Renting cars in Italy should be easy, right? I mean, we have all sorts of websites dedicated to finding you the best deal, and many big, familiar companies offering their services direct for renting a car in Italy. So, we researched and read reviews, checked prices, thought long and hard about our needs and locations to pickup and drop off cars and we decided on Hertz.
Since after landing in Rome our first leg of the trip would be in Tuscany, we decided on the small town in south-eastern Tuscany called Chiusi Scalo ("Scalo" means the town is a train station town). One of the main problems in organizing a trip like this is trying to coordinate time of train arrivals and departures with the hours that car rental offices are open. They typically close (like most things in Italy) between 12 to 3 pm. We arrived in Chuisi just after 1pm and needed to kill some time (as tired as we were) so we found a trattoria about 3 blocks walk from the station--1 block away from the Hertz office--with our baggage in tow. (No lockers in the train station).
After replenishing ourselves, we walked over to the Hertz office where 2 other couples were already waiting for the place to reopen. One young man worked there. We waited about half hour until he got to us and I jokingly asked where do Italians go during their long 3 hour lunch? He got a little miffed and snapped back, "How long is your work day in the U.S.?" I said most work until 5 or 6pm and then he exclaimed, "But WE work until 7!" Uh, yea... because you just had a three hour lunch and and need to catch up! Jeepers. Italians complain about unemployment and don't understand that their inneffective customs have screwed their economy. They should have two people working in an office like this... stagger their lunch HOURs and then they'd be going home at 5 instead of 7!
Ok, now to the good part. Picking up the car. In Italy (I was to find out later) rental companies don't have the car ready and waiting for you at their office. They don't have rental kiosks in train stations. After getting the keys I asked where is the car. He said "Down the street under the bridge". It started to rain like crazy as we walked (dragging luggage) the 1/4 mile to the pot hole ridden, puddled street where we had to find our particular car out of many... there were more than one Fiat 500L "grey" (it turned out it was black). No one checked out the car... I had to do it. And had to go back when I noticed a few dings and a broken trunk cover that weren't on the paperwork I was given. So... laziness on their part?
Returning the car in Florence wasn't so bad, BUT you really have to know your way around the dreaded ZTL cameras (Zona Traffico Limitato). If you pass into one of these zones by mistake you'll get a ticket sent to the U.S. in 6 months to a year. Once we got to the address ( I had run the route previously on Google Earth street view) it was difficult to know where to go. There are a couple of rental offices on both sides of this street and they display many small signs from various well known rental companies. In Italy you are not dealing with Hertz--you are dealing with a local rental broker.
Now, the real nightmare: Naples Hertz. Naples Centrale Station is so large it was difficult to get our bearings (and the data plan wasn't activated yet on our phones, so I couldn't use the Maps app). We had to cross over an extremely busy viale where people do not pay any attention to signs, speed limits, other cars, pedestrians or stop lights. I was really worried about Lucas getting across dragging his large backpack rig along. Then it was a two block walk along one of the most sleazy streets I've seen yet. Filthy, druggies, gypsies, stench and drunks amid the rush of normal workaday people pushing past it all.
This was also one of the hottest days yet... we were all sweating when we finally got to the Hertz office, a tiny space with a garage door pull-down and--of course--no air conditioning. This office did have tw0 young men working there. But it seemed they were working tandem on each person (there were a few people ahead of us). They couldn't seem to handle taking care of two customers at one time. We did the paperwork and they gave me the keys telling me the car was in a "parking lot" 30 meters down the street across the busy viale--again. This time, there were no lights, no crosswalks and a major "rotary" intersection to get across. Just getting across the street was a real effort... and dangerous for Hertz to have their customers do.
Ok... 30 meters? Try 359 meters (I measured it on Earth). This walk was also hairy... past a sleezy train station hotel with hookers, panhandlers, gypsies and filth, the stink of urine. This taught me that everything I read is true... Naples is a sewer. Literally.
We couldn't find the "parking lot" until Lucas spotted a small Hertz logo on a building around the corner from the street they said it was on. It was a run down indoor hourly parking garage. So, that's where they hide their rental cars! The next surprise came when they seemed puzzled that I expected an automatic "Fiat 500L or similar compact" as per my contract (I reserved months ago). The best they could do was give me an automatic Volvo "soove"(SUV) he said. This thing was big--and dirty. He asked if I would like it washed. Of course, I said. He said it would take over half an hour... forget it, I said. We were trying to get to the next check-in in Amalfi to meet the caretaker. So, we got stuck with this wide vehicle, not the Fiat 500L that I had originally booked. And this wasn't even in the same "compact" class of car. It was a move up the tier... which I didn't want... especially considering the narrow, twisty roads that I knew were in my near future.
Returning this car wasn't all that bad, aside from the insane drivers in Bari. This office had three people working there, and still, NO air conditioning. At least, the Hertz person there offered to drive us to the station since he had to drive the Volvo across town to their garage location. (I'm glad I didn't have to pick up a car here!) I was happy for that, because otherwise it would have meant walking 4 blocks in a seedy, train station neighborhood, then carrying luggage down and then up stairs to get under the train tracks at the station. You see, in their wisdom, the Bari Hertz people have their rental office on the back side-- the proverbial wrong side of the tracks--from Bari Centrale Station. There's an underground tunnel going from the Hertz neighborhood side to the main part of the station, where you must enter to get to any train platforms. Again... no kiosk right at the station? Nope, that would make troppo senso (too much sense)!
Renting a car from Hertz in Italia is a truly painful experience. Beware... and look elsewhere.