Italy offers an extensive network of internal flights. Airport taxes are included in the price of your ticket.
Airlines in Italy
The privatised national airline, Alitalia, is the main domestic carrier, and numerous low-cost airlines also operate across the country. Useful search engines for comparing multiple carriers' fares (including those of cut-price airlines) are www.skyscanner.com, www.kayak.com and www.azfly.it.
Etihad Regional (www.etihadregional.com)
Cycling is very popular in Italy. The following tips will help ensure a pedal-happy trip:
- If bringing your own bike, you'll need to disassemble and pack it for the journey, and may need to pay an airline surcharge.
- Make sure to bring tools, spare parts, a helmet, lights and a secure bike lock.
- Bikes are prohibited on Italian autostrade (motorways).
- Bikes can be wheeled onto regional trains displaying the bicycle logo. Simply purchase a separate bicycle ticket (supplemento bici), valid for 24 hours (€3.50). Certain international trains, listed on Trenitalia's 'Travelling with Your Bike' page, also allow transport of assembled bicycles for €12, paid on board. Bikes dismantled and stored in a bag can be taken for free, even on night trains.
- Most ferries also allow free bicycle passage.
- In the UK, Cycling UK (www.cyclinguk.org) can help you plan your tour or organise a guided tour. Membership costs £43 for adults, £28.50 for seniors and £21.50 for students and under-18s.
- Bikes are available for hire in most Italian towns. City bikes start at €10/50 per day/week; mountain bikes a bit more. A growing number of Italian hotels offer free bikes for guests.
Craft Navi (large ferries) service Sicily and Sardinia, while traghetti (smaller ferries) and aliscafi (hydrofoils) service the smaller islands. Most ferries carry vehicles; hydrofoils do not.
Routes Main embarkation points for Sicily and Sardinia are Genoa, Livorno, Civitavecchia and Naples. Ferries for Sicily also leave from Villa San Giovanni and Reggio di Calabria. Main arrival points in Sardinia are Cagliari, Arbatax, Olbia and Porto Torres; in Sicily they're Palermo, Catania, Trapani and Messina.
Timetables and tickets Comprehensive website Direct Ferries (www.directferries.co.uk) allows you to search routes, compare prices and book tickets for ferry routes in Italy.
Overnight ferries Travellers can book a two- to four-person cabin or a poltrona, which is an airline-type armchair. Deck class (which allows you to sit/sleep in lounge areas or on deck) is available only on some ferries.
Routes Everything from meandering local routes to fast, reliable InterCity connections is provided by numerous bus companies.
Timetables and tickets These are available on bus-company websites and from local tourist offices. Tickets are generally competitively priced with the train and are often the only way to get to smaller towns. In larger cities most of the InterCity bus companies have ticket offices or sell tickets through agencies. In villages and even some good-sized towns, tickets are sold in bars or on the bus.
Advance booking Generally not required, but advisable for overnight or long-haul trips in high season.
Car & Motorcycle
Italy's extensive network of roads spans numerous categories. The main ones include the following:
- Autostradas – An extensive, privatised network of motorways, represented on road signs by a white 'A' followed by a number on a green background. The main north–south link is the A1. Also known as the Autostrada del Sole (the 'Motorway of the Sun'), it extends from Milan to Naples. The main link from Naples south to Reggio di Calabria is the A3. There are tolls on most motorways, payable by cash or credit card as you exit.
- Strade statali (state highways) – Represented on maps by 'S' or 'SS'. Vary from toll-free, four-lane highways to two-lane main roads. The latter can be extremely slow, especially in mountainous regions.
- Strade regionali (regional highways) – Coded 'SR' or 'R'.
- Strade provinciali (provincial highways) – Coded 'SP' or 'P'.
- Strade locali – Often not even paved or mapped.
For information in English about distances, driving times and fuel costs, see https://en.mappy.com. Additional information, including traffic conditions and toll costs, is available at www.autostrade.it.
