Italy Driving Guide
Driving in Italy is not so different to driving in the USA, as long as you have an International Driving Permit and an understanding of the basic rules.
With its idyllic coastal towns, majestic architecture, and abandoned cities, it’s no surprise why millions of people consider Italy as their dream destination. Italy is not only famous for picture-perfect destinations but also its palatable cuisine and cheerful locals. Driving in Italy makes the experience more memorable, so, what’s stopping you from visiting this dreamy European country?
If you’re planning to make this dream trip come true, you need to know some important things before booking that ticket. This guide is packed with information you need to know about Italy, from driving do’s and don’ts and driving situations to rental cars and top destinations. Reading this guide is essential to ensure you live the best time of your life while in the country.
How Can This Guide Help You?
Driving in Italy can be but a dream to many. With statues and edifices that are a mix of both modern and history, it can be mesmerizing and more enjoyable if you have more freedom. But can you really drive here? Well, if you have doubts about whether you should drive in the country, our comprehensive driving guide will help you gain more confidence to drive here.
Located in the south-central of Europe, Italy is the home of fascinating architecture and tasty dishes. Because of its vibrant culture and turbulent past, the country attracts millions of tourists all over the world. Before you dream of enjoying a slice of Neapolitan pizza and Italian spaghetti, you need to know the travel restrictions and safety measures observed in the country.
Italy is a country at the south central of Europe bordering Spain, France, Austria, Romania, and Greece. This boot-shaped country is just a bit protruding into the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the Po Valley, islands like Sicily, and the southern side of the Alps. Italy is known for its scenic landscapes, where you’ll find rugged mountains and pristine lakes in different regions of the country.
With only a few roads connecting each region in this rugged landscape, each town in the country is unique, with varying cuisine and dialect. The country has general temperate climate because of the mountainous landscape. However, as you go to the southern part of Italy, you’ll find beautiful coastal areas. Indeed, the country has a varied landscape that caters to all kinds of tourists.
Standard Italian is the primary language in the country. You may notice that there are varying dialects in each region in the country, but not all of these dialects have legal protection and recognition. Because of this, people had to learn the Standard Italian to communicate with others. Aside from Italian, the people also speak French, Catalan, Slovene, German and Sardinian in other regions.
Italy has a land area of 301,230 sq km (116,306 sq mi), including the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. The mainland is 1,185 km (736 mi) long and 381 km (237 mi) wide, while Sicily covers 25,708 sq km (9,926 sq mi) of surface area. Sardinia, on the other hand, has a surface area of 24,090 sq km (9,300 sq mi).
Italy has a rich yet turbulent history that inspired hundreds of movies. The country was first inhabited by the Etruscans, who founded a civilization between the Arno and Tiber rivers. In the 3rd century BCE, the Romans took hold of the entire Mediterranean, extending its power from India to Scotland. However, barbarian invasions seized power from the Romans in the 5th century CE, ending the reign of the Roman empire.
During the Renaissance era, Italy flourished because of artistic, technological, and intellectual endeavors. However, the loyalty of the city-states was divided between the pope and the Holy Roman Empire, waging a savage war between the states. Italy has suffered immensely during the two world wars under the rule of the fascist Benito Mussolini.
Italy has a bicameral parliament, which primary function is legislation, comprised of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The members of the Chamber of Deputies, or the lower house, are elected by the proportional representation system. Most senate members are also elected in this kind of system, but some of them are appointed by the president and ex-officio presidents.
The country is headed by the president, elected by the parliament, and three representatives of every region. As the head of the state, the president can dissolve the parliament on his own initiative or at the request of the government. The government comprises the president of the Council of Ministers and other ministers of particular departments. The government is responsible for administrative policy.
Italy’s economy in the past centuries relied heavily on the agricultural sector. However, the country is now prospering thanks to its booming tourism. Italy has been attracting millions of tourists every year, making it one of the most visited countries not only in Europe but in the world.
Tourists love to visit the major cities in the country in which the all-time favorite city is Rome. With beautiful monuments, scenic landscape, and majestic architecture, it’s no wonder that Italy is a top country destination in the world.
International Driver’s Permit in Italy
Driving in Italy to explore cities and towns can be one of your unforgettable memories, assuming you comply with all the requirements and follow the driving rules. One of the requirements for driving in Italy is an international driver’s permit (IDP). An IDP is a travel document that allows you to drive in a foreign country.
Is a Local Driver’s License Valid in Italy?
A local driver’s license is valid in Italy for up to six months if you have a visa on your passport. All licenses issued in the European Union are valid in Italy, even without an international driver’s permit for Italy. However, if you’re from a non-EU country, you are required to have an international driver’s license in Italy. An international driving permit is necessary in Italy, especially for driving permits that are not in Italian or English.
Do You Need an International Driver’s Permit in Italy?
Foreigners need an international’s driver’s permit to drive in Italy for up to six months. When renting a car, you are required to present an international driver’s license in Italy along with your local driving license. An international driver’s permit can help you avoid negative situations with the authorities. If you’re driving in Italy with a US license, you still need to present an IDP to the authorities.
Does an IDP Replace a Native Driver’s License?
An international driver’s permit is merely a translation of your identification information to 12 widely-spoken languages in the world. Thus, it doesn’t replace your native driver’s license. An international driver’s license is necessary to solve language differences between you and the authorities in a foreign country. You can’t transact with only an IDP, so you need to always bring your local driver’s license with you.
