Subject: Re: Driving in France and Italy
My advice would be based on the following considerations about renting a car for your first trip to Europe (what countries do you mean?):

1.Do not rent a car unless you are familar with the languge of the country you will be driving through. Once you leave the main cities or towns English is not the first language-toll booths, gasoline stations and parking directions are in the language of the native country most of the time.

2. Make sure you can drive a shift car since automatic cars are usually highly expensive to rent.

3. In making hotel reservations can you expect a parking area in a secured area near your hotel? If your goal is primarily to visit the cities with short excursions to the countryside and back again by bus at night or to stay over in a major town you first have to explore the types of transportation each city offers.

4. Both Rick Steves (Europe through the Back Door) and Arthur Frommer books can offer you a first time in Europe set of itineraries. Start reviewing your guide books before you set out.

5. You can't go wrong by traveling by bus, train or plane.