First and foremost, the Italians drive on the same side of the road as we do. This makes it a whole lot easier. Rental cars are abundant. You can rent from an American company like Hertz, Avis or Budget or from European companies like Europcar and Sixt. I prefer to rent a diesel when in Italy. The fuel is cheaper there. Fuel prices are very expensive compared to ours (about $10/gallon). Any savings you can make on this will help. I rent economy or compact cars since they get better mileage. Italian cars do not have all the smog and clean air protections we have so they get a much higher MPG than we do.
The roads are great. The largest roads are called Autostrada and are numbered A1, A@, etc. A connecting Autostrada can be named E24 etc. These are high-speed roads usually have three lanes each direction. They are limited access roads. Italians drive these roads at 140 KPH (about 90 MPH). The left lane is for passing only! DO NOT DRIVE IN THE LEFT LANE WHEN CARS ARE APPROACHING BEHIND YOU! Italians are kinder to other drivers than we are but they will get very upset if you drive in the left and hog it. The middle lane has a slower speed limit and the far right has the slowest speed limit. There are speed cameras that will ticket you over 140 KPH. There are tolls on most of these roads. Have euros ready to pay your tolls.
Next are highways with limited access. These are typically two lanes with more curves (a slower speed limit). They are good roads and can get you from the Autostrada to near where you are going. Finally there are regular roads which can range from a flat surface road to a very curving mountain road. Some mountain roads have guard rails others do not (like California).
Fuel stops are everywhere so getting fuel is not a problem. Prices range as they do here. You should have a smart phone with European GPS (we use the Western Europe Tom-Tom App) or rent a GPS unit with your car. Directions are not always obvious and a GPS can help you. We also use our iPhone Tom-Tom for walking directions in big towns like Rome. Go and get lost then plug-in your hotel address and put it in walk mode.
Don’t drive in big cities like Rome. Most will not allow you to drive in the old city center. If you are driving and have a hotel, email them as where to park. They may have to email you a pass to enter the old city center and park. Driving will get you places that tours don’t go. So get out and enjoy yourself and have fun.
George & Jo Anne