Renting a Car in Italy
Exploring Italy is like opening a treasure chest filled with the most beautiful treasures you’ve ever seen. Although Italy has a great public transport system, tourists still opt for driving in Italy with a rental car to visit the top tourist destinations. It’s easier to reach coastal towns and rural areas with a vehicle. Before browsing online for the perfect rental car, below are a few things you need to know when renting a car in Italy.
Car Rental Companies
If you're not sure about taking public transport in Italy, you can rent a car instead. Established car rental companies are not hard to find in Italy. Europcar, Auto Europe, and Indigo Car Hire have locations in Italy where you can rent a car that suits your traveling needs. You can book your rentals online and get the best deals from these car rental companies. These car rental companies also offer long- and short-term car rentals, giving you the option to rent a car as long as you want.
When choosing a rental agency, try comparing the rental prices and the inclusions before finalizing your decision. You also need to consider if their pick-up locations are easily accessible, so you don’t have to waste an hour or two trying to find their location on the GPS. It’s also important to check if the rental company includes insurance in the package. Your rental car should also have a reflective vest and warning triangle for emergencies.
The documents you need to rent a car are also the requirements for driving in Italy. Car rental companies will require you to present a valid driver's license held for at least a year, an IDP, credit card and a visa on your passport. It’s essential to secure an IDP before your scheduled trip to Italy, so you don’t have to stress over it on your journey. If you booked your rental online, you need to present the receipt of your rental, too. Most car rental companies in Italy accept credit card payments for your convenience.
The age requirement varies in each car rental company, but the most common age requirement is 21 years old. Some companies allow drivers to rent if they are at least 18 years old and have held their valid driver’s license for at least one year. It’s quite challenging for young drivers to rent a car as some car rental companies simply refuse to let young drivers rent their vehicles or charge a daily surcharge that would increase their rental costs.
Rental companies in Italy also impose a maximum age requirement. For seniors 60 years old and above, they have to pay for a senior driver’s fee. The age requirement can also affect the options you can choose from. For seniors and young drivers, they are only allowed to drive certain types of vehicles. Nonetheless, car rental companies can still refuse to rent a car to you, even if your age is qualified, if you have a bad driving record.
Car rental companies offer a variety of rental cars to choose from that will suit your budget and trip. If you plan to visit the museums or check out Renaissance architecture in cities, SUVs, sedans, and other small cars are the highly recommended vehicles for rent. Since big cities have heavier traffic, smaller vehicles are enough to get you from one tourist spot to another. Small cars, like SUVs, are fuel-efficient, making them the bestsellers in car rental companies in Italy.
If you’re driving in southern Italy with your family, large 4x4 vehicles are a perfect choice with more room for passengers and luggage space. You can also rent vans if you’re out camping in the countryside of Italy or visiting the charming coastal towns. If you’re an eco-conscious traveler, you can rent eco-friendly cars from Europcar. Want to experience la dolce vita? Try renting a luxury car for a day.
Car Rental Cost
Your rental car’s cost depends on the type of vehicle, the inclusions, and the additional fees you choose. Economy vehicles are the cheapest cars to rent for as low as $6/day. Larger vehicles are pricier, so it’s best to check your itinerary before booking a large vehicle. Station wagons can cost up to $420/day, while a full-size SUV can cost up to $27/day. Aside from the type of vehicle, inclusions can also affect the car rental price.
Some inclusions include child seats, unlimited mileage, zero-excess insurance, and taxes. Car rental companies also offer optional extras such as GPS, additional driver, ski rack, and full tank option. The additional driver option authorizes a friend or family member to drive the rental car aside from you. If you let an unauthorized person drive for you, your insurance coverage becomes void if an accident happens.
Car Insurance Cost
Car insurance is mandatory in Italy, so car rental companies provide certain types of car insurance to their clients, depending on your rental agreement. These are the Collision Damage Waiver and Theft Protection. The average insurance cost at the counter is USD 24 - USD 55 per day, while the average cost for zero-excess insurance is USD 11 - USD 19 per day. These prices are based on car rentals for compact, economy, mid-size, or full-size vehicle types.
If you want to save up on costs, it’s best to avail the zero-excess insurance since it has a lower daily rate than the normal coverage at the counter. You can also avail of other car insurance types, such as Personal Effects Protection and Personal Accident Coverage. The Personal Effects Protection costs around $7 per day, while the Personal Accident Coverage costs around $8 a day. You can pay for these types of insurance through a credit card.
Car Insurance Policy
Car rental insurance gives you peace of mind when driving in Italy and protects you in case of accidents. Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and Theft Protection are mandatory for all car rental companies to protect you from liability resulting from damage by collision and theft. The coverage may vary depending on the level of protection you avail.
Aside from CDW and Theft Protection, you can also avail yourself of Personal Accident Insurance to cover all medical expenses for injuries in case of accidents. Auto Europe offers a Personal Effects Insurance, covering the cost of personal belongings if they are stolen in the rental car. The Personal Accident Insurance and Personal Effects Insurance are optional, so you need to buy them separately.
