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How safe is driving in Italy?

How safe is it to drive anywhere in Italy? Especially the Amalfe Coast and Rome.

Posted by
20331 posts

How long have you got! Every Italian male thinks "If I just could have got a few breaks, I could've been on the Grand Prix circuit." Having said that, they ARE good drivers. More important, I think, is what happens to the car when you are not in it. A few years, after a business meeting with clients in Lucca, we said we would like to go into the old city for a few hours and tour. Our client picked up a pad of paper and said, "Here I will write down the parking lots that are safe to park in. They have video cam's. Do not park in a lot that has no camera. If you see broken glass on the pavement, thats a sign that you need to park somewhere else."
I don't know if it is still like this now, but 7 years ago, all the rest stops on the Autostrada hired thieves to pump gas. The reason they hire thieves is that the thieves will work for very little money. The reason the thieves will work for very little money is because it is a gold mine of thieving opportunities. I have to stop at the rest stop outside Parma to fill up. They filler up and then indicate I have to go inside to pay. (Doesn't speak Italian) + (wearing a suit and tie) + (driving car with Hertz sticker)= (computer in the trunk). When I got to my hotel by Malpensa I opened the trunk and looked. Then I closed the trunk, then I opened it again hoping my computer case would magically reappear. It didn't. So keep that in mind, especially if traveling alone. If you have a traveling companion, have one person stay in the car at all times when you take a rest stop.

Posted by
2 posts

WOW! Thanks Sam! I am just thinking of future travel and am concerned about safety on the road. Your comments were extremely helpful and humorous to boot. Man do I love this site.

Posted by
10303 posts

What an awful experience, Sam. We left a car alone in the middle of Nothing-but-tumbleweeds, Texas years ago. Lo and behold, suddenly a flat tire when we got back to the car and only very expensive tires in this isolated station. Good advice not to leave the car alone if there are two or more of you in Italy or anywhere.

Posted by
1078 posts

If you can drive in Jersey, you can drive in Italy BUT avoid the major cities if possible. Have driven throughout Italy, excluding Rome but including Palermo, which was no worse than trying to go through the tunnel to NYC from Jersey. My rule is to rent the smallest you can, take pictures at time of rental, and take them again when returning the car, and avoid Sixt Rental Car.
Have fun!

Posted by
20331 posts

Thanks Jerry! I just rented a Sixt car for the end of Sept. Now they tell me!

Posted by
11507 posts

In Rome especiallly learn exactly where the "no drive zones" are,, as people constantly are on forums saying they have recievced tickets in the mail months after returning home( they get camera generated tickets that the rental car agencies then pass on the information to the authorities) . Sometimes because they don't realize they are getting the tickets they get multiple ones for driving through same areas over and over.

Posted by
2876 posts

Learn the international road signs! Especially the red circle with the all-white interior, and the solid red circle with the horizontal white dash. These mean No Entry or Do Not Drive Past This Sign. If you know all the symbols, the signs become your friend & your protector against traffic tickets. You'll never be able to memorize where the no-drive zones are, but if you know and strictly obey the road signs, you won't have to. That said, you certainly don't need - or want - a car in either Rome or the Amalfi coast region.

Posted by
12172 posts

Driving in Italy is interesting. The roads in town are narrow and usually packed with traffic. All parking places are taken, so don't waste time. Drive straight to a paid parking lot (and, yes, skip it if there are loiterers and/or broken glass on the ground). Italian drivers are agressive, they don't like to slow down at red lights or stop for pedestrians, but will always let you in. Just don't delay - they are hugely impatient if you don't drive like they do. Most buildings don't have addresses displayed, most roads don't have signs, and signage on the autostrada is useless - bring a good GPS. We made it without a scratch or break-in, but it was both nerve-wracking and exciting at times.

Posted by
7659 posts

Driving itself can be no different than congested parts of the east coast. The bigger worries are petty theft and vehicle damage, necessitating good insurance likely purchased from the rental agency (Super CDW) and traffic camera tickets, perticularly the dreaded ZTLs. As for Rome, there is no need for a car, it will only be a burden and the traffic can be brutal. Parking is non-existant and many areas highly restricted. The Amalfi coast is also very congested and parking very expensive. A car though would be great to rent for a day or few to see Tuscany or other rural areas of Italy, but not for visiting cities or as transport between cities.

Posted by
20331 posts

I was in Padua in May, and I noticed that drivers stopped every time I approached a crosswalk. I thought I was in Seattle! Still, I did not step out into the crosswalk with great confidence. I said to myself, "It'll be my luck that just when I do, I'll get run over by an American that just picked up the car at the Airport rental lot and hasn't got clued in to Italian road rules: Yield to pedestrians." Had eat all my smart comments about Italian drivers.

Posted by
3696 posts

I have driven numerous times all over Italy (and Europe) and I would definitely not go through the stress of driving in Rome. If you want a car after you leave pick it up at the airport and head out. I have also driven the Amalfi Coast and I have to say I do not like heights, so it was a bit of a white-knuckle drive for me. It was congested and busy and many times I would have liked to stop but could not find a parking place. I think I would take the train there next time. However, to see the Tuscan countryside I love having my car and the freedom to explore that goes with it. And yes, they are agressive drivers in their cars and motorcycles.

Posted by
153 posts

I have rented a car twice in Italy. I tried my best to stay out of big cities. The Italians are very fast drivers, with very little patience. Be very carefull about no drive zones in places like Pisa. I received two tickets, one in Pisa, crossed the line somehow and one for speeding, which is a joke, since everyone passed me. There are places in Tuscany that if you don't have a car, you will not be able to visit. Last year, I rented my car from Rome airport and drove the Amalfe Coast, a little confusing, but lived to tell about it.