Rich culture, superb cuisine, avant-garde fashion, long history, beautiful coastlines, and scenic summits - these are only a few from the multiple elements making Italy one of the most attractive tourist destinations around the world. It's hard to forget about the imposing landmarks owing to which the country ranks among the top-rated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
How to travel around this magnificent country? There are plenty of possibilities. Tourists and residents can try numerous transport modes, owing to which they can easily move between the most important places. However, if you like planning your trips, a great option for you will be hiring a car. In case of most car hire companies the lower age limit is 18, but you need to remember that if you decide to rent a car before reaching the age of 25, you can be asked to pay the so-called "inexperienced driver" fee.
If you've already chosen an appropriate vehicle and fulfilled all formalities, summon up patience - although the state of Italian roads is rather good, Italian motorists’ behaviour sometimes leaves much to be desired.
Who hasn't heard about such cities as Milan, Rome, or Florence? About the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Cinque Terre National Park, or Casa di Giulietta in Verona? Probably such places as Naples, Venice, or Genoa are also familiar to many tourists as these are the cities where Mount Vesuvius, the famous gondola canals, and country's biggest port can be found. Even though these places should definitely have their spot on your to-see list, you shouldn't limit yourself only to them.
Churches, basilicas, mausoleums, and palaces - there are plenty of such landmarks in Italy. If you want to see the most interesting examples, you should definitely visit Padua, the main city of Liguria, Ravenna, known mostly due to its Byzantine and early-Christian landmarks, and Bari, the capital of Apulia. It's also worth paying attention to such places as Volterra, with a beautiful view on the local hilltops, and San Gimignano, where you'll have the opportunity to try delicious white wine Vernaccia.
The fans of beach time will be satisfied as well. In Italy, there are numerous places with paradise beaches and breathtaking views. These include Pescara, the largest city on the Adriatic coast, Tropea, with scenic cliffs, and Rapallo, with popular bathing beaches. Your trip plans should also include such towns as Salerno, Amalfi, Positano, or Maratea. The last settlement, for example, offers more than 20 beaches and is considered a stunning pearl of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Italy isn’t famous only for its stunning buildings and magnificent beaches but also for its charming towns characterised by unique ambience. It's worth going on a stroll along the streets of Ancona, drinking a cup of coffee in Orvieto, or admiring the magical views in Ravello. Must-see attractions are, of course, Pompei, known for its ancient ruins, and Trani along with the nearby Castel del Monte.
The list of the most beautiful Italian towns is really long: Matera, Foggia, Cosenza, Montepulciano - it's difficult to choose the most interesting one as every place has much to offer. An undisputed Italian pearl is Monteriggioni, a village located on one of the Tuscan hills, and Alberobello, known for the so-called trullo buildings, that is white circular homes with pinnacles. It's also worth mentioning Lucca, the birthplace of composer Giacomo Puccini, and Polignano a Mare, full of scenic recesses and coves where you can rest away from the crowds.
No one will be surprised by the fact that Italy is a popular destination place among the many known celebrities. They really enjoy Portofino, which ranks as one of the most exclusive places on Italian map. It is mostly famous for expensive hotels and restaurants as well as luxury yachts and boutiques of the most well-known fashion houses. In the northern part of the country, you'll find the stunning Lake Garda, with a number of accommodation and dining options that will suit every pocket.
Each motorist driving along the Italian roads should possess appropriate documents. In the event of a road check, you'll be asked to show such documents as your driver's licence, liability insurance, registration document, vehicle inspection certificate, and your ID or a passport. The obligatory equipment includes reflective vests (for the driver and passengers) and a warning triangle. A fire extinguisher and a first aid kit aren't required by law.
The maximum blood alcohol content is 0.05%. Slightly stricter rules apply in case of less experienced drivers - in case of less than three years of driving experience, there is zero tolerance for any blood alcohol level. Fines for drinking and driving are really high (even up to a few thousand Euros!).
You can also expect severe consequences in case of talking on the phone while driving (hands-free sets are accepted) and travelling with children who are younger than 12 or shorter than 150 cm without appropriate protection.
Speed limits depend on the driver's experience, car weight, and weather conditions. General rules impose the following restrictions: 50 km/h in built-up areas, 90 km/h in rural areas, and 110 km/h on expressways, and 130 km/h on motorways.
The situation changes in case of motorists who have less than three years of driving experience - they need to reduce their speed on expressways (90 km/h) and on motorways (100 km/h).
In case of adverse weather conditions, the above-mentioned limits change as well. You can drive as fast as 90 km/h on expressways and as fast as 110 km/h on motorways.
It is also worth taking into consideration that on some three-lane roads equipped with the so-called Tutor, that is a system detecting speed on a given road section, you have greater leeway as you can drive even up to 150 km/h.
Travelling along Italian motorway isn't free of charge, and the tolls are quite high. Tolls are based on the number of kilometres travelled or vehicle category. Toll free roads can be expected in poorer regions, especially in the southern part of Italy; however, these are rather scarce.
The tolls are paid at special toll gates and there are three payment options: cash, payment card, or ViaCard, which can be purchased in travel agencies and at petrol stations. An indisputable advantage of the last option is the fact that the owners of ViaCard use separate gates.
Parking spaces are marked with lines of different colours and each of these colours indicates specific rules and restrictions. Blue lines show places where parking fee applies (parcheggio a pagamento), yellow lines show places designated for the disabled, pink lines are for pregnant women or women with small children, and white lines show free parking zones (parcheggio gratuito). However, it's vital to remember that the last option is time limited.
Generally, parking in Italy is a challenge not only for tourists but also for the residents. It is connected mostly with scarcity of free parking spaces; therefore, in many cases it's worth leaving your car on the outskirts and use public transport to get to the city centre.