Travelling around Italy

Getting around Italy is not difficult, though it is worth remembering that it’s a big country (by British standards).  If it takes you 12 hours to get from London to Milan by train or car, it will take you the same or longer from Milan to Palermo.


Remember also that Italians drive on the right.  This is relatively easy to keep in mind if you’ve hired a car but easier to forget if you’ve brought your own – or if you’re a pedestrian crossing the road.


Italy by car

Italy by carOnce you are in Italy, car is a good way to travel between cities and out into the countryside.  If you don’t want to drive all the way from home, you can easily hire a car, of course, but you’ll get a much better deal if you book it online in advance.


Petrol is fairly expensive in Italy and so are the motorway tolls, payable on every mainland motorway, but the roads are generally well maintained and Italians' lane discipline is very good so the autostrade are an efficient way to go.


If you’re accustomed to the M6 toll road around Birmingham, don’t be thrown in Italy when you approach what appears to be the toll booths and you can’t find a manned one.  This is the entrance to the motorway, where you just take a ticket.  You pay when you leave the motorway network, according to how much you’ve used it.


Many petrol stations in Italy are unmanned, especially at night.  You feed banknotes into a machine before you take your petrol, so be careful a) to press the right button for the fuel you require (there is no ‘cancel’ button!!) and b) not to pay for more than you need.  The Italian word for petrol is benzina (unleaded is senza piombo) and diesel is gasolio.


If you’re travelling by car in Italy, be sure to have with you a detailed map of the area.  Getting lost can be stressful and going round and round the motorways is a waste of money!


Although a lot of Italians don't bother to put on their seat-belts, it is the law that you have to wear them and it is advisable to do so.


Within a city, it is best not to get around by car. The traffic is usually appalling and the driving is not for the faint-hearted. Italian public transport is of a high standard and there is generally no need to use the car in town.




Italy by train

Train is an excellent way to get about Italy.  Even in quite small places, the trains are reliable and comfortable.  Just pay attention to the system for ticket-checking.  There is a yellow machine at the entrance to the platform, where you must stamp your ticket.  If you fail to do so, you may well be fined; the inspectors can be quite tough.  Be aware also that you have to pay a supplement to travel on some of the fast trains.


Italian stations get very busy and the queues are usually long.  Do make sure you allow enough time to buy and stamp your tickets.


Local buses, trams and the underground

Milan metro trainAs mentioned above, public transport in Italy is good.  In urban areas, buses and trams are frequent, reliable and the best way to travel. In rural areas, the buses are pretty reliable too, though, naturally, less frequent.


Tickets for buses and trams are not sold on the vehicle but at the Tabacchi (tobacconist) and other shops and bars.


Rome and Milan both have an excellent underground service. Milan's is slightly smarter than Rome's but, in both cities, the metropolitana (or metrò for short) is definitely an efficient way of getting about.  You can buy tickets at the stations, though they are the same tickets you use for the bus and tram.


On buses, trams and metro trains, Italians tend to move to stand by the door well in advance of the next stop. If the vehicle is full and you are standing by the door for lack of anywhere else to be, you will almost certainly be asked, Scende alla prossima? or simply, Scende? [Shenday].  This means "Are you getting off at the next?" ('stop' is not specified but implicit).  If you are, you say and that is that.  If you are not, you say No and you will need somehow to get out of the way so that those who are can get nearer the door. (See the Italian language section for more help with what to say when travelling around Italy.)





If you need to take a taxi in Italy, make sure it is licensed (it should have a sign saying TAXI on the roof).  You will be charged extra for every piece of luggage and for travelling at night or on Sundays or holidays.  It’s a good idea to arrange a price for the journey before you set off.


On the whole, it is much better to go by public transport but the occasional taxi ride will be fine, as long as you are careful.  However, you will not find a taxi you can hail in the street; you have to go to a rank or book one by telephone.



As mentioned on the Travelling to Italy page, there are good ferry services to and from the Italian islands, across the big lakes and to and from other countries.  It is always advisable to book in advance, particularly for more serious journeys, and you can do this through



Relevant articles

The Articles about Italy section of this website contains articles from external sources about Italy-related subjects that may be of interest to you. The following article is relevant to travelling around Italy:


Benvenuti! Cruise Italy and the Mediterranean

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