Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

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jaj2276
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Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by jaj2276 »

I'm starting to panic. I'll be in Tuscany in mid June for 5 days. We fly in to Rome and then take a train to Barga. Me, my wife, two daughters (8 and 6) and my wife's parents are on the trip.

My resort suggested we rent a car/van while there. The thought of driving internationally scares me a little bit but I'm willing to go out of my comfort zone to experience off the beaten path Italy.

The problem is:

1) I need a bigger car and/or van for 6 ppl.
2) I need it to be automatic. I know how to drive a manual but I don't drive one normally.
3) I need an English website to make/manage the reservation. My resort sent me a list of car rental places in Lucca, Italy but a lot of their websites were in Italian which doesn't work so well for someone who can't speak Italian.

Does anyone have any thoughts/tips? Should i just scrap the car/van rental?
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ResearchMed
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Re: Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by ResearchMed »

jaj2276 wrote: Mon May 13, 2024 10:21 am I'm starting to panic. I'll be in Tuscany in mid June for 5 days. We fly in to Rome and then take a train to Barga. Me, my wife, two daughters (8 and 6) and my wife's parents are on the trip.

My resort suggested we rent a car/van while there. The thought of driving internationally scares me a little bit but I'm willing to go out of my comfort zone to experience off the beaten path Italy.

The problem is:

1) I need a bigger car and/or van for 6 ppl.
2) I need it to be automatic. I know how to drive a manual but I don't drive one normally.
3) I need an English website to make/manage the reservation. My resort sent me a list of car rental places in Lucca, Italy but a lot of their websites were in Italian which doesn't work so well for someone who can't speak Italian.

Does anyone have any thoughts/tips? Should i just scrap the car/van rental?

If you are staying at a resort, how much time do you think you'd be using the van/SUV?
If only to do some occasional touring, but not "almost all day, almost every day", then perhaps hiring a driver and vehicle? Someone who can give you a tour, who knows the area, someone you can discuss in advance what you'd like to see, where you'd like to go?
Then the would-be driver (you) could also enjoy the views and any special sights, etc.

Especially with a group, the "value" of a private guide/tour is so much better than if one or two people do the same thing. And you can deduct the cost of the rental AND the insurance.
NOTE: Double check that car insurance while in Italy!

Enjoy your trip!
It's beautiful there!

RM
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jaj2276
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Re: Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by jaj2276 »

ResearchMed wrote: Mon May 13, 2024 10:32 am
jaj2276 wrote: Mon May 13, 2024 10:21 am ...

If you are staying at a resort, how much time do you think you'd be using the van/SUV?
I was hoping to rent a van for 3 of our 5 days and make day trips. I can't imagine spending 5 days at my resort. I was thinking 1 day at resort, 1 day in village, 3 days road-tripping.
ResearchMed wrote: Mon May 13, 2024 10:32 am If only to do some occasional touring, but not "almost all day, almost every day", then perhaps hiring a driver and vehicle? Someone who can give you a tour, who knows the area, someone you can discuss in advance what you'd like to see, where you'd like to go?
Then the would-be driver (you) could also enjoy the views and any special sights, etc.

Especially with a group, the "value" of a private guide/tour is so much better than if one or two people do the same thing. And you can deduct the cost of the rental AND the insurance.
NOTE: Double check that car insurance while in Italy!

Enjoy your trip!
It's beautiful there!

RM
I never considered hiring a driver, I assumed that would be expensive. Maybe I'll look into private cars/drivers.
rich126
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Re: Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by rich126 »

There are places in Italy you could not pay me any amount to drive. Also cities can have terrible traffic, narrow roads or a lot of crime. I definitely wouldn't drive in Naples. Rome is a tough drive. Maybe other places are fine.
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Re: Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by neilpilot »

jaj2276 wrote: Mon May 13, 2024 10:21 am
The problem is:

1) I need a bigger car and/or van for 6 ppl.
2) I need it to be automatic. I know how to drive a manual but I don't drive one normally.
3) I need an English website to make/manage the reservation. My resort sent me a list of car rental places in Lucca, Italy but a lot of their websites were in Italian which doesn't work so well for someone who can't speak Italian.

