Our trip included all forms of transportation: planes, trains, boats, and automobiles. All modes came with their own challenges.
Airplanes: Our fights to Rome were delayed 4+ hours. We had a reserved time to be at a museum in Naples and missed it because of the delay. Our flight home was delayed 28 hours!!!
Lesson learned – don’t plan scheduled things on a travel day. Things don’t always (usually) go according to plan and have a deadline that you are trying to meet adds stress to your vacation – nobody got time for that!
Trains: Easy way to maneuver from point A to point B. If your ticket has an assigned seat, you don’t need to validate. If you don’t have an assigned seat, you do need to validate (it’s the little scanners on the platform).
Lesson learned – check the train schedule at the station on the day you are using the train. Don’t assume the internet schedule is correct. You might show up for the last train and discover it had left the station an hour prior.
Boats: Get on at least 1 in Italy. Take a ferry or a private boat tour around Capri or the Amalfi Coast. See the country from the water.
Lesson learned – the boats were the easiest mode of transportation we had. I did learn that even with gorgeous views I still get seasick pretty easily.
Automobiles: Because we wanted to be able to explore Tuscany easily and we need a car while in Vicenza, we decided to rent a car after we left Rome. Driving in Italy wasn’t super difficult and ended up being a great way for us to travel. We love road trips and were able to have flexibility in our travel schedule.
I strongly recommend getting as small of a car as you can. The roads can get narrow and parking spaces are tight. I saw a really good deal to rent a big Jeep and my Italian friends were like, “of course it’s cheap, everyone knows better.” I totally got what they meant. Get the small car (plus it will save you money on gas).
Speakng of gas, gas stations can be complicated. If you want to pay by credit card or need change, you have to get gas at a station that is open. If it is Sunday or late in the evening, you won’t get change if you put too many Euros in the machine.
Be careful about using cheap travel sites to book your car. I don’t usually publicly post negative reviews about companies, but I went with cheapoair.com because I thought I was saving a couple of hundred of dollars. It turns out that their price left off some pretty big taxes and fees (even though they make it seem inclusive), so when I got to the car rental and my price was $300 more than expected it was not a pleasant feeling. I would have been better served booking directly through Hertz and getting to use my Gold status privileges. While the company didn’t owe me a refund technically, it felt like a sham and I just don’t recommend using them if you want to save money.
I also recommend shelling out the extra money for the GPS. In a foreign country, where you don’t speak the language, is not the time to try and wing it. We had turn by turn directions printed out and that would not have been enough. It’s hard enough to read street signs in your native language, in a foreign one, it’s almost impossible. Additionally, in many towns the street names are on buildings and can be difficult to find. The GPS notification really helps!
Driving in Italy is really fun. Italian drivers views speed limits and stop signs as suggestions so they are really fluid in how fast they go and how much they stop. While they can be aggressive drivers, I never saw any road rage due to non-Italians being more cautious so you can drive how you comfortably feel. I decided when in Italy drive like an Italian (I forgot to change that mindset back in the US and got a speeding ticket)!
If you plan on driving, expect to park outside of towns and walk to the areas you want to go. It is way too hard to try parking and the streets are really narrow. Also, many towns and cities have restricted areas on who can drive (have to have a special permit) and they have zero tolerance (do not care that you are tourist).
I loved driving in Italy!