Road Rules in Italy
Driving in Italy is a dreamy and freeing experience as you hop from one destination to another. Italian authorities welcome tourists warmly and would gladly help you get around their country. However, you are not exempted from following their road rules. For countries driving on the right, like the members of the European Union, the rules of driving in Italy are easy to follow as they implement the same laws. It may be challenging for left-side driving countries for the first time, but it gets manageable after a few trips.
When driving in another country, you must keep in mind that they have road rules that you need to follow. You’re not exempted from the penalties if you have a violation, so make sure you adhere to the important regulations enforced in Italy.
Besides Neapolitan pizza and pasta dishes, Italy is also known for wine-tasting tours throughout the country. Although it’s a country with the tastiest wine, you can’t drive while under the influence of alcohol. Italy’s blood alcohol limit is only 0.5 mg of blood alcohol, considerably lower than in other European countries. There must be zero blood alcohol in your body for professional drivers and drivers with under three years of experience.
It’s better not to drink even a glass of alcohol if you’re driving if you don’t want to get in trouble. If you’re involved in an accident, the police will conduct a breathalyzer test on you. If you can’t help drinking a glass of wine, it’s best to let another person drive for you or call a cab service. Alcohol can impair your senses and reaction time that hinders your ability to drive safely on the road. It's best to avoid driving under the influence of alcohol to avoid these consequences.
Penalties for Drink-Driving
Violating the drink driving rule in Italy can get you in serious trouble with the police, depending on the damage caused by your irresponsible driving. The penalties may include fines, vehicle confiscation, or, worse, imprisonment. Aside from cutting your trip short, drink-driving can lead to harming others and even death. The penalties for drink-driving, according to the alcohol limit, are as follows:
- between between 0 and 0.5 g/l - €164 to €663 and reduction of five points on their driving license for drivers under 21 years old
- between 0.5 and 0.8 g/l - fines between € 531 and €2,125 and suspension of driving license for three to six months
- more than 1.5 g/l - fines from €1,500 to €6,000 and imprisonment for six months to one year
The left lane in multi-lane roads is strictly for passing. When passing, you must turn your signals on until you passed the vehicle in front of you to indicate that you’re only passing in the left lane. Once you’re done passing, you need to get back to the right lane as soon as possible. Keep right all the time unless you need to pass.
Parking can be quite challenging in Italy, especially in city centers and historic towns. City centers have designated parking lots, which are usually underground and quickly get full. So, you only have the option to park on streets or curbs. You are allowed to park on areas painted in white for free. If the area is painted blue, you need to pay the parking fee and stick the ticket outside the car. Remember, you are only allowed to park for a certain period in a pay-for-park area.
Check your condition and the vehicle’s
The thrill and anticipation of getting around Italy by car should not get in the way for you to get enough sleep. It’s a bad practice to drive when tired or ill as it makes you incapable of being alert on the road. Fatigue has caused several car accidents that even led to death. You should also check if you have all the compulsory equipment such as tires, reflective vest, and warning triangle in your car.
The car must also be in good condition to reduce the possibility of car breakdowns and accidents. The mirrors, windows, and headlights should also be clean for maximum visibility. Lastly, double-check all the documents you need to bring when driving a car in Italy. You must carry your local driver’s license, IDP, insurance documents, and passport, so you don’t get charged for unlicensed driving at checkpoints.
Driving in a ZTL
Zona a traffico limitato (ZTL) or limited traffic zones, are areas designed to reduce pollution and ease congestion in Italy’s cities and towns, allowing only the residents to enter the zone. Driving in limited traffic zones in Italy without a permit is strictly prohibited and may result in fines if you’re caught driving in the traffic zone. Expect to pay a ZTL fine between €80 to €300 issued by ticket-cameras at the zones entrance and a Traffic Violation Fee of around €45 from your car rental supplier.
Some urban areas also restrict cars from entering to reduce pollution levels. It’s best to inform the car rental company where you’ll be driving the car so they can tell you if the place is a pollution-driving restricted area. Congestion charges and allowing only a limited number of vehicles on certain days are imposed in city centers to reduce pollution in the country.
Other Important Rules
Now that you’re on the road, you must also follow common standards of driving. Dipped lights must be used outside built-up areas, in tunnels, and during snow, rain, or low visibility. Using a handheld phone while driving is not allowed in Italy as it distracts you while driving. If it’s an important call, use a hands-free device. Don’t turn right on a red light.
Seat Belt Laws
Driving in Italy requires all passengers and drivers to wear their seatbelt at all times, whether you’re seated at the rear or front. The wearing of seatbelts is a safety measure implemented to reduce fatalities in road accidents. Seat belts support your body in case of a collision or sudden stop. Violation of this rule is subject to on-the-spot fines that start at €80.
If you’re traveling with children, they are required to use child restraints. Child seats protect your children in case of car accidents. Car crashes are among the leading causes of death and injury in children, so car seats are essential when traveling with children. If you’re caught driving with a child not protected by a child restraint, you can face serious consequences such as fines from €88 to €333. Below is the criteria when to use a car seat:
- If you’re traveling with children under 150 cm, use a child restraint
- Children who weigh less than 18 kg must use a car seat
- Children weighing more than 18 kg can use a booster seat to use the car’s seat belts
General Standards of Driving
Tourists are also expected to observe the general driving standards when driving in Italy. The general standards of driving should be fervently adhered to avoid cutting your trip short or accidents. Although, there’s a steady rise of automatic transmission cars, you can still find cars in manual transmission in Italy. It’s up to you if you prefer to use a manual or automatic car.
