Are you thinking of renting a car in Catania but wonder whether this is actually a good idea? While many will advise you against it, I think that renting a car in Catania is actually a great idea. While traffic in the city can be quite bad, car rental in Catania is easy and if you can share the costs with a friend, or if you are traveling with your family, it’s actually quite convenient also in terms of costs.
Of course, you don’t really need a car in the city. Catania itself is easy to explore on food. But if you are thinking of heading out of town to visit nearby places – ie Mount Etna, Taormina or Syracuse – having a car will make your life much easier.
Curious to find out more? In this post, I will tell you everything you need to know about renting a car in Catania and add some very useful tips!
Heading to Catania? Make sure to read my post The Best Things To Do In Catania.
Should You Be Renting A Car In Catania?
Situated on the Italian island of Sicily, Catania is a historical port city resting in the shadow of Mount Etna. The city is known for its fascinating history, dynamic nightlife, traditional architecture, delicious cuisine and beautiful nearby beaches and nature areas.
Some of the area’s top attractions include the Cattedrale di Sant’Agata, Castello Ursino, Piazza del Duomo, Fontana dell’Elefante and Palazzo Biscari. At nearby Mount Etna, you can hike the trails that lead to the summit of this active volcano.
Catania is also a great place to start and end a vacation in Sicily. It makes for a great base from which to launch day trips and multi-day road-tripping adventures to other areas of the island. There are so many beautiful places to explore from Catania. Some are only a short drive away, others require a few days on the road. Taormina. This is where you’ll find many attractions including a historic Greek theater, the Isola Bella Nature Reserve and the Piazza IX Aprile. Mount Etna is just one hour drive too.
Should you want to do it, you can easily venture from Catania to southern Italy. After all, Sicily is only two miles (3.2 kilometers) from mainland Italy and ferries are widely available to get there, which makes it easy to explore the rest of southern Italy.
While trains, buses and guided tours are available, using these methods to get around Sicily can create inconveniences. Public transportation can be scarce in some areas, not to mention slow. However, the main inconvenience is the loss of freedom that comes with relying on someone else’s schedule. Waiting around for buses and trains and making frequent stops in between can eat up a lot of your vacation time.
Embarking on a guided tour also means you go where the tour goes rather than where you want to go. Some of the stops may not be of interest to you and some of the things you want to see may not be included in the tour.
So what is the best way to travel around Catania and Sicily? You might have guessed by now that renting a car in Catania is the best way to see the things you want to see. Having your own car to get around also means you’ll be able to make detours, take scenic routes and venture off the beaten path to locations that aren’t included on public transit routes or guided tours.
Another bonus to having a rental car in Catania is the ability to store your luggage while you travel instead of carrying it around. This is particularly important if you have more than one suitcase with you and you are planning a road trip, rather than just staying in one place.
Have I convinced you? Go ahead and check the prices of car rental in Catania here.
What You Must Know Before Renting A Car In Catania
Where to rent a car in Catania
While car rental in Catania is available in many places, the most convenient way to acquire one is through a rental car agency at the Catania-Fontanarossa International Airport. Renting straight from the airport will allow you to start your independent travels right away and you’ll avoid having to search for one elsewhere after you arrive in the city center.
The car hire desks are easy to find at the airport. They can be found near the baggage pick-up area. Just go to the Arrivals Hall where the baggage area is and follow the signs. There are help desks along the way in case you are unable to locate the agency you want. Some of the companies available at the airport include Avis, Hertz, Alamo, Budget and Europcar.
While you may be able to score a good deal on car rental in Catania once you get there, shopping around for a good price may be time consuming and you certainly should not waste your precious vacation time doing that! Make sure to book your car well in advance for better chances of finding a good deal. Use a comparison site to check the prices of car rental in Catania across various companies.
Check the prices of car rental in Catania on Discover Cars here.
