Driving in Italy – 5 Likes and Dislikes

While we were in Italy we got a rental car, and let me just say it was an experience driving in Italy.  Just getting out of the parking garage the rental car was parked in was an ordeal, then there was us trying to find “Peter Pan” and the GPS yelling at us.  So before I give you my likes and dislikes of driving in Italy let me first give travelers who are planning on driving in Italy a few tips.

My first recommendation is getting the app Sygic on your phone.  We did not get sim cards while we were there, so we didn’t have data on our phones, but this app works without it.  Please please download this while you are in your home country.  We downloaded this while we were in Italy and I am not sure what language it was in but the app would bark out directions in another language always ending with “Peter Pan”.  For those of you curious, yes this is now a running joke between Drew and I about finding Peter Pan.  Back to the app, even though we could not understand the directions the app has a very detailed map you can follow even if you make the mistake we did.

One more recommendation, whatever app you are using for directions, set it for no tolls.  If you are going from city to city there will be tolls, and you can avoid them and add a few hours onto your arrival time by taking care of this step to start with.  I will say, I did not expect the toll roads in Italy so we left the airport and headed for Parma, the toll plaza was a bit of a shock.

And now onto the like and dislikes of driving in Italy.  I will start with my dislikes.  Just a quick note, these are my dislikes about driving over there and are meant to be funny and to give a little insight.

  1. Stoplights are just a suggestion.  This I witnessed countless times and maybe did it as well.  I had to break this habit very quickly when I returned to the U.S.
  2. Driving with the gas pedal on the floor.  No matter how fast I drove I always had someone flying up behind me flashing their lights and honking their horn so I would move out of the way.  And I was driving really fast, yet another habit I had to break when I returned.
  3. The toll roads.  They were unexpected and sometimes a little expensive depending on how long we were on it.  The most expensive was €18.
  4. Curvy roads.  When we decided to take the scenic route, we were not so pleasantly shocked.  Especially trying to drive along the coast line the road did not have guardrails and they were so curvy you would go one way then do a very sharp 180 and go the other to do the 180 again.  It was definitely an experience and one I will not do again…Next time I am taking the train!
  5. Gas prices.  Now we had a small compact car, so we didn’t expect much in the way of gas prices, but we were wrong.  To fill it was over €50.  Just for a comparison, we also have a compact car and here in the U.S. it’s around $25 to fill it (that’s a little high, for right now, but in general it’s around that)

Push Pin Travel Maps

So that is it for my dislikes now onto my likes

  1. If you ever wanted to practice being a race car driver this is your place!  I loved it!  In the U.S. everyone accuses me of driving too fast, and in Italy I got to go even faster with people still flying by me because I was going to slow.
  2. The service stations along the toll roads are awesome.  These service stations have real food!  Not fast food, fresh made sandwiches, real coffee, I loved it!  The U.S. seriously needs to pick up on that trend, not everyone wants fast food when they are traveling!
  3. Roundabouts instead of stoplights.  There were still a few stoplights, but I would say about 95% of intersections are roundabouts and they run so smoothly with no backups and no stops.  I was not a fan of roundabouts before Italy, but I am now.
  4. The toll road design.  Yes the toll roads are on my likes and dislikes, but if you have ever driven on a toll road in the U.S. you will like this about it as well.  You only pay one toll.  You get on the toll road and do not pay till you exit.  We got the toll ticket at Montecatini Terme and did not pay till we exited in Milan.  In the U.S. if you get on a toll road you in general have to pay every 10-15 miles which causes backups and delays, the Italian design runs very smoothly.
  5. Lastly, if you survive the curvy roads the views are breathtaking.  The picture at the top is one of the views and as you can see we were traveling in very foggy weather on curvy roads, but the views. Oh my goodness the views!  I wish I had more pictures but unfortunately I was clutching the steering wheel in terror and couldn’t take pictures at that moment.


    1. There was quite a lot of tears and yelling involved as well especially on the curvy roads. Drew was extremely stressed since the cliff was on his side and he could see straight down. All in all I would recommend the train instead of a car!

      1. I plan on visiting for a few weeks next year. I think we are going to stick to Rome mainly, perhaps get the train and bus to other places. I have heard it is difficult to drive even for the most experienced of drivers. But I bet the views were amazing!

  1. After reading your post, I don’t think we would have been able to handle driving a rental. Such a different atmosphere than even in Boston. Also there doesn’t seem to be a yield for pedestrians courtesy haha! That’s a good tip about the GPS that you don’t need data for we tried using Google Maps (just for walking directions) and I think there was a huge lag/inaccurate location reporting with our T-Mobile included 2g.

    How many miles do you estimate you put on the rental? Also did you guys have to navigate any narrow streets.

    1. It was definitely an experience! We drove around 500 miles, but this is just an estimate as we had unlimited miles on the rental. Narrow streets….definitely! If you stay on the toll road it’s pretty smooth sailing, but if you take the “scenic” route that’s when you run into dirt roads, narrow roads (to the point you have to back up if there is oncoming traffic) and let’s not forget the random building edges that stick out into the middle of the road in the hill towns. We are definitely doing it by train next time! When we went into Pisa, Lucca, and Florence we took the train and left the car parked and I am convinced that is the way to go!

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