Driving permit in Italy for US citizens

I am a US citizen planning a trip to Italy at the end of Sept. I am thinking of renting a car and driving from Venice to Rome. Does anyone know if it would be fairly easy to drive between those two cities? Is it necessary to have an International Drivers License to rent car in Italy?

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
12675 posts

You don't need an International Driving Permit to rent a car but you absolutely need the permit to drive. Get it.

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
5411 posts

The rental car company will not ask you for one, but if you get pulled over by the police you'd better have one or you might be sharing a bunk bed with Silvio Berlusconi. The drive is fairly easy. It's all freeway from Mestre to Rome. The drive time is over 5 hours, to which you must add any time you spend on pit stops along the way. I might also add that taking the train, instead of driving, is much faster, easier, more comfortable and cheaper too.

Posted by Lo
1343 posts

Are you planning to stop along the way for any reason? Maybe spend the night? If not, I can't imagine driving would be better than taking the train. You can go from Venezia Santa Lucia to Roma Termini in 3.25 to 3.45 hours with no train changes. Even if you did want to stop, you can work that out (as well as check on the times) at DB BAHN. It's so late now, you probably would have to buy the tickets at the station in Venice.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7870 posts

I've driven between Venice and Rome, but with many stops along the way. If you aren't planning to stop, I'd opt for a cheap flight with one of the European carriers that specialize in those - it's cheaper and faster than a train or car. If you do drive, bring a good GPS. Italian roads are fine (except city driving can be crowded and crazy) but the signage is almost completely useless. A GPS will know what road you are on and where to turn, even when you can't spot a sign to save your life.

Posted by Tom
2876 posts

It's not an International Drivers License, it's an International Drivers Permit. You can get it at any AAA office. There are websites selling International Drivers Licenses - these are scams, avoid them.

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
5411 posts

I disagree that the airplane is faster than the train once you factor in the time from/to the airport from/to the respective cities and the airport security procedures. At best they are comparable, but more likely longer by airplane. Venice to VCE = 1hr Check in and boarding = 1 hr. Flight time= 1 hr Deplane in Fiumicino + transfer to Rome = 1 hr at best.
Total time by air = 4 hr (at least) Train travel = 3hr + 45min (city center to city center) The cost of a budget airline may be cheaper than the 80 euro Base fare on the train (one way), but then one has to add the cost of transfers from/to the airports. If you use a taxi (or worse, a water taxi in Venice) your savings are gone.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
4729 posts

If you are going to drive this route, be careful of the speed cameras (including on the causeway out of Venice) and know all about ZTL's (you can't drive into central Rome, or indeed into the center of almost any city, without getting a big fine). And, Italian speed fines and ZTL fines come in two installments. First, you get a bill from your rental car company, for turning over your information to the Italian authorities; then, you get the ticket itself - months after your return. For more about Rome's ZTL's and Italian driving, look at Ron In Rome here: http://www.roninrome.com/%20transportation/ztls-in-rome and http://www.roninrome.com/transportation/driving-italy. Just to pile on the others, if you only want to get from city to city and not make any stops or see any small towns along the way, take the train. I'd only rent a car if I wanted to spend a few days making the drive, or if I wanted to go to places hard to get to by train.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
21440 posts

Janet, I agree with the others on several points..... > Unless you're planning to stop along the way, taking the high speed train (which runs at up to 300 kmH) will be much faster and more efficient use of your holiday time. It will also be more relaxing, you can still enjoy the scenery and it doesn't come with any of the "pitfalls" that come with driving (ZTL's, tolls, high fuel costs, speeding tickets, etc.). > Taking a budget flight from Venice will most likely NOT be quicker than the high speed trains, for the reasons articulated so well by Roberto. The Freccia or Italo trains are by far the quickest and easiest way to get from Venice to Rome. > You WILL need an International Driver's Permit for driving in Italy. This is not a license per sé and MUST be used in conjunction with your home D.L. You can easily obtain an I.D.P. at your nearest AAA office for a small fee. One other point to note is that failure to produce an I.D.P. if requested by Police can result in fines on the spot! Those that won't/can't pay the fines may find their rental car being towed, and the costs will increase from there. Happy travels!

Posted by Angela
Sammamish, WA
403 posts

I know everyone on this site says you technically don't NEED an IDP to rent a car in Italy. FWIW, I was asked to present mine when I rented from Avis at the Florence airport 2 weeks ago. Just so you know!

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
11637 posts

Technically, yes you do need an IDP to rent a car in Italy. Some rental car dudes or dudettes may not ask to see it; but it is the Law.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2374 posts

I'd be less concerned about being able to get a car off the lot without an IDP than going into trouble should something happen like an accident while not having one. The minor trouble is getting a fine if the police stops to check your license (rare). The major trouble is getting a run around from the insurance company by driving without the proper documentation should something happen (collision or other moving traffic accident).

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
5411 posts

Why is it such a trouble to go the the local AAA office and get one? It costs only $20 and it takes 5 to 10 min., including taking pictures if you don't have your own.