The Road Tripper's Guide

How to Rent a Car in Southern Italy: 2019 Edition

From the picturesque villages of the Amalfi coast to the hidden gems of Puglia, there is no shortage of incredible places to discover in Southern Italy. And, if you’d like the freedom to explore at your own pace and to take spontaneous detours, having a rental car makes a lot of sense. Want to know what to expect? Here’s everything you need to know about renting a car in Southern Italy!

Should I rent a car in Southern Italy?

It depends on what you want to do. If your plans involve driving along the Amalfi Coast, there are a few things you need to consider first: 

1) the road is very narrow and notorious for its hairpin bends and zigzags, 

2) it gets congested in high season,

3) parking is scarce, so you won’t be able to just pull off the road to admire the scenery. 

Getting around the Amalfi Coast by public transportation (including by ferry or boat) or even hiring a private driver could prove much more enjoyable, especially during the warmer months. 

However, if you’d like to explore other parts of Southern Italy and want to check out off-the-beaten-path spots, then renting a car is a must. You may want to consider picking it up in Rome rather than Naples, and drive down south from there. You’ll save yourself money—especially if there’s a few of you traveling together—as well as the hassle of driving inside Naples (driving in Naples comes with its own set of rules!) You could also wait to rent your car until you are traveling into the country.

How much does it cost to hire a car in Southern Italy?

Of course, rates will vary depending on the type of car and the rental period. Check out websites such as or to compare rates across the most reputable car rental websites.

Do I need to buy rental car insurance in Southern Italy?

First of all, check your coverage with your insurance company ahead of time and read the fine print to see what the car rental company you’re looking to use offers. Few credit cards with car rental insurance offer coverage in Italy. It is also a good idea to purchase personal accident insurance as well as personal effects insurance. Note that, in Italy, you are legally required to have both a Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and Theft Protection when driving a rental car. Both will be included in the price quote.


Should I rent a standard or automatic car in Southern Italy?

The majority of rental cars in Italy have manual transmission, so you’ll have more options if you know how to drive a stick shift. To rent an automatic, don’t hesitate to call the rental company directly if you can’t find what you’re looking for on their website and be prepared to pay at least 50% more than the regular daily rate. Make sure to reserve your automatic car well in advance.

What kind of car should I rent in Southern Italy?

The best vehicle for your trip will depend on how you’ll be spending your time in Southern Italy and how many people will be traveling with you. Couples planning an extended trip, small families with children or small groups of friends will definitely enjoy the comfort of a mid-size, full-size, or even luxury vehicle.

Should I rent a gas or diesel car in Southern Italy?

In Europe, diesel is usually cheaper than gas and diesel cars do more miles to the litre than petrol. 

Though electric cars are emerging in Italy and charging stations can be found in urban areas (Naples, Lecce, Bari, and a few more), greener options are not yet readily available for hire in the southern part of the country.

What do I need to rent a car in Southern Italy?

If you don’t have a European driving license, you’ll need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP). This is required for all foreigners driving in Italy, in addition to a valid license from your home country. The car rental company may not ask you to present it when you pick up your rental, however, you’ll risk major fines if you get pulled over by the police and don’t have one.

All you have to do is to fill out an application, provide two passport pictures, and pay a small fee (contact your Automobile Association for more details).

How do I pay for a car rental in Southern Italy?

You must have a credit card. Rental companies will typically place a hold on your card, based on your insurance deductible. The hold will normally be released a few days after you return the vehicle, hopefully unscathed. 

How old do I have to be to rent a car in Southern Italy?

You must be at least 21 years old to hire a car in Italy. Some rental companies will allow drivers as young as 18 to rent a car provided they have held their license for at least one year, but any driver under the age of 25 should expect to pay a young driver surcharge.

Where can I rent a car in Southern Italy?

You can reserve your car rental online with the following reputable brokers:

How do I pick up my car rental in Southern Italy?

