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Where to pick up a car in Rome?

We'll be renting a car in Rome and driving to Cortona. I've read there is a surcharge to picking up at the airport or at the train station. I'm looking for a recommendation as to where a good place to pick up would be. I'd define 'good' as easy to get to via public transportation, easy to get out of Rome once you pick the car up, and big enough to have a good selection of cars. I really appreciate your help!
Thanks, Scott

Posted by
2048 posts

Two "pick-up" areas with the most selection are the Airport and Termini. All the rental agencies are in these two locations. The airport is very convenient to get on the GRA (Loop) and then to any autostrada.

Termini is located just north of the centro district in "downtown" Rome. The "pick up" garage is just east of Termini Station, a short walk from the train or metro stops. Undoubtedly, this will not be as easy as driving from the airport.

If you've never driven in Italy (well first, "God bless you") you might NOT want your first trip to be from Termini. Rome is not your typical city. It has a MULTITUDE of one way streets, limited "traffic" zones, and well, lots of Roman drivers! GET ALL THE INSURANCE YOU CAN PURCHASE for the car (Super CDW) and save yourself the heartache and pain ($$$$) later!

Once you adapt, driving in Italy is... well, like driving in a Formula 1 race - EVERYDAY - on EVERY Street! A good way to typify your experience here would be to answer the age old question: "If you were driving at 2 AM and came to a 4-way intersection and YOU HAD the red light would you stop, ease through, etc..." In Italy THERE IS NO DEBATE - you're probably NOT stopping at noon so there's no doubt you're not even slowing down at 2 AM!

That's driving here in a nutshell. He who gets there first, well..... goes first! It's certainly an adjustment and now I'm embarassed to say, I drive just like a Roman! God help me - and you - if I ever get back to the States!

Ciao,
Ron

Posted by
10344 posts

Ron: Great writing (above), humorous AND at the same time effective (it is to be hoped) at somehow penetrating the mindset of the North American traveler who has never driven in Rome or other Italian cities and is thinking about doing it and assumes, with the typical North American mindset based on driving in the US or Canada--yeh yeh yeh, how challenging/stressful could it be? Those persons should read your piece twice.And hey, you sound like Rick: "Driving in Italy can be scary--a video game for keeps, and you only get one quarter." (from his Italy book)

Posted by
240 posts

Scott, I rented a car at the airport. And yes, I would get the 'super" insurance. Getting out of the airport is not too bad..just watch for the sign! I don't think the driving is as bad as everyone says...as long as you know you will be driving about 80 mph(or more!)..and if somesone comes behind you with their signal on..that means GET OUT OF THE WAY..you will be just fine. I would say that we drove about 85-90 mph throughout Italy and had no problems. Cortona is lovely!! It is quite peaceful and the drive is great. Also, don't miss Deruta for ceramics! We were in Italy for 3 weeks and drove everywhere! Also, don't forget to have coins for the tolls!

Posted by
10344 posts

The original poster was asking about picking up a rental car at Termini, which would involve driving in Rome, and Ron and I were specifically talking about driving in Rome and other Italian cities. We were not talking about driving on the autostrada or in the country, which is much easier then driving in the cities.

Posted by
2297 posts

Well, we decided to pick up the car at Termini and drop it off at the airport. Having to get out to the airport from our inner-city accommodation would have been an extra expense. When I checked the rental prices there was no difference between the locations.

We just hope that our GPS will help us navigate through the one-way streets. It'll be a Monday evening. At about what time would rush-hour be a bit calming down? We are going south to Sorrento.

Posted by
2048 posts

Beatrix,

If you're picking up on a Monday, then rush hour is probably from 4-7 PM, like most US cities.

If you're heading from Termini SOUTH, I recommend charting the most direct route to the GRA - the loop around Rome. If you allow the GPS to take you the most DIRECT route to Sorrento, then you will go from Termini (northern part of downtown) straight through downtown at rush hour! No, I would plot my course to get to the A-1 via the A-90 ... even if it was EXTRA kilometers. Otherwise you could spend much time (and frustration) getting out of Rome.

Until you drive in a major city in Italy (Rome, Florence, Milan, and God help you - NAPLES!) you do not realize how difficult it is. Street signs are often NOT posted - if they are they are on the side of a building, not AT the turn, and are often covered by ivy or trees. By the time you realize THAT WAS your turn, it's too late and your GPS is saying the word you fear most - RECALCULATING!

