Italy — Transportation
Italy Taxis and Car Rental
If you plan to visit any remote destinations in Italy or you want the freedom to go wherever, self-drive is the best option. If you’re traveling in a group, it’s also the most economic way to see this spectacular country. Most roads, especially the Autostrada long-distance routes, are well-kept, although in the northern the switchback twists and turns of the mountain roads can be nerve-wracking.
Italian drivers are fast, skillful and aggressive, with late braking, lane-hopping and tailgating at incredible speeds the norm. Driving in Milan, Rome and Naples is best avoided but, once in more rural areas, common sense takes over and driving is more pleasant. Car rental is available everywhere, but getting one in the big cites is not recommended as parking is almost impossible.
Most taxi drivers in Italy are honest, friendly and professional, and cabs can be hailed all over the larger cities and tourist towns. Registered vehicles should always be used, either from a cab stand or by phone. Take note though, pickup charges start from the minute the driver gets the call, so the meter will already have a charge when you get in.
Negotiated rates are an invitation to scam, and if the meter is ‘broken’, find another cab. A small tip is acceptable, and small bills save you from the driver’s common ‘don’t have any change’ ploy. In Rome, Taxifacile (+39-03-553-8724) is good, and Naples’ Cotana (+39-081-570-7070) is one of the city’s five recognized taxi cooperatives.
Italy Water Taxis
A romantic way to travel from Naples to the resorts on the Amalfi coast, the islands of Ischia and Capri or the beach resort of Sorrento is by boat, with hydrofoils and ferries leaving regularly from Naples harbor. If Sicily is on the vacation agenda, ferries also run from Naples down the Mediterranean coastline and across to the island.
Italy Trains and Buses
Italian train service is in general reliable, frequent and a good value for the money. High-speed expresses, known as Eurostar Italia, connect the major cities, while slower intercity routes connect cities and regional towns, and local trains run between towns. The Eurocity and Euronight express connect Italy with other European railways. The cost of train travel is less than in many other European countries and the comfort levels range from luxury to acceptable.
The high-speed route between Milan, Bologna, Florence, Rome and Naples cuts the average travel time in half due to a dedicated high-speed line, with travel times to other cities in Italy taking slightly longer on traditional railroads. Treni Notte are night trains, used on longer routes such as Milan to Rome and offer sleeper cars and couchettes. For Eurostar Italia, reservations must be made in advance, regardless if you’re traveling in first or second class. Intercity seats can be reserved, but it’s not mandatory.
Buses are the preferred means of travel between Italy’s cities and towns set close together, particularly in hilly regions as buses end in town centers, while trains can’t climb hills. Buses operate regionally, and there is no national network covering far away destinations, making it difficult to plan long-distance journeys. SENA Autolines is the exception to this rule, as it covers routes across regional borders to specific Italian cities. City-wide bus networks are comfortable, clean and cheap, and are reasonably easy to use.