DRIVING IN ITALY

Driving in Italy does not have the appeal of the open road as does driving in the US. There is a speed limit, there are lots of televox cameras (police camers) in the cities and urban areas, gas is expensive and all autostrada are pay or toll roads.  Add in the cost of parking in the city, the congestion, possibility of accident and just the added stress of dealing with the worry of getting the car I do not advise people to rent a car.  The public system is very good and if you want to explore the smaller reaches of the country do so by bicycle or foot.

But if you do decide to use a rental car here are some tips on renting a car in Italy.

  • Book from home. Don't wait until you're over there to rent a vehicle. It is invariably cheaper to rent a car from the United States. Most major European rental agencies are now part of, or affiliated with, the big U.S. agencies (Hertz, Avis, etc.), so going direct to the Italian ones doesn't yield a better deal.
  • Use an aggregator to determine a base fare. Research the going retail rates at various major rental outfits, booking sites, discounters, and travel agencies by using a meta–search engine called an aggregator: RentalCars.com , AutoSlash.com, Momondo.com, Vayama.com , Kayak.com, DoHop.com, Mobissimo.com. Then see if you can beat them with a consolidator (next step).
  • See if a consolidator can beat those prices. Auto Europe (www.autoeurope.com) - offers consistently lower prices than the Big Five, Auto Europe actually works a bit like an airfare consolidator, so you still pick up the car at some local European office of, say, Avis or Euro car...you just end up paying less for it. This is almost always my first choice when I need to rent, and since they now do leases as well, it's the best one-stop-price-shopping for the best option.
  • Always get the full rate. Rental companies love to stick it to you with low initial per-day rates, and then add on all sorts of bells-and-whistles at the last moment (insurances, taxes, road fees, one-way charges to pick up in one city and drop of in another, etc.). Italy has an annoying law that require you to buy the CDW (collision damage waver) and TP (theft protection) from the car rental company. You just have to suck that one up. Also, don't forget to inspect the car before you drive off. If any pre-existing nicks, scratches, dents, or other damage is not indicated and initialled by a local employee on your rental form before you leave, you will be liable for it when you return the vehicle.
  • Don't rent more than you need. We're talking both the time you'll need the car, and the kind of car you'll need. First, rent for as short a period as possible. Don't rent a car for the full two weeks if you're spending your first four days in Rome. You don't need a car in Rome (driving is insane, parking impossible to find, and garages expensive). In fact, you don't need (or want) a car in any major city: Naples, Florence, Milan, Palermo, Genoa—and you literally can't drive one in Venice. Public transport in cities is fast, efficient, and cheap. Arrange to connect major cities by train, and just rent the car for the shorter period when it is truly useful (hill towns of Tuscany & Umbria, say, or exploring Sicily or Apulia). Second, don't rent more than you need when it comes to the car itself. A smaller car will give you better gas mileage, cutting down costs (and make it easier to navigate the winding road and narrow streets). If you can drive a manual, stick-shift is always cheaper than automatic (and also gives better gas mileage).
  • Forget driving in cities. Most cities now have constricted traffic zones and without proper authorization you are subject to a fine.
  • Look into short-term leases. If you're renting a car for 17 days or longer, look into a short-term lease. All things being equal, this will usually cost less than a similar rental (especially as the period gets longer; at 30 days or more, only a fool would rent rather than leasing), plus it comes with all insurances, no deductible, and a brand new car.
    Consider a rail-and-drive pass. Just need a car for a few days of a longer trip (such as to tour the Tuscan hill towns in the middle of a longer trip spent taking trains between the big cities)? Look into the Italy Rail n' Drive Pass that get you several days of unlimited rail travel along with several days of car rental. You can add car days as needed to customize the pass to fit your schedule.
  • Follow all driving rules and regulations and road signs. OK, so everybody else speeds in Italy. Doesn't mean you should. You should drive defensively and cautiously. Yes, Italian drivers are aggressive. Do not attempt to imitate them. Obey all no-parking signs. Italian cops have gotten brutal about ticketing (and even towing) illegally parked cars (and any unpaid tickets will find their way to you via the car rental agency, which will attach a fee for their troubles, along with the probable late penalties on the ticket itself).

