driving in Italy

Renting a Car in Italy: Should You or Shouldn’t You?

[Learn more about renting a car in Italy with our Driving in Italy ebook, which you can download for free at the bottom of this page.]

Having a car on your Italian vacation can be an expensive hassle, or it can be a means to more independence and a way to get off the beaten track. But which is it? The answer is: it depends on several factors including whether you are visiting the countryside; how light you are traveling; and whether you are traveling on a budget. 

Bottom line: do not assume renting a car in Italy is necessary.

should you rent a car in italy

But first: The 3 questions below aren’t even relevant to you unless you’re comfortable driving in Italy. You are? Great, read on. Do you think you probably aren’t? Read no further. Do not rent a car. The stress and hassle will not be worth it.

Are you visiting only cities or also venturing into the countryside?

Driving in Italian cities is a huge pain: plan to spend time stuck in traffic, getting lost, and circling for parking. Expect frustration when trying to interpret foreign road signs, avoid limited traffic zones, and navigate winding, narrow, and one-way roads. Conveniently, trains run frequently between all major and many smaller Italian cities, and it’s easy to get around within a city by either taxi, public transportation, or in many cities, just plain walking. 

If your itinerary includes only cities, you do not need a car, and you do not need to read further. Renting a car in Italy is not for you. Take the train. 

However, visiting the countryside can be challenging without a car. Check on whether trains go to the towns you’re planning to visit by plugging your cities into the Trenitalia website. Even if trains do go to small towns, compare transit times, using Via Michelin (I prefer it over Google Maps) for driving times. If getting from A to B is five hours by train because you need to change trains three times, and driving is half that, then definitely consider renting a car.

If you’re visiting both cities and the countryside, rent a car only for the countryside part.

do I need to rent a car in italy

How light are you traveling?

There’s no question about it: lugging suitcases on and off trains and to and from train stations is no fun. But if you’re only visiting cities, I still recommend not renting a car. Just pack lighter. If you’re visiting the countryside and have a lot of luggage, it may make sense to rent a car. Unless of course…

Are you traveling on a budget?

If you need this trip to be as economical as possible, the train may cost less. To do a cost comparison, budget not only for the car rental, but also calculate what you will spend on gas, tolls, and parking. Compare that to the cost of the train by checking the Trenitalia website to compare prices. A rule of thumb for road tolls is that 300 km (190 miles) = 15 Euros. Or to calculate road tolls for your exact trip, go to Italy’s official highway site. I did the car vs. train cost comparison recently for I trip I planned for a family of 4 and the train was much cheaper. However the train would have been a big hassle, so in their case, renting a car in Italy turned out to be worth it.

Client Testimonials

"We had a wonderful trip! We did so many amazing things and experienced many wonderful places yet never felt like..."

"We thank you so much for all you gave us, guided us to, arranged for, and detailed for us. Not..."

"We are in love with Venice and the Dolomites. The ski adventure was amazing and beyond anything we could have..."

"Absolutely everything that you planned went off without a hitch. Every tour, every restaurant, every train and activity came through..."

"Thank you again from all three of us for your help in planning such a delightful trip. I know that..."

"Madeline carefully planned a fabulous, personalized 19 day itinerary (Lake Garda, Dolomites, N/S Tuscany, Rome) that enabled us to be..."

Read More Client Testimonials

Italy Advice & Tips In Your Inbox

Italy Advice & Tips In Your Inbox

Italy Advice & Tips In Your Inbox

Join our mailing list to get the free Driving In Italy eBook

Your name(Required)

Going Somewhere Other Than Italy?

The Travel Expert Network

Check out the Travel Expert Network where you’ll find Certified Travel Experts™ like us ready to plan custom bucket trips for you all over the world!

Visit the Travel Expert Network →

Office Locations

San Francisco
+1 773 621-3024
Contact San Francisco

+39 320 028 6827
Contact Milan

+39 331 222 2349
Contact Rome

Free Driving In Italy eBook
Start Dreaming About Your Next Italy Trip

Start Dreaming About Your Next Italy Trip

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Your name(Required)