We are planning our second trip to Italy, Sept 2013. We would like to fly into Rome, stay a few nights, then head to Assisi for a few nights and then to Siena. We plan on renting a car. Where would you suggest to rent the car, outside Rome and drive to Assisi or rent one in Assisi? After Siena, which airport would be closer, easier to get to? Milan or back to Rome. Best way to get there? car, bus or train? Thanks Terri
I would suggest that you rent the car in Orvieto as you depart Rome. Orvieto is 1 hour north of Rome by train and is a recognized place by many of this site to rent and turn in cars before coming into Rome or departing Rome for Umbria and Tuscany. Fare is 7.50E on the Regionale train. Also note that Orvieto is one of the best hilltowns in Italy and you might want to walk around a bit. Note that you could take the 2.5hr. train directly to Assisi and rent the car after your visit there. I think the closest place to rent there would be Perugia which is a short train ride away. If you rent the car in Orvieto, you won't be able to drive much in Assisi. You are permitted to drive internally for 1 hour but that's it. There are parking areas on the perimeter of the town. With your rental car, you can explore much more of Tuscany and Umbria that you could by train or bus. After Siena, you are 3hrs from the Rome airport. You are 4.5hrs from Milan-Malpensa but that drive will take you through Bologna and Parma if that interests you.
The only thing I'd add to what Larry said is that you may find it cheaper to pick up and return your rental car at FCO (Rome's airport). If you pick it up in Orvieto and return it at the airport, you may get hit with a one-way fee. Do some price comparisons before you reserve. Rome is definitely the easier departure point for you, in terms of proximity to Siena and flight choices. Rome's airport is well outside the city; you can drive from there to Assisi/Siena and back without having to drive in Rome itself at all.
I would do the following: Day of arrival. Arrive at Rome airport. Take taxi to Rome hotel. There is a train (Leonardo Express) also from the airport to the Termini station (14 Euro pp one way). However unless your hotel is walking distance from the station, two or more people will not save much with the train+taxi as opposed to taking the taxi directly from the airport (Euro 48 flat fee). Don't rent a car at Rome airport. It's more expensive than renting in the city and you won't need a car while in Rome. After your few days in Rome. Rent a car from a downtown Rome location and go to Umbria (Assisi)/Tuscany (Siena). I wouldn't bother to take the train to Orvieto to rent a car from there unless renting the car in Orvieto is significantly cheaper (check when you search for a car online, but I doubt you'll save anything renting in Orvieto). On the way to Assisi you can stop wherever you like along the way (Orvieto, Civita, Spoleto, Todi, Perugia, etc.). From Assisi to Siena it's less than 2 hours' drive.
(cont'd) After you are done with Tuscany, the choices of airports are up to you. In Tuscany there are two international airports: Florence (FLR): from Florence you can fly only to the major european hubs (FRA, MUC, CDG, AMS, ZRH, FCO). To come back to the US you must go through those hubs. Pisa (PSA): Pisa has a seasonal flight to JFK with Delta (I don't know if they still have it in September). Most flights out of Pisa are Low Cost (intra Europe).
For direct flights to the US, there are really only Rome and Milan and Venice. Best prices are usually from Rome or Milan. However check the availability of the PSA-JFK flight if decide to fly Delta. That way you don't need to drive back to Rome. I would go to Milan (or Venice) only if you intend to visit somewhere in the North. From Tuscany it's faster to drive back to Rome (FCO).