Driving In Rome Guide: Practical Tips, Laws & Restrictions
Is driving in Rome sensible?
Is it dangerous or complicated?
Is it even worth it if there is a decent transport system?
We will answer all these questions here in this guide.
Driving in Rome is often equated to driving in other large European cities – you will often hear people stating they would never drive in the center of Paris, Rome or Athens.
Here we will try to understand why Rome has a reputation for being difficult to drive in, and give some hints and tips for those who want to do it.
- 1 Driving In Rome: Should You Do It?
- 2 Can Americans Drive in Italy Legally?
- 3 Helpful & FREE Guide of Rome on Your Mobile Available Now
- 4 Main Pros of Driving in Rome
- 5 Cons of Driving in Rome
- 6 Driving in Rome for Tourists? Here Are Things Locals Advise
- 7 Other Driving in Rome Tips You Need to Know
- 8 Don’t Want to Drive? Here Are the Best Alternatives to Driving In Rome
- 9 Nice Day Trips From Rome If You Have a Car
- 10 3 Best Hotels With Parking In Rome
- 11 Frequently Asked Questions About Driving In Rome
- 12 Conclusion
Driving In Rome: Should You Do It?
Rome has an excellent public transport system.
Not only is the metro system more than adequate to get you from A-B, but it is complemented by an extensive bus network and taxi services.
You can also walk easily in the old districts of Rome – between the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps for example, or from the Colosseum to the Roman Forum.
Finally, a lot of the city passes include hop-on-hop-off bus passes that have stops at all the major sites.
So, do you need a car in Rome? In our view it is definitely not necessary.
Tip – We would only recommend it if you especially love driving in cities or for some reason have a huge amount of luggage to take from A-B.
Can Americans Drive in Italy Legally?
What about Americans driving in Rome?
Are there any things special you need to be aware of if you are the holder of an American driver's permit?
Well, there is something you should bring with you for peace of mind. Bring of course your passport and driver's license with you to the rental car pickup, and carry it with you at all times.
But in addition, it is recommended to also get an International Driving Permit. It is required in Italy in the event of being stopped by the police, and contains translated local language.
Find out more about the IDP for Americans here. In addition, Americans driving in Rome should familiarize themselves with the driving in Italy rules and differences in the highway code when compared to the US.
There is no right turn, for example, at red lights – you have to wait for green. Stop signs, roundabouts and overtaking are all different in Italy. So even though Italians drive on the same side of the road as Americans, there are lots of differences.
Bear in mind that automatic cars aren't always available in car hire centers either – you will need to specifically request one if you don't want to end up driving a manual gear car!
Helpful & FREE Guide of Rome on Your Mobile Available Now
Main Pros of Driving in Rome
Say you need to take your car to Rome – perhaps you are driving from another European City or you have specific mobility issues or a large family that just makes it easier.
In these instances, there are indeed several advantages of driving in Rome.
Here is a short list – let us know if you can think of any more:
- Young families with kids – the metro, buses, and taxis aren't always the most accessible. Although low floor buses and lifts have been installed in most places, Metro line A is only accessible at a few stations. So driving to the major sites might make more sense if you have a lot of young kids.
- The same goes for disabled travelers. Unfortunately, Rome hasn't really fully caught up with accessibility. Metro Line B is almost fully wheelchair friendly, but the stations at the main sites are all on line A, so it's a bit useless. Buses are mainly accessible, but there are still quite a few that aren't, and poor parking in Rome often means that the buses can't stop right at their dedicated curb, which sometimes leaves a gap. Sounds a bit stressful, so perhaps driving in this instance would mean more reliability.
- Lots of heavy suitcases, more that you can reasonably handle? You might want to drive in this example too to avoid hauling your luggage around the metro or streets.
- Control your own air conditioning! Have you ever melted to death in the summer on the tube or underground, or sat on a bus in traffic in Rome in August? With your own car you can avoid such discomfort by just turning up the AC!
Cons of Driving in Rome
Rumors of the crazy driving in Rome may be just enough to put you off! Driving in Rome city center is not for the faint hearted.
Here are just a few things we personally don't enjoy about navigating Rome's Riones by car!
- Parking in Rome alone is enough to make me run for the hills! If you do find a spot on the road, you may be worrying about your car whilst you are trying to enjoy your sightseeing. You might be more comfortable with an underground parking garage, but that comes at a price. Take a look at our extensive Parking In Rome guide for more information to prepare yourself.
