One of the first things to do once you have decided to holiday in Italy is to book your flights. The country’s busiest airports in terms of passenger numbers are Rome, Milan Malpensa and Milan Linate, Bergamo, Venice, Catania and Naples however there are a number of other smaller airports including Bologna, Pisa, Bari, Verona, Florence and Ancona amongst others.
Skyscanner is a great site to use if you want to browse the best flight details. You can even set up alerts for future price drops.
If you are already in Europe, then the train is another option for you. Rail Europe is a useful site for planning train journeys within Europe. Consider it a one stop shop for your train travel requirements. Their booking platform is easy to use and allows you to book in your preferred language and currency. Plus, they offer high levels of customer care with support before, during and after your journey if required.
Or alternatively, for those on a budget, why not consider travelling by bus. Flixbus covers 1200 destinations in 26 different countries.
If travelling by all 3 methods, take a look at Go Euro, a site that combines bookings of train, bus and air travel. Or, try out Omio. This is a really helpful travel website, aimed at simplifying the journey planning process, saving you both time and money. You can look at options to travel by air, train or bus. Just enter your dates, departure and arrival destinations and it will allow you to compare the different flight, bus and train routes available as well as booking tickets. These can then be downloaded into a handy app to keep everything in one place. They also offer help to customers in 12 different languages so if you do have any issues, there is someone there to help. They work with over 800 trusted partners.
If you’re going to travel by plane from the UK to Italy, then you may well be leaving your car at the airport. If so, then take a look at Purple Parking for car parking you can trust. With a price match promise against their competitors, it also means you can be sure to get a great deal on the cost of your parking.
Using the public transport system in Italy
Once in Italy, there is a good public transport system that you can use to get out and about.
All Italian airports have good transport links either via train or bus into their respective city centres. Another option is to pre-book a car transfer from the airport to your holiday destination. Try Blacklane for a quote on a transfer.
Alternatively, there are car hire desks based at the airport if you want to hire a car during your stay.
If travelling between major cities and towns, then Italy has a good train network including a high-speed network allowing visitors to travel between Rome and Florence in just 90 minutes at speeds of over 180 mph. Or you can get from Rome to Venice by train in less than 4 hours. Details of all trains can be found at www.trenitalia.it. It is always important to remember to have your ticket stamped and validated on the platform before boarding the train in Italy.
You can buy train tickets at the station but if you can, it’s worth booking in advance as tickets tend to be cheaper when booked ahead of time. Trenitalia and Italo are are both official Italian websites for booking your train journeys. However, you may find it much easier to use Omio which Is far more user friendly and in multiple languages.
If travelling by train, please note that some trains do have the option of a first-class carriage. Certainly, if travelling on the Frecciarossa and Italo super-fast, long distance trains, the first class cabins tend to offer much more spacious, lounge style seating. Seats are typically wider and usually provide an option to recline. Passengers travelling in first class also receive a complimentary newspaper and drink and snack during their journey. There are in fact different scales of first-class ticket, with the ‘executive’ ticket being the most luxurious. Here, your ticket can also give you a hot meal and drinks. WIFI can sometimes be more reliable in first class too and there is sometimes even an option of complimentary movies. However, each train is different so it’s worth checking each time you travel.
Driving and parking in Italy’s major cities can be a nightmare, particularly at peak times, so taking the train is an excellent (and less stressful!) alternative. The train network in Italy is also relatively good value in comparison with other countries in Europe.
High speed train travel times:
Florence – 1 hour 30 minutes
Rome to Naples – 1 hour 15 minutes
Rome to Milan – 3 hours
Rome to Venice – 4 hours
Florence to Venice – 2 hours
Florence to Milan – 2 hours
All the major cities in Italy also have good bus networks and, in some cases, underground train networks too. Cities and towns of any size always have an urbano and extra-urbano bus system. Please note that bus services can be limited at the weekend. With both the metro and bus service, purchase your bus ticket before boarding at a tabaccaio (tobacconist shop), ticket booth, dispensing machine or news stand and validate it on board. Passengers who have not validated their tickets are subject to large fines. Tickets are generally valid for a set period of time unless you have purchased a day pass.
