Drive Italy! Follow Caterina and learn
how to rent a car in the
The Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook begins each chapter with a dialogue from a story about the character Caterina, an American girl who travels to Italy to visit her relatives. As the story continues from one chapter to the next, we learn Italian, and about Italy, in an engaging way through Caterina’s experiences.
After Caterina’s plane lands in Italy in the first chapter of the book, she takes a taxi to the main train station in Milan, where her cousin Pietro meets her. She is lucky to have a relative who can drive her in Italy to her final destination in Milan. For those who do not have a personal chauffeur to take them on a tour of Italy, or who just want to rent a Ferrari as part of their dream vacation, I have included in the book some tips on renting cars in the “Cultural Note: Drive Italy!” section in Chapter 6, which have been adapted for this blog.
To listen to the dialogue from Chapter 6, when Caterina meets her cousin and he takes her on a (fictional) drive in Italy through Milan, go to the interactive dialogues on our website at learntravelitalian.com/interactive.html.
The Italian railway system is the most efficient way to travel throughout Italy, especially for the tourist with a limited period of time to spend. But for those for whom driving the autostrada in a Ferrari has always been a dream (see www.red-travel.com), or for those who have enough time to spend to really get to know the countryside (www.italylogue.com/agriturismo), here are a few tips about what is needed to rent a car and drive in Italy.
A quick search of the Internet for “rent a car in Italy” yields many companies that promise quick and easy deals. Auto Europe is not a car rental company, but a car broker that allows the traveler to book online, and it offers several additional services (www.autoeurope.com). Auto Europe is recommended by Slow Travel Italy, which can also be found on the Internet at http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/planning/. Here are some of the benefits that Auto Europe can provide for the renter: competitive pricing, a list of what is included for the price, pickup and dropoff at different locations within Italy at no extra charge, and a 24/7 customer service line that will help the traveler handle any issues encountered on the road or with the local rental company. Note that commonly included fees when renting a car in Italy include taxes, a surcharge for picking up the car at the airport, and possibly a daily road tax. Insurance is necessary to drive in Italy and can significantly increase the price of the rental when obtained through the rental company, so it is worthwhile to check if you can get cheaper insurance through a credit card company.
Picking up a rental car at the airport can be difficult at peak travel times because of long lines, and during off-hours, when parts of the airport may be closed. In addition, many Italian hotels, especially if located centrally within a city, do not have parking available for their guests. There are tolls on most Italian freeways, and gas is expensive in Italy. It may be easier to take the train to your initial destination and pick up the car the next day or when you are leaving for the next city on your trip—again, public transportation in most cities is excellent. The city streets in Italy are narrow, so remember that a smaller car is probably better than a larger car, as long as luggage and family will fit!
Here is a checklist of things to find out before leaving the rental office: (1) whether the car takes unleaded gas (benzina) or diesel (gasolio), (2) how to put the car in reverse, (3) how to lock and unlock doors and windows, (4) whether a reflective vest and other equipment required by law in case of an accident have been provided (in the trunk), (5) whether a GPS or map of the town where you will be driving is available, and (6) whether you can get a parking disc for the car.
To rent a car and legally drive in Italy, some additional paperwork will need to be completed. Before leaving, call AAA to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP), which is an official translation of a U.S. driver’s license. Both the IDP and your driver’s license should be presented at the time of rental, along with proof of insurance.
Adapted from Conversational Italian for Travelers, Chapter 6
“Cultural Note” © 2012 by Stella Lucente, LLC.
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, is the author of the
Conversational Italian for Travelers series of books and a teacher of Italian for travelers to Italy in the Peoria and Chicago area.
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Visit learntravelitalian.com/download.html to purchase/download Conversational Italian for Travelers and find more interesting facts and helpful hints about getting around Italy! Learn how to buy train tickets online, how to make international and local telephone calls, and how to decipher Italian coffee names and restaurant menus, all while gaining the basic understanding of Italian that you will need to know to communicate easily and effectively while in Italy. —From the staff at Stella Lucente, LLC
Drive Italy! Renting Cars to Drive in Italy