Does anyone have any thoughts/tips? Should i just scrap the car/van rental?
1) I rent a car often for our frequent trips to Spain, usually just for my DW & I. However, I once rented a van to accommodate 4 additional traveling companions. I learned that, due to the larger size, many small villages and older neighborhoods in larger towns were difficult or impossible to navigate. That was also true for some parking garages. If you do rent for 6, go for the smallest vehicle possible.

2) If you know how to drive a manual shift, why do you need an automatic?

3) I've found that google translate or a similar app can make many, but not all, non-English websites usable.


I have some driving experience in Italy, and in general the driving in non-urban areas can be difficult. Driving in urban areas can be impossible.
However, in general the further north you are the more civilized the driving (and parking) conditions. Don't leave any luggage or other valuables visible in your rental.

Also, be aware that Italy does require you have a current IDP, and some rental agencies may require you show it when arriving for the rental.
adamthesmythe
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Re: Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by adamthesmythe »

A search on Expedia shows many car rental companies in Lucca, including most of those well known in the US. No Enterprise, unfortunately. OP can reserve online in English.

Yes, size of the vehicle is a concern, although it does not appear that OP is thinking about driving into Rome.

Although in principle an international license is required, I have never ever been asked for one in any European country.
02nz
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Re: Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by 02nz »

You might look for an MPV like the VW Sharan. They typically seat 6 or 7 and are quite common in Europe, and they are not too much bigger than a normal car (and much smaller than U.S. "minvans" which are far from mini). As another poster noted, a lot of places off the beaten path will be difficult to impossible to navigate with a larger vehicle, like those vans airport shuttle services use.

ETA: I did a search on carrentals.com for random dates in Lucca, only 5-passenger vehicles available, but in Florence you can rent 7-passenger vehicles. Just don't get one of the massive 9-passenger ones.
Last edited by 02nz on Mon May 13, 2024 11:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
popoki
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Re: Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by popoki »

There have been several posts over the years about drivers receiving Italian parking and driving tickets and fines, unknown to the drivers at the time:

viewtopic.php?t=418388

viewtopic.php?t=282088

viewtopic.php?t=313043

viewtopic.php?t=365962

viewtopic.php?t=48099

viewtopic.php?t=323899
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ResearchMed
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Re: Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by ResearchMed »

neilpilot wrote: Mon May 13, 2024 10:48 am many small villages and older neighborhoods in larger towns were difficult or impossible to navigate. That was also true for some parking garages. If you do rent for 6, go for the smallest vehicle possible.

OP, please note what neilpilot wrote.
Cars in Europe are often MUCH smaller (smaller!} than we are accustomed to in the USA.
Not only can parking, or just driving, be a concern there, but especially if you are in the older villages, which is where you seem to be (and that's some of the beautiful areas), they built those villages before they "knew" about large vehicles.
And passage might be truly impossible, so you'd need to back up (good luck if there are others behind you), and then consult a map for an alternate route.
However, some/many of those are likely the areas that you would NOT want to miss by driving around them!

I had forgotten about this.

I think there is a train from Lucca to Florence, and that's a city you may well want to spend a day seeing.
And then there's San Gimignano (an old fortress type city).

If you search private tours Lucca, you should get a start.
You can also ask your resort, but if they give you a price, also check for something similar, in case the resort is tacking on a hefty fee.

