1. Obtain an International Driving Permit
Non-EU residents are required to have an International Driving Permit before cruising around Italy. Don’t worry, you need not make a dreaded DMV appointment. All we had to do was get two passport photos, pop into the Brooklyn AAA, show a valid Driver’s License, fill out a form and pay $20. It took a total of thirty minutes and we had the Permit in hand when we walked out of the AAA office. If you want the process to go even quicker, you can print the form at home and fill it out before you go in. You also have the option to mail it in, but this process takes 4-6 weeks.
2. Opt for a small car
The roads and parking spots are much smaller than we are used to here in America, so a smaller car will be much easier to manage.
3. Get comfortable with Manual Transmission
Most rental cars in Europe are manual, so if you can only drive automatic, make sure you’ve requested that ahead of time.
4. Confirm which kind of gas your rental car takes
Ask your rental company ahead of time if your car needs unleaded (benzina) or diesel (gasiola). Don’t assume your car needs unleaded just because it’s small.
5. Learn the road signs
It’s not that they are difficult to figure out, it’s just they they are different than what we are used to. Learning the signs ahead of time means you won’t be flipping through your Rick Steves Guidebook while trying to keep your eyes on the road.
6. Know where you are allowed to park
Click here for a great resource on parking information.
7. Get a proper map
The highways and interstates are marked pretty well, but towns are a little harder to navigate, especially since Google Maps doesn’t always indicate one-way and pedestrian streets.
8. Don’t bother with a convertible in the summer
I know the idea of driving around Italy with the top down is extremely tempting (we certainly couldn’t resist), but Sicilian summers are stupid hot and driving around with the top down feels like you’re sitting in a sauna while using a hot blow dryer.
9. Allow for extra driving time
I love Google Maps as much as the next guy, but their estimated driving times around Sicily were way off. We usually doubled whatever they estimated.
10. Don’t leave valuables in the car
We were warned by multiple people that rental car break-ins are a common occurrence in Sicily. Personally, we didn’t have any problems, but it’s probably best to be safe.