Renting a car is Italy can be seamless and pleasant. Moreover, if you plan on seeing the countryside, i.e. Tuscany and Umbria to name a few, it’s necessary to have your own car.
I can’t tell you how many people email us saying that they never rent cars in other parts of Europe and don’t think they need one when visiting the Tuscan countryside. Trust me, you do! The trains do not cover the small towns you want to see in order to fully experience the best of this region.
Why is renting a car in Florence and/or Rome even a family travel tip? It’s simple, driving in either place can be divorce-producing as they are confusing and stressful when you don’t know where you are going. Add the distraction of kids to the equation and forget it, misery is assured.
Rome Car Rental Tips
Many family tours of Italy start in Rome due to the number of flights in an out of Rome’s Fuimicino Airport. Wait until your day of departure to pick up your rental car.
As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to find a rental car agency that is relatively close to your hotel to avoid a high taxi fare for the transfer, although, the other thing to consider is how easy it is to get from the rental car agency to the highway.
Regardless, one way to take the stress of the city driving experience all together is to ask your hotel to explain to your cab driver that you want him/her to wait for you while you pick up your car and then “lead” you to the highway. Not all cab drivers are willing to do this so it may take a few calls and/or some negotiating. Let’s say you pay an extra 20-30€ for the taxi to wait and then drive the extra miles … you heard it here first, it’s worth it!
Florence Car Rental Tips
Many of the rental car agencies are located in the center of Florence where there is a large number of one-way streets and places where all but taxis are not allowed to drive. Figuring out how to maneuver around all of this is not fun.
I recommend avoiding the experience by dropping your rental car off at the Florence Airport (just a 20-minute drive from the center of Florence, although, you might pay a surcharge for that) or better yet, at a car rental agency that is one the way into town. I’ve always had good luck with the Europcar location on Via Gelsomino. It’s on the road into the city and easy to find. During the return process, have the car rental agent call a taxi for you to bring you to your hotel. Again, I get that you are paying “extra” fees here but there are some travel expenses that are worth their weight in gold.
One general car rental tip for Italy is to double check the hours of the car rental agency for pick up and drop offs. Some offices may close for a few hours in the afternoon or may not be open on Sundays.
When we planned trips for families at Ciao Bambino we always used Auto Europe for our Italy rentals. They are a broker with relationships with Europcar, Avis, and Hertz. They can compare pricing for you and most importantly, they have great service and agents in the US that can help you should something come up with a rental. When things have gone awry for us in the past, they’ve fixed it — this is a much easier route than trying to address issues directly with any of the big car rental agencies.
Ciao Bambino recommended family hotels Italy
Introduction to Rome with kids (book by the Tourist Office)
Customizable favorite kid-friendly activities in Rome (written for NileGuide)
Our guide to kid-friendly walking tours of Rome
Italy travel tips – creating a family-friendly itinerary