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Where to rent and where not to rent a car in Italy

Im planning a trip to Italy, we are a family of five (three teens) we'll be there for 20+ days planning to travel all over. I'm not sure where we should have a car and where is better to travel by train or bus. I've never been to Italy and I'm not sure what to do

Posted by
2094 posts

Start by making a rough itinerary, then we can give you advice on the best modes of transportation.

Posted by
2132 posts

Since we know nothing about your itinerary, it's quite difficult to reply.

As a rule of thumb: There must be a reason to drive. As an example: if Two cites (like Florence and Venice) are connected by high speed trains running at 250 km/h, why would you waste holiday time driving at 110 through the Apennines?

If you want to visit a small town and there is a local train going there, why running the risk of entering a ZTL and being fined? The answer depends on where you are going in the following days.

There are other things to take into consideration. Are you ready to stay only in hotels with free parking? Where will you leave your stuff while driving around? Can you drive a manual?

Two competing railway companies: trenitalia.com and italotreno.it/en

  • Because of Covid, to see the full schedules you must enter a day of travel within the next 90 days.
  • note that Discounted tickets come with restrictions.
  • Use Italian stations names.

Route planner: viamichelin.com

Posted by
2891 posts

I REALLY, REALLY hope you aren't attempting to travel "all over" Italy in only 3 weeks.
The first thing you have to do is plan a sensible itinerary, with a logical progression of travel. Let us know what that is and we can recommend the type of transportation that would be appropriate. Some legs may be easiest by train or bus. Other legs may demand a rental car.

Posted by
2004 posts

Ditto the above: a good rule of thumb is to travel by train between cities, by car IF going to small rural villages where transport is difficult. Certain areas of the country are better served than others. Post in the Italy forum once you have a rough itinerary sketched out.

Posted by
2 posts

Hi, I have been planning this trip for weeks using the Rick Steves Italy 26th Edition as a guide on where to go.
As of now we are arriving in Rome staying 3 nights and 4 days.
Then to Sorrento 2 nights and 3 days and visit Naples and Pompeii.
Then to Perugia 1 night and 2 days and visit Assisi
Then San Gimignano 4 nights and 3 days and visit Florence, Pisa, Lucca, Sienna
Then Padua 4 nights and 3 day and visit Venice, Verona.
Then off to Varese which is close to Milan for 4 nights and 5 days for a wedding.
We have 2 days available to either add mire time in Sorrento or in St. Gimigniano.
I'm open to suggestions and advise to make any changes in our Itinerary.
thank you very much

Posted by
2004 posts

As of now we are arriving in Rome staying 3 nights and 4 days. Then to
Sorrento 2 nights and 3 days and visit Naples and Pompeii. Then to
Perugia 1 night and 2 days and visit Assisi Then San Gimignano 4
nights and 3 days and visit Florence, Pisa, Lucca, Sienna Then Padua 4
nights and 3 day and visit Venice, Verona. Then off to Varese which is
close to Milan for 4 nights and 5 days for a wedding. We have 2 days
available to either add mire time in Sorrento or in St. Gimigniano.
I'm open to suggestions and advise to make any changes in our
Itinerary.

Do be sure to post in the Italy forum to get the widest number of responses. I don't see much need for a car at any point, with the exception of possibly Varese. But, I do not know the specifics of travel out of San Gimignano--someone on the Italy forum will. (Unless there is a bus schedule you are aware of, you will need a car--but don;t drive into Florence, park in the outskirts and take the train in.) That's the only tricky part I see. You also need to flesh out the specifics of how you will get from place to place and how long it will take. For example, I would probably omit Perugia because it will be time consuming and you only have a day there anyway.
I would add at least another day to Sorrento so you will have time to see some of the beautiful coastline--either the Amalfi Coast or a boat ride, or just tooling around the Sorrento area. You could add both days, or add the other to Tuscany.
Looks pretty good--just needs some fine-tuning!

Posted by
18746 posts

I believe you are a day short (or more) for at least some of your stops. You are seriously miscalculating your time in some cases. Without including your last two, unallocated nights, you have listed 18 nights and 20 days. It doesn't work like that. Eighteen nights gets you 17 days, and you lose a lot of half-days (or more) as you relocate from hotel to hotel.

If your arrival point is Rome, spending 3 nights doesn't get you 4 days; it get you two full, maybe-not-jetlagged days and possibly a few hours the next day--but only if you delay your departure to Sorrento.

Then 2 nights in Sorrento doesn't give you 3 days. It may get you 1-1/2 days if you move efficiently from Rome to Sorrento.

One night in Perugia isn't enough to produce 2 days of sightseeing time; it's basically not all that much more than an overnight stop on the way to San Gemignano, so I don't see how you'll manage a good look at both Perugia and Assisi, which are not one-hour stops. ViaMichelin lists the driving time from Sorrento to S.G. by way of Perugia and Assisi as over 8 hours, and that's with no stops, no getting lost, no looking for a parking place, no traffic tie-ups.

San Gimignano is a cute place. I'm not sure you'll be glad to spend so many nights there; for most people it's a brief stop.

Four nights in Padua will amount to 3 days, but I wouldn't attempt Verona, Padua and Venice in that amount of time. I think fewer than two full days just for Venice is a recipe for disliking the city, because such a compressed schedule will probably have you moving in lock-step with the day-trippers as part of a massive crowd visiting San Marco and the Rialto Bridge. (This is a segment where you won't need a car. You could perhaps drop the car in Tuscany and take advantage of the very rapid Freccia rail service to Padua.)

Those first four stops seem very hectic to me. I fear you'll collapse when you head to Lake Como for the wedding festivities.

Posted by
6518 posts

Pick a specific area of Italy like the North( my favorite) or South. You cannot “ travel all over” in three weeks without shortchanging most places. Two nights equals one day for sightseeing, touring. Your arrival day is good for walking around outside to get over jet lag, no museums.Pick a mix of cities and countryside. No car in the cities but get one as you leave there.
North: choose from: Liguria, Piemonte, Milan, Italian Lakes- Maggiore, Como, Garda, Verona, Venice,
Bologna, Florence, Tuscany, Umbria and more .... San Gimignano is not a town I would want to stay in, tour buses and crowds. Good for a few hours, maybe lunch. There are so many charming towns nearby.
South: Sicily( needs two weeks), Campania, Puglia, Sorrento, Naples, Capri, Amalfi Coast, and more.

Posted by
3118 posts

Several people have mentioned the time spent being lost. I’ll amplify that (the voice of experience). The centers of the cities and towns of Europe mostly grew in a hodgepodge manner; therefore, streets may change names every couple of blocks. Address numbers may not not proceed in any logical fashion. Some buildings have two numbers; others, none. Some small streets have no signs. And speaking of signs, there is no standard placement for them. They can be displayed as here, on a post at the corner, or may be carved into the cornerstone of a building. You may be very near your destination and use half an hour to actually get there.

Even with gps, finding places in a car is not easy either. You will only be disappointed and frustrated if you try to include too many places.

Posted by
12412 posts

Welcome to the forums, Ale!
Yes, as suggested please post your question in the Italy forum here:
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/italy

Include the following information:
1. Your itinerary as it appears (copy/paste it)
2. Year and month of year you will be traveling. Actual dates you must be in Varese for the wedding would also be helpful.
3. Your family's sightseeing interests

It's not to be snoopy, it's just that the more we know about the trip, the better we can help you! :O)

While your question here is largely about transport, I'm with the others having concerns about your itinerary. As acraven has pointed out, you're not counting your sightseeing time accurately: one night = one partial day of sightseeing in one place as you will lose part of the day just getting there, finding your accommodation + getting checked in and settled. That doesn't include getting acclimated to new surroundings. One night for Perugia + Assisi? You'll see some of Perugia; you don't have another day for Assisi.

Two nights = one and 1/2 sightseeing days.

As of now we are arriving in Rome staying 3 nights and 4 days.

Your arrival day (if coming from the US) will only be a partial, and could be a jet lagged fog at that. That leaves you just two FULL sightseeing days before moving on to Sorrento, not 3. So realistically, you do not have 4 days for Rome. With only 2 nights planned for Sorrento, you'd have to get out of Rome early to have much for looking-about time at all there. As it stands, you'd only have 1 full sightseeing day, and that would be eaten up with Pompeii + Naples; it doesn't make sense to go all the way to Sorrento with no time to explore the coast. See what I mean?

Your travel dates + interests are important as not all attractions are open every day of the week, and with 5 people you'll only move as fast as the slowest of your group. Getting everyone up, washed, dressed, fed - and packed, if needing to move on the next morning - as well as keeping everyone fed and watered during a sightseeing day can eat time too + managing the laundry 5 people will generate.

Accommodations for 5 adults (your teens will likely be considered grown-ups) could be challenging: you'll need to look at "family" rooms that can handle you all, 2 connecting rooms, or apartments if staying long enough in one place to justify the additional cleaning fees, meeting up with the hosts to collect keys, etc. You have done a good job of trying to plan some bases for longer stays/day trips but still trying to cram too much in, IMHO. This one concerns me:

San Gimignano 4 nights and 3 days and visit Florence, Pisa, Lucca,
Sienna

Luggage: if you are trying to sightsee by public transport with stops along the way, you'll add time to check it/collect it. By car: the usual advice is never to leave anything you can't afford to/don't want to lose in the vehicle. Parking can also be scarce and expensive, and you'd want to read up on ZTLs (no-drive areas) and whatnot.

Lots to consider so please re-post in the Italy forum and I'm sure you'll end up with a plan, including transport, that works without wearing you all out halfway through the trip!