Another driving standard that you must know is the use of daytime running lights. Using daytime running lights (DRL) during the day is mandatory in Italy as a safety measure for vehicles to be more visible. The use of DRL can decrease the number of daytime accidents by 11%. Newer cars have DRLs readily installed that automatically switch on, but for vehicles without DRLs, you need to turn on your headlights manually.
As a measure to strictly enforce speeding laws, the authorities placed speed cameras on almost all roads in the country. Speed cameras can detect if you’re driving in Italy within the speed limits, taking a photo of your car and detecting your speed. You’ll find the speed cameras in Italy when driving on freeways and roadsides, so there’s no room for you to escape. The car rental company will send a speeding ticket in the mail even months after your visit.
The speed limits are as follows:
- Built-up areas: 50 KpH
- Highways: 130 KpH or 110 KpH when raining
- Non-major highways outside of major urban areas: 110 KpH or 100 Kph when raining
- Local roads: 90 KpH or 80 KpH when raining
Italian authorities are unforgiving with excessive speeding. You can get fined €40 to €4,000 if you’re caught driving above the speed limit, depending on the excess speed limit you’re caught on. Keep in mind that fines increase by 30% for all severe offenses committed between 10 PM to 7 AM. It’s essential to obey the speed limits to ensure everyone’s safety on the road, including the pedestrians.
Traffic Road Signs
You’ll find road signs wherever you’re driving in Italy, serving different purposes. Like other countries of the European Union, Italy also uses international road signs for everyone’s convenience. The international road signs are categorized into five: warning, information, mandatory, prohibitory, and priority road signs. However, there are still a few non-common road signs found in the country.
- General alert
- Roundabout: yield to traffic already in the roundabout
- Yield to traffic
- Stop and yield
Round Red Signs: Forbidden
- Do not enter (road closed to traffic)
- Do not enter (wrong way)
- Speed limit (in km/h)
- Speed limit in case of fog (in km/h)
- End of speed limit; default limit applies afterward
- No parking
- No stopping
- No horse and carriages allowed! (on some areas)
- One way street
- Direction of allowable travel
It’s also helpful to know essential words such as destra (right), sinistra (left), dritto (straight), uscita (exit), and pedaggio (toll) while driving in Italy. These words can be seen on road signs or mentioned by Italian drivers.
Roundabouts are used in intersections between roads to reduce traffic congestion. Most highways lead to a roundabout in Italy, so it’s important to know the rules when you’re inside one. When entering a roundabout, you must know what lane to get into. In Italy’s case, you should be driving on the right and give way to vehicles on the left. Also, indicate where you’re going when leaving a roundabout to warn the other drivers.
Right of Way
As a developed country, it’s not surprising to be sharing the public road with many vehicles of different sizes. Knowing when to yield for others or when you’re permitted to go is vital to maintain a smooth flow of traffic and ensure everyone’s safety. The right of way laws in Italy are similar to right-side driving countries, making it easier for most drivers to navigate the roads. Keep in mind that Italians practice self-managed yielding at intersections without signs.
Vehicles coming from the right have the right of way in Italy. When turning on the left or when roads intersect, the right of way is to the vehicle on the right. On mountain roads, the descending car must give way if two cars cannot pass each other. The heavier vehicle also has the right of way on roads. In motorways and roundabouts, you need to give way for vehicles inside. Trams and buses always have the right of way in any situation.
Legal Driving Age
The legal driving age in Italy varies depending on the type of vehicle. Like other countries, the legal age to drive a car in Italy is 18 years old, but keep in mind that car rental companies usually don’t rent out cars to drivers below 21 years old. On the other hand, you must be at least 16 years old to drive a motorbike up to 50 cubic capacity (cc) to 125 ccs and at least 14 years old to drive a moped up to 50 ccs in Italy.
Laws on Overtaking
Overtaking in Italy must be done on the left. However, you can’t overtake on level crossings, at intersections, on the brow of the hill, at bends, and when there’s low visibility. Driving in Italy also means you’ll be sharing the road with trams. You’re allowed to overtake a tram on the right if there’s enough space. For your safety, don’t overtake a tram when it’s picking up passengers.
When overtaking, make sure you can see ahead and check if there’s no vehicle already overtaking. Turn on your signals to warn the other drivers of your intention to overtake. Get back to the right lane once you’ve finished overtaking while leaving enough space for the vehicle behind you.
Like most countries, Italians drive on the right side of the road with the steering wheel on the left. Since driving in Italy is on the right side, the steering wheel is positioned on the left side to see the passing vehicles. The practice of driving right began in the late 1890s in Italy, except for Milan, Turin, Genoa, and other cities with tram networks. Italy fully adopted right-hand driving in the mid-1920s.
The position of the steering wheel can be confusing when driving in Italy if you’re from the UK and other right-side driving countries. This can be one of your biggest mental hurdles when driving, but don’t fret. You can get used to driving on the right side after a few tries.
Driving Etiquette in Italy
Driving in Italy can be smooth and easy, but it’s inevitable to encounter difficulties and challenges on the road. It’s essential to be prepared if problems arise, so you don’t get in trouble with the police or harm others. You are expected to practice the driving etiquette observed in Italy for pleasant and safe driving.
