There were many different factors that lead to our decision to rent a car while abroad in Italy. With the train system getting increasingly difficult to figure out and wanting to have the option to drive up the narrow and winning streets in the small cities and towns in Northen Italy, we figured it was worth a shot. The worst didn’t happen and we made it out of Italy alive, all thanks to Hertz. Definitely book through a nationally known agency and also do the following.
Document Everything. While you’re going over the contract with your car rental agent, use the recording feature on your phone. Be sure to take note of the car taking gas or diesel and before you leave the lot, find every scratch or abnormality. If you don’t have these documented, your chances of getting taken advantage of will rise significantly.
Pick a small car. The smaller, the better. Italians aren’t defensive drivers and it’s not an exaggeration. When you are driving a car in Italy, count on getting cut-off, tailgated and honked at for no reason. Without car lanes on city roads barely big enough for one car, never mind two, people will still try to pass you. Size matters here, go small!
Don’t speed. No matter what, just don’t do it. While the rest of the country will fly past you going 150km per hour, drive your rental car in the right hand lane and don’t go over the speed limit. Italy is full of speed control monitors and if you’re caught, you can expect a ticket with a large fee to show up in your mailbox when you get back to the states.
Don’t trust your phone GPS. It may not be up to the second. We found out the hard way because we trusted the little blue dot on our smartphone. If your GPS leads you the wrong way, stay calm and take it slow to figure out a way back. It is best to just read street signs and know where you’re going before you leave. An old school map is the best way to go.
Bring a lot of cash. There are a good amount of tolls throughout the country and they range from a few Euro upwards of 30+ Euro depending on where you’re going. Some toll booths take credit cards, but cash is also easiest. Be sure to stay in the right hand lane that is clearly labeled “Tourist” so you can avoid fast-pass or semi-lanes. Italian tolls are based on distance traveled. So if there isn’t a way for them to tell how long you’ve been on the toll road, you’ll get a heavy free when they figure out where you are.
Fill up your tank. With many car rental agencies in Italy, it’s a 30 Euro fee when you bring the car back without a full tank of gas.
Photograph or video the walkthrough process. Same as in America, the car rental agent will want to do a visual walkthrough when you drop the car off. By photographing or videotaping the process, you’ll avoid getting a letter with fees or damages that may or may not have been there when you dropped it off.
While these tips for renting and driving a car in Italy may seem a little dramatic, it’s the advice that we wish we had prior to renting our Fiat 500. Do your research ahead of time before you rent a car in Italy. Would we do it again? Yes!
Dan and Leah van der Kooy have been traveling the world full-time since May 2015. Having sold all of their possessions, home and car, they set off for a life of adventure in the attempt to find a slower pace of life and more time to enjoy the things they love best. Eating well, cooking, frugal living and taking time to live life purposefully are at the center of their travel pursuits. Dan worked for Turner Broadcasting in Atlanta for 15 years and enjoys using his award-winning talents to produce interesting original content video for their website, www.offthemaindrag.com. Leah is a yoga teacher and a masters-level professional counselor.