And let’s not forget Venice where the public transport system is vaporetti (small passenger ferries) or the Italian Lakes where there is a good network of boats that criss-cross the lake all day long.
Taxis in Italy
Uber currently operates in five key Italian cities – Milan, Turin, Padua, Genoa and Rome. Otherwise, Italian taxis are highly regulated and there is a strict limit on the number of taxi licenses granted. Whilst you can find a taxi easily in most cities (although you need to find a taxi rank rather than hailing one off the street), it is not always easy to get a taxi in the smaller towns and villages.
Renting a Car in Italy
Whilst driving in the major cities can be stressful particularly in rush hour, driving in the rest of the country is not as difficult as you may expect. There is no denying that Italians have quite a reputation when it comes to driving and you will probably find that Italians drive quicker and more closely to your rear bumper than you are perhaps used to at home. However, you soon get used to it!
The Italian countryside is stunning and hiring a car is one of the best ways to explore some of the smaller towns and villages as well as the beautiful scenery that you may miss if sticking to public transport.
If you are planning to hire a car during your stay, I would recommend that you book it as soon as possible. Car rental rates only ever seem to get more expensive as the holiday gets nearer. Bookings For You are proud to recommend Auto Europe. Auto Europe deals with all the major car hire companies around the world. The company will do the hard work for you, checking which local supplier is offering the best prices for the car you want for the dates you need it. At the same time, they always ensure that everyone that they deal with offer a great level of service, providing 24 hour assistance in English for their customers. This is something that is always extremely important to us too. We are pleased to be able to offer our guests excellent rates through our partnership with Auto Europe. The other good thing about Auto Europe is that they will clearly show all costs up front. Don’t be fooled by cheaper quotes from other companies – read the small print carefully as other companies will often add on additional costs when collecting or returning the vehicle. Please click on this link to receive a quote.
We recommend that you book your car hire as soon as possible. Prices only ever go up so the further in advance you are able to book, the cheaper it will be. Auto Europe also usually offer the option of free cancellation so if your plans do change, then you can easily amend your booking.
We also suggest that to make your car hire as easy as possible, you choose one of Rental Car agents based on site at the airport. You should also be aware that you must usually be at least 21 years old to rent a car in Italy. There are a handful of companies that allow you to rent a car from as young as 18 but if you’re under 25 years old, you can expect to pay a young driver’s surcharge.
On arrival you will be required to provide a credit card to the car rental company. The car rental company will place a hold on the car in the event that the vehicle is damaged during the rental period. You will also need a valid driving license. For those visiting Italy from countries outside the EU, you will need an International Drivers Permit along with your regular driving license.
Most cars are manual so if you want an automatic, you must specify this and expect to pay extra. We’d always recommend going for a smaller rather than larger vehicle (assuming you can squeeze the luggage in!) Many of Italy’s streets are narrow and a smaller vehicle will allow you to manoeuvre your way around them more easily.
If you are touring around Italy, it is possible to pick up and drop off your vehicle in different locations but if you want to do this, you will probably find that rental options are more limited. You may also find that the car rental company charges a one way surcharge.
Car Hire Excess Insurance
Whilst the car hire companies are excellent, we have found that the excess they charge seems to be getting higher and higher and the fees charged by the car rental company to reduce the excess tend to also be on the rise. However there is an alternative option which is to take out excess insurance on your car hire. This can cover you not just for this specific holiday but for all car hire throughout the year. It’s certainly worth considering. For a quote and for more information please head to Questor Insurance who have excellent insurance rates to offer.
Driving in Italy
Many can initially find driving in Italy a little daunting but don’t worry…. It’s not as hard as it may at first appear! Italians may have a reputation for being fast drivers and, in busy city centres, you’ll find scooters and motorcycles zipping in and out between the cars. I’ve also found that Italians tend to drive closer to the vehicle in front than I am used to in the UK. But they’re not aggressive and you’ll soon get used to their driving style.