Car breakdowns in a foreign country can be stressful, but not knowing what to do in this situation is worse. It’s essential to check your car’s condition before driving and conduct a regular maintenance check to avoid breakdowns. If your car breaks down, try to move the vehicle off the road to avoid getting in the way of traffic. You are also required to wear a reflective vest when getting out of a broken-down car at night or in poor visibility.
You need to inform your car rental supplier about the situation so they can assist you as soon as possible. Do not attempt to fix the vehicle by yourself. You should also place the warning triangle at least 50 meters from the car to signal the other drivers of the obstruction.
Random checks from the police are a common situation in Italy to ensure all drivers are strictly following the traffic rules in the country. If the police stop you while driving, you need to show an international driver’s license in Italy, your local driver’s license, and passport for identification. If there’s no problem with your documents, the police will let you get on your way in a few minutes.
It’s best to remain calm and polite when dealing with the police to avoid negative situations. If it’s a DUI checkpoint, the police may request you to take a breathalyzer test to ensure you’re capable of driving on their roads. There’s no reason to panic when this happens as police officers in Italy are polite and professional.
The GPS navigation may sometimes be inaccurate or difficult to understand, so the best way to ask for directions is with the locals or Italian drivers. Italians are friendly and would gladly give directions to reach your destination. You don’t have to be fluent in Italian to ask for help. Some Italians speak and understand English, so it’s easier for you to communicate. In certain situations, knowing a few Italian phrases would help when driving in Italy:
- Per favore può darmi alcune indicazioni? (Can you give me some directions, please?)
- Mi scusi, mi servono delle informazioni, per favore (Excuse me; I need some information, please.)
- giri a destro [Formal] (turn right)
- giri a sinistra [Formal] (turn left)
- va sempre diritto [Formal] (straight)
- a destra (on the right)
- a sinistra (on the left)
- all‘angolo (at the corner of)
- davanti a (in front of)
- via (street)
- accanto a (next to)
- qui vicino (nearby)
- di fianco a (adjacent to)
Remain calm and follow the orders of the police at the checkpoint. When approaching, make sure your doors are locked and roll down your windows enough for the officer to see you. Do not show impatience while talking with the officer to avoid delays in your trip. The police may see this as a sign of hiding something and may further question you.
You must show identification documents at checkpoints, including your passport, IDP, and local driver’s license. You must carry these requirements all the time when driving in Italy. If you’re driving your own car in Italy, the officer will check if the foreign-registered vehicle has a GB sticker displayed. The officer will also check if your car is equipped with a reflective vest, warning triangle, and a fire extinguisher.
There are also certain situations that you may encounter in Italy, such as getting involved in an accident. You must also know what to do in this situation, so you don’t have to panic. Below is another tip you must know when driving in Italy.
What Should I Do In Case of Accidents?
The precautionary measures to apply will depend on the seriousness of the accident. If you’re involved in an accident, it’s mandatory to report the accident to authorities concerned and your rental company. If it’s a minor accident, it’s recommended to take pictures before moving the vehicles off the road not to obstruct the traffic.
In case of accidents resulting in injuries or damages, you must report the accident to the police immediately. The police are responsible for sending assistance to the injured persons, securing the vehicles, and assessing the situation. The police will determine if there’s anyone liable and may conduct a breathalyzer test to check if you’re drink-driving. Don’t move the vehicles until the authorities arrive.
Driving Conditions in Italy
It’s essential to be aware of the driving situations and conditions of the country you’re traveling to, so you can mentally and physically prepare yourself before driving. The driving condition in Italy is manageable, with only a few challenges encountered on the road. Sharing the road with the locals won’t be a problem while driving in the country.
Vehicle accidents in Italy are gradually decreasing as stricter laws and heavier punishment are implemented over the years. In 2018, there were 3,325 road fatalities recorded in Italy, showing a 1.6% decrease compared to the 2017 statistics. Italy reported a 5.5 traffic deaths per 100 000 inhabitants rate and 0.6 road fatalities per 10 000 registered vehicles in 2018.
The National Road Safety Plan Horizon 2020 is proof of the government's effort to reduce Italy’s road fatalities. The 2018 statistics revealed that passenger car occupants were the most affected by road fatalities, with 43% of road deaths. On the other hand, road fatalities involving 18-20 years old have increased by 36.9% compared to the 2017 data.
In 2017, there were 53.5 million registered vehicles recorded in Italy. About 72%; of the registered vehicles are passenger cars, while 9% of them are trucks, and 13% are motorcycles. As you drive on the main highways, you’ll find mostly passenger cars, trucks, and motorcycles sharing the road with you. Italians also use public transportation such as buses and trams.
The main freeway in Italy is the Autostrada A1, also called the ‘Highway of the Sun’, which runs from north to south of Italy, measuring 470 miles from Milan to Naples via Florence and Rome. If you’re driving north of the country, you can join the A4, or the Serenissima, connecting Turin and Trieste and passing by Venice and Milan along the way.
If you’re heading to the south of Italy, you’ll be driving along the A2 from Fisciano to San Giovanni. Traveling from Italy to France is also possible on the A5 at the northwest, linking Turin to France through a tunnel beneath Mont Blanc. Be aware of the speed cameras on these main highways when driving in Italy. Tolls cost around $9 per 100 kilometers for the cars.
