Renting a car to travel is no longer a problem. Apart from price being a barrier before, the conditions to which we were subjected were too complex. Nowadays it is very common and easy especially with the wide offer that exists.
On my trip to the north of Italy was no exception and I opted for a route that could make good use of the available days and for this to happen I had to optimize the time and the travel between cities as best I could. It was my wish to visit Milan, Verona, Venice, Florence, Pisa, and Lake Como.
Since my first major trip to Scotland in 2004, I choose to rent a car on this kind of trip because I gain the “independence” of schedules and also have comfort. I value the time a lot and for me to be dependent on public transport schedules becomes very complicated to manage even knowing that renting a car means additional costs, but for me, it always pays off.
#1. Decide which itinerary to take
The first big decision is undoubtedly the choice of the route to take in view of the time available because only then I can later decide the best option for travel.
Given the days I had available, about a week, I chose to fly to Milan (because of the price of the flights), then to Verona, Venice, down to Florence, Pisa and then up to Lake Como after a short stop in Milan.
#2. Pick up and drop off point
Now with the itinerary closed it was time to decide how to get around, and as before I preferred to rent a car. The question at this stage is “where to pick up and drop off the rental car?”.
Since I flew to Milan and then also returned from this airport, it simplified part of the process, but I might as well have picked up the car in Milan and delivered it in Pisa, as originally planned before thinking of going to Lake Como because then I had direct flights to Lisbon from Pisa.
Usually, rental companies charge extra fees when we pick up and drop off at airports, but sometimes it pays off because airports tend to be far from city centers and traveling to the city can be offset neither by time nor by cost. Extended opening hours at airports is another advantage over stations in city centers.
# 3. Search prices and availabilities
In the past, I search the airport for rental companies and then search for prices in every company found, but fortunately, this process is simplified.
Now I use an aggregate price platform like Discover Cars that compares prices and availability of multiple rental companies at the same time so that I can more consciously decide on price differences and what really is best for me. Not to mention the time I save in this process.
It is also advisable to make a reservation, or pre-booking, in advance (minimum 2 weeks) because not only is the value more appealing, it not only guarantees this lower price but also guarantees vehicle availability.
Be sure to carefully read all Rental Conditions and Driver Requirements because they vary from company to company, and from country to country, although there is a similar line between them.
Usually the minimum age to rent a car is 21 and there is no maximum age.
In addition, a valid driving license in the country concerned must have been issued by the authorized authorities at least 1 year (s) before the date of commencement of the rental.
# 4. Car rental lift
At the time of car pick-up, if you have not paid before, you will have to do so at the time and make a security deposit, which varies by rental car class.
Credit cards must be issued in the name of the primary driver and MasterCard and Visa are generally accepted. Because of the security deposit, no cash payments or new credit cards like Revolut are accepted.
It is also at this time that the optional covers are decided. Usually, a rental car has basic insurance with an associated (high) excess, which may be charged if there is a problem with the vehicle (see the FAQ at end of the article).
To avoid this (possible) problem, I usually opt for Full Coverage which although it has an extra daily cost, I will have no problem or cost if I have an accident or theft.
Ask what the extra daily value for this type of insurance is because it may well be worth it (unfortunately in Italy this was so high that it overcame the daily rental of the car itself, but when I delivered it I didn't have to worry even if I had to the car all wrecked).
There are also some additional services like GPS, child seats and others, however, it will always be good to flag these options when booking or pre-booking the vehicle.
Very important, especially for those who have not opted for Full Coverage insurance is to thoroughly check the car as soon as it is delivered. Check for scratches, dents or other damage to the exterior and interior of the vehicle and mark everything on the record sheet. Only in this way will it be guaranteed that the damage was already in the moment when you took your car and you cannot accuse it of being done during the rental.
# 5. During the rental
Given the conditions under which the rental was made, from now on the idea is to treat the car as if it were our own car. Would you leave your private car in a prohibited parking spot? Do you know the speed limits for the roads to be made?