RM
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Re: Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by neilpilot »

adamthesmythe wrote: Mon May 13, 2024 11:05 am
Although in principle an international license is required, I have never ever been asked for one in any European country.
Many European countries do not require an IDP (which isn't a license). However, a few such as Italy do. I drive somewhere in Europe every year, but have never been stopped for a moving violation. Only once has a rental company required me to show my IDP. However it's cheap and easy to get one and I sure would want one if I happened to be stopped by the police in Italy.
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Re: Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by safari »

Navigating narrow streets in Italian cities is challenging in a small vehicle, let alone in a large SUV or a van. Finding parking will be a major headache. All credit card rental coverages specifically exclude Italy, so you will have to buy expensive insurance from the rental company. Add to that the fact that Italy has many speed trap cameras, which monitor the average speed between the checkpoints, and will automatically issue tickets if your average speed exceeds the speed limit. If I were you, I'd hire a tour guide driver.
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Re: Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by ZMonet »

I'll second paying someone to drive you. I don't know how some of these cars pass each other without hitting each other or going over a cliff. I would think it will be a very stressful vacation otherwise.
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Re: Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by Fat Lip »

Tuscany is easy for driving I found. Mostly quiet and beautiful country roads and a network of good highways and larger roads. It's much easier than places like the Amalfi Coast or any of the larger cities. If you go to visit Florence or Siena you will likely be parking in an underground garage outside the city walls and then walking in. Most of the historic towns and villages are restricted from driving into anyway - those areas are marked with Zona Traffico Limitato (ZTL) signs.

All the main rental companies have locations at Pisa airport which is close to Lucca and reachable by taxi. Search Hertz/Avis/Europcar/Sixt etc and see what cars they have. You probably need a minivan since three-row SUVs are not common there.
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Re: Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by bombcar »

I rented a smaller vehicle from Hertz in Rome a few years ago, not sure if they still operate. Seems they still do.

But nothing with 6 persons, I'm sure if you poke around you could get one.

An "international license" is easy to get, at least for me with a AAA membership: https://www.aaa.com/vacation/idpf.html It's not really necessary, it just translates your information into various languages.

I had fun driving around Italy, even in the cities. Just beware that you can and WILL be dinged with a 300$ fee or so if you violate the "inner city" rules in some locations (Florence, I shake my fist at thee!).

The biggest issue might be the automatic, but the worst case is they have to find one. I'd make the reservation, and include in the notes "car must hold 6 people and be an automatic transmission" in both English and Italian (bad machine translation is fine) - and try to get the vehicle as soon as you can after arriving, and be aware you may have to come back a day later to swap it for an automatic.

Driving in Europe is not to be missed, and you will find places like Montepulciano that are impractical to hit without a vehicle.

If Barga is off the beaten path it may be a bit more difficult; but have the resort arrange it for you! worst case you spend a bit more than you would have. The other option is for you to take a trip to a nearby city like Pisa (either by yourself or everyone) and rent there.
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Re: Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by ResearchMed »

If you are going on your own to 'tourist places" (instead of with a guide), double check if you can get tickets to any special sights/museums with a specific time so you don't have to wait in a long line.
Some guides are able to avoid the lines or will get the tickets in advance for you.

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Re: Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by GT99 »

If you're driving will be mostly in Tuscany, you'll probably be fine. I wouldn't want to drive a small vehicle in Rome or the Amalfi coast region, much less a big one.

One important thing to point out about driving in Italy - their approach to driving is very fundamentally different than the US. In the US, most drivers drive with an approach of not forcing other drivers to react to you. Obviously, there are exceptions, and those are the drivers that generally piss others off, but that is the norm. In Italy, it's the opposite - people drive with the assumption that others will react to them. Cutting people off, etc, is just the normal way folks drive. It's expected and it works for them, but it would be hard for me.

For context, I've driven in France, Germany, and the UK and I didn't have any issues, but I wouldn't want to drive in much of Italy.
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Re: Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by TomatoTomahto »

ZMonet wrote: Mon May 13, 2024 11:23 am I'll second paying someone to drive you. I don't know how some of these cars pass each other without hitting each other or going over a cliff. I would think it will be a very stressful vacation otherwise.
+1

I’ve driven a normal sized sedan in Ireland and Scotland; some of the narrow roads are a challenge. In my younger days I drove through Germany, France, Austria, etc.

