Sep 7, 2013


Europe, Italy, Travels

Drive Italy

We’re finally back from our European road trip. We visited three countries, stayed in five hotel rooms, and drove about 1,700 miles. Needless to say, we’re exhausted. We had so much fun on our journey and I can’t wait to share all of the pictures. But first, I wanted to talk about the actual driving part.
Aside from Luxembourg to Germany (which is too close to count), I’ve never road tripped in Europe. I’ve done the whole train thing before, but I enjoyed driving so much that I just have to recommend it.
We didn’t originally plan on renting a car, but after researching rail passes, other forms of transportation, and the places we wanted to see, we realized renting a car would be more convenient and not as expensive as we had thought.
Here’s why we loved it:
  • We could make our own schedule- doing things when we wanted to do them, leaving at the drop of a hat, stopping when we saw something cool along the road.
  • We didn’t have to worry about missing a train or overcrowded busses.
  • It was faster. YES, faster. This was a bit counter-intuitive to me, but after comparing the rail timetables with driving times on Mapquest, we saved quite a few hours by driving. That’s not even including the time it would take to get from the train station to the hotel room, etc.
  • Some of the places we wanted to see weren’t accessible by train, such as Rovinj, Croatia. We could have taken a bus (long and inconvenient) or ferry (expensive), but I don’t know if we would have done it.
  • Traveling with a baby. Enough said.
Here’s the car we rented:
I was actually extremely disappointed when I first saw the car we got. When we booked online before we left, we specifically chose the class of cars above economy because all of the sample pictures were of sedans with four doors. I thought there was NO WAY we’d fit all our luggage AND a carseat in this car. Somehow, Tetris-style, we managed to make it work. Even with a surfboard.
The size of this car actually ended up being pretty convenient. A lot of the roads in the places we visited were extremely narrow, and street parking was very tight. Plus, it was very good on gas.
Here’s the route we took:
Just a few things to consider if you’re planning on driving through Italy:
  • If you’re not from the EU, you’ll probably need an international driver’s license to rent a car. Since we didn’t decide on renting until the last minute, we didn’t apply for one until a couple of weeks before our trip. We didn’t have the physical driver’s license in hand, but we did have the number so we were still able to rent. You can get your international driver’s license at your local AAA or apply for it online if you live in a place without one like I do.
  • Driving can get pretty crazy in Southern Italy. I’ve driven through countries like Mexico, Ecuador, the Philippines, and Tanzania… and none of them compared to driving in Naples, in my opinion. If I try to describe it, it will just sound like I’m describing driving in any one of those respective countries- nobody stops at stoplights, cars dart out at you from every direction… but Naples was just… worse. At one point, we drove up a very steep hill with houses only inches on either side of us, only to have to reverse back down it when a car was coming in the opposite direction. It was a two-way street despite barely having enough room for one compact car. I really don’t know how we returned our rental car without any dents or scratches after Naples.
  • Most of the highways are toll roads and they can get pretty expensive.
  • You pretty much have to be a professional parallel parker if you’re planning on parking anywhere.
  • A GPS is necessary. I don’t know what we would have done without that thing.
All-in-all, I’m SO glad we went with the rental car. I really think it’s a must in Italy. Maybe not in Rome (where our car stayed parked the whole time), but definitely in the other towns/cities. That’s pretty much all I have to say about that. I have a couple of thousand pictures to go through, but I’m planning on sharing more from our trip city-by-city over the next few weeks.
Have you ever road tripped through Europe? Did you have a good experience or do you prefer public transportation?