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The main car rental companies have offices in all railroad stations, airports, and larger cities. European rental cars will have manual transmissions unless you request an automatic.
To rent a car in Italy you must book in advance, be at least 21 years old (25 for some companies), and haved possessed your driving license for one year or more. You may be asked to provide a credit card number when making a reservation. But driving in Italy is not the same as in your home country, especially in Rome, so good insurance is essential. Renting cars in Italy can be expensive, also.
A driving license issued by any EU member state is valid throughout the European Union, including Italy. Drivers in possession of such a licence do not need an international driving permit. Other visitors will need their regular driving license plus an International Driving Permit (IDP), which is a translation of your license. You can get an IDP at an automobile association (AAA in the US).
Seatbelts are compulsory for everyone in the car. Failure to use them may result in heavy fines for both drivers and passengers, payable immediately. You must be 18 or older to drive in Italy.
Italians drive on the right and pass on the left (usually). You will hear a lot of horns, but they are theoretically forbidden in urban areas, except of course in emergencies. Trams and trains have the right-of-way. At intersections, vehicles approaching from the right always have the right-of-way. When entering a traffic circle, you must yield to traffic already in the circle. Headlights are required on controlled-access highways and in conditions of impaired visibility. Mopeds under 150cc are not permitted on controlled-access roads. Helmets are compulsory for motorcycles and mopeds, regardless of engine size.
Unless posted otherwise, speed limits are:
If there is rain or snow the limit is reduced to 110 km/h on controlled-access roads and 90 km/h on other non-urban roads.
Italian laws require every car to have
A fire extinguisher is recommended, but not required. Note that safety vests must be put on before getting out of a vehicle stopped at the side of any non-urban road.
Drivers must carry driving permits, international insurance cards, and vehicle registration cards. For drivers of rental vehicles, the last two documents are provided by the rental company.
The fines for not wearing seat belts, driving through a red light, driving while intoxicated, and driving without a license are extremely high, even including confiscation of the vehicle. Numerous speed cameras have been installed throughout the road network to ensure compliance with speed limits. Note that the blood alcohol limit in Italy is 0.05%, lower than in some other countries.
In case of an automobile accident you must fill out a statement. You will find one in the glove box of your rental automobile, or you can request one from your insurance company. If there has been a breach of the law call the police so they may prepare a report. If anyone is injured, immediately call the police by dialing 113, or the fire department using 115, or an ambulance at 118.
The Autostrade per l'italia highway network includes 216 rest areas open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.