I would not consider driving a larger vehicle in Italy.
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Re: Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by neilpilot »

bombcar wrote: Mon May 13, 2024 11:31 am
An "international license" is easy to get, at least for me with a AAA membership: https://www.aaa.com/vacation/idpf.html It's not really necessary, it just translates your information into various languages.

You're statement "it's not really necessary" is somewhat misleading. It's like saying a driver's license isn't really necessary here in TN. After all, I could drive without a license where I live so long as I'm never stopped or have an accident.

Most, but not all, rental companies in Italy won't ask for an IDP. They aren't responsible for your driving. However, some will require an IDP before processing the rental. Last year someone in front of me in the car rental line in Malaga, Spain was refused a rental because they couldn't produce an IDP.

The police in Italy will want to see your IDP if you're stopped. Some will simply give you a verbal warning and let you go. A friend was stopped for speeding in Tuscany, and he was charged an additional fine payable on the spot for not having an IDP. I've heard that a tourists stopped by the police can even be forced to get an "official translation" of their US license before being allowed to proceed.
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Re: Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by bombcar »

neilpilot wrote: Mon May 13, 2024 12:00 pm and he was charged an additional fine payable on the spot for not having an IDP
As an aside (and I personally got the IDP just in case) a "fine on the spot" is almost always a bribe.
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Re: Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by fogalog »

jaj2276 wrote: Mon May 13, 2024 10:21 am I'm starting to panic. I'll be in Tuscany in mid June for 5 days. We fly in to Rome and then take a train to Barga. Me, my wife, two daughters (8 and 6) and my wife's parents are on the trip.

My resort suggested we rent a car/van while there. The thought of driving internationally scares me a little bit but I'm willing to go out of my comfort zone to experience off the beaten path Italy.

The problem is:

1) I need a bigger car and/or van for 6 ppl.
2) I need it to be automatic. I know how to drive a manual but I don't drive one normally.
3) I need an English website to make/manage the reservation. My resort sent me a list of car rental places in Lucca, Italy but a lot of their websites were in Italian which doesn't work so well for someone who can't speak Italian.

Does anyone have any thoughts/tips? Should i just scrap the car/van rental?
Driving in Italy is certainly a little different than the US but really it is city parking that would concern me, particularly for a larger vehicle: cars in Europe tend to be smaller on average. Yes, you can rent a larger car but a 6-seater will be pretty expensive (and more difficult to park). Automatic should not be an issue.

Why not take the train? There is a train station in Barga and you can get to Florence, Sienna, Pisa, etc pretty easily. It is stress free and you will arrive in the centre of the town. Specifically I would definitely not drive into Florence or Sienna.

If you do wish for some flexibility, you could ask at the hotel regarding a local driver. I have done this in other countries where I just didn't want the hassle. It costs more but no concerns about insurance, traffic fines, parking, etc.

Good luck!
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Re: Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by fogalog »

neilpilot wrote: Mon May 13, 2024 12:00 pm
bombcar wrote: Mon May 13, 2024 11:31 am
An "international license" is easy to get, at least for me with a AAA membership: https://www.aaa.com/vacation/idpf.html It's not really necessary, it just translates your information into various languages.

You're statement "it's not really necessary" is somewhat misleading. It's like saying a driver's license isn't really necessary here in TN. After all, I could drive without a license where I live so long as I'm never stopped or have an accident.

Most, but not all, rental companies in Italy won't ask for an IDP. They aren't responsible for your driving. However, some will require an IDP before processing the rental. Last year someone in front of me in the car rental line in Malaga, Spain was refused a rental because they couldn't produce an IDP.

The police in Italy will want to see your IDP if you're stopped. Some will simply give you a verbal warning and let you go. A friend was stopped for speeding in Tuscany, and he was charged an additional fine payable on the spot for not having an IDP. I've heard that a tourists stopped by the police can even be forced to get an "official translation" of their US license before being allowed to proceed.
I have driven / rented cars in Europe almost every year for over 20 years with a US licence and I can honestly say this is the first time I have even heard of an IDP.
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Re: Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by hunoraut »

Dont conflate all of Italy. The driving in the north is quite different from the relative chaos of driving in the South.