Although there are many similar countries in terms of road safety and prevention, what I have noticed in countries like Spain and now in Italy is that there are lots of speed cameras, whether on motorways or on national or rural roads. So be alert.
In many cases, there are traffic brigades that immediately register the fine and have it paid at the moment, or even after returning home you may have an unpleasant surprise when you are charged your credit card with a fine, so be very careful and above all, respect the rules of the road rules for your safety, and for the safety of others.
# 6. Parking and city travel
In big cities like Rome, Florence or even Pisa their historical centers are closed to normal traffic. These zones have been classified as Limited Traffic Zones (ZTL) and only authorized cars can drive.
I have always tried to choose accommodation near historic centers, but outside this area because, although they may ask for permission to enter that area to reach the hotel, they will incur additional charges.
Outside these more central areas, accommodation is more affordable and is usually easier to park. Unfortunately in Italy, there are not many parking spaces without parking meters so it is advisable to have some coins always on hand or use smartphone apps such as Easypark (available for Android and IOS). There are others because it is not available in all cities of Italy, but you can check the parking meters themselves in which apps are compatible.
Another alternative is the private parks. In some cases, it is better to pay a daily fee if you are going to walk around the day as I did in Venice, for example.
# 7 Car Rental Return
With the end of the trip almost over there are still some points to keep in mind.
Depending on the fuel policy you have chosen do not forget to deliver the car as it is supposed to be as if the tank is supposed to be full and does not deliver under these conditions an extra fee will be charged beyond the value of the missing fuel.
Another situation to take into account is the state of the interior of the car. If it is very dirty, an extra cleaning fee may also be charged. This does not mean that it has to be immaculate, but it has to be minimally in keeping with its use.
Check and sign the registration sheet after checking by the vehicle collection agent for possible damage to the exterior and interior, and be sure to take a spin or two inside the car so that you do not forget anything.
USEFUL AND IMPORTANT TIPS TO DRIVE IN ITALY
Car Rental in Italy
Pre-booking can considerably lower the final rental price compared to the price you can get when you arrive in Italy.
I always use the Discover Cars platform which comparing prices from various rental companies and saves me a lot of time (and money with offers and variety to suit all tastes). Another advantage of this platform is that it has in one place the specific rental conditions for each company.
Normally anyone wishing to rent a car must be at least 21 years of age or older, valid driving license from the country of origin and credit card in their name (driver's name).
Consider renting small vehicles because it will reduce fuel costs and make parking easier in big cities.
Some credit cards offer a collision damage waiver, which covers additional damage if you use the card to pay for your car rental. Confirm with the credit card issuer.
Motorcycle Rental in Italy
There are companies throughout Italy that rent motorcycles, ranging from small Vespas to high-powered bikes for tourism. Prices start at 35 € per day and 150 € per week for a 50cc scooter, and 80 € per day and 400 € per week for a 650cc motorcycle.
All European Union driving licenses are valid in Italy.
Travelers from other countries may need to apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP) through their home country national car association.
To ride a scooter a license is required – the car license is for motorcycles up to 125cc. For any motorcycle over 125cc, a valid motorcycle driving license is required.
Staffed service stations are common. The smaller ones tend to close between 1 pm and 3:30 pm and sometimes also on Sunday afternoons. Many stations have self-service ATMs that you can use 24 hours a day. To use one simply insert your credit card into the payment machine and select the station you wish to use, as is the case with many petrol stations in Portugal.
Unleaded gasoline is marked as “benzine senza piombo” and diesel as “gasoline”.
Prices vary A LOT from season to season. On highways, they tend to be more expensive, but in more remote villages the price may also be higher.
At the time of this publication, unleaded gasoline averages 1.58 € per liter and diesel 1.47 € per liter. For more information you can consult the websites:
Drive on the right and overtake on the left, as in Portugal.
On secondary roads, it is normal to have only continuous lines, which prohibits overtaking, but you will certainly see Italians in a hurry make overtaking anyway.
I've been a week in northern Italy and driving is scary! As or more than in Portugal.
