either taxi, public transportation, or in many cities, just plain walking. 

If your itinerary includes only cities, you do not need a car, and you do not need to read further. Renting a car in Italy is not for you. Take the train. 

However, visiting the countryside can be challenging without a car. Check on whether trains go to the towns you’re planning to visit by plugging your cities into Even if trains do go to small towns, compare transit times, using (I prefer it over Google maps) for driving times. If getting from A to B is five hours by train because you need to change trains three times, and driving is half that, then definitely consider renting a car.

If you’re doing both cities and countryside, just rent a car for the countryside part.



2) How light are you traveling? 

There’s no question about it: lugging suitcases on and off trains and to and from train stations is no fun. But if you’re only visiting cities, I still recommend not renting a car. Just pack lighter. If you’re visiting the countryside and have a lot of luggage, it may make sense to rent a car. Unless of course…

3) Are you traveling on a budget? 

If you need this trip to be as economical as possible, the train may cost less. To do a cost comparison, budget not only for the car rental, but also calculate gas, tolls, and parking. Compare that to the cost of the train by checking to compare prices. A rule of thumb for road tolls is that 300 km (190 miles) = 15 Euros. Or to calculate road tolls for your exact trip, go to I did the car vs. train cost comparison recently for I trip I planned for a family of 4 and the train was much cheaper. However the train would have been a big hassle, so in their case, renting a car in Italy turned out to be worth it.

Twisting road photo (St. Gotthard pass on Italy/Switzerland border) by Mikael Miettinen; Luggage photo by Geishaboy500

Italy Beyond the Obvious will help make your trip truly memorable. Take advantage of our Italy trip planning services for a customized itinerary, or get coaching assistance with our Italy travel consulting services. And if you like what you read, why not subscribe to the Italy Beyond the Obvious blog and get free updates?

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  1. Roy Scarbrough
    July 13, 2010

    I good weather, I rent a scooter!

  2. Madeline
    July 13, 2010

    Good point, scooters are great Roy if you’re okay driving one! Not so great for the luggage though… 🙂

  3. barnet minicabs
    April 21, 2011

    No doubt you have heard that Italian drivers are crazy so this may be the last thing in the world want to think about is renting a car in Italy sharing with them ways.

  4. Jordan
    March 28, 2012

    Nice, and thanks for sharing this info with us.Good Luck!

  5. Bambang
    July 30, 2012

    Yes Yes and Yes! It’s very important to have retanl insurance. Let’s say you park the car on the street, and come back and its side swipped. They are going to come after you for it But if you have insurance, it should cover it.

  6. chetan
    January 17, 2014

    thanx for the info


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