Youre also not going to find yourself trapped between a narrow alleyway all of a sudden, either. The medieval city center typically defining restricted ZTL is a bit obvious that youre not squeezing your minivan through unless youre deliberately aloof.
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Re: Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by neilpilot »

fogalog wrote: Mon May 13, 2024 2:54 pm
I have driven / rented cars in Europe almost every year for over 20 years with a US licence and I can honestly say this is the first time I have even heard of an IDP.
I have no idea where you drive in Europe; maybe where you typically go an IDP isn't require? I believe that the only European countries that require an IDP are Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Greece, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Italy, Slovenia, and Spain.

In the past decade, I've traveled to Europe 1-2 times each year. I only renew my IDP when I plan to drive where it's required (for me, that's been Germany, Italy and Spain). Over the past 10 years when I've traveled to Scotland, Ireland, England, France, Portugal, Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark I haven't bothered to renew my IDP.
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Re: Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by Raybo »

rich126 wrote: Mon May 13, 2024 10:44 am There are places in Italy you could not pay me any amount to drive. Also cities can have terrible traffic, narrow roads or a lot of crime. I definitely wouldn't drive in Naples. Rome is a tough drive. Maybe other places are fine.
This comment brought up a memory of bike riding in Italy. I did a ride from Naples down to Sicily, ending in Palermo. I was staying with a bicycling local in Naples who darted in and out of Neapolitan traffic like it was nothing. I followed him as well as I could but I was scared.

Fast forward 30 days. On the last day of this trip, I arrived on the outskirts of Palermo (Italy's 3rd largest city) and calmly, but attentively, rode my bike across the city during rush hour. Yes, it was a bit chaotic, but there was a rhythm to it that, by them, I'd become somewhat aware of. Incidentally, with all the complaining about Italian drivers, you rarely see a dent in a car there.

My wife and I have driven in Italy more than once and, frankly, I didn't find it any worse then driving in LA or SF. Pay attention, drive defensively, and don't hurry and you will be fine. It helps to know a bit of Italian and to know what the different traffic symbols mean. Your car will have a GPS, so directions shouldn't be a problem.

Have a great trip!
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Re: Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by fogalog »

neilpilot wrote: Mon May 13, 2024 4:09 pm
fogalog wrote: Mon May 13, 2024 2:54 pm
I have driven / rented cars in Europe almost every year for over 20 years with a US licence and I can honestly say this is the first time I have even heard of an IDP.
I have no idea where you drive in Europe; maybe where you typically go an IDP isn't require? I believe that the only European countries that require an IDP are Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Greece, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Italy, Slovenia, and Spain.

In the past decade, I've traveled to Europe 1-2 times each year. I only renew my IDP when I plan to drive where it's required (for me, that's been Germany, Italy and Spain). Over the past 10 years when I've traveled to Scotland, Ireland, England, France, Portugal, Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark I haven't bothered to renew my IDP.
Last year for example I rented cars in both the UK and Greece (Corfu).
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Re: Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by neilpilot »

fogalog wrote: Mon May 13, 2024 5:52 pm
neilpilot wrote: Mon May 13, 2024 4:09 pm
fogalog wrote: Mon May 13, 2024 2:54 pm
I have driven / rented cars in Europe almost every year for over 20 years with a US licence and I can honestly say this is the first time I have even heard of an IDP.
I have no idea where you drive in Europe; maybe where you typically go an IDP isn't require? I believe that the only European countries that require an IDP are Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Greece, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Italy, Slovenia, and Spain.

