For members


Reader question: What are the longer-term alternatives to car hire in Italy?

Planning a leisurely summer break in Italy but baulk at the cost of booking a rental car for more than a couple of weeks? This guide's for you.

Alternatives are available for those wanting to explore Italy while avoiding hefty car rental fees.
Alternatives are available for those wanting to explore Italy while avoiding hefty car rental fees. Photo by Daniel Hansen on Unsplash

Question: I am planning on spending around two months in Italy this summer, and I am wondering what my best options are regarding hiring a car. Standard car hire daily rates would be cost prohibitive, so I’m wondering whether something like short term car leasing would be an option?

If you’re going to Italy on holiday and want to expand your horizons beyond Rome, Venice and Florence, rental cars can be an easy and convenient way to get around.

But if you’re planning on devoting your whole summer to exploring the Bel paese, renting a vehicle for the duration of your stay can indeed quickly become expensive, and constant worrying about small scratches and scrapes can suck the joy out of the experience.

Here are a few alternatives if you want to maximise your time in the country while avoiding paying a small fortune in car rental fees.

READ ALSO: Seven crowd-free alternatives to Italy’s tourist hotspots

Car buy-back lease schemes

A car buy-back lease programme is one in which you technically (but don’t really) ‘buy’ a car with the guarantee that a rental company will buy it back from you when you’ve finished using it.

The programme is most widespread in France (as it’s French car manufacturers who offer the service through a French government tourism incentive scheme), but it’s also available in Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK.

The advantages of this set-up are that you get a brand new car (usually with built-in GPS at no extra cost), you don’t have to pay VAT, you get zero-deductible insurance as part of the package, and you can add additional drivers free of charge – all of which can amount to some significant savings, especially if you’re staying for more than a few weeks.

READ ALSO: Italy named world’s ‘most desirable’ holiday destination

You can also freely travel to eastern European countries like Hungary, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina on a leased car, an option that isn’t normally available with rental companies without a hefty surcharge.

To take advantage of the scheme, you need to reside outside the European Union and be at least 18 years old. You can lease a car for anywhere between 21 days and five and a half months.

The three main companies that offer the service in Italy are represented by Auto Europe. You can book online through their website at the links below for:

You will need to pick the car up and drop it off in either Milan or Rome, as these are the only two locations available in Italy.

Bear in mind that as a leased car is manufactured from scratch, you will need to make your order several weeks in advance.

Combine train travel with occasional short-term rental

Italy’s public transport services can be patchy depending on whereabouts in the country you are, but its long-distance fast trains are typically frequent and reliable.

If you’re planning a multi-week holiday that will incorporate a mix of city-based and countryside/ mountain/ coastal stays, consider using trains to get from one region to the next, and renting a car for a few days at a time only when it’s really necessary. 

READ ALSO: 23 famous quotes to inspire you to travel to Italy

For getting around the Amalfi coast, the Dolomites, or parts of the South, for example, you’ll probably want a car to give you total autonomy and access to more remote locations. But if you’re moving between these places and better-connected urban areas up north, you likely won’t need a car for a good portion of your trip.

Driving along a road in Grimaldi in Calabria, southern Italy. Photo by Chris Holgersson on Unsplash

Most Italian cities have decent enough public transport networks as far as tourists are concerned, but if you prefer to get everywhere by car, car-sharing apps which allow you to rent for very short journeys at the touch of a button are available in the majority of Italy’s urban centres.

Ride sharing

This is a slightly more labour-intensive but very budget-friendly option best suited to small groups of people travelling without children (as it involves car pooling with another person/people who are unlikely to have space in their car for an entire family).

Websites like BlaBlaCar allow you to book a lift with someone who happens to be driving to your destination at the same time as you for a very small fee, as well as suggesting cheap coach and public transport alternatives.

The disadvantage, of course, is that you may not be able to find someone who wants to take your exact route on your desired day and time, so you have to be flexible and willing to make up your plans on the fly.

READ ALSO: 13 places in Italy that look like they belong in a fairy tale

You’ll also be thrown into the company of a stranger for a few hours, which you might see as either a benefit or a drawback depending on the kind of person you are.

If you’re a spontaneous extravert and time is on your side, however, this is a very cost-effective and illuminating way to see the country, and you’re bound to get insights you wouldn’t otherwise have access to through conversations on the long car drives with locals.

Member comments

  1. Lease a Peugeot from Auto France. Worth the extra delivery charge, or fly into Geneva and pick it up on the French side. One month comes out to about 37 euros a day for a great car.

