Renting a car in Italy can be a bit intimidating at first, but once you understand a few of the basics it’s not anything that you can’t do with confidence. The first thing to remember is that you’ll be driving in a foreign country, so if you’re not comfortable getting lost once in a great while, or needing to understand some different rules of the road, it might not be for you. However, here are a few tips that will be important for a successful and enjoyable experience.
- Book your reservation while still here in the States. Walk-up rentals are almost impossible in the large cities.
- Deal with reputable rental companies; if a rate seems too good to be true it probably is.
- Carefully read your rental agreement, including mileage limitations, if any; drop off charges (returning your car to a different location than your origination can be quite expensive); and other surcharges, such as for late returns.
- I recommend buying the daily car insurance for several reasons. Even if your US insurance companies cover you while in Italy (many do not) you will be required to pay the entire bill and then get reimbursed from your US carrier. The paper work and forms needed to do this can be intimidating. Secondly, is the peace of mind factor—you’re driving in a foreign country as I’ve said, and your attention may be distracted from time to time; not to mention some of the tight spaces you might find yourself dealing with.
- Most cars in Italy and throughout Europe do not have automatic transmissions, so you should be comfortable driving with a stick shift. Even reserving an automatic is not a guarantee that you will get one because of their limited supply.
- Gasoline is about four times as expensive as in the U.S.; so just be prepared for that.