One of the most often asked questions by friends going to Italy from Australia is whether it is better to hire a car and drive, or to use public transport. I reply that it depends on the level of confidence. Most people think the biggest issue is driving on the opposite side of the road. I don’t believe this is the main problem. Narrow, unfamiliar roads, heavy traffic, packs of cyclists, strange road signs and crazy drivers are the real dangers.
I think that Italian drivers are incredibly skillful. They are amazing in the way they can manoeuver their cars on some treacherous roads, and I swear they can levitate their cars sideways into carparks that are far too small. But they drive too fast and take far too many risks, and this is reflected in the high road toll.
People who will wait patiently for ages in a queue to buy a train ticket ( this drives me batty) turn into Fangio once they get behind a wheel and have to pass everything in sight, and seem to disregard the most basic road rules.
There are rules, I know, I have read the book from cover to cover while studying for my Italian licence, but they appear to be forgotten by most people as soon as they pass the test. It would help if the police enforced the rules instead of taking the easy option of just handing out parking fines.
The public transport system in Italy is very good. From our village, Bagni di Lucca, we have an excellent bus service to Lucca, where there are buses and trains to almost wherever you want to go. Once you learn how to decipher the timetables, the buses and trains are easy to use and quite reasonably priced. Look at Italy Travel in the links (0n the right side of the blog) for more information about train travel in Italy.
Having a car enables you to go get to places that would require a fair bit of wrangling to get to by public transport. You will definitely see more if you drive, especially some of the remote towns and villages, and driving through the gorgeous countryside can be truly delightful. So you need to decide whether you are confident enough to tackle driving or sacrifice seeing some of the more out of the way places and use public transport.
When there is no danger involved it can be very amusing to watch Italians in their cars. This lovely little green car was brought to a screeching halt with little thought about correct parking, the driver and his companion leapt out and went on their way leaving an admiring crowd, including me. I do love Italy!