Plus, by hiring a car and driving yourself, you will be able to access the more remote towns and villages and explore the incredibly beautiful countryside that would be hard to access using public transport. In order to feel prepared ahead of driving in Italy, make sure you’re aware of some of the rules and regulations that may differ from what you’re used to at home.
There are a few rules and regulations you should be aware of when driving in Italy.
- The wearing of seatbelts is compulsory. For those travelling with little ones, children under 36 kg or less than 150 cm in height must use an appropriate car seat or booster seat.
- Unless otherwise stated, the following speed limits apply in
- Motorways 130 kilometres per hour (kph) maximum although it can vary dependent on the stretch of motorway so make careful note of the signs.
- Main roads outside built up urban areas 110 kph
- Local roads 90 kph
- On the motorways and even in some towns, you will find signs for Autovelox. These are large boxes on the side of the road with a camera inside. You will get a warning in advance if cameras are in place. On the motorways, you may also see a newer average speed system – ‘Sistema Tutor’. This will average your speed between 2 points on the road. Watch out for signs saying ‘Polizia Stradale’ or ‘Controllo electronico della velocita’ which will tell you that speed monitoring systems are in place.
- When in city centres, make sure that you pay close attention to the ZTL zones (Zona Traffico Limitato) or Area Pedonale (pedestrian areas). A special permit is required to drive in these areas and heavy fines apply if you enter these without one. In these areas there are normally video cameras recording details of your car registration number as you enter.
- Disobey the speed limits or enter a restricted traffic zone and you will find that a fine will be posted through your letterbox months or even a year after your transgression. Or, if you’re a non EU resident and are caught making a traffic offence, the police officer can insist on immediate payment. If you do not pay the fine, the police officer is legally allowed to confiscate the car.
- It is illegal to text or hold a phone whilst driving (although you’ll probably see a number of Italians ignoring this rule)
- It is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol level over 0.05%.
- Unlike in the USA, you can’t turn right on a red light in any circumstances. You must wait for the traffic lights to turn green.
- When on the motorways, it is a legal requirement to drive with your headlights on even on a bright, sunny day.
It’s useful to hire a GPS when driving in Italy (or bring your own). But always sense check where it is taking you. Many regions have the identical town names so make sure you’re heading for the right one before you blindly follow the Sat Nav system! And many will not take into account ZTL zones or will try and take you the wrong way up a one way street.
If driving on the Italian motorways (autostrada) then you may well come across toll booths. Some of these require immediate payment (which can be done using a credit card or in cash), whilst others require you to take a ticket and then payment will be made using the same payment methods when exiting the motorway. Tolls do accept credit cards but it is always sensible to carry some loose change and bank notes with you in case there are any issues.
When filling up your tank, look for ‘benzina’. Some petrol stations offer the option of filling your tank up for you as well as self service. You will find that you pay more for someone to do the job for you.
Parking in Italy
You will find that there are blue and white parking spaces in most town centres. In the blue zones, you must obtain a valid parking permit. These are purchased by the hour and tickets can be bought from the local tobacconist or newsagent.
Passports and Visas
Once your flights and travel are booked, it’s time to make sure that your documents are in order. If you’re travelling from within the EU or from the UK, you simply need your photo ID or passport to enter the country.
If coming from further afield, there are a few other rules and regulations you need to be aware of. US, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand citizens can enter and stay in Italy for up to 90 days within a 180 day period without a visa. US citizens will also need to ensure that their passports are valid for at least 3 months after your planned return to the USA. Travellers from Australia will also need to ensure that there are at least 6 months left on their passports.
US official and diplomatic passport holders will need to take some extra steps and obtain an Italian Schengen visa prior to arrival. Anyone falling into this bracket will not be allowed to enter Italy without a visa.
For more information about the current advice from each respective government, please refer to the following official websites: