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Car Rentals - Downtown Rome

Valerie Schneider

Instead of picking up your rental car when you arrive at Rome Airport (FCO) after an overnight flight, consider spending a few nights in Rome and picking up your rental car in the city before you leave. This lets you avoid driving when jetlagged and many times your rental rate is lower when you do not pickup at an airport (there is an airport surcharge but it is not applied if only dropping off at the airport).

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You've all heard the old cliche, "all roads lead to Rome" - and it's absolutely true. Getting out of the city with your rental car is another matter entirely. One-way streets in a maze of chaotic traffic, blasting horns, and swarms of vespas make for a frightful drive. One wrong turn and you're left desperately circling the ancient avenues.

Not to fear! I've compiled easy-to-follow instructions for exiting the Eternal City. Buckle up, grip the wheel and ignore the motorini buzzing past you. You'll soon be on your way to more tranquil destinations.

These routes avoid the Zona Traffico Limitato (ZTL), a widely-demarked area of the centro storico which one must have a special permit to enter. If you drive through the ZTL you risk incurring a multa (traffic citation). Signs with cameras are erected at each point of entry so you'll know if you're about to pass into the danger zone.

Termini - Train Station

Termini is the name of the main train station in Rome.

Locating the Rental Car Counters in Termini

The rental car counters are located next to the Upim department store and the post office. From inside the train station, walk along the tracks following the signs toward Terminal Fiumicino. Keep your eye on the distinctive yellow sign for the Posta (PT).

Termini Sign

Sign for Post Office and Car Rentals inside the Train Station

Just beyond the post office you will find the rental car companies. The glass door to enter that section of the station reads "Centro Diagnostico," designating an office upstairs. Don't let it confuse you; enter and walk through toward the post office.

If you are coming from outside the station, enter on the side of via Giolitti, but walk beyond the section of station that houses the UPIM department store.

Termini Sign Outside

Sign for Post Office and Car Rentals outside the Train Station

Inside the station you will find the rental counters for the major companies - Avis, Hertz, Thrifty, Dollar, Sixt, Europcar, National, Maggiore. Smaller, local agencies such as Targarent Travelcar and Tirreno are also located here.

Termini Car Rental Offices

Car Rental Counters in Termini Train Station

Driving from Termini to get out of Rome

Termini Car Garage

Most rental car companies hold their cars in a parking structure located on via Giolitti. Because of the absurdity of the one-way street system in this part of town, you will need to circle around to get back to another section of via Giolitti in order to access the tunnel under the railroad tracks. Don't worry; it's easier than it sounds.

  • Exit the garage and turn right onto via Giolitti.
  • Go three blocks and turn right on via Cairoli.
  • After one block turn left onto via Principe Umberto.
  • Two blocks later turn left onto viale Manzoni.
  • You are headed toward the station; turn left back onto via Giolitti.
  • At the traffic light one block up, go right.
  • This puts you onto via Tiburtina, and takes you through a tunnel under the railway tracks. Stay on via Tiburtina (through the wide intersection where five streets converge, Tiburtina is the stone, wider street in the center), continuing along to the "tangenziale" and following the green directional signs for the GRA and Autostrada.
  • When the street merges with the tangenziale you need to be in the left-hand lane to access the motorway.

The via Tiburtina will lead you to the Grande Raccordo Annulare (GRA) which is the ring-road around Rome and from there you can access the various Autostradas (A1, A24, etc.) to carry you off to the gentler roads of the peaceful countryside.

Villa Borghese

Locating the Rental Cars in the Villa Borghese garage

It is easiest if you have a taxi drop you off right inside the garage (the driver must go into the Villa Borghese parking lot and they give him a token to get out without paying).

If you are using public transit, you can access the parking structure from the Spagna metro station as well as from the top of via Veneto.

Villa Borghese entrance to parking

Entrance to Villa Borghese Parking Lot from top of via Veneto

Be aware that there are very long corridors leading you to the underground garage, though; if you have a lot of luggage or mobility issues this will not be a good option for you. Follow the signs to the Villa Borghese and ParkSi. The entrance for the garage is located next to a gym (palestra).

entrance to parking

Entrance to Parking Lot

Driving From the Villa Borghese Parking Garage

  • From the garage turn right onto the viale del Galoppatoio, which curves to the right and takes you into the park and the circular Piazzale Capestre.
  • Go through it, exiting to the right onto viale San Paolo del Brasile.
  • You'll pass into the Piazzale Brasile. When you reach the Piazzale Brasile take the second left onto via Pinciana.
  • Continue on this street but veer right when it forks, going right to via Giovanni Pacini, which then becomes the via Salaria.

The via Salaria, the important, ancient Roman salt road which connected Rome to the Adriatic coast, will take you slowly through the heavily-trafficked northern part of the city, passing beneath umbrella pines into suburban sprawl, past big box-type stores, car dealerships, and roadside madams, eventually depositing you onto the GRA. It's not the prettiest route out of town, but it's easy to follow and it is historic. You'll be driving over an important 2000-year old avenue used by soldiers and traders in millennia past.

Congratulations - you survived driving the wild streets of Rome!


Valerie Schneider is a freelance writer, who lived in New Mexico for twenty years before trading the high desert for the medieval hill towns of Italy in May, 2006. She is a regular contributor to Slow Travel, pens travel agency newsletters, and has written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel. She and her husband, Bryan, currently reside in Ascoli Piceno where they conduct small-group tours called Panorama Italy. Read more on her blog, 2 Baci in a Pinon Tree. See Valerie's Slow Travel Member page.

© Valerie Schneider, 2007

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