- Driving style. Yes, there are lanes, but they are more of a guidance than a rule. Expect cars to be coming up very close to you, squeezing past you with mere inches. If you are trying to cross an intersection and are hesitant, you will lose! It is an art that you will need to master quickly if you want to get anywhere.
- Sensory overload. If you are used to driving on the relatively peaceful highways in the US or Germany, get ready for the sensory overload when driving in Rome. Horns are used not only to signal danger -they can mean hello, move over, hey you're blocking my way, catch you later, thank you… add to this the sound of mopeds and it can become quite a stressful situation.
- Worry – there is an element of worry that comes with driving in Rome – whether it is about the car getting damaged, if you'll be able to find a parking space or whether you got done for speeding.
- Driving in Rome Restrictions – watch out for restricted zones in Rome. These are areas of the historic center that are only accessible to taxis and delivery trucks at certain times. Drive into one of these areas, and the cameras will get you – look forward to your fine in the mail! Look out for signs reading Varco Attivo, and stay away if you see one!
Driving in Rome for Tourists? Here Are Things Locals Advise
The best driving in Rome tips a local could give you would be “don't do it”.
But if you must, here are some of the things they would likely tell you:
- Pick the smallest car you can in the car rental center. Great for squeezing into small parking spaces and getting through the traffic. Smart cars are the best!
- Stay away from rush hour. Between 7 and 9 am in the morning is usually a nightmare! The same goes for the evenings.
- If you see a white parking place, nab it quickly. These are like gold dust, but are free. Blue markes spaces are paid for at the meter nearby.
- If your hotel is a little outside the city, consider driving to the outskirts and then getting on the metro there so that you can avoid the city center.
- Pay attention to the ZTL or limited traffic zone mentioned above. Some of these areas are locked out to normal traffic until about 2am!
- Don't get conned at the car hire place. Make sure you carefully check all damage on any car you pick up, and photograph it.
Other Driving in Rome Tips You Need to Know
Don't fall foul of the law in Italy – ensure you know the rules and regulations for driving.
License and Registration
You must have a driver's license to drive in Rome. On top of that, you must be at least 18 years old to drive, but note that car hire companies require a minimum age of 21 to rent a car.
Legal Requirements – Your Car, Insurances
Make sure you have collision damage waiver insurance – it is required by law in Italy.
In addition, your car must have a reflective red triangle and a high visibility vest that are easily accessible before you step outside the car in event of a breakdown.
Driving In Italy Rules & Speed Limits
- Give way to the car on the right at intersections.
- Only use the left lane when overtaking.
- Do not automatically turn right at a red light (like in the US).
- In Rome, 50km per hour (31 mph) is generally the speed limit. However, be careful in some special zones – near schools, for example – it can be as low as 30km per hour (18.6 mph).
- Whilst driving in Rome ZTL rules must be adhered to. The Limited Traffic Zone can get you hit with a big fine if you enter it.
Parking in Rome
It can be a nightmare to park in Rome.
Use underground parking if you can, so that you aren't worried about your car. If you must drive to Rome, ensure your hotel comes with a parking space so you don't spend the evening looking for a place to park up.
If you are really worried about getting a space, you can book online.
Tip – It is best to plan ahead where to park when sightseeing in Rome. Check out our full parking in Rome guide.
Renting a Car in Rome: Prices, Companies & Models
If you are coming from the USA or Canada, you will notice one thing – the cars on offer are smaller here.
An intermediate car in Rome is probably considered a small or compact in the US. Don't be tempted to book a huge car in Rome.
It is not necessary and it is unlikely you will be able to park it. Ensure you have all your paperwork with you including your license, International Drivers Permit and your credit card, along with a passport.
You will need to take collision damage insurance and return the car with a full tank of petrol, unless you wish to pay an expensive refuel fee. Read here our in-depth guide about insurance requirements when traveling to Italy.
Fuel Prices in Rome
When filling up in Rome, try to get to a petrol station a little away from the airport – the prices get more expensive as you approach the airport.
Of course, the petrol prices are fluctuating all over the place, so it is best to check the live prices on a site like this one.
Don’t Want to Drive? Here Are the Best Alternatives to Driving In Rome
Convinced yet that driving in Rome is going to be a big hassle?