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For members


Reader question: How do I renew my Italian driver’s licence?

Wondering how to renew your driver's licence in Italy? Here's what you need to know.

Reader question: How do I renew my Italian driver's licence?

Once you’ve done the work of getting your Italian driver’s licence, renewing it is relatively straightforward – but you’ll still want to make sure you have everything ready to go to so the process is as smooth as possible when the time comes.

READ ALSO: What you’ll need to do if you bring a car to Italy from another country

Here’s everything you need to know about applying to renew your driving licence in Italy.

How often do I need to renew my licence?

A or B Italian driving licences, which allow the holder to drive cars, mopeds and motorcycles, need to be renewed:

  • Every ten years up to the age of 50.
  • Every five years between the ages of 50 and 70.
  • Every three years between the ages of 70 and 80.
  • Every two years after the age of 80.

People who have epilepsy or have ever had a seizure must complete a medical examination every two years to retain their licence; this does not apply to drivers who have gone ten years without a seizure.

Drivers with diabetes also need to undergo semi-regular medical exams to keep hold of their licence – in this case the required frequency is determined by the doctors conducting the exams.

What do I need to do?

You’ll need to renew your permit at your local Ministry of Transport office, the ‘ufficio della motorizzazione civile’, often known simply as the ‘motorizazzione‘, which is the Italian equivalent of the DMV in the US or the DVLA in the UK.

There’s usually at least one of these offices in every town. You can find a list of locations on the Ministry’s website.

To renew your licence, you will need:

  • Receipts for two separate payments made to the Italian government: one for €10.20 to the DMV, another for a tax duty fee of €16.

The easiest way to pay these is via postal order at your local post office or your nearest DMV office. The €10.20 payment should be made out to c/c 9001, the current account for the DMV, while the €16 tax stamp payment should go to c/c 4028.

You can also pay the bills online by registering in advance either with the Italian post office website or with the Ministry of Transport’s motorists’ portal; and at certain tobacconist’s shops, if they are affiliated with Banca 5 (formerly Banca ITB).

You will also need:

  • Your expiring driver’s licence.
  • A valid identity document, such as your Italian carta d’identita (ID card) or passport (take photocopies in case you need to hand them over).
  • Your Italian tax code (codice fiscale). This can be found on your carta d’identita or Italian health card (tessera sanitaria).
  • Two passport photos.

What happens next?

Once you have these documents ready, the next step is to book a medical exam.

The exam can be arranged through your local health authority office (Azienda Sanitaria Locale, or Asl), or through a DMV office or driving school. You can expect to pay between €60 and €90 for the exam – booking with the DMV or a driving school will cost more than going through the Asl.

You will need to bring all the items listed above to your doctor’s appointment. They will review your documents and test your sight, hearing and general physical fitness.

READ ALSO: ‘Anyone can do it’: Why passing your Italian driving test isn’t as difficult as it sounds

When do I get my new licence?

Here the advice differs depending on who you listen to.

Some guides say that your licence will be issued automatically following your medical check up; others that you need to take your medical certificate, along with all the other documents listed above, to your local DMV in order for them to send off for your licence.

Ask your doctor at the time of the check up which applies in your case, and whether or not you need to make the additional visit to the DMV.

A carabinieri police officer checks a driving licence.
A carabinieri police officer checks a driving licence. Photo: Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Once either your doctor or the DMV official has confirmed that the application process is complete, the licence will be prepared by the Ministry of Transport and sent directly to your home address.

You will need to pay the postal worker who delivers the licence a fee of €6.80.

Your licence should be delivered within a couple of weeks of sending off for it.

If you haven’t received anything once this period is up, you can call the Ministry of Transport toll free on +39 800232323 or the Italian Postal Service toll free on +39 800979416 (this last number can only be reached via landline) to enquire about its status.

When should I start the process of renewing my licence?

You can start applying for a new licence within four months of the expiry date of your current licence.

Italian bureaucratic processes can take some time, so it’s recommended to start the application process as soon as possible once you enter the four month window.

What if my licence has already expired?

If your licence recently expired, you’re in luck: due to the coronavirus pandemic, Italy extended the validity of driving licences that expired (or are due to expire) between January 31st, 2020 and May 31st, 2022 until June 29th, 2022.

That means there’s likely to be a rush of applications in June – so if your licence has expired or is set to expire before then, it’s a good idea to start the process now.