In the past decade, I've traveled to Europe 1-2 times each year. I only renew my IDP when I plan to drive where it's required (for me, that's been Germany, Italy and Spain). Over the past 10 years when I've traveled to Scotland, Ireland, England, France, Portugal, Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark I haven't bothered to renew my IDP.
Last year for example I rented cars in both the UK and Greece (Corfu).
You were legal in the UK, but technically illegal in Greece.
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Re: Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by NYCaviator »

jaj2276 wrote: Mon May 13, 2024 10:21 am Should i just scrap the car/van rental?
Yes. I’ve driven in Italy many times, and it’s not as scary as it sounds. But… I’ve always rented tiny cars, and never driven them inside a bigger town/city. Small cars are hard enough to maneuver in some places, and almost impossible to park. I can’t imagine a big van. Is there free parking where you are staying? What about where you plan to drive? (If there’s parking at all…)

I’d hire a driver when you need a car. They’ll know the area, and it’ll be a lot less stressful for you and your family.
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Re: Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by AlwaysLearningMore »

I agree completely with seriously considering hiring a driver/van while in Italy. We did that on our most recent trip there with the family, and it was an excellent decision.
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Re: Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by Pacific »

Consider contacting Minnesotan Ginger Pozzini at designingitaly.com. My wife and I hired her upon recommendation of some U.S. resident Italian friends who hire her when THEY go to Italy. She was wonderful, set up all our tours and drivers, and, most importantly, talked me out of my week's plans between our 14-day Classic Italy Tauck tour and a friends beautiful place in the Sicily countryside, by making me go instead to Tuscany. Best move we ever made. Up there with Bali and the South Island of New Zealand as one of the most beautiful places we've ever been.
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Re: Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by eddot98 »

jaj2276 wrote: Mon May 13, 2024 10:21 am I'm starting to panic. I'll be in Tuscany in mid June for 5 days. We fly in to Rome and then take a train to Barga. Me, my wife, two daughters (8 and 6) and my wife's parents are on the trip.

My resort suggested we rent a car/van while there. The thought of driving internationally scares me a little bit but I'm willing to go out of my comfort zone to experience off the beaten path Italy.

The problem is:

1) I need a bigger car and/or van for 6 ppl.
2) I need it to be automatic. I know how to drive a manual but I don't drive one normally.
3) I need an English website to make/manage the reservation. My resort sent me a list of car rental places in Lucca, Italy but a lot of their websites were in Italian which doesn't work so well for someone who can't speak Italian.

Does anyone have any thoughts/tips? Should i just scrap the car/van rental?
Where do you go after Barga and how will you get there? We stayed at the Renaissance Tuscany in Barga for 5 nights last fall for our second stay there. We drove there from Switzerland, went to a few Tuscan villages from Barga, and then drove to Genoa on our way to the Milan airport. If you are staying there or another resort near there, unless you expect to just lay around the pool all day and eat all your meals at the hotel, you definitely need a car. If it were me, I would take the train from Rome to Lucca and pick up the rental car there. You would still be 45 minutes or so from Barga. We use Travelocity to search for rental cars and you can set your search to only show “other vehicles” which include station wagons, vans, etc. There are only 2 of us, but we usually try to rent a compact wagon for convenience. Unfortunately, they only hold 5 passengers. I always have an International Driver’s Permit, just in case. Barga is not very close to the best Tuscany destinations, so there is a lot of driving necessary to reach them. Over 20 years (and I’m now 73 years old), I have driven in almost every country in Western Europe (except the UK only because we have only been to London) and I have never had a problem. Just exercise care and watch for speed limits and excluded zones in central cities.
Lucca is definitely worth a day trip. So is Montacatini Alta. San Gigmigiano, Siena, Monteriggioni, and Florence are doable for a long day trip. Between 2 stays in Barga, we did them all and more - lots of time in the car though.
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Re: Renting a SUV/Van in Italy

Post by MH2 »

jaj2276 wrote: Mon May 13, 2024 10:40 am I was hoping to rent a van for 3 of our 5 days and make day trips. I can't imagine spending 5 days at my resort. I was thinking 1 day at resort, 1 day in village, 3 days road-tripping.
Is there any reason you wouldn’t want to take public transportation?

We’re in Northern Italy 1-2 times a year for vacation. It’s 50/50 whether we drive down but, when it comes to getting around once we’re there, we generally default to the local bus/light rail network.
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