Useful Italian phrases for car travel

car - automobile (ow-toh-MO-bee-lay)
gas -  benzina (ben-ZEE-nah)
diesel - gasolio (gah-ZOH-lee-oh) / diesel (DEE-zell)
Fill it up, please - al pieno, per favore (ahl pee-YAY-noh, pair fa-VOHR-ray)
Where is... - Dov'é (doh-VAY)
...the highway - l'autostrada (lout-oh-STRA-dah)
...the road for Rome -  la strada per Roma (lah STRA-dah pair RO-mah)
to the right - à destra (ah DEH-strah)
to the left - à sinistra (ah see-NEEST-trah)
straight ahead - diritto (dee-REE-toh) / avanti (ah-VAHN-tee)
keep going straight - sempre diritto (SEM-pray dee-REE-toh)

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HOW TO TRAVEL BY BOAT IN ITALY

The traghetto (ferry) and aliscafo (hyrdofoil)

Italy has 5,275 miles of shoreline, a whole passel of islands—from giants like Sicily and Sardegna to smaller, popular vacation islands like Capri, Elba, and the Aeolians—some world-famous coastal regions (Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre), and several large lakes. Even in Venice you will need to use a ferry to get over to the Lido, if you are travelling by bike.

That means, at some point, you will likely have to get into a boat to explore the best bits of Italy. If you are travelling by foot you are able to use any type of service, the aliscafo being the quickest.  However, if you travelling by bicyle you will only be able to utilize the traghetto to make your transfers (and many time these are much slower than the hydrofoil)

www.traghetti.com - Has a good listing of routes and timetables of most ferries in Italy.
www.aferry.to
www.traghettionline.com

Regional ferry lines

  • Campania - www.alilauro.it, www.caremar.it, www.snav.it, www.vetor.it (islands of Ponza, Ventotene, Ischia, Procida)
  • Sicily / Aeolian Islands - www.snav.it, www.gnv.it, www.siremar.it, www.usticalines.it
  • Sardinia - www.gnv.it, www.mobylines.it, www.saremar.it, www.corsicaferries.com
  • Liguria / Cinque Terre - www.navigazionegolfodeipoeti.it
  • AdriaticCoast - www.tirrenia.it
  • Lazio - www.alilauro.it
  • TuscanIslands (Elba, Giglio, Capraia) - www.toremar.it, www.mobylines.it

Ferries on the lakes

  • Major northern lakes (Lago del Garda, Como and Maggiore) - www.navigazionelaghi.it
  • LakeIseo - www.navigazionelagoiseo.it

Ferries to neighboring countries

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Travel Planning Tips For Italy | Using the Train

