Rental car in Dolomites? Car or train from Castelrotto to Venice?

My husband and I will be leaving for Italy in 5 weeks and will fly into Milan. Our first 3 nights are in the Dolomites in Castelrotto and from there we go to Venice for a few nights. We've never rented a car in Europe before, but we do plan to have one when we get to Tuscany. My first question is - should we rent a car for our visit to the Dolomites and second, should we drive to Venice from there instead of taking the train? It looks like it could be a beautiful drive. I would love to hear from anyone who has driven in the Dolomites or in the Veneto.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17738 posts

Noma, In order to get to or from Castelrotto by public transport, you'll need to travel by train to Bolzano and then take a Bus to Castelrotto. The trip from Bolzano to Venice is fairly straightforward (probably one change in Verona). As you're planning to rent a car, are you aware of the usual potentially expensive "caveats" regarding driving in Italy? If not, post another note for further information. Since a car is of little use in Venice, you may want to rent when you get to Tuscany. If this is your first trip to Italy, you may want to have a look at the Italy 2012 Guidebook, as there's lots of good information there on sightseeing, transportation, etc. You'll also need to be aware of a few "issues" when travelling by train there. Happy travels!

Posted by Noma
Somerville, AL
14 posts

Thanks Vernon. This is actually our 4th trip to Italy, but our last trip was 7 years ago. Can you tell me more about the usual potentially expensive "caveats" regarding driving in Italy? I have a car reserved for 8 days that I plan to pick up close to Spello for our visit to Umbria and Tuscany. If we rent a car in the Dolomites, we would probably return it in Venice and then take the train to Spello. I suppose what I am asking is, would our trip to the Dolomites be more enjoyable with a car? Thanks again,
Noma

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17738 posts

Noma, Here's the usual "boilerplate" information.... It's important to note that for driving in Italy, each driver must have the compulsory International Driver's Permit, which is used in conjunction with your home D.L. These are valid for one year, and easily obtained at any CAA/AAA office (two Passport-sized photos required, which in some cases is offered at the issuing office). Failure to produce an IDP if requested can result in fines on the spot! Have a look at This Website for more detailed information on I.D.P.'s and driving in Italy. You may also want to have a look at some of the other posts here concerning the dreaded Zona Traffico Limitato areas that are becoming increasingly prevalent in many Italian towns & cities ( especially Florence!). EACH PASS through one of the automated Cameras will result in a €100+ ticket! There's also the issue of parking tickets and the possibility of having "The Boot" applied, and high fuel costs, tolls, etc. A GPS along with a good Map would also be a good idea. Be sure to also give some thought to the question of CDW and theft insurance. In Italy, buying CDW from the rental firm is usually compulsory, so coverage provided by credit cards will not apply. Check the Car Rental section in Europe Through The Back Door for further information. You could also download the "Car Rental" PDF Guide from Gemut. One more point to note is that recent posts here have indicated that authorities in Italy are now using aggressive Collection Agencies in the U.S. and & Canada to collect outstanding fines. If you get "nicked", it WILL be expensive. Cheers!

Posted by Paul
NYC area
1427 posts

Hi Noma, We've used a rental car for our trips to the Dolomites in '03, '05, '06 and '09. Since you're renting a car in Italy after the Dolomite/Venice portion of your trip, you should already have an IDP anyway. Easy and inexpensive to get at any AAA location. About $20 for the IDP and the passport size photo(usually taken right there at the AAA). While Italy does have toll booths on the highways, you won't find them "in" the Dolomites. While you can get around the Dolomites using the buses, we prefer having a car. The drives in the Dolomites are simply put... spectacular. Close by to Castelrotto are the Gardena and Sella Passes, the Gardena being our favorite pass to drive. Depending on the route, the drive to Venice can be all that also. We've never has an issue or problem driving in this area of Italy. Take the usual safety precautions, learn a few of the common road signs (no parking, no entry, etc.), obey the speed limits and use common sense. Paul

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
2258 posts

There is a EuropCar location at Trento train station. That's a good pick-up & return location to get to Castelrotto.

Posted by Lane
Mansfield, GA
847 posts

I would suggest renting a car for the Dolomites. Incredible views and with a car you can stop at the many overlooks for photos or to just soak in the scenery. From Castelrotto take the drive that Paul mentioned and then on over to Cortina d Ampezzo and on to Venice. You could probably turn the car in at Mestre and take the cheap and short train ride from Mestre to Venice. If you plan on keeping the car for your journey to Tuscany you could park your car just across the street from the train station in Mestre and take the aforementioned train. Don't know the cost of parking in Mestre now but in 2007 it was 4,50 euro per day. I would think the cheaper option would be to the car and then rent again when you arrive in Tuscany. You do get a better rental rate if you rent for a longer period of time so you may want to check with your rental outlet for a comparison to see if it would pay to keep the car for an extended period factoring in the parking expense while in Venice vs two shorter rental periods. I have used gemut.com several times for rental and autoeurope is another good place which many people use. Compare their rates with direct rental rates from the car companies. You did not mention how much you plan to explore the Dolomites from Castelrotto but in my opinion the best of the Dolomites would be in the area Paul mentioned, however the drive from Castelrotto through the Dolomites to Mestre/Venice will defintely be filled with spectacular views throughout the drive.

Posted by Lane
Mansfield, GA
847 posts

Tried to edit my post but it would not take. Meant to read as follows: I would think the cheaper option would be to drop the car and then rent again when you arrive in Tuscany.

Posted by Noma
Somerville, AL
14 posts

Thanks so much everyone. Your tips are going to be very helpful. I believe we are definitely going to rent a car now in the Dolomites after reading your posts! I also saw some posts on a Tripadvisor forum that were very encouraging and make me wish we had longer to stay in this area. I have a feeling we will be stopping very frequently for photos!!!