Hiring a Car in Italy
Here are some of the car hire companies and comparison websites with extensive coverage of Italy and online car rental reservations, with links to their websites.
has been a top brand in worldwide car hire for more than 65 years (founded in 1954) with more than 10 million customers. It searches the best suppliers like Enterprise, Avis, Hertz, Europcar, Budget, National, Dollar, Buchbinder and Peugeot to find the best rates at 20,000 pickup locations in over 180 countries worldwide.
It offers free cancellation Up to 48 Hours Before Pickup, Best Rate Guarantee and 24/7 service hotline from pickup to dropoff.
It’s based in the USA (Maine), but when you arrive on its website you can choose your own country of residence.
Here’s the direct link to Auto Europe’s page on car rentals in Italy:
is not just for car hire but, as it’s a well known name, you probably already know that. It’s rather a comprehensive travel site for all sorts of needs, from flights to hotels, from car rentals to holiday packages, from holiday deals to guides and insurance.
The advantage of booking together more than one travel service is obviously not only the saving of time and hassle but also it’s cheaper. Here’s the Expedia search box, where you can choose only car, or car with hotel and/or flight and so on, if you wish:
Travelling to and in Italy by Car
In Italy roads are good, not surprisingly since the ancestors of today’s Italians, the ancient Romans, were superb engineers. It’s in their historic DNA, so to speak.
Motorways or freeways are excellent (sometimes built on incredible systems of mountain tunnels and viaducts), but they are not always free. There is a distinction here. For autostrade (singular: autostrada) there is a toll to pay; superstrade are usually free.
Italy’s main motorway is the A1, although Italians don’t normally call autostrade by numbers, but by their two terminals, like Milano-Laghi (Milan-Lakes), Firenze-Mare (Florence-Sea), Genova-Torino. You’ve got the idea.
Sometimes motorways have nicknames. The motorway from Genoa going West all the way to the French border, stretching over the “Riviera di Ponente” (the western riviera of the Liguria region) is called “Autostrada dei fiori”, after the flower-growing area it goes through. The A1, which runs through all the length of Italy from Milan in the North to the toe of the Italian peninsula’s boot in the extreme South, is universally known as “Autostrada del sole”, because it leaves the fog of the River Po Plain to find the sun in the deep Southern regions.
Renting a car is fine, except when you go to places squashed between mountains and sea, in which case you’d be better off travelling by train or even by ferry or boat service. There are in Italy some areas like that, for instance the Cinque Terre, a coastal, wine-growing district of the Liguria region, in north-west Italy, which is very popular due to its extreme natural beauty, clean and environmentally protected waters, and historic treasures.
At the opposite end of the driving spectrum you’ll find, in the southern region of Campania (whose main city is Naples, the “capital of the South”), the Amalfi Coast, which is difficult to reach by train and where road travel is an imperative, not just as a means of transport but also to experience the spectacular, unbelievable Amalfi Drive coastal road, which will take your breath away in more ways than one.
ZTL in Italy
ZTL stands for “Zona a Traffico Limitato”.
For a few decades now the authorities of various Italian cities and towns great and small have been trying to reduce vehicular traffic in city centers with the goal of decreasing pollution and making these areas more accessible and enjoyable to pedestrians.
ZTLs are now present in many Italian municipalities.
At every entrance to a ZTL there will be a clear sign indicating that you are entering a restricted area. The sign to look for has a white circle with a red border on a white background. Above the circle you’ll find the Italian writing “Zona Traffico Limitato” and below the circle more information about the specific restrictions of that zone, generally the hours of the day, or the days themselves, or in some cases the periods of the year to which it applies. In seaside resort like Lerici on the Italian Riviera, for example, restrictions may only apply during the summer season, but it’s always better to check because rules may change and differ from place to place.
Other information below the circle may include exceptions or limitations to the prohibition, report the presence of an electronic gate or provide phone numbers to get more info on the ZTL.
The white circle with a red border on a white background, I must add, is the Italian highway code’s general sign to indicate “divieto di accesso”, namely no entry.
There are also road signs warning you in advance of where you’ll find a ZTL, like the one below:
It is possible in many cases to pay to gain access to a particular ZTL.
What Happens If My Hotel Is in a ZTL?
Ask your hotel to register your car’s number plate with the local authorities for the length of your stay. It should be free, but check with your hotel first and make sure it’s been done before driving inside a ZTL.
And remember that getting access to one ZTL doesn’t mean you have access to other ZTLs even in the same city.
If you hire a car, the rental company should be able to assist you. Auto Europe in Italy is one of the best in this respect.