How to rent a car in Italy
Whether you’d like to drive down from Florence to the capital Rome or want to get a taste of Tuscan wine country, renting a car in Italy gives you the freedom to go wherever you please at your own pace. This guide will tell you exactly how to rent a car in Italy and what it’s like to drive there, including useful tips that are good to know.
What do you need to rent a car in Italy?
When you rent a car in Italy, you’ll need a couple of documents on hand.
- Your driver’s license from your home country
- Your ID (passport)
- Credit Card
- International Driver’s Permit (IDP)
The legal driving age in Italy is 18 years old. In order to be able to rent a car, however, you need to have had your driver’s license for at least one year. Generally, rental car companies in Italy require you to be 21 or over and no older than the maximum age (usually 70-75 years). All drivers must present a valid driver’s license, an ID as proof of their identity, and a credit card to make the payment.
Note: Most car rentals in Italy charge an extra fee if you’re under 25 years old.
If you’re a non-EU citizen that would like to rent a car in Italy, it’s essential to hold an International Driver’s Permit. The Italian car rental might not ask for it, but it is required by law that you have one, and it may be requested during a police check. An International Driver’s Permit costs just 15 USD and is valid for one year. You can arrange yours here.
Rental car insurance in Italy
Car insurance is not mandatory in a lot of European countries but in Italy it is. This is regarding the basic Car Damage Waiver insurance which is arranged upon booking. Theft cover is recommended, but not mandatory. When you decide to add additional coverage, make sure to arrange that in your initial booking as the prices are the best when done like this. You can also check if your credit card policy covers car rental insurance in Italy.
Note: Drivers are randomly checked by the Italian police. Therefore have your documents with you when driving in Italy.
Is it easy to drive in Italy?
Before you rent a car in Italy, it’s important to know some of the road rules and customs of the country. Firstly, the roads can be incredibly narrow. For example, in rural areas, especially to the south, the roads might not be as well maintained. Therefore, the smaller the car, the better!
Zona traffico limitato
In Italy, there are certain zones that you need to pay attention to. These ‘zona traffico limitato’ or ‘Area Pedonale’ areas are off-limits to all vehicles without a permit. There are over 200 marked ZTL zones.
Sometimes they are difficult to identify but most are indicated by a sign with a big red circle or via a light system. You can only enter these zones by car when the ZTL is open. This is noted on the sign at the entrance of the ZTL zone or a green light will show.
Note: Be mindful that Google Maps often suggests driving right through a ZTL zone, so try to keep an eye out for the signs.
The Autostrada and Superstrada
There are different roads in Italy. The highway, called the Autostrada, has a maximum speed limit of 130 km/h. This road is recognized by green signs indicating an ‘A’ road. The dual carriageways in Italy, called ‘Superstradas’, permit you to drive 110 km/h. On single carriageways, you can drive 90 km/h, and 50 km/h inside towns and cities.
Note: Italy has many speed limit monitors so follow the speed limit to avoid getting an expensive fine. Also, overtaking on the right is not done in Italy. A GPS is not necessary when renting a car in Italy. Offline maps on Google Maps work perfectly fine.
Top tips for renting a car in Italy
1. Do a walk around and check the car
When you pick up your car rental in Italy, make sure to do a walk around and check if everything’s there. Cars in Italy should have the legally required safety triangle and vest in the back of the car. If you’re traveling in winter, make sure to check if there are snow tires on the car or snow chains in the trunk. Many areas require these between November and April.
2. Be mindful of where you park
Parking in Italy can be both paid or free. Paid parking areas are marked with blue lines, whereas those marked white (or without marking) are free. Always make sure to look out for signs of a free parking spot, parking time limits, and possible parking disk (disco) requirements.
3. There are toll booths
There are many toll booths along Italy’s major roads and highways—for example, the Autostrada is a toll road. When you enter the Autostrada, you’ll receive a ticket and pay the toll once you exit, which is usually around 30-50 EUR per journey.
Toll booths are marked on your map app. If you have problems at the entrance or exits of the Autostrada, you can push on the ‘help’ button. However, be prepared to speak some Italian as most of the assistants won’t speak English.
Note: You can avoid toll roads if you want. These are often more scenic routes but do take much longer.
4. Fill your car with the right gas
Getting gas in Italy is fairly easy. There are both self-serve (fai da te) and serviced (servitor) pumps, however, it is a bit more expensive to have an attendant fill up your tank. At the pump, you have two options: Gasolio (diesel) and Benzina (gas). It’s important not to confuse the two!
Often, your Italian rental car will have a sticker indicating what type of fuel it needs. The car key, dashboard, or fuel door is where you usually find this. Gas stations can be found in the country, in small towns and big cities, and on the Autostrada.
Good to know: You can get gas through the self-service pumps even when a gas station is closed.
How much does a rental car cost?
There’s always an increased demand to rent a car in Italy during the summer months, which drives up the prices. Car rentals in Italy are fairly priced in general. Browse your options online via a comparison site to make sure you get the best deal.
Consider where you are collecting your rental car from, as this can impact the amount you pay. For example, if you collect your car in big cities such as Rome, Milan, or Florence, it is much cheaper than in smaller towns and airports. It is also more affordable to arrange a rental car for Italy online, prior to your arrival, than it is to arrange it in the office.
When renting a car in Italy, your budget will be most affected by toll road and gas prices. Be prepared to pay a bit more when you use the major highways. And note that gas is more expensive in Europe than in countries like the US.
Where do I rent a car in Italy?
There are numerous reputable car rentals in Italy to choose from. If you’re planning on renting a car in Italy in the summer, try to arrange this in advance. Reserving in advance ensures that you secure the type of car that you want and possibly at a lower price.
If it makes sense on your route, pick up and drop off the car in different cities. It might be a bit more expensive, but would be worth it if you consider the tolls, gas, and time. When you return the car, make sure you know if it’s necessary to fill up the gas and have someone check the car for damage when you’re still there.