Friday, April 21, 2017

Driving in Italy: Car Rental Information & Tips

Driving Overview

Highway Information

Italy has an excellent network of roads and highways that is one of the most extensive in Europe, comprising nearly 4000mi/6400km of express highways and 180,000mi/288,000km of secondary roads. The country's famous super highways or 'autostrade' ('autostrada' is the singular form) run the length and breadth of the peninsula. These toll roads are supported by an excellent network of secondary roads, classified into different categories of national highways ('strade statali'), provincial roads ('strade provinciali') and municipal roads ('strade communali'). Due to the success of companies like Fiat, Italians have a high level of car ownership. This can create congestion in some of the northern areas and in cities. But in southern parts of the country, the roads are less crowded.


Rules of the Road
When driving your rental car in Italy, it is nice to know traffic travels on the right, similar to the US. If you are stopped for a traffic violation, police are empowered to collect fines on the spot making it necessary to keep cash on hand. More information about driving in Italy can be found below or in our Italy Travel Guide.

Gas
Gas stations are open from 7 am to 12:30 pm and from 3:30 pm to 7 pm. Most stations are closed on Sundays. There are 24-hour stations along the highways.

Tolls
The 'autostrade' is Italy's toll superhighway and toll cards can be purchased at banks or at Automobile Club d'Italia (ACI) offices.

Parking
Street parking is confined to the right side of the street. In blue zones, a parking disk, obtained at tourist offices, ACI offices or gas stations must be displayed on the dashboard. Parking in this zone is limited to one hour.

Speed Limits
Speed limits in Italy are as follows:

  • City - 30mph/50kph
  • Open Roads - 66mph/110kph
  • Highways - 81mph/130kph

Italy Driving Tips


Don't Panic If You're Tailgated 
Tailgating in Italy is common practice, so don't become shaken when this happens. Do your best to keep up with traffic, but do not drive faster than what makes you comfortable.  Tailgaters will pass you at the first opportunity, so just keep your cool and give them room.

ZTL Zones - Where You Can and Can't Drive  
Many larger Italian cities have instituted ZTL (Zona Traffico Limitato) zones in order to reduce traffic congestion in major city centers. These areas are surveyed by traffic cameras and the instant your vehicle crosses this zone, a ticket is issued and forwarded to your home address. It's important you know where you can and cannot drive in Florence, Rome and other cities with ZTLs in order to avoid traffic citations.

Watch Out for Scooters and Mopeds in Italy
In addition to speeders and tailgaters, you'll have to watch out for scooters and mopeds while driving in Italy. Don't be surprised if they pull right out in front of you from a side street without warning. Defensive driving is important when touring Italy by car, be on the lookout at all times and be prepared for anything. The swell in traffic during the busiest tourist months can make navigating the streets by the car a bit more difficult, so wary travelers would do well to research the best time to visit Italy depending on what you're looking to see and do.

Don't Use Mobile Devices While Driving
Use of handheld cellular devices is strictly prohibited while driving in Germany, and if caught you may face steep fines. Hands-free devices are permitted, but it is still recommended to avoid the distractions of cellular devices unless completely necessary. 

Tolls in Italy
There are numerous toll roads in Italy, and it can be tricky to understand since there isn't one single company in charge of collecting money. Individual stretches of roadway are monitored by separate companies, with the toll amount depending on the distance traveled. It's advised to always carry cash on you when driving in Italy in order to pay tolls. Credit cards are accepted at some locations, but not at others.

Gas Stations in Italy 
Gas stations that are located along the Autostrade are usually open 24 hours a day. Some stations along other Italian roadways are open from 7am-7pm, with a break around noon. When picking up your rental car in Italy at the local rental counter, be sure you know which type of fuel your vehicle requires and that you're up to speed on the company's fuel return policy.

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