Modes of transportation pros and cons.
Traveling from town to town by car:
Pros: one doesn’t have to rely on trains and their delays.
Trains are notorious for being late, at times for several hours. Trains are somewhat complicated, with different classes and connections and tickets.
The train stations are not easy either. Most tickets sales are done by machines which are often broken and cryptic, but are still more helpful than human ticket salespersons.
With a car you don’t have to deal with carrying luggage all over the place, leaving them at the hotel or train station if you are checking out of the room but want to sight-see before leaving, and you can take detours to go to small towns on the way, if you want to, and not have to change trains several times.
You are in your own environment and you control it.
Cons: You are in your own environment, and you drive it.
Driving can be tiring and tedious for the person driving, who doesn’t get to see much.
It really helps to study your planned route because if you make a wrong turn, your GPS guidance system will find an alternate route for you that might take you through narrow, winding, seemingly seldom used dirt roads that can lead into people's back yards. You will eventually get to where you are going. Key term: "eventually." (Ask me how I know.)
Traffic, both on highway and in cities, can be very stressful, and people drive quite aggressively there.
It helps to learn basics, like signaling all the time when changing lanes, and what some signs mean, like the 'no parking any time,' 'tow away zone' and 'no traffic zone' (ZTL Zona Traffico Limitato) where cars are not allowed to go in, unless residents.
Tickets are expensive, speed traps are common (ask me how we know) and they will find you, even if you are renting a car. (Ask me how we know).
Gas is about four times the price in the United States. Diesel cars are not as common as gasoline cars, and some electric cars are becoming available, although electric charging stations are not as ubiquitous as gas stations.
Most highways have tolls. The longer the stretch, the higher the toll.
Parking is nearly impossible in most towns, and in city centers entering and parking is almost impossible. Some hotels have connections with parking garages, but they are not necessarily next door to the hotel, and they are not necessarily free.
Most times in order to park you have to pay the garage and then a tax on top of it, making it almost cheaper to drive the car into the room and pay for an extra bed.
Cars are mostly stick shifts, but automatics can be rented for extra money.
Go for a larger car if you have four people and several luggage cases. When rental car companies in Italy say a trunk fits two luggage cases and one briefcase, they mean it.
When they say the car fits four people they mean very small people.
'Seats five' means 'seats uncomfortably.'
We rented a station wagon, which was a regular car by American standards, but had a large trunk. The extra persons could have fit in the trunk. The price wasn’t much more than the standard car so check the prices.
The rental car companies have lots of options, like returning the car empty or full, (check in advance to see if there are gas stations before you get to the rental car place when returning the car. We paid for the option to bring the car as it was, and ended up bringing it with about half a tank, and there were gas stations near the airport... Their gas was expensive. But we wanted to make sure we didn’t have to look all over the place for a gas station and then miss the plane.) Also, keep in mind the time. If you are leaving at 6 am, and need to be at the airport check-in at 4 am, you might not want to have to look for a station, and they might not be open.... So, figure all this out before you leave, as making these decisions at the rental car office is usually expensive.
Insurance is also offered. Check with your credit card or insurance company to see if they offer any coverage on rental cars. It might be cheaper, but do they cover everything?
Also, check with the rental company about traffic tickets. They have fees on top of the ticket, just to send you an email to let you know you got a ticket... Ask me how I know...
And this is all about cars, that I can think of. If I think of more, I will update this page.
Trains will come in another page, even though I covered some of it already.