Great. Now let's look at the rest of the options available to you for getting around Rome.
Famous Mopeds (Vespas)
You wont need to worry a lot about parking if you had a vespa! What a cool way to explore the city.
Check out this local Roman Vespa rental store for an idea of live prices. They are generally able to handle 2 passengers and have a little store in the seat area for a handbag or small rucksack.
Taxi in Rome
There are multiple taxi ranks spread throughout the city of Rome, so it is pretty likely there will be one near or close to your hotel.
If not, you can also order them online. For more information on how to navigate the world of Taxis in Rome, check out our extensive guide here.
Electric Scooters in Rome
Some love them, others see them as a pure menace.
Either way, they can be a good way to get from A – B if the distance is just a little too far to walk. You can't miss these scooters – they are littering the pavements in some places.
You need to scan the QR code on the scooter with your camera and then download the app. Companies like Lime and Wire are available in Rome. Lime, for example, charges a €1 unlock fee, and then it costs 25c per minute. Be careful, and don't forget to wear a helmet when riding these e-scooters. Safety first!
Public Transport in Rome
Public Transport in Rome will likely, in most cases, service your needs.
The metro, buses and – in some of the outlying areas trams, criss-cross the city. If you are considering getting a city pass to help you manage costs for big sightseeing activities, you may want to ensure you get one that includes a travel card.
Find out all you need to know about Rome's public transport network in our guide here.
Private Driver Tour
Perhaps you have a very limited time in Rome in between a connecting flight, or are coming off a cruise ship.
Then hiring a private driver as a tour guide may help you get around town quickly. Guides start from around €150 for 4 hours and can take you to the major sites in the city.
Take a look at this tour on offer here.
Also, I've heard from locals in Rome that purchasing an online travel card or transport package can be a great option for tourists. This package typically includes airport transfers and public transport cards, making it a convenient and cost-effective way to explore the city.
By bundling your transportation needs, you can avoid the hassle of arranging and purchasing tickets separately and ensure a comfortable and seamless arrival. This option is especially useful for those who are new to the city and are unfamiliar with the transportation system.
So, if you're planning a trip to Rome, take it from the locals and consider purchasing a travel card package to help you make the most of your time here.
Nice Day Trips From Rome If You Have a Car
Of course, if you do have a car in Rome there are some advantages relating to how much you can see outside of the city center.
Rome's beaches are one option, as are a few interesting day trips. The ruins of Ostia Antica are worth a look, as is the UNESCO site of Tivoli.
You can of course also use the car to hit off a multi-city tour – perhaps heading from Rome to Naples for a few days, or into the countryside. The opportunities are endless.
3 Best Hotels With Parking In Rome
Booking.com shows 342 hotels in Rome with parking.
Here are 3 of the best in central Rome.
1. Hotel Smeraldo
Located near the Pantheon, the Smeraldo hotel gets great reviews. A roof terrace with stunning views, gorgeous interiors and doubles starting from just €190 is coupled with private parking. What's not to love?
2. Dharma Style Hotel and Spa
Located near the main train station Termini, this hotel gets top marks for location, decor and breakfast. Onsite parking tops it off. Rooms start at €200 per night.
3. Hotel La Place
Gorgeous style and a hotel that spills out onto the Piazza di San Lorenzo. Rooms start at €250 at Hotel La Place.
Frequently Asked Questions About Driving In Rome
How bad is driving in Rome?
It can be pretty crazy to drive in Rome. With lots of traffic and a lot of noise. It is better to leave the car at home, unless you can cope easily with these conditions.
Is driving in Rome difficult?
It is not so much difficult as it is stressful. There is a lot going on on the streets of Rome. If you are coming from a non-European country, the differences in the rules of the road may also be confusing.
Is it worth driving in Rome?
In our view, not really. It is stressful trying to find a parking space, the traffic is crazy and you won't be able to have that second glass of wine! We only recommend it if you have a specific mobility issue or are carrying a lot of heavy luggage.
Is driving in Rome safe?
Driving in Rome is safe but you do need to take extra care. Merging lanes and lots of mopeds coming up the inside can take extra concentration!
What side of the road do they drive in Italy?
Italians drive on the right hand side, like in the rest of Europe.
Can you drive in Italy with a US license?
Yes you can, make sure however you get an International Drivers Permit to take with you.