Which car to rent in Catania
Many factors come into play when deciding what type of car to rent in Catania. Of course, your budget should come into play but if you’re eyeing something more expensive than your budget typically allows, you might be able to find a good deal if you put the time and effort into watching prices leading up to your trip.
Secondly, where you intend to go with your car should be taken into account. If you plan on staying in Catania, a small car is best for getting around the narrow streets and navigating heavy traffic. A small car is easier to park and is also better on gas since driving in the city tends to burn more fuel.
Many visitors are currently opting to rent electric cars when traveling around the city because they can be driven in the normally off-limits ZTL areas and there are many charging stations around. If you plan to travel outside of Catania, a bigger car is better for comfort and space, especially if you’re traveling with more than two people.
No matter what car you want to rent, you’ll find a wide variety at the airport. Whether you want a small mini to get around from point A to point B or a massive SUV to carry you, your passengers and your belongings to the far corners of the country, you’ll find a car that suits your every need.
Here are my expert tips to pick the best car rental in Catania:
Choose fully prepaid cars – this means you don’t have to pay anything on arrival.
Pick a supplier with 8.0 or higher ratings – customer reviews matter!
Take care to notice the amount required for the deposit. Remember the main driver must have a credit card. You can also select for companies that only request a debit card.
Choose Full-to-Full fuel policies so that you don’t have to pay unexpectedly high fuel charges.
Beware of the allowed mileage — unlimited is the best option for long trips.
Read the pick-up instructions carefully. Pay attention to the location types — locations in the terminal are more convenient than shuttle buses to the pick up place.
Remember that unless you have an EU driver’s license you’ll need a valid international driver’s license to drive anywhere in Italy. The same applies when renting a car in Catania.
Whichever car you are thinking of renting, I recommend going through a comparison site such as Discover Cars to get an idea of the prices of car rental in Catania. You will also be able to check out the reviews of the various car rental companies.
Find out how much renting a car in Catania may cost you on Discover Cars here.
When renting a car in Catania – whether at the airport or in town – make sure to double check the mileage policy and the fuel policy. Not all car rental services have unlimited mileage, so if you plan to drive around a lot rent your car from a company that gives you unlimited mileage so that you can make sure you don’t incur in any surcharge for going over the limit.
You should also check what the fuel policy is: some companies will give you the car with a full tank and expect you to return it the same way; others won’t – and in this case, you may want to make a not or take a photo of the exact level of fuel in the tank.
Useful Things To Know About Driving In Catania
Driving to and from the Airport in Catania
Situated southwest of Catania’s downtown district, Catania-Fontanarossa International Airport is about five miles (eight kilometers) away from the city center and the drive there takes about 15 minutes.
The quickest and most convenient way to get from the airport into the city is to head out from Via Fontanarossa until you reach Via Santa Maria Goretti. Next, take Via S. Giuseppe Alla Rena and make the turn at Via Priolo Sopraelevata. Drive along this road until you reach the turnoff to SS 114 Orientale Sicula to Via Alcala. To finally reach the city center area, take Via Plebiscito to Via Santa Maddalena.
Driving in Catania
Like most Italian cities, driving around Catania can be confusing and frustrating and this is especially true for visitors who aren’t familiar with the city and the rules of the road. To add to that frustration, drivers in Catania – much like in the rest of Italy – are quite assertive and apply the rules of the road in a more flexible way compared to other places in Europe or North America, often going over the posted speed limits which are usually 30 miles per hour in the city.
The roundabouts are also a source of frustration for drivers from North America, but with some patience, they don’t have to be so bad. Just take your time, ignore the impatient drivers behind you and come back around and try your exit again if you miss it the first time. And by all means, remember to give precedence to vehicles coming from the left. I promise you that once you get the hang of it, they are super easy, convenient and save you a lot of time compared to traffic lights.
Be aware that some streets are very narrow and traffic congestion is common in the busiest areas. It’s advisable to stick either at or below the posted speed limits because there are speed cameras around the city. A speeding ticket is the last thing you want to receive on vacation!