On top of that stress, driving here is like the FROGGER game - and sometimes YOU'RE the frog! In the cities you must drive extremely defensively. Italians EXPECT you to "maintain your line" as often there are NO lines in the street (or folks just disregard them). My wife easily drives on the autostrada and in the country - She REFUSES to drive in Naples, and always asks me to drive in Rome. So it's much different in the city, as Kent has pointed out, than out in the country. Thus, plot your course to avoid as much of the inner city as possible!

Good Luck - Ciao,
Ron

Posted by
2297 posts

Thanks for the tipps, Ron! Our GPS differenciates between the most direct and the fastest route. At least in England that worked quite well and was very accurate.

We don't intend to drive IN any of the major cities (most certainly not Naples!) except for this drive from Termini to get out of Rome. One of the reasons we decided to rent a car is that we'll do a lot of country driving that wouldn't be as accessible by train/bus.

Posted by
2048 posts

Beatrix, I think you misunderstand... your GPS will not account for TRAFFIC - at least NOT in Italy. It may seem the shortest AND the fastest way, but when you're bumper-to-bumper, 5 cars across on a two lane highway (welcome to Italy), it's little consolation.

You'll probably have to manually DIRECT your GPS to take you to the Loop but it will not be, as per the GPS at that time of day, be the shortest or fastest method... I insert "waypoints" at the ramp I want to hit and send the GPS there first! This is one of those times a map may be BETTER than a GPS!

Ciao,
Ron

Posted by
2297 posts

ron,

I hope in that case that the rental agency can give us a map to direkt us to the GRA to supplement the GPS. If the ring road has a higher speed limit than the other roads I can see the GPS picking it up as part of the fastest - though longer - route. But it's good not to rely on it 100%.

Oh, I just checked out google directions. This is what is suggested:

http://maps.google.ca/maps?f=d&hl=en&geocode=&saddr=Termini+station,+rome&daddr=sorrento&sll=48.543527,-1.815425&sspn=0.10342,0.296631&ie=UTF8&ll=41.909942,12.589302&spn=0.116252,0.296631&z=12

Posted by
2297 posts

Kent,

I know that the GPS only takes posted speed limits into account, not actual traffic volume. Google tries to find the shortest way to the next ring road connection if I read the map correctly. It does not take you all through the centre of Rome but of course I don't know if all Romans choose the same route and plug it up ....

Posted by
2048 posts

Beatrix - that's a pretty good route that Google Maps gave you... the hardest part will be getting TO Strada dei Parchi!!! Note that is a major road out of Rome so expect it to be heavily traveled that time of day!

You'll start out on the "right" side of Termini (if you looking directly at it...) so you'll have to come up to the front, turn right and then follow those directions!

Good Luck - and have fun!
Ron

Posted by
365 posts

Scott, I rented a car at Termini and drove to Cortona last summer. I don't recall a surcharge, we booked through AutoEurope and it was an Avis car. I would not go to great lengths to avoid a Termini pickup. If it allows you to get the car without an additional trip just to get to a rental office further out of town, I would say do it. I've noted before on this forum that driving decisions have to do with your confidence level. Let's face it, Italians may drive differently but it's not like they are looking for tourists to terrorize. They're just trying to get somewhere. Get a detailed map, chart a plan for getting out of Rome and follow it. You'll take some wrong turns and have to correct, no big deal. It's all part of the trip. We have a family of four so we were able to get a Passat wagon from Termini.

Others will disagree with me and say "don't drive in Rome," and that's fair enough. But I like to drive and have done quite a bit of driving in Europe so the mayhem just is what it is for me I suppose. I imagine the selection of cars at Termini is pretty good as opposed to the outlying agencies.

Posted by
10344 posts

Neil makes good points. I would just add that what we are usually trying to do in giving advice to others on the Helpline is: To give good recommendations to the original poster based on what we think their prior experience is, in this case their prior experience driving in Italian cities like Rome. Neil already has experience picking up a rental car at Termini, so he doesn't need our advice, but if he did ask for it, the best advice to Neil would be: pick it up at Termini because you know what you're getting into. But it has been my observation in the last year on the Helpline that most people writing in for advice here are asking about a subject (for example, the advisability of driving in Rome) in which they have limited or no prior experience, otherwise they wouldn't be asking for advice. Those are the travelers we are generally addressing when we give advice here--and sometimes that means we advise them to be cautious when we ourselves would go for it.An example of this is Beatrix, not the OP but one of the above posters who was also asking for advice. At first Ron and I were both giving her advice under the assumption that she had limited or no prior experience driving in Italian cities; but then in a PM I learned from her that she and her husband are very experienced at driving in Italian cities and so I changed my advice to her once I knew her level of experience.