Road Situation in Italy
Italy’s 6,000-kilometer autostrada runs from north to south of the country and is generally well-maintained. In historic city centers, the streets are often narrow and winding, making it congested, especially on weekends. You’ll find several speed cameras and road signs on the highways and roadsides when driving in Italy. Rural roads are narrow and have no guardrails but well-marked with road signs and streetlights.
You’ll find several filling stations throughout the country, but some, specifically the smaller stations, close from 1 PM to 3:30 PM and on Sunday afternoons. You’ll also find self-service pumps in several locations for your convenience. The well-maintained highways and well-marked roads make driving in Italy safe.
Italians obey the traffic signs fervently when driving in Italy, and you’re expected to follow the rules, too. You may encounter drivers who change lanes quickly, but it’s not something you should be anxious about. Italians practice safe driving in Italy, so you don’t need to worry about encountering erratic and aggressive drivers on the road.
Aside from the ones mentioned above, there are also other things that every tourist must know when driving in Italy. Being unfamiliar with its driving conditions should not be a disadvantage, but a learning experience. Here are other tips you should remember when driving on Italy’s roads.
Are They Using Kph or Mph?
Speed limits are measured in kilometers per hour (KpH) in Italy, like most European countries. Remember that all speed limit signs you see when driving in Italy indicate KpH measurement, so be aware of this difference if your country uses imperial units for measurement. Going over the speed limit is strictly prohibited in the country, and speed cameras are installed to monitor all road users’ speed.
What Is the Driving Condition in Winter?
In winter, you may encounter fog and low visibility when driving on the roads of northern Italy. It’s best to rent a car with fog lamps to navigate the streets in poor visibility easily. You are required to use snow chains when driving in Italy in winter. Before driving in Italy in winter, ensure the snow chains are approved and the right fit for your tires. When driving in Italy in winter, you’ll find signs indicating where snow chains are compulsory.
Things to Do in Italy
Besides being a fantastic tourist destination, Italy also attracts foreign nationals who want to live la dolce vita. Italy allows foreigners to stay in the country for more than six months for leisure, work, study, and more. If you’re planning to reside in Italy, you need to know a few essential things that would help you transition to the sweet life in Italy.
Drive as a Tourist
Tourists are allowed to drive in Italy if they have a valid driving license and an IDP. For tourists coming from countries that are EU members, you don’t have to present an IDP since your driving license already grants you the privilege to drive on Italy’s roads. You can drive your own car to Italy as long as you have the necessary requirements with you. You can also rent a car in Italy for a pleasurable driving experience.
Work as a Driver
Foreign nationals can apply for driving jobs in Italy if they become residents of the country. Finding driving jobs can be challenging as a foreign national, but it’s still worth trying. You can find several job listings on job hunting platforms. You must also have a valid Italian driving license to get a driving job to prove your driving competency.
Work as a Travel Guide
Becoming a travel guide in Italy is possible for foreigners, but you need to be eligible for an Italian passport to become one. In a country with tourism as the leading industry, travel guide jobs are not scarce. If you’re confident that you can help grow the tourism industry in the country by becoming a travel guide, there’s no time to waste here. But how can you become a travel guide?
First, you need to get licensed. It’s illegal to operate tours without a license in Italy, so make sure you have contacted the local tourist board in the province you wish to operate tours. You have to pass all the exams before you get a license. If you think you need to improve your skills, try enrolling in a travel guide course. Once you get licensed, you can either apply to different tour operators in the country or manage your own tours.
Being multilingual helps in this type of job, so it’s best if you know at least Italian and English to communicate with the locals and tourists. Aside from the ones mentioned above, you must also have an in-depth knowledge of the region you want to conduct tours.
Apply for Residency
EU and non-EU citizens could apply for permanent residency in Italy if they lived in the country for the prescribed period. Non-EU citizens are qualified for a permanent residency if they have continuously lived in Italy for five years and have a temporary residence permit. On the other hand, EU citizens can apply for permanent residency in Italy without a temporary residence permit. The requirements for permanent residency for non-EU citizens are as follows:
- temporary residence permit
- registration certificate issued by the local police force upon arrival in Italy
- criminal record and the application form issued by the Italian authorities
- Rental contract or utility bill to prove that you have a legal address in Italy
- bank statements, payslips, and tax returns for proof that you have the means to sustain yourself while in the country
EU citizens only need to submit their passports or valid IDs to apply for permanent residency. They also need to go to the police station of the city they live in for a simple declaration of their presence. Unlike non-EU citizens, they are eligible to apply for permanent residency after living for three months in Italy. The processing of the permanent residency permit may take up to three months.
Other Things to Do
Italy offers countless opportunities for tourists. That’s why it’s a country loved by most aside from its rich culture and charming tourist attractions. Below are the other things you can do in Italy.
Can I Drive My Own Car in Italy?
Driving your own car in Italy is allowed, but you need to equip your vehicle with a warning triangle and a reflective vest. UK-registered cars are required to acquire a GB sticker, which must be displayed visibly on the car. However, if you’re staying for more than six months in Italy, you need to register your car in the country. You must be an Italian resident to be eligible for vehicle registration in Italy.
Your vehicle must pass the roadworthiness test to check if it conforms to Italian standards. Once your car passes the test, you will receive a certificate of conformity. Besides the test, you also need to submit car ownership documents and your residency permit in Italy.