It is mandatory to wear seat belts (front and rear), drive with lights on in signaled areas such as tunnels, and carry a warning triangle and a fluorescent vest to wear in case of malfunction.
Helmet use is mandatory on all two-wheeled vehicles. Motorcycles can enter the more restricted areas of Italian cities, and traffic police often ignore motorcycles or scooters parked on the sidewalks but do not abuse.
The blood alcohol limit is 0.05%. For those under 21 and for those with a heavy driver's license for less than 3 years, the limit is 0.0%.
Unless otherwise stated, the speed limits are as follows: 130 km/h on freeways; 110 km/h on the main roads outside the localities; 90 km/h on secondary roads outside localities: 50 km/h in localities.
Italy has an extensive road network. Most are in good condition, but lack of maintenance in some areas means they must be prepared for potholes and uneven surfaces, especially on back roads.
Freeway (toll road). At road signs, they are identified with a white ‘A' and a number on a green background. The main north-south route is the A1, also known as the Estrada del Sole Highway (the ‘Highway of the Sun'), which runs from Milan to Naples via Bologna, Florence, and Rome. The main road south from Naples to Reggio di Calabria is the A3.
To drive on a freeway, you will collect a receipt at the beginning, and then when you leave, deliver the receipt and make the payment (cash or credit card – there may be cashiers who only use payment cards and other cash, pay attention to the signs on the top of each cabin), as is the case with many highways in Portugal.
State roads. Represented on maps by ‘S' or ‘SS'. Between two and four lanes. Two-lane can be extremely slow, especially in mountainous regions.
Regional Roads. They are like SS state roads, but run by regional authorities and not by the state. Identified by ‘SR' or ‘R'.
Provincial Roads. Smaller and slower roads. Identified by ‘SP' or ‘P'.
For information, you can consult www.autostrade.it.
Limited Traffic Zones (ZTL)
Many Italian cities, including Rome, Florence, and Milan, have designated their historic centers as Limited Traffic Zones (ZTL).
These areas are prohibited for unauthorized vehicles and entry points are covered by street cameras. If you are filmed in one of these zones without permission, you risk being fined.
If your hotel is within one of these areas, please contact them in advance so that permission can be requested to get to the hotel smoothly, but an additional fee may be charged to fulfill this request.
You can find more information on bella-toscana.com/traffic-violations-in-italy in “Limited (Restricted) Traffic Zones” section.
CAR RENTAL FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Is it possible to cross national borders with rental cars?
Some car rental companies offer the possibility to cross national borders with the rental vehicle, while others do not allow it. The best way is to ALWAYS consult the rental conditions of the vehicle in question or contact the company directly.
If it is possible to cross national borders, the rental company is most likely to charge additional costs to cover additional insurance policies, taxes, etc.
Please note that if you cross borders without first informing the rental company, the insurance purchased will not be valid and you must be fully responsible for any damage or expense that occurs.
If in doubt, always contact the rental company directly for clarification.
What happens if I get a ticket during the rental period?
The customer is always responsible for any fine imposed on him during the rental period.
It may take some time for the fine to be notified to the rental company. At that time and after confirming that you would be the driver at the time of rental, the rental company will charge the fine amount directly to your credit card and may also charge you a penalty administration fee.
It should also be noted that the rental company is always required to provide proof that the fine has been issued.
Is it possible to return a rental car somewhere other than the pickup?
Yes, that is possible. There are usually three options, but not all companies offer these possibilities.
Options may include picking up a car from the airport and returning it to another rental point, in the city center, for example. You can choose to pick up a car in one city and return it to another city in the same country. And lastly, not all companies allow you to collect a car in one country and leave it in another country.
Each of these options may involve a surcharge, especially when it comes to airports because although it is easier for longer hours, this value can be significant. Be sure to check the price you will have to pay to return the vehicle to a different location.
Do you have to pay the tolls?
Yes, you are always required to pay tolls, as with your particular car.
It is advisable to look in advance for information about the motorway system and the common ways to pay in the country you plan to visit.