USING THE TRAIN IN ITALY UPDATED 2021 While moving from place to place in Italy the Italian Train System is a great option. The trains in Italy are normally on time, clean (some holidays you will find the train with some trash) and comfortable to travel on.  To have a successful vacation using the Train all you need to do is; understand how to use the system, have a general knowledge of the Geography of Italy, and be able to read the train schedule. Italian trains leave on the time posted on the departure schedule so always be at the station in time to buy your ticket and walk to the appropriate track.  Stations in larger cities you will need more time than the out of the towns. There are times trains can be delayed or there is a scheduled strike, you can always get information at the ticket windows. I normally plan my trip by going to the 'Train Italia' web site, see what the general train schedule is for my destinations (daily schedules are based on seasonal, times are adjusted with spring and fall daylight saving time), and then by the tickets at the train station as I travel.  Things to Consider 1. Know the name of your destination - To read Italian train schedules, it helps to know the Italian name for major cities and towns. Most are pretty obvious, but a few are a bit trickier (plus, in these big cities you need to known the name of the main central station), examples: Roma - Roma TerminiFlorence - Firenze Santa Maria NovellaVenice - Venezia Santa LuciaMilan - Milano CentraleGenoa - Genova Porta PrincipeNaples - Napoli Centrale Turin - TorinoPorta Nuova Almost all Italian trains operate under the control of the Ferrovie dello Stato, the State Rail System. You can get detailed timetables and ticket prices at www.trenitalia.com. Be sure to use the Italian spelling for city names in the search engine, along with the name for the central, main station you'll want in the big cities. 2. You do NOT need to book train tickets ahead of time. At least, not before you leave on your trip. Just buy as you go; it gives you more flexibility with your schedule. It is, however, sometimes useful to pop into the station and buy a ticket a day or two before you leave town if you must have a seat on the high-speed trains that require seat assignment otherwise you could find it full. 3. Most train stations in Italy now have automated ticketing machines. These use touch-screens, have an English-language option, are intuitive, make selecting all your options easy, and accept cash (euros) and credit cards. Failing that, there's always the ticket window, though lines can be long, and they now only open at specific times.  Small stations are now closing after 19:30 and re lie only on automatic ticket machines. 4. Always travel second class. The first class cars don't get there any faster; all they do is provide a bit more seat padding—but at 20%–30% increase in price. The only time I use the First Class, is if my travel day is a holiday and I know the 2nd class section is going to be full. 5. Be sure you stamp one end of your train ticket at one of the little yellow boxes usually located in the passageways leading to the tracks and strapped to a column at (or near) the head of each track. If you do not, the conductor will fine you (they sometimes give tourists a stern warning, but more and more they are simply imposing the fines regardless). 6. Every station has two types of time schedule posters displaying, on one, all departures (partenze; on the yellow poster) and on the other, arrivals (“arrivi”, the white one). It will mention which “binario” (track) you need—though this can change (check the automated boards, and listen to announcements). The slot for each train on the poster lists all intermediate stops in tiny type and only the terminus station in bold; your train to Vicenza will probably be heading to Milano or Verona if you are leaving Venice (Venezia) so you will find the time the train stops in Vicenza in the smaller destination listings.  Many of the faster trains save you time not by speed but by making fewer stops.  7. Railpasses can be useful if you'll be taking several long rides or exploring more of Europe beyond Italy. If you plan to work your way across Italy in small sprints from town to town, it will probably make more sense to buy tickets as you go. However, for the most typical trip—one that hits the major cities plus a few days exploring hilltowns—the Italy Rail n' Drive Pass· might be perfect. Jot down your intended itinerary, do some quick calculations on prices, using www.raileurope.com to research railpass options and www.trenitalia.com for point-to-point tickets, and see what will work best for your trip. If you use a railpass, be sure you purchase any seat reservation (indicated by an "R" on the schedule posters) and pay any high-speed supplement due. This will usually on the order of $10 or less each (long rides maybe up to $20). 8. You do not save that much time on the Eurostar trains for the extra cost if you are traveling a short distance. If you are travelling from Venice to Roma and want to catch an afternoon train the Eurostar is a great option, but if you are going from Venice to Verona, the Eurostar may offer more departure options but you pay three times as much for the ride and save 20 minutes of travel time.· Plus the Eurostar does not stop in minor townships.

Need Help Planning Your Italy Vacation

Italy is one of the most diverse places in the world to visit but there is more to the country then Venice, Florence, Roma, Cinque Terre and a couple of other top attractions.  If you plan you days well and understand how to move around within the country you can a great cost effective vacation full of activity, history, culture, and great food and wine.  Contact us to get the insights to travel in Italy.  We offer: Travel Consultant- book time online for a web chat to answer your questions about traveling in Italy. Travel Planning - need help outlining and planning your adventure in Italy. Scheduled Tours - each month we lead a scheduled tour for those looking to join a small group to explore. Travel support:  Bike Touring - routes, bike rental, bag transfers.  Walking/Hiking Tours - routes, bag transfers. Booking assistance and suggested contacts.

