Transportation in Italy

How to plan your transportation by car, train, bus, or private driver

How do people get around in italy? There are generally more ways than first-time visitors think to get between tourist destinations. Here are some tips on which types of transportation to use on your Italian vacation, and how to go about arranging it.

tuscany day trip

Italy by Train

Italy's trains are generally cheap to ride. Trains on the top routes, especially regional trains, can be very crowded. Since trains are subsidized for underpaid workers, fewer trains run on Sundays.

On the other hand, the train gets you right into most city centers. Some exceptions are hill towns where trains can't make the steep grades up the hill, as in Perugia or Siena. There will be connecting buses from the train stations in such cases.

Learn all about train travel and ticketing: Italy by Train.

Learn all about Italy Rail Passes, and why I have just started recommending them (Hint: the fast trains are more expensive, but short stays are enhanced by their use, so rail passes can save a bundle if you plan right).

How much faster is an Italian fast train over a regional one? The eight hour Rome to Venice regional train is eclipsed by the 4 hour Frecce train. To compare other cities, see this page.

italy train map
Click for a Train Map of Italy

Don't forget to validate that regional ticket!

Italy by Car

If Italy is so cheap to see by train, why do some people want to go by car? Well, there's all those little places Wandering Italy touts--some quite unlikely to have train stations. And there's that scenery and little white roads so narrow you wonder what's going to happen if you have to pass someone.

Gas is expensive. Rent or lease a Diesel car if you want to save a little money (although prices for Diesel fuel are rising, and almost at parity with gasoline). If you're going for a long time, I recommend a buy back lease from our partner Auto Europe. You get a brand new car, great insurance, and you don't have to go through the hassle of filling it up on your way outta Italy. You don't pay more for an extra driver, either. They're our top pick for car rentals in Italy as well; their price includes insurance with no add-ons when you pick it up or drop it off. For short term rentals in Europe, check out their Special Offers.

You'll probably use the Autostrada, Italy's excellent but expensive toll roads. We have a map and information on getting the most out of the experience with our Interactive Autostrada Map. If you've never experienced paying on the autostrada, perhaps you'd like to watch this short video.

Sure, the slow road is better, but the Belle Paese's slow roads have gotten slower as Italy cracks down on the zippy driving Italians are known for. I find myself taking the autostrada (and trains) more and more these days.

The booking box below compares prices for many car rental companies, including Auto Europe, recommended above. Enter the pick-up location and date, then search. Note that many companies add extra charges for drivers over 65, while leases generally do not, but leases require longer stays, generally at least 17-21 days. 

Italian Buses

Can you get around Italy by bus? The qualified answer is yes, there are long distance bus companies--but no national bus network. In small villages and rural areas there's almost always a local bus to get you to bigger city services than you might find in a small village, but the limited scheduled times are for locals and are often inconvenient for travelers. The train is almost always your best option in Italy.

That said, places like Sicily are well served by bus lines like SAIS Autolinee. SITABUS serves serveral regions, and has a forum in English for questions on bus stops and bus lines.

Wanderio has a search for bus routes.

Italy by Air

Flying onto the transportation scene by the droves are the Budget Air Lines. You don't want to take a plane for something that's an hour away by train because of the lag time--those two hours you're going to have to allow before your flight, and the half hour it's going to take you to get to the airport. But if you're going from Venice to Sicily, or Rome to Sardinia, you'll want to take a plane because it's probably more expensive to take anything slower. See our Low Cost Airlines resources for more.

Where are Italy's Airports? See our Italian Airports Map.

Most popular flights to and within Europe

Private Driver

You might never think of hiring a private driver, but this is your vacation. If it's your once in a lifetime dream vacation, then the extra money you pay might be a good investment in time and freedom--from the drudgery and heartache of getting from place to place: driving, finding things, getting in arguments over whether you should ask directions of a stranger, etc.

Viator offers some private transfers in tourist cities. You might also check the local tourist office, which will often keep a list of private tour guides and drivers.

Top Italy Private Drivers

Little Transportation

Just a couple of notes on other ways to get around. A suspended cable car that takes you to great heights is called a "funivia" in Italian. If instead the car that take you to great heights is on rails, it is called a "funicular" in Italian. Orvieto has a funicular that takes you to the old city center. The funivia takes you to the interesting Sanctuary of Our Lady of Montallegro (1559) on a mountainside over Rapallo; we captured it in a video.

Italy Transportation Resources

Rome Fiumicino Airport Map Italy Airports Map Italy Train Map


Italy Airports Map Italy Distances Map