Do I Need an Italian Driving License?
You don’t need to get a driving license in Italy if you’re only staying in the country for less than six months as long as you have your valid driving license and IDP. If you’re staying for more than six months, you need to obtain an Italian driving permit to drive in the country. You can get charged for unlicensed driving in Italy if caught without a license.
EU citizens can convert their local driver’s license without taking a driving test. For citizens from non-European countries, you need to take a driving test to be eligible for license conversion. You need to be at least 18 years old to acquire an Italian driving license.
Top Destinations in Italy
Italy is a fascinating country known for its architecture, food, art, and history. This romantic European country attracts millions of visitors every year for its spectacular tourist destinations, mouth-watering dishes, and vibrant culture. The dreamy streets and stunning architecture will leave you hopeful of what’s ahead to your next destination.
Rome is known for its turbulent history that has been featured in many Hollywood films. It’s not surprising to see this destination on top of the list as it offers numerous stunning buildings that are remnants of its glorious past. A trip to Italy is never complete without visiting its capital!
- From Leonardo da Vinci International Airport, head east on Via Fratelli Wright toward Via Francesco Paolo Remotti/Via Leone Delagrange.
- Turn right onto Via Francesco Paolo Remotti.
- At the roundabout, take the 3rd exit onto the Via Mario de Bernardi ramp to Roma.
- Merge onto Via Mario de Bernardi. Continue onto A91.
- Take the exit toward V.Le C. Colombo Centro.
- Merge onto Via Cristoforo Colombo
- Slight left toward Via Cristoforo Colombo. Then, Slight right onto Via Cristoforo Colombo
- Continue onto Largo Terme di Caracalla.
- Continue straight onto Via Torino. At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Piazza di S. Bernardo.
- Piazza di S. Bernardo turns right and becomes Via Vittorio Emanuele Orlando.
- Continue onto Piazza della Repubblica.
Things to Do
Rome offers a lot of beautiful sites with impressive architecture, so don’t ever miss out this city. Here are some of the activities you can do in Rome.
Take a historical tour at the Colosseum
The Colosseum is the most massive surviving structure built by the Roman empire to satisfy the public’s hunger for entertainment. The building stands out from the modern infrastructure surrounding it, a reminder of the city’s tumultuous past. You can tour around the area by yourself or join a guided tour to learn more about its history and enter some restricted areas, including the arena, upper tiers, and underground chambers.
Check out the burial grounds at the Pantheon
Aside from the Colosseum, the Pantheon is also an infrastructure built by the Roman empire and the evidence of the Romans’ impressive architectural techniques. The Pantheon is famous for its precise proportions of equal height and diameter. Besides its architecture, the Pantheon is also known as the burial ground of prominent Italian figures. Spark your creativity by checking out the painting and frescoes in the interior of the building.
Marvel the ancient ruins at Roman Forum
Another majestic structure you can find in Rome is the Roman Forum built around 500 B.C. The archaeological site is a perfect place to see and imagine what has been the life of the Romans during its glorious era. The best way to marvel the site is by joining a guided tour to know the history of this place.
Throw a coin at Trevi Fountain
You might have heard this tradition of throwing a coin in this fountain from several tourists. The Trevi Fountain is a famous attraction where tourists believe that if you throw a coin here you’ll likely come back to Rome. Whether or not this is true, Rome is still worth coming back for.
Known as the home of the great Leonardo da Vinci, Florence boasts stunning architecture and art museums that will surely boost your creativity. The city does not only offer art; it is art itself. From beautiful churches to Renaissance art museums, you’ll surely enjoy your stay in this city.
- From Rome, get on A1dir/E35 from Via Salaria. Continue on A1/E35 to Firenze
- Use the left two lanes to continue onto A1/E35/E45 toward Firenze
- Continue to follow A1/E35
- Take exit Firenze Sud toward Firenze Sud. Continue onto SP127
- Continue onto Via Giovanni Agnelli
- Continue onto Via Marco Polo
- Continue on SS67. Take Via Aretina, Via Mannelli, Via Masaccio, V.le Giovanni Milton, ... and Via Nazionale to Via de' Cerretani
Things to Do
View the Tuscan Hills at the Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore
The Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore is one of the finest cathedrals in the world located in Florence. Like the Roman structures, the cathedral attracts several tourists because of its fascinating architecture and intricately designed facade. The most famous piece of the cathedral is the dome that is visible at any point in Florence. Climb up the steps leading to the top and enjoy the breathtaking view of the Tuscan Hills from here.
Stepping into Uffizi Gallery is like stepping into a portal that takes you back to the Renaissance period. The museum is famous for its vast collection of art pieces of the great Italian artists commissioned by the Medici family. The collection includes Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Leonardo da Vinci’s The Annunciation, and Michelangelo’s The Holy Family. For an in-depth experience, join a guided tour to learn more about the process and the story behind the artworks.
Admire the magnificent frescoes and artworks at Palazzo Vecchio
Located at Piazza Signoria just beside Uffizi Gallery, Palazzo Vecchio is known as the residence of the Medici family and also the city hall centuries ago. Palazzo Vecchio, meaning “new palace”, houses awe-inspiring artworks, frescoes, and Dante’s infamous death mask here. Wander through the secret passages and climb the top of the building.