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Read more: How to Use the Train in Italy

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Travel Planning Tips For Italy | Using Buses

TIPS ON HOW TO USE BUS SERVICES IN ITALY When you’re getting down to the kind of small-town travel this site describes, you’ll probably need to use regional buses at some point. Regional inter-town buses are called pullman, though autobus, the term for a city bus, is also sometimes used. All things being equal, if you want to connect any two reasonably-sized towns or cities in Italy, the trains will be faster, more frequent, and more convenient than the buses, and will cost about the same, on average (which is to say: sometimes less, sometimes more). There are few notable exceptions, like the Veneto or some beach communities along the Adratic (some of which are isolated far from train stations—Asolo, Jesolo, and Chioggia, and others of which are simply more convenient to get to by bus, like Soave). Useful Italian for bus travel ticket - biglietto one-way - solo andata round-trip - andata-ritorno intercity coach - pullman city bus - autobus, bus bus stop - fermata excuse me (in a crowd) - permesso I'm getting off! - scendo! In other words: unless you're trying to get to a tiny town off the beaten path (and off the rail lines), it makes far more sense to take the train. When to take a bus in Italy... Using The Bus In Italy You can get just about anywhere through a network of dozens of local, provincial, and regional lines, if you learn a few simple rules and you are not in a hurry. Every province in Italy has its own bus system; there are a few regional ones as well. (An Italian regione, or "region," is like a U.S. state—Veneto, Trentino Alto Adige, Emilia Romagna —while a provincia, or "province," is more like a U.S. county, and usually describes the smaller towns and territory surrounding a major city or town—for example,Veneto includes the provinces of Venezia, Vicenza, Padova, Verona, Belluno, Rovigo, and Treviso) The only Italian coach company with national scope is SITA(www.sitabus.it), which runs regional lines in the·Veneto (home to Venezia, Vicenza,·Padova). Things to Consider: Bus schedules aren't always easy to come by or always to figure out—the local tourist office usually has a photocopy of the schedule, each stop has that lines schedule posted, and in cities some companies have offices.· Buses exist mainly to shuttle workers and schoolchildren, so there are more running on weekdays, early in the morning and usually again around lunchtime. Sometimes there will be only one or two runs per day. A town’s bus stop is usually either on the main piazza, by the train station, or (especially in smaller towns) a large square on the edge of town or at the bend in the road just outside the main city gate. You should always try to find the local ticket vendor—if there’s no office, it’s invariably the nearest newsstand or tabacchi (signaled by a sign with a white T), or occasionally a bar—but you can usually also buy tickets on the bus. (this only applies to regional buses not the orange city buses). You can also flag a bus down as it passes on a country road, but try to find an official stop, the bus will not always stop for you. To get off the bus you need to ring the 'prossima fermata' sign or advise the driver. This means you need to at least know where you are going related to the stops being made by the bus. Just follow the order of stops posted on the schedule. Bus schedule times are generally posted by the time it departs from the start point and time of arrival at destination. There may not be a precise time for the bus to stop at a specific town. You need either to go to the stop at the start time, guess-a-mate the time it will take to arrival, sit at the bar and have a coffee if there is one nearby and wait for locals to start to gather at the stop.

Need Help Planning Your Italy Vacation

Italy is one of the most diverse places in the world to visit but there is more to the country then Venice, Florence, Roma, Cinque Terre and a couple of other top attractions.  If you plan you days well and understand how to move around within the country you can a great cost effective vacation full of activity, history, culture, and great food and wine.  Contact us to get the insights to travel in Italy.  We offer: Travel Consultant- book time online for a web chat to answer your questions about traveling in Italy. Travel Planning - need help outlining and planning your adventure in Italy. Scheduled Tours - each month we lead a scheduled tour for those looking to join a small group to explore. Travel support:  Bike Touring - routes, bike rental, bag transfers.  Walking/Hiking Tours - routes, bag transfers. Booking assistance and suggested contacts.

For More Travel Planning Assistance

Read more: How to Use the Bus in Italy