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Driving in Italy--What are your experiences?

What are your experiences in driving to Venice, Florence, Pisa and Rome. We were thinking of staying on the outskirts of each of these cities--not driving into the city at all. I've heard it's crazy driving in Italy. Rick Steves says it's like a video game gone mad! Have you done it and where would you stay? Especially outside of Rome. We thought we could stay in Orvieto and take the train in every day--it's an hour train ride. Ideas--Suggestions? We're leaving on the 14th of July. THANKS!

Posted by
689 posts

Driving is fine. As a previous poster said - stay to the right except to pass.

And the best thing we've done is get a map IN ITALIAN so the names of the towns match the road signs. Most roads are identified by names of cities or towns along the way.

Two people is important - you need the navigator!!!

Posted by
689 posts

I forgot to add - don't be afraid to go round and round and round in the roundabout until you figure out which way you want to shoot out!

We went around and around while I searched the map for the towns the signs were pointing toward. None of them appeared to be in our direction - until I found the one to the north - in Switzerland!!!

Posted by
934 posts

I have driven from Venice to Siena,Pisa and Rome.Having done it I would do things different.Get car at Mestre in Venice(10minutes by train)drive to Siena and stay two nights using one for a bus trip into Florence for the day(we did that and it worked well.)Then drive to Orvieto and leave the car and train into Rome.Stay in Rome near the train station and then go back to Orvieto.Nights in Siena are very nice and using two hours a day back and forth to Orvieto makes little sense also.You can drive to Pisa also and thats no problem.best regards jack

Posted by
934 posts

This is jack and I sent a message board message.I have info on staying in Rome near the train station.We have done it at two very nice places.Are you driving Venice to Rome and back or one way.Please contact me at jtune@qwics.net if I can help in any way.jack in Wisc.

Posted by
320 posts

Denise - Driving in Italy is no big deal. The Autostrada is just like an American Interstate Freeway - just keep to the right - except when passing. On the secondary roads just stay alert. I drove all over the place and found most every road or exit well marked. I drove in Florence - the morning and afternoon rush hour - with my wife and kids. Although I am not sure I would do that again - we are still laughing about the crazy traffic in Florence - scooters darting in and out - lines on the streets mean almost nothing, etc. I just took a deep breath and tried to stay in the flow of traffic.

Driving in Italy gives you a ton of freedom to explore - enjoy the adventure. Have fun.

Posted by
5180 posts

Another overlooked options is to mix your driving with train. If you really have no plans to see anything in particular between Venice and Florence, take the train, do your thing in Florence, then rent a car to do Pisa and Tuscany for a couple of days, then onto Rome by train. You will avoid drop off charges, having the car sit for days while you explore Florence and Rome, and driving to basically get from point a to b. If you had more rural points on your itinerary, then more car days would make sense.

Posted by
15 posts

On our last day in Italy, we will be driving from Florence to Milan. We have thoughts of making this trip via Pisa/Genoa, that is, up the coast. Does anyone have a thought on this idea? We have all day and nothing but a plane to catch the next morning.

Posted by
25 posts

Hi Denise, We found driving in Italy pretty manageable. On our last trip we drove from Venice (picked up the car at the Europcar right across the street from the vaporetto stop) to Assisi via the Autostrada -- just like an American toll road. Then from Assisi to Siena and to Vinci (this was a bit trickier due to small roads and many roundabouts, make sure you have a good map & someone to act as navigator) and from Vinci to Florence. Florence is a bit of a madhouse so try to not drive there during rush hour, but it is manageable if you are used to big-city traffic (e.g. Chicago). However, I would go nowhere near Rome in a car. If Rome is your last stop, consider dropping off the car somewhere on the outskirts, taking the train in, and then staying in Rome. There is so much to see and do there that it would be a shame to waste 2 hours a day commuting from Orvieto. (Though Orvieto is really nice!)

Posted by
2 posts

Last year we rented a car equipped with GPS and had a ball. The accuracy of the unit allowed us to put down the maps and just listen for directions that were 100% correct even in the most remote regions and the smallest towns. We are going back this year and will do the same from Venice to Lake Como to Cinque Terra to Florence and back to Venice. I never felt uncomfortable or unsafe on the roads. Don't attempt to drive in Rome!!

Posted by
1629 posts

A BIG thank you to everyone who has replied so far. We have driven around Europe on previous trips but had heard that Italy is so much different. It's great to get your feedback. We're flying into Frankfurt and then heading south from there. We have 3 1/2 weeks. I'm going to get Michelin maps before we leave. Thanks again for your help.

Posted by
7 posts

Just got back from Italy. Get the GPS, it DOES work even in the smallest towns. Our only problems came when we didnt heed the GPS. Our mantra was "Trust the GPS". It literally got us to the front door of our hotels in Siena, Assisi and Cortona.

14 euro per day for EuropaCar

Posted by
1 posts

Driving really isn't a big deal. I drove the Autostrada and the notorious Amalfi Drive my very first time in Italy, a woman alone. Since everyone is driving the Autostrada at the same rate of speed--only much faster--it's quite safe. The Amalfi Drive was a blast to drive, with all the hairpin turns. I was in a pokey little rented Renault and wished I had my Audi! And if you do drive off a cliff it's worth it because it's one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. I drove from one end of Italy to the other--through the Tuscan hills--from Amalfi to Milan, up to Florence (drivnig was hectic there, and I hate rotaries). I got rid of my car in Milan and lost my heart to Venice, where I now go every year and don't have to deal with cars at all.

Posted by
850 posts

You will be fine driving in Italy although I would avoid driving in Rome. We rented a car in Stuttgart and drove to Aosta, Italy and from there to Pisa, Cinque Terre, Cortona and places in Tuscany. We left our car at the Camuchi-Cortona train station for 3 nights and took a train into Rome. It cost nothing to leave the car at the Cortona train station and we were assured the car would be safe by our B&B owner. It was as it turned out. From there we drove to Venice and left our car at Mestre for 3 nights where we parked right across from the train station for 4.50 euro per night. From there we drove the Great Dolomite road and spent 2 nights along the way. From there to Austria and the Grossglockner road before returning to Stuttgart via Mittenwald and Triberg in the Black Forest. No problems. This was our 4th time renting a car in Europe and the first time driving in Italy and it went well. Our first time with a gps which we took with us and it was great. Never again without one

Posted by
468 posts

In addition to a Michelin map, take a compass. We don't travel without one.

Posted by
55 posts

Would love to know how those of you who rented from Europacar did it? Online? How did you get GPS? Was the 14 E for the GPS? Anyone have experience with rental from one city and drop off another? Fees? Thanks to all.

Posted by
468 posts

Our last rental car had GPS but the instructionn booklet was in Italian and we couldn't figure out how to use it. Maps and a compass work great without complicated instructions.

Posted by
468 posts

Our last rental car had GPS but the instructionn booklet was in Italian and we couldn't figure out how to use it. Maps and a compass work great without complicated instructions.

Posted by
1 posts

Since it has been advised to avoid driving in Rome, has anyone ever driven from Rome out into the countryside? We'll be staying outside of the city center (which I know to avoid!) near the Villa Borghese, and we're considering renting a car for a day trip into the country.

Posted by
7 posts

We rented thru AutoEurope and paid here in the US. We only had to pay the 14Euro charge for the GPS when we returned the car. The car was from EuropaCar when we picked it up.

The GPS had a huge number of languages, including British, American and Australian English accents!

Be sure to ask for an english "speaking" GPS and be sure that they set it all up for you.

Virginia

Posted by
850 posts

We purchased a gps in the states and took it with us. We purchased the tomtom 910 model which has maps of Western Eurpoe as well as the U.S. and Canada. It was worth the investment of $425.00 since we will use it here and on future visits to Europe. I saw it on sale this week for $399.00.