There is not always the possibility to pay in cash and you will need to use a credit card authorized in that country, or in some cases you may even have to get a permit to use freeways.
Ask the rental company why some offer the possibility of purchasing a device, similar to Via Verde's operation in Portugal, where payment is made automatically to the credit card you used to rent the vehicle.
What are the existing fuel policies?
This issue depends on the policies used by each car rental company.
Full – Full. This is perhaps the most used. In this case, the fuel tank will be full when you collect the car and will be required to return the car with the tank also full. There are usually gas stations near where you will return the car. In many cities and airports, this information is provided by the rental companies themselves.
Equal – Equal. In this case, there will be a certain amount of fuel in the tank when you collect the car, and you will be required to return the car with the same amount. If you have chosen this option, it is important that the rental company advises you in advance of the exact amount of fuel in the tank at the time of collection and how the amount of fuel will be checked upon return.
Filled – Empty (also known as an advance purchase). With this option, you pay for a tank full of fuel before lifting the car. If you return the vehicle with unused fuel in the tank, the possibility of receiving a refund varies from company to company.
Advance purchase with a partial refund. In this case, you buy a tank full of fuel and can return the car with any amount of fuel, which can vary from an empty tank to a full tank. If you choose this option, you will probably have to pay a service charge, but you will receive a refund for unused fuel left in the tank upon return.
In some countries, car rental companies are not allowed to charge additional fees for fuel shortages, while in other countries this is allowed. Before renting a car, always consult the Rental Conditions.
What mileage policies exist?
Most car rental companies offer unlimited mileage, but some limit the number of miles that can be traveled per day or for a longer rental period. Payment for any excess mileage must be made when returning the vehicle.
To find out if mileage is limited or unlimited, ALWAYS refer to the vehicle's Rental Conditions.
What is the excess?
The excess is the maximum amount you must pay in case of theft or damage to the rental car.
What is the value of a rental car excess?
For each vehicle, there is a different excess amount. The best way to find out the exact amount is to ALWAYS consult the Rental Conditions.
What happens if the rental car is damaged?
This always depends on the type of insurance you have chosen.
If your rental includes only basic insurance, you should cover the damage up to the full excess amount. If you have purchased Full Coverage, it is usually necessary to contact the rental company to provide full information about the accident so that the situation can be reviewed and the accident-related expenses and costs will be reimbursed.
What insurance policies are provided for the rental car?
It is always advisable to purchase Full Coverage insurance as this type of insurance will free you from complications and extra values in the event of an accident / theft.
This type of insurance is usually charged per rental day and varies greatly from company to company and from vehicle range.
If you choose not to choose Full Coverage, the car you rented will be covered only by basic insurance, so in case of damage to the vehicle, you will be required to pay a sum that can reach the deductible amount.
Basic insurance sometimes includes collision coverage (CDW), theft coverage and third party liability, while in other cases it only includes one or two of this coverage, depending on the vehicle you have chosen and the legislation in force in the country where you rent the car.
What to do if the vehicle breaks down or is involved in an accident?
If your rental car malfunctions, you should contact the service center using the contact details that are stated in the car rental agreement.
In addition, you should contact the rental company to find out how the rental car will be replaced.
If an accident has occurred and someone needs medical attention, the first thing to do is to contact the emergency services, then contact the police and the car rental company later.
What is Collision Coverage (CDW)?
Collision Coverage (CDW) is one optional insurance that is sometimes included in the rental price. This insurance limits the customer's liability during the rental period and sets the maximum amount the customer will be required to pay in case of damage.
The inclusion of CDW in the rental agreement depends on the type of car and the country in which you rent the car. To see if CDW is included, ALWAYS check the Rental Terms.
What is TP (Theft Coverage)?
Theft coverage (or Theft Protection, abbreviated TP) is insurance that limits your liability to the amount of the excess if the car is stolen.
To claim a refund from TP, you usually need to provide the police report and vehicle keys. TP is often included in the rental price.
For more information, see ALWAYS rental conditions.