Leaning Tower of Pisa
Taking a break from near-perfect structures, visit the magnificently flawed Leaning Tower of Pisa and snap a quirky photo to share with your family and friends. The structure became a sensation because of its flaw, and since then, thousands of tourists visit the site yearly. Aside from a fun photo opportunity, you can also climb the tower to see the breathtaking view of the whole city.
- From Rome, get on A1dir/E35 from Via Salaria.
- Continue on A1/E35. Drive from SGC Firenze - Pisa - Livorno to Pisa. Take the SS1 exit from Superstrada Firenze Pisa Livorno
- Continue on Via Aurelia. Take Lungarno Giacomo Leopardi, Lungarno Ranieri Simonelli and Via Roma to Via Don Gaetano Boschi in Pisa
Things to Do
The Leaning Tower of Pisa may not have many activities to offer, but you’ll surely find yourself collecting fun and quirky photos and memories. Here are some of the things you can do in this destination.
Snap a fun photo of the tower.
A trip to the Leaning Tower of Pisa is not complete without a fun photoshoot. Pose in front of the tower with your friends or family for a memorable shot and be creative with your poses.
Enjoy the breathtaking view of the city at the top of the tower.
Another thing you should not miss out during your visit at the tower is climbing the stairs leading to the top. The tower offers a breathtaking view of the entire city, especially during sunset. Climbing the tower is not as tiring as it seems because, once you reach the top, you’ll find a relaxing view.
See the relics at the Duomo.
Near the Leaning Tower of Pisa, you’ll find the majestic Duomo with jaw-dropping exteriors. The Duomo has a grandiose facade, with bronze-paneled doors and bas-reliefs. You’ll find the tomb of Emperor Henry VII and a mosaic of Christ in Majesty when you enter the church.
Visit the tombs of Pisa’s Renaissance aristocrats at the Camposanto.
If you’re tired of visiting museums and want to change a bit of scenery, visiting the Camposanto will surely give you a different perspective. Here, you’ll find gravestones of the aristocrats surrounded by covered arcades.
Venice is the perfect destination for lovers and romantics, with its colorful towns, romantic gondola tours, and tranquil canals. You’ll experience a relaxing getaway right in the city, where you’re with your loved one or by yourself.
- From Florence, Take Via della Scala, SS67, Lungarno del Pignone, Via del Sansovino, and Viale Etruria to SGC Firenze - Pisa - Livorno
- Take E35, A1 var - Variante di Valico, A1/E35 and A13 to Via della Libertà in Venezia. Take the SS309 exit from Tangenziale di Mestre/A57
- Follow Via Della Libertà to your destination.
Things to Do
It’s common knowledge that Venice is one of the most romantic places where you could bring your loved ones. Celebrate love in all forms by doing the activities listed below.
Cruise the Venice Canals
Cruising the Grand Canal on the Vaporetto or enjoying a gondola ride in smaller canals is the perfect activity for a romantic date. As you move along the canals, you’ll see fascinating structures and beautiful houses lining the route. A Vaporetto ride on the Grand Canal allows you to see the buildings closer and learn valuable information about the buildings from a guide.
Climb the Campanile di San Marco
If you’re not into the idea of cruising the canals, how about climbing the Campanile di San Marco? The bell tower features a stunning skyline view of whole Venice. You have to ride an elevator to reach the top of the tower, so you don’t need to worry about climbing several steps and sweating here.
Take a photo at the Rialto Bridge.
Known as the most popular bridge in Venice, Ponte di Rialto offers a stunning view that would surely make your photos stand out from the rest. You can watch the gondolas and vaporettos passing by here at sunrise or sunset.
Besides impressive architecture, Italy also has beautiful coastal towns with unique and quiet charm you won’t find in bustling cities. The Cinque Terre region is the perfect destination for a getaway with your loved ones. Hike between the five villages of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.
- From Galileo Galilei International Airport, get on Superstrada Firenze Pisa Livorno.
- Follow A12/E80 to SP566dir in Carrodano. Take the exit toward Carrodano/Levanto from A12/E80.
- Continue on SP566dir. Take Località Albero d'Oro to SP38 in Monterosso al Mare.
Things to Do
Cinque de Terre is a beautiful coastal region that you should visit at least once. Here are the list of activities you can in this town.
Hike the trail to Santuario di Nostra Signora di Montenero.
Hiking is common when you visit Cinque Terre, but it’s definitely worth the sweat and energy. Located above Riomaggore, Santuario di Nostra Signora di Montenero features a stunning view of Cinque Terre that can help you forget your worries for a while.
Savor the delectable cuisines in the region.
Either savory dishes or sweet ice cream, Cinque Terre offers a variety of food that would suit the palette of each tourist. Buy a gelato as you hike the five villages of Cinque Terre or enjoy a fulfilling meal at one of the restaurants in the villages.
Swim at Manarola
Although white sand beaches are the most preferred beach destinations for most tourists, Manarola still attracts tourists because of its quiet and traditional charm. The tranquil ambience of the beach makes your dip more enjoyable.
Also, in southern Italy, Capri is a perfect destination for an island getaway for fun-loving tourists. Several fun activities await you on the island, including a boat tour to the Blue Grotto Cave, a hike on Monte Solero, and the lively beach parties on the island. Aside from the Blue Grotto Cave, Capri is famous for its vibrant nightlife where tourists can enