Surely, when it comes to considering whether or not to get a hire car, it doesn’t get more obvious than Venice?
Well, actually, we happen to think that getting a hire car in Venice is an extremely good idea.
Why get a hire car in Venice?
- Dolomites — quite simply there is so much more beyond Venice than canals and gondolas, and the Dolomites in particular are absolutely stunning. Whether you want to go hiking, skiing or climbing, a hire car is going to make everything much easier.
- National Parks — If you head up the A27 autopista to Ponte nelle Alpi, you will then find the Dolomiti Bellunesi national park on your left and the Dolomiti Friulane national park on your right. Further to the northwest, you can also visit the Pale di San Martino natural park.
- Slovenia – with a hire car, you can easily pop across into neighbouring Slovenia and explore the Triglav National Park. Given how bad public transport is at the top end of the Adriatic, continuing in to Croatia isn’t such a bad idea either – although one-way rentals will cost you.
- City tour — architecture pundits will also want to visit cities like Padua and Mantua. Mantua in particular has notable works by Alberti, and is rated as one of the most “liveable” cities in Italy.
Although these can be done by train, a car gives the flexibility to enjoy the cities and landscapes and villages between them.
- Beaches — there are plenty of great beaches around Venice, and a hire car is good for getting around here to.
- Easy hire car access — Venice Marco Polo airport is a short ferry journey from the city, so it is easy to combine a trip into Venice itself with getting a hire car for the rest of your stay. Alternatively, hire cars are also available near to Santa Lucia station, or at Mestre station, the first mainland stop.
Check about picking up in one place and dropping off somewhere else, it may well just be cheaper to pickup and drop-off your hire car at the airport.
- Plan B – Venice is one of those cities that everyone should visit at least once, but at the wrong time of year it can be quite literally overloaded with people, or sometimes Venice quite literally stinks! Whilst Venice is too good to miss, even if you are then heading on somewhere else, it is worth having other options available in case you get fed up after being there for a couple of days. In this respect, it is at least worth having a hire car as an option.
Why not? Venice without a car:
- Obvious isn’t it? Venice is a city of canals and narrow back streets. It goes without saying that as there is no room in Venice for cars, then if you are only planning on staying within the city itself, there is of course no need to even contemplate getting one.
- Getting around – Although a gondola ride will set you back a good few euros (haggle hard), getting around Venice is actually surprisingly easy, whether by water bus (vaporetto) or simply on foot. If it is gimmicks that you are after, you can evn take a ride on the Venice People Mover, which connects Tronchetto Island with Piazzale Roma.
- Lido – Venice isn’t just about the Grand Canal and St Mark’s Square, you may also want to get out and explore around the Lido. Many of these islands are also car free, so you are still best off without one.
- Central Train – any visitors arriving in Venice by train will appreciate that they are already in the heart of the city when they disembark at Santa Lucia station. Simply walk through the station concourse and you exit straight onto the Grand Canal. It doesn’t get better than that! For anyone with an interest in modern aswell as classical architecture, take a brief detour to the right and there you will see the highly controversial Constitution Bridge. This was designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, altough its simple arch structure is a lot less flamboyant than many of this other works.
- Tour by train — you can easily visit nearby towns and cities by train, and you can also combine a visit to Venice with other major northern Italian city such as Milan and Florence. Those three cities make a nice triangle.
- Adriatic by boat or bus – you can take ferries to various points in Croatia from Venice, or you can take bus connections via Trieste. Although these are nothing like as convenient as having a hire car, you can at least travel along the coast in one direction, so you might get to see a lot more. Depending on your itinerary, you could head towards fantastic Dubrovnik via Split, or perhaps end up in the stunning Plitvice Lakes, and head out via the Croatian capital Zagreb.
Conclusion — to enjoy the numerous attractions which are within the hinterland of Venice itself, a hire car is an extremely good idea.
Verdict — yes
Note — although Venice is not a major intercontinental hub airport, a good network of flights to Venice is available from across Europe. Some budget flights will use Venice Treviso airport, which is around 30 km to the north. If you are getting a hire car anyway, it won’t make that much difference which airport you are using, but for a short break in Venice itself without getting a hire car, it is much easier to use Marco Polo airport. The nearest major hub is Malpensa Airport outside Milan, from where regular trains are available to Venice, with a change in Milan Centrale.
My partner and I were planning to spend a week visiting Venice and some of the other cities nearby, and we had no intention at all of even thinking about renting a car in Venice.
Your advice to spend at least a day in the Dolomites was spot-on, so we rented a car directly from Venice airport and then dropped it off at Mestre station, which was near where we were staying anyway.
Having a car to visit Cortina and then have a short walk around Tres Cime meant that we could visit places we’d never get anywhere near by train and bus, without having to check into a different hotel.
I think Venice car hire is never as obvious as people might think, and it’s certainly a useful option for going beyond any of the major cities.
When I first looked at the list of cities on this site, I thought you were joking to say people should hire a car when visiting Venice. Of course, I soon realised you were talking about the area around Venice, rather than just the city itself, but you gave some really useful suggestions about other places, especially up in the Dolomites.
Hiring a car at Venice airport
By hiring a car at Venice airport, we also then decided to stay in a hotel in Mestre which had free parking, so in the end we saved quite a bit of money compared to staying in the centre of Venice.
It’s easy enough to reach the historic areas by taking the short hop in from Mestre by train or bus.
Thanks for some really useful advice – hiring a car at Venice airport shouldn’t be dismissed so easily!