Car Rental and Travel Tips for Italy

Winding road in the Tuscan countrysideWith more than its fair share of art, architecture, historical sites, and natural beauty, Italy is a destination we all should visit more than once. Here are some simple travel tips if you are planning to visit Italy.

Your valid United States passport is all you need to visit Italy for up to 90 days. Be sure you have applied for or renewed your passport well in advance of your trip. U.S. passports are valid for 10 years and will cost about $135. It is recommended that you make two copies of the data page - keep one with you but separate from your actual passport and give one to a friend or family member at home (or scan it and email it to yourself and someone stateside).

If you plan to stay beyond 90 days, you will need to get a visa. You should also do this well in advance of your travels. Visas may be obtained through the Italian consulate that serves your state. Don’t leave this until the last minute.

Lago di Garda - the largest lake in ItalyIt’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the public transportation system in the city or cities you are visiting. You will find each city has its own system of buses, metro, trams, etc. Many cities will offer some sort of day pass for public transit. The train system is a good way to get from city to city.

If you plan to travel by car, be aware that Italy has a number of toll highways called autostrade. These will require you to pay. Most involve getting a ticket when you begin and then paying as you exit, but some will have tolls as you enter. There are also highways called superstrade that are free to use. To avoid city traffic you can take the raccordo annulare which is a road that circumvents the city. Autostrade are well maintained. Country roads are usually in good condition, but that can, of course, vary. You will find that streets within cities and town may be incredibly narrow and often one way.

When renting a car you will probably get a standard transmission unless you specify otherwise and pay the higher rate - for more information, read this article about automatic vs manual transmission car rentals. Planning ahead and reserving a car prior to arrival will probably save you money. Most companies only rent to drivers 21 and older and may have further restrictions for drivers under 25 years old - more information about renting as a young drivers can be found here. You will need a credit card, and, in some cases, two. These are details to check on before you get to the counter! Your rental fee should include a collision damage waiver as well as theft protection. Verify this. Always ask about additional fees that you do not understand.

Gas stations are open 24 hours on the autostrade. Even during lunchtime and nighttime, you will be able to find self-service stations on main highways. Have cash on hand as some pumps will not accept credit cards. Be sure you know what kind of fuel your car needs and choose accordingly!

Winding streets of Savoca in SicilyParking can be summarized as nightmarish in city centers (be sure you are allowed to be in the city center to begin with - most require special permits). Assume you will be ticketed if you park illegally. Familiarize yourself with the parking requirements where you are visiting. You may need to use the parcometro machine.

When packing, do a little research. Familiarize yourself with the weather in the region or regions you are visiting. Don’t underestimate the power of strategic layering! Either bring a universal adapter with you or plan on picking up a plug adapter once in Italy if you need to use electrical devices from home. These plug adapters are fairly cheap and widely available at electric supply stores.

Italy has so much to offer travelers. Too much, really. So do your research. Set some goals, some “must do’s” and allows flexibility to simply enjoy this country. Partake in the cuisine. Visit a local market. Learn a few phrases in Italian - English is used widely, but a little effort on your part to use the native language may certainly win favor. Enjoy your trip to Italy and begin planning for the next!

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