Some years ago, I was riding for the first time in the passenger seat of a red Fiat driven by my friend Laura, with whom I was living in Rome. On our approach back to the city (we were coming back from a day at a horseback riding area on the Via Appia Antica), we came to a red traffic light. Laura slowed down, assessed the situation, but did not stop. Being the traffic-rule-abiding American that I am, I gasped and asked, “Aren’t there any traffic laws in Italy?”
“There are no traffic laws in Italy,” she said, “merely traffic…how you say?…suggestions.”
Then, we proceeded into the labyrinth of weekender traffic just south of San Giovanni in Laterano, which we only lived a few blocks from. In trying to make some headway, Laura nudged her Fiat into every available opening she could find. At one point, she nudged too hard and rammed the bumper of the car in front of us. The guy didn’t even get out of his car; he just craned his head out the window, yelled something angrily, and moved on. About 10 minutes later, we were on our quiet residential street, where Laura squeezed into a parking space…right in front of a fire hydrant.
This month, for the second installment of the Italy Blogging Roundtable, the topic is driving in Italy. This is a difficult subject for me to write about because I have never driven in Italy. The reason I have never driven there is because I can not drive a car with a stick-shift – yet – and it’s almost impossible to rent a car with automatic transmission. It’s shameful, really. And it’s something I hope to work on, especially because lately I’ve been fantasizing about taking a custom driving tour in a Ferrari through Tuscany and Umbria. (Anyone want to spot me the €20,000 deposit?)
Although I’ve never driven in Italy, that doesn’t mean I don’t have some links and tips – some suggestions, if you will – to share about cars, traffic, and driving tours.
Renting and Driving a Car in Italy
- As I mentioned above, automatic transmission cars are more difficult to find at Italian rental car agencies. They are available, but you will almost always have to pay a higher rate if you choose an automatic over a standard (stick shift).
- If you plan on renting a car while vacationing in Italy, pay close attention to your hotel’s parking policy (most have only paid garages) as well as the municipality’s driving policy. For instance, in Florence, in order to drive in the city center between 7:30am and 7:30pm, one must have a ZTL permit. ZTL stands for “Zona Traffico Limitato” (limited traffic zone). Visit Florence has a helpful guide on getting around Florence by car.
- If you are planning a road trip in Italy, you’d do well to check out the website Autostrade per l’Italia (in English and Italian), which has links to maps, information on gasoline (benzina), rest stops, motels, and more.
- An Italy Driving Atlas that I really love is Michelin Italy Tourist and Motoring Atlas No. 1465 (Michelin Maps & Atlases). Yes, it’s a paper atlas. But I like to hunker down over it, plan routes, see what’s nearby, etc. I’m old school. (Full disclosure: I have also been a contributing writer to several Michelin guides on Italy.)
- For app lovers (I’m one of those, too), the Navv app for Italy (link to Apple App Store) and the Navmii GPS Italy are helpful, and come highly recommended by some of my Italy loving friends.
- Don’t know which routes to take? Check out some articles on driving tours from the Italofile archive.
So there you have a few of my suggestions on driving in Italy. I’m looking forward to seeing what my fellow ladies of the Italy Blogging Roundtable have come up with on this subject.
Read the posts, leave comments, share them with your friends – and tune in next month for another Italy Blogging Roundtable topic.
- ArtTrav – It must be a sign: Driving in Italy
- At Home in Tuscany – To drive or not to drive? That is the question.
- Brigolante – Driving in Italy
- WhyGo Italy – 3 Dream Drives in Italy
Photo © ibarthoekstra