So you’ve decided to visit the land of pizza and pasta. And, not just that but you’ve decided to brave the wild roads of Italy, hire a car and road trip it. Well, good for you, you’re going to have blast.
But take it from me, driving in Italy is no small feat. Italian drivers are crazy, aggressive and never use their indicators. I mean literally never! For a more detailed guide about driving in Italy, see my earlier post here but in the mean time here are eight tips to surviving a road trip through Italy.
View from the side of the road in Emilia Romagna region.
1. Parking in Italy can often be a nightmare, especially in the bigger cities. However, most hotels should offer parking at an extra cost, or at least suggest a near by car park where you can leave your rental. But, make sure you enquire when making a reservation so you’re not stuck when you arrive.
If your hotel doesn’t have parking or you’re doing a day trip and visiting another city, then follow these simple rules. In most major cities there are plenty of large car parks where you can leave your car. Alternatively, street parking is a cheaper but harder to find option.
The spaces outlined in blue are the ones to keep an eye out for. It’s metered parking so make sure you buy a ticket and leave it on the dashboard or else you run the risk of being fined. From 8pm to 8am these blue car parks are free and in some cities they are also free all day on Sunday’s and public holidays.
2. Beware of ZLT zones within large cities and the hefty fines they carry. ZLT’s are limited traffic areas and can only be accessed by residents and those who work within the zone. Your hotel or accommodation should be able to advise you on them.
If your hotel is within the ZLT, make sure you make them aware that you are driving as typically they can give you access to the ZLT zone for the duration of your stay without any fines or charges.
A drive to Verona is not a road trip if you don’t stop off at Castel San Pietro look out.
3. Book your rental car in advance. While booking a hire car once you land is possible, it can be much more expensive and less choice available. However, by researching and booking online prior to your holiday, you can not only save money but probably get yourself a better car too.
4. It’s a good idea to get an International Driver’s License prior to leaving your home country. While not all car rental companies require them, legally in Italy you should have one as a foreigner or tourist if you are planning on driving. Also, beware of the fine print with some online bookings as requiring an International Driver’s License may not be always be advertised clearly but are needed.
International Driver’s License’s are pretty easy to obtain. In Australia you can get one online through NRMA here for around $39 + posting.
5. Petrol is kind of expensive in Italy and even more so on the Autostrada’s. So if you’re on a budget, make sure you try to fill up before getting on the Autostrada.
Also, don’t be alarmed if you pull up to a petrol station to find that it’s closed. Despite it being closed, majority of Italian petrol stations actually have a self serve option available 24/7. There should be a machine which looks like an ATM between the pumps. Insert your cash or card, select your number pump and fill as normal.
A roadtrip to Cinque Terre is always worth the trip!
6. Familiarise yourself with the signs and symbols for speed cameras. Despite Italians being some of the fastest drivers I know, speeding fines do exist! Look out for the blue signs reading “Controllo elettronico della velocita” on Autostrada’s or Tangenziale’s, or the symbol of a little Policeman.
On local streets, usually within 50 kilometre zones, keep an eye out for the signs that read “Controllo Velocita” and the big orange box, which is the actual speed camera.
7. Always have a GPS or download a good maps app. Most car rental’s will either give you the option to hire a GPS or provide one with the rental. Alternatively, there are also some great apps out there that you can download too.
Google Maps and Apple Maps are the obvious ones but both need data roaming in order to work. For a good and detailed maps app that doesn’t need data, I would suggest Maps.Me. You can pre download your maps and save points of interests as well.
8. Have patience and read my previous post about driving in Italy.
Buon viaggio and buona fortuna! Aka Have a great holiday and good luck!
If you’re stuck on where to go or need some road trip inspiration check out my post about our three week road trip around Italy, Slovenia and Croatia.