If there’s one thing you need to be aware of when driving in Catania – and in fact in any city in Italy, it’s the ZTL Zones. These zones can pose a serious headache for drivers who aren’t familiar with the city but they also serve an important purpose. The important thing is you don’t accidentally end up in one because you’ll likely end up with a fine.
Let me explain a bit more.
A ZTL Zone is a section of a city that’s blocked off from unauthorized vehicles. These zones are usually found in historic areas of Italian cities and the reason they’re blocked from traffic is to protect historic buildings from air pollution that comes from car exhausts, and to spare the local residents the headache of traffic noise.
Be sure to become familiar with where the ZTL zone is and the routes that are best to take to avoid it. The sign to watch for if you’re trying to avoid the ZTL is the one with the open red circle on a white background.
Driving in ZTL areas is only allowed to non-residents at specific times of days. ZTLs are usually marked with a sign and often also with what looks like a traffic light – the sign will point out the hours in which you can enter with your car, and the bright sign will suggest whether you can enter or not. If the sign is colored in red, it definitely means you can’t enter!
The main ZTL in Catania covers all of the historic city center including Via A. di Sangiuliano, Via Monsignor Ventimiglia, Via Vittorio Emanuele, Via Raddusa, Via S. Maria del Rosario, Via della Loggetta, Via Euplio Reina, Via A. Mancini.
The only way to be authorized to enter a ZTL zone is if you’ve received special permission, your hotel is located in the zone or you’re driving a no-emissions vehicle such as an electric car. If your hotel is located in the ZTL zone, the property will alert the city so you don’t get ticketed.
If you find yourself accidentally inside this zone, make sure to alert a police officer if there’s one in the area or let your hotel know so you can avoid getting a ticket. You might think no one is watching if you enter one without permission, whether by accident or otherwise, but cameras are monitoring the entrances.
If you choose to drive in the city center area and you’re using a GPS, make sure to program your route not to include a ZTL area. Never follow another car if you get lost thinking that they’re local and will lead you to where you need to be.
They might have special authorization to be in the ZTL and they’ll lead you right into it. Ultimately, the best way to avoid accidentally entering a ZTL zone is to leave the car parked at your hotel or in a car park elsewhere in the city and walk around the historic center.
Parking in Catania
Should you be renting a car in Catania, you’ll have to find a suitable parking space. To be honest, finding a place to park in Catania can be difficult. Finding an affordable or cheap place to park is even more difficult. Fortunately, with a little planning, you can make it easier on yourself by knowing where the parking areas are located in the city, what time they are available and how much they cost.
The best way to ensure you have affordable parking available at all times is to book a hotel that includes parking with your room, or offers it at a discount price. This ensures that you can leave your car behind to explore the city on foot which is the best way to explore it anyway!
There’s plenty of paid parking in the parking lots that are situated around the city including Parcheggio Blu Car Parking Lot on Via Cosentino and Parcheggio Fast Parking Catania on Via Brucoli, both of which are open 24 hours a day.
The average cost of parking for the day in the city center is around €20. If safety is the most important thing to you, parking in a garage or secure lot is the best way to go. That being said, no matter where you park, you should always lock your doors, close your windows and take any valuables with you.
Parking is available on the street in most areas of the city but these get taken pretty quickly and you’d be lucky to get one close to where you want to park. When attempting to find a parking spot, just keep in mind that the spaces marked with blue lines are paid parking, spaces with white lines are free parking and spaces with yellow lines are for disabled drivers.
If you park in an unauthorized space or you neglect to pay for a paid one, you’ll likely get ticketed.
To help you plan your trip to Eastern Sicily, you may want to read the following posts:
- The Best Itinerary For Eastern Sicily
- A Guide To Visiting Mount Etna
- A Guide To Vulcano Island
- How To Hike Mount Stromboli