The Automobile Club d'Italia is a driver's best resource in Italy. Foreigners do not have to join to get 24-hour roadside emergency service but instead pay a per-incident fee.
All EU driving licences are recognised in Italy. Travellers from other countries should obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) through their national automobile association.
Fuel & Spare Parts
Italy's petrol prices vary from one service station (benzinaio, stazione di servizio) to another. At the time of writing, unleaded petrol (senza piombo; 95 octane) was averaging €1.44 per litre, with diesel (gasolio) costing €1.29 per litre.
Spare parts are available at many garages or via the 24-hour ACI motorist assistance number 803 116 (or 800 116800 if calling with a non-Italian mobile-phone account).
- Pre-booking via the internet often costs less than hiring a car once in Italy. Online booking agency Rentalcars.com (www.rentalcars.com) compares the rates of numerous car-rental companies.
- Renters must generally be aged 21 or over, with a credit card and home-country driving licence or IDP.
- Consider hiring a small car, which will reduce your fuel expenses and help you negotiate narrow city lanes and tight parking spaces.
- Check with your credit-card company to see if it offers a Collision Damage Waiver, which covers you for additional damage if you use that card to pay for the car.
The following companies have pick-up locations throughout Italy:
Auto Europe (www.autoeurope.com)
Italy by Car (www.italybycar.it)
Agencies throughout Italy rent motorbikes, ranging from small Vespas to larger touring bikes. Prices start at around €35/150 per day/week for a 50cc scooter, or upwards of €80/400 per day/week for a 650cc motorcycle.
- Cars drive on the right side of the road and overtake on the left. Unless otherwise indicated, always give way to cars entering an intersection from a road on your right.
- Seatbelt use (front and rear) is required by law; violators are subject to an on-the-spot fine. Helmets are required on all two-wheeled vehicles.
- Day and night, it is compulsory to drive with your headlights on outside built-up areas.
- It’s obligatory to carry a warning triangle and fluorescent waistcoat in case of breakdown. Recommended accessories include a first-aid kit, spare-bulb kit and fire extinguisher.
- A licence is required to ride a scooter – a car licence will do for bikes up to 125cc; for anything over 125cc you'll need a motorcycle licence.
- Motorbikes can enter most restricted traffic areas in Italian cities, and traffic police generally turn a blind eye to motorcycles or scooters parked on footpaths.
- The blood alcohol limit is 0.05%; it's zero for drivers under 21 and those who have had their licence for less than three years.
Unless otherwise indicated, speed limits are as follows:
- 130km/h on autostradas
- 110km/h on all main, non-urban roads
- 90km/h on secondary, non-urban roads
- 50km/h in built-up areas
Major cities all have good transport systems, including bus and underground-train networks. In Venice, the main public transport option is vaporetti (small passenger ferries).
Bus & Metro
- Extensive metropolitane (metros) exist in Rome, Milan, Naples and Turin, with smaller metros in Genoa and Catania. The Minimetrò in Perugia connects the train station with the city centre.
- Cities and towns of any size have an efficient urbano (urban) and extraurbano (suburban) bus system. Services are generally limited on Sundays and holidays.
- Purchase bus and metro tickets before boarding and validate them once on board. Passengers with unvalidated tickets are subject to a fine (between €50 and €110). Buy tickets from a tabaccaio (tobacconist's shop), newsstands, ticket booths or dispensing machines at bus and metro stations. Tickets usually cost around €1 to €2. Many cities offer good-value 24-hour or daily tourist tickets.
- You can catch a taxi at the ranks outside most train and bus stations, or simply telephone for a radio taxi. Radio taxi meters start running from when you've called rather than when you're picked up.
- Charges vary somewhat from one region to another. Most short city journeys cost between €10 and €15. Generally, no more than four people are allowed in one taxi.
Trains in Italy are convenient and relatively cheap compared with other European countries. The better train categories are fast and comfortable.
Trenitalia is the national train system that runs most services. Its privately owned competitor Italo runs high-velocity trains between Turin and Salerno, Venice and Naples, and Brescia and Naples. All three routes stop in Bologna, Florence and Rome. The Turin line also stops in Milan.
Train tickets must be stamped in the green machines (usually found at the head of rail platforms) just before boarding. Failure to do so usually results in fines.
Italy operates several types of trains:
Regionale/interregionale Slow and often cheaper, stopping at all or most stations.
InterCity (IC) Faster services operating between major cities. Their international counterparts are called Eurocity (EC).
Alta Velocità (AV) State-of-the-art, high-velocity trains, including Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, Frecciabianca and Italo trains, with speeds of up to 300km/h and connections to the major cities. Marginally more expensive than some InterCity express trains, but journey times are cut by almost half.
Classes & Costs
Prices vary according to the class of service, time of travel and how far in advance you book. Most Italian trains have 1st- and 2nd-class seating; a 1st-class ticket typically costs from a third to half more than 2nd-class.
Travel on Trenitalia's InterCity and Alta Velocità (Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, Frecciabianca) trains means paying a supplement, included in the ticket price, determined by the distance you are travelling. If you have a standard ticket for a slower train and end up hopping on an IC train, you'll have to pay the difference on board. (You can only board an Alta Velocità train if you have a booking, so the problem does not arise in those cases.)
Popular High-Velocity Routes
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- Reservations are obligatory on AV trains. On other services they're not, and outside peak holiday periods, you should be fine without them.
- Reservations can be made on the Trenitalia and Italo websites, at railway station counters and self-service ticketing machines, or through travel agents.
- Both Trenitalia and Italo offer a variety of advance purchase discounts. Basically, the earlier you book, the greater the saving. Discounted tickets are limited, and refunds and changes are highly restricted. For all ticket options and prices, see the Trenitalia and Italo websites.
Trenitalia offers various discount passes, including the Carta Verde for youth and Carta d'Argento for seniors, but these are mainly useful for residents or long-term visitors, as they only pay for themselves with regular use over an extended period.
More interesting for short-term visitors are Eurail and InterRail passes.
Eurail & Interrail Passes
Generally speaking, you'll need to cover a lot of ground to make a rail pass worthwhile. Before buying, consider where you intend to travel and compare the price of a rail pass to the cost of individual tickets on the Trenitalia website (www.trenitalia.com).
InterRail (www.interrail.eu) passes, available online and at most major stations and student-travel outlets, are for people who have been a resident in Europe for more than six months. A Global Pass encompassing 30 countries comes in seven versions, ranging from five days' travel within a 15-day period to a full month's unlimited travel. There are four price categories: youth (12 to 27), adult (28 to 59), senior (60+) and family (one adult and up to two children), with different prices for 1st and 2nd class.
The InterRail one-country pass for Italy can be used for three, four, six or eight days in one month. See the website for full price details. Cardholders have access to various discounts and special deals, including on selected accommodation.
Eurail (www.eurail.com) passes, available for non-European residents, are good for travel in 28 European countries (not including the UK). They can be purchased online or from travel agencies outside Europe.
The original Eurail pass, now known as the Global Pass, offers a number of options, from five days of travel within a one-month period to three months of unlimited travel.
Youth aged 12 to 27 are eligible for a 2nd-class pass; all others must buy the more expensive 1st-class pass (the family ticket allows up to two children aged 0 to 11 to travel free when accompanied by a paying adult).
Eurail offers several alternatives to the traditional Global Pass:
- The Select Pass allows four to 10 days of travel within a two-month period in two to four bordering countries of your choice.
- The two-country Regional Pass (France/Italy, Switzerland/Italy, Spain/Italy, Greece/Italy, Croatia & Slovenia/Italy) allows four to 10 days of travel within a two-month period.
- The One Country Pass allows three to eight days of travel in Italy within a one-month period.