Before you drive away, take some time to inspect your rental car thoroughly. Walk around the vehicle, check inside, looking out for scratches, dents or chips on the outside of the car and cigarette burns on the car seats. If you find any damage, ask the rental attendant to mark it on your paperwork before you leave. Use your smartphone to take pictures or videos of all sides of the vehicle, including close-ups of any damages that already exist.

How do I drop off my car rental in Southern Italy?

If you’re planning to drop off your vehicle in another Italian location, be aware that you will be charged a domestic one-way fee at pickup.

In any case, check the opening hours for your drop-off branch and make sure the rental company allows returns outside of business hours to avoid late fees. Allow plenty of time to return the car so you can refill the tank at a gas station near your drop off point, gather your belongings, and inspect it one last time.

Once you’ve parked the vehicle at the drop off location, take a picture of the fuel indicator and the mileage, then photograph the car’s front, rear, and sides. These will help in case you get unexpected charges for any additional damage, mileage or missing fuel.

Ideally, find an attendant to check the car with you, give you the necessary paperwork, and take the car key. If there aren’t any staff available or if the office is closed, leave the keys in the rental company’s drop box.


Can I take a rental car on a ferry in Southern Italy?

No. Most rental companies do not allow their cars on ferries. 

Are there toll roads in Southern Italy?

Yes. If you take the ‘autostrade’—the Italian highway network— you will have to pay tolls. The charges are proportional to the distance traveled and work out to about 14¢ per mile. If you are going to use the autostrada, always carry cash with you as not all toll booths accept credit cards. Also, note that not all ‘autostrade’ incur tolls: ring roads around cities are toll-free, and so is the stretch of the A3 between Salerno and Reggio di Calabria. will help you plan your road trip and figure out how much it will cost you.

What are the speed limits in Southern Italy?

Highways: 130 kilometers per hour (kph)

Towns and cities: 50 kph

Open roads: 90 kph

What are some other rules of the road in Southern Italy?

Do not drive in an area with a sign that says Zona Traffico Limitato (ZTL) or Area Pedonale, i.e. limited traffic or pedestrian zones. A monitoring camera will take a picture of your license plate and you’re likely to get a (hefty) fine in the mail or through your rental company even if you don’t get stopped.

Never turn right on a red light. It’s illegal across all Europe unless a sign or signal specifically authorizes it.


What do I do if I get a ticket in Southern Italy?

Italian authorities have up to one year after they have obtained your details to issue a traffic ticket. As the recipient of the ticket, you will have 60 days to pay the fine—which can be done online— or contest it. If you don’t pay, the amount is doubled. A common practice is to pay and then appeal.

Note that if the car rental company has to provide your personal details to the traffic authorities, they will charge you an administrative fee. In some cases, car rental agreements allow the rental company to pay the fine and charge your card accordingly.

What do I do if I need help?

Ask your car rental representative what number you should call if the vehicle breaks down or if you lose the keys. Keep that number handy⁠, for instance in the glove compartment or in your phone’s contact list.

Also, take note of all the country’s emergency contacts:

  • All emergencies: 112
  • Police: 113
  • Fire brigade: 115 
  • Roadside assistance: 116
  • Medical emergencies: 118

What are the main roads in Southern Italy?

  • A1 Milan – Rome – Naples (“Autostrada del Sole“, Highway of the Sun, or “Autosole“)
  • A3 Napoli – Salerno
  • A14 Bologna – Taranto (“Autostrada Adriatica“, Adriatic Motorway)
  • A16 Naples – Canosa (“Autostrada dei Due Mari“, Motorway of the Two Seas)
  • A18 Messina – Catania / Syracuse – Rosolini
  • A19 Palermo – Catania

Bonus Tips on Driving in Southern Italy

  • All passengers must wear seatbelts whether they are in the front or back seats.
  • Children under 12 must wear an age-appropriate restraint.
  • Don’t consume more than the legal limit of alcohol (the legal limit is 50mg per 100ml of blood).
  • Be aware that theft from rental cars is a chronic problem in Southern Italy. Don’t leave valuables in your car and park it with an attendant rather than on the side of the street. 
The Stella

Author The Stella

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