There Are Both Speed Limits and Speed Cameras in Italy
Hard as it may to be imagine, as you cruise down the autostrada at 180kph (110mph) while someone whizzes past you in the fast lane, Italy does, in fact, have both speed limits and speed cameras. The maximum speed on an autostrada is 130kph (80mph): if traffic slows to this, or lower, there’s almost certainly a camera. Note that car hire firms in Italy will charge your card for both the price of the fine and an admin fee if you’re flashed.
Car Hire Excess Can Be Thousands of Euros
Yes, really. While every company you hire a car from in Italy provides insurance, the excesses (“deductibles” if you’re from the other side of the Atlantic) are ludicrous. Avis, for example, has a “Vehicle Damage Cover Excess” of 850 euros, plus an extra “Vehicle Theft Cover Excess” of 1700 euros — that’s around $3500, or well over £2000. The purpose is to encourage you to buy their excess cover, which can cost as much as half the headline rental price of the car.
Most travel insurance doesn’t cover car hire excess, but an annual, worldwide car hire excess policy generally costs much less than a week’s cover bought on your car hire in Italy – though note that you’ll still have to have space on your card to reserve that four-figure excess.
The Best Deals Online Usually Aren’t
There is big money in showing up as the cheapest provider in car hire comparison engines – which means that most of the best headline prices come stacked with hidden extras. Besides insurance excess waivers, a lot of companies, such as Goldcar, make extra euros on gas. They supply you with a full tank, charge you over the market rate for it, then expect you to bring the car back empty (ever managed to return a hire car empty? Me neither…).
Look for a company with a full-to-full policy, not full-to-empty, and bring the car back full — Avis charges 15 euros for filling a tank.
Many Cities Close Their Historic Centres to Traffic
Most Italian cities close part or all of their historic centre to traffic, and almost all, including some popular small towns, have a residents-only policy for the centre. Parking is often designed for only the dinkiest Cinquecento and, while Italy has nothing on Lebanon or Asia when it comes to crazy, Italians do drive with a certain, umm, verve.
Satnavs May Not Be as Current as You Think
Traffic systems change all the time in Italy, and hire car satnavs aren’t necessarily up-to-date. Rather than spend 100 euros hiring something that might not work, buy an Italian SIM with a data plan and use Google Maps, go the paper route, or bring or buy your own.
Everyone Needs to Wear a Seatbelt
EU law states that everyone, including back seat passengers, needs to wear a seatbelt. Children under 18kg (40lb) need a proper seat; children up to 1m 50cm (4’9”) or under 36kg (80lb) have to sit in the back, but only need a booster. Most of the time, it’s best to bring or buy a car seat rather than rent one.
Automatic Cars are Exxy
It is possible to hire automatic cars in Italy, but they come at a premium – almost all the cheapest cars are manual, because it’s pretty much only foreigners who hire automatics. There are many more relaxing places than Italy to learn to drive a stick.
Thanks to carrentals.co.uk, who provided us with a car for a week in Italy, and 12th St David for his picture Cinquecento at Terrapille, near Pienza.