Subject: Re: Driving in France and Italy
Each time, we rented from Auto Europe, with no complications. They have a user-friendly website, frequent specials &very efficient online/e-mail booking. As someone else mentioned, you will save money on the rental if you can drive a manual transmission and, depending on the month of your visit, forego AC. Italian rentals carry a mandatory insurance charge for loss to the vehicle; otherwise, you might be able to avoid other optional coverages, depending on your own auto insurance situation, which you should check out in advance + investigate the protections your credit card may offer. The Auto Europe agency operates under its own name at times; other times, it is a broker for another, e.g., when we picked up in a small French town last summer, it was a Budget. We never had any problem getting gas, and we don't speak either language- -learn a few appropriate phrases in case you need help, but your credit card and the signage will get you through the process. Gas is sold by the liter, of course, and the prices will be higher than back home. Tolls may frequently be paid by credit card, but make sure you have some cash before you start out.

Invest in Michelin regional maps before you go over, and you will have no problem. French signage and road conditions in the area we traveled (Paris west to/all over Normandy) were excellent. In Italy, we drove, roughly, Milan-Venice-Florence-Riviera-Milan. The signage is a bit more of a challenge there, IMHO, and the driving habits associated with the fast lane of traffic are a little unnerving til you get the hang of it! (There have been many discussions on the Zine specifically about driving in Italy--do a search.) However, don't for a minute let that scare you off! Exploring Italy by car is a joy.

You definitely want to be rid of the car for any major city. And training is a blast--we utilize trains to traverse long distances + even shorter distances to provide a no brainer break in our trip. Sometimes, it's nice to sit back and let someone else do the driving!

Have a wonderful trip!

Diana Ball Houston, TX