February 26, 2011, 08:52 PM
We want to rent a car on our return from Venice. We leave Florence to Venice and we will depart Venice for Sienna. After Sienna we will depart from FCO. We have been told by your site and others about the difficulty of parking in Florence and Venice. We were thinking about the train from Rome to Florence; Florence to Venice and from Venice. 1--Where would you rent a car--Venice, Florence or Sienna? 2--Would you return it to FCO or drop it in Sienna and take a shuttle to FCO? 3--Do you need an EU driver's license to rent a car? 4--Are rentals in Italy manual as opposed to automatics? Thanks for your help.
March 2, 2011, 06:07 PM
Car Rental (reply)
Driving in Italy can be frustrating in the larger cities such as Florence or Rome. As regards Venice, you cannot even drive into it at all: driving and parking is only allowed in Mestre, a borough on the mainland.
The easiest way to reach the cities you mention is the train. It is pretty expensive but also very fast. From Rome you can reach Venice in 3 hours and a half and Florence in just 1 hour and a half. The downside is you'll need 3 or 4 hours to get to Siena from Rome (only regional trains that stop often are available)!
So I agree with your plan of going from Rome to Venice by train. While going up to Venice or going back to Rome, you can include a visit to Siena (if I were you I would visit Siena with a base in Florence, maybe when going back from Venice). Unless you want to explore the countryside, a car is not necessary!
On the departure day (I assume you'll sleep in Rome the night before) you can take a shuttle to FCO from the larger railway stations (Tiburtina and/or Termini). Traffic jams are very common on the way to the airport and car can turn into your nightmare if you are missing your flight!
As for your last questions, rental cars are very often manual but several rental agencies also guarantee an automatic to be available (please check the company website). Regarding the driving licence, you need an International Driving Permit which is printed in several different languages and helps as a "translator" if you do not speak Italian that well.
I hope you find these suggestions useful.
March 3, 2011, 09:43 AM
car rental and trains
I also highly recommend using the train between these three large cities (Rome, Florence and Venice) as they are well connected with fast trains and are very convenient to use. You don't need a car to visit them, as walking is the best way to see both Florence and Venice (there aside from walking, your only alternative are water taxis, buses and gondolas ) and in Rome you can walk, ride the bus or metro or use taxis to get around. It is a larger city so walking all over is possible but tiring.
If you're leaving Siena to the latter part of your trip as you head back down toward Rome, I'd recommend you rent the car once you're back in Florence. Are you planning to stay outside of Siena and touring the countryside? Then the car is definitely needed. If instead you're just going to visit Siena, then you can get there and around without a car.
Car rentals do offer cars with automatic transmissions, you just have to make sure you request it from the very beginning as they aren't widely available even with the rental companies. If you have a US drivers license, contact the AAA to get the international driver's license - it is a document that accompanies your state driver's license. You need both to rent the car and to drive in Italy and Europe.
If you're leaving your visit of Rome to the end, you don't need a car there - whether you want to drop it off in Siena or Rome depends on whether you're returning "slowly" or "quickly" back to Rome. By slow, I mean you want to enjoy the drive down and the landscapes, stopping along the way. Then as part of your vacation it makes sense to enjoy having the comfort of the car to get to where you're going. You can drop it off at the airport and take the train shuttle into Rome to enjoy your last few days.
By quickly I mean a dash to just get back to Rome to then leave to the airport. If you're going straight to the airport to catch your flight, you could drive and drop off there but I am afraid the enjoyment of the ride lessens. Give yourself lots of ample time just in case you find traffic along the way.
If you're leaving the day after, I suggest you return the car in Siena or even Florence and catch the train down, sleep in Rome and then take the train shuttle to the airport.
You have a lot of options - depending on what your itinerary and flight schedule looks like, you have to see what modes of transport best fits what you feel like doing.
Let us know if you have any more questions, we're happy to help you sort out your doubts! Hope you're enjoying planning your trip
March 11, 2015, 10:49 AM
International Driving Permit
Hello, there . I am from malaysia and there has been some differing information about the above.
In Malaysia, the original driving licence is retained when the international driving permit is issued.
But I read that the rental companies wants to have the orginal driving licence - which I cannot have since I can only have the international driving permit or driving licence - but not both. Any advice?
March 11, 2015, 11:25 AM
Ciao Herbie Tan,
That is quite interesting, as the international driving permit is not really a license at all, but a TRANSLATION of your original driver's license in other languages so that it can be read abroad. That is the reason why you need to have both with you when you travel and plan to drive abroad.
Is it possible for you to double check what they give you in Malaysia, a copy of what you actually receive? Because if it is just a translation, they can't keep your driver's license!