Your Long-Distance Transportation Options In Italy
Most first-time visitors to Italy want to travel all over Italy from the north to the south. It's my responsibility as a travel planner to offer all the options and then recommend what I think the best option might be considering the client's preferences and budget.
The following is a list of long-distance travel options that are available to Italy visitors. I listed them in order of what I recommend regardless of budget.
Private Cars with Drivers
Though more expensive than a rental car, a private car with a driver provides ease and comfort. You can hire a car with a driver simply to transport you from the airport to the hotel, to take you on a day trip or even to be at your disposal each day of your Italian vacation.
Regardless of your budget, I highly recommend for first-time visitors a car and driver on arrival to Italy. After a long flight and navigating customs and an international airport, it is a comfort to see your name on a whiteboard in the hand of your driver.
TRAVEL TIP: Find ways in your travel budget to accommodate the airport-to-hotel private transfer.
For first-time visitors, there is no better way to get from the north to the south with a private car and driver. This can be cost-prohibitive for some travelers, but if you can figure out how to swing it, it can translate to a comfortable, anxiety-free voyage. The more passengers you have in your travel party the more cost-effective this option may be versus train tickets for the group.
Italy has two major rail operators - Trenitalia and Italo. If you perhaps have been to Europe and/or Italy before, you may enjoy travel by train. Look out at the lovely countryside and even take a nap (not me - I can't miss Italy landscapes passing by my window) while you're whisked from one city to another.
All the train stations are centrally located so getting to your hotel is much easier than from the airport. For major city routes, book one of the high-speed trains, which will get you where you're going quickly and in comfort. You arrive in Bologna from Florence in 38 minutes - that's fast!
For longer distances, you might want to pay a little more for a first-class ticket for a roomier seat and a complimentary drink and snack.
If you're traveling through the Italian countryside or renting a villa, a car is a necessity. For instance, I rented a car for three weeks so we could stay the entire three weeks in San Gimignano and use the car to get us to all the tiny hilltowns we wanted to visit.
Travel by car is not for everyone and it is the last option I recommend for my clients who have a limited amount of time to travel. Even as an experienced driver in Italy, I still have very anxious moments when I am driving in a new place, still get traffic tickets no matter how hard I try to follow the speed signs, and more often than not get a little snarky with my passengers.
Having said all that about my driving experiences, a rental car offers a lot of flexibility for long-stay travel adventures since you can come and go without having to adhere to a schedule.
You can book flights from the island of Sicily to Italy's mainland on Italian domestic flights and regional airlines within Italy. You can fly from Rome to Palermo, Sicily in under an hour.
Flyer beware, Regional trains are small and charge large fees for checked luggage and you pay extra for everything from boarding placement to seat selection.
The downfall of air travel is the amount of time you have to spend in the airport for check-in. This is why I recommend this option last. If you can arrive at your destination in less time (when factoring in the amount of pre-travel time at the airport) than a car or fast train, then air is the way to go as prices tend to be low if booked early enough.
I hope these four transportation options help you when deciding how you want to travel in and around Italy.
The Way To Italy has been providing fee-based, custom travel planning for travelers to Italy for 23 years. I handcraft once-in-a-lifetime Italy experiences down to the last detail.