If you're planning a tour of Italy, car hire is a must - especially if you plan on taking in the beautiful villages around Tuscany, the stunning scenery of the Italian lakes or the more remote areas towards the south of the country.
Widely regarded as one of Europe's most culturally rich and socially diverse countries - the affluent north offers a completely different type of holiday to the more rural south - Italy is the perfect destination whether it's a rural retreat, a city break, some winter sports or a relaxing week in the sun that you're after.
Tuscany is one of the country's most popular destinations, offering tourists everything from fine art and architecture to fine food and wine. If you are looking to visit the smaller towns and villages of the Chianti hills or the Val d'Orcia World Heritage Site the best way to do this is to fly into Pisa San Giusto Airport (PSA) or Florence Peretola (FLR) airport, pick up a rental car and get exploring.
Another popular destination is Rome, the Italian capital and truly one of the world's great cities. Home to such historical and cultural landmarks as the Collosseum, Sistine Chapel, Trevi Fountain and the Vatican Museums, there are also innumerable restaurants, cafes and family-run trattorias where you can sample some of the great Italian cuisine and an authentic Italian coffee.
Rome is serviced by several airports, the most popular being Rome Fiumicino Airport (FCO) which is around 35km from the city's historic city centre and Rome Ciampino Airport (CIA), which lies about 12km south of the centre. As with all of the country's major airports, hire cars can easily be picked up and dropped off there.
From Rome you may wish to drive further along the west coast to where you can visit Naples, the home of the pizza, the historic volcanic city of Pompeii or the beautiful Amalfi Coast. Alternatively, to cut down on the amount of time you spend on the road, you could fly direct to Naples Capodichino Airport (NAP) and use this as your starting point.
When visiting the north, Milan is possibly the most central city to fly into and is served by two major airports in Milan Malpensa (MXP) and Milan Linate (LIN). The other major cities of the 'industrial north', Genoa and Turin, are both within easy driving distance of either of these airports as are the more romantic cities of Verona and Venice.
Verona Villafranca airport(VRN) is the gateway to the site of the famous 'Romeo and Juliet' balcony while Venice is a genuinely unique city where you can see the historic St Mark's Square and the Rialto Bridge, visit the Accademia Gallery and, of course, take a gondola ride.
If you would prefer to use Venice as your starting point then it is best to arrange car hire from either into Venice Marco Polo airport (VCE) or Treviso Sant'Angelo airport (TSF) and begin your journey on the east coast. However, to access the more remote resorts of the east coast then Bari-Palese (BRI) is the best airport to fly into.
The Italian lakes provide a great escape for all types of traveller and the airports of Milan also offer a gateway to lakes Como, Garda and Maggiore. Alternatively, you may choose to fly into Orio al Serio airport (BGY), which is just outside Bergamo and about 45km north-east of Milan.
Lake Garda is the largest of the lakes and is a great destination for families with great beaches and picturesque villages and an excellent theme park in Gardaland. The lake resorts are also ideal if you prefer a more active holiday as the breath taking mountain landscapes are great for walking and rock-climbing while the lakes themselves offer all kinds of water sports.
Italy also has two large island resorts in Sardinia and Sicily that have some beautiful beaches and breath-taking scenery and are perfect destinations for family holidays.
Sardinia is off the country's west coast and is served by Cagliari Elmas (CAG), Olbia Costa Smeralda (OLB) and Alghero Fertilia (AHO) airports. Picking up a rental car at any of these airports means that you can explore the island at your leisure and, being one of Italy's most exclusive resorts with some luxurious hotels, the Costa Smeralda is one of Italy's top destinations.
Off the southern tip of the country is Sicily. Take a flight to Catania Fontanarossa (CTA) or Palermo Punta Raisi (PMO) airport and hire a car to take in all that this rustic island has to offer. There is the fantastic old village and beautiful beach at Scopello, the town of Taormina with its Greek amphitheatre and, of course, one of Europe's still-active volcanoes at Mount Etna.
Alternatively, if skiing is your thing, Italy has some great ski resorts that are best accessed by flying into Turin Caselle airport (TRN) and then making the drive north. But make sure your car is prepared for the journey as snow chains are mandatory when driving in mountainous areas between October 15 and April 15 or at any time there is snow and you will also need to ensure your hire car comes with a warning triangle.
Driving in Italy offers a very different experience to driving in the UK, not least because, like the rest of mainland Europe, they drive on the right-hand side. Speed traps are common on Italian roads and police will often issue on the spot fines for motoring offences such as speeding. If you are subject to one of these be sure that the officer collecting the fine issues you with an official receipt.
Italy also has a stricter drink driving limit than the UK, only allowing 0.5 milligrams of alcohol per millilitre of blood as opposed to 0.8, so it is probably best to avoid drinking any alcohol if you are driving.
All grades of unleaded petrol, diesel and LPG are available in Italy but you will not be able to buy leaded petrol anywhere. Other things to consider are that headlamp converters are compulsory and dipped headlights must be used in poor daytime visibility and in all tunnels.
Italy really does offer something for everyone and if you are planning to see the country by car then compare the price of car hire in Italy now using TravelSupermarket's tool and save money by booking in advance.
You can also save money by sorting out your car hire excess insurance online too.
travel midweek and outside of school holidays to get the best prices
the earlier you book, the more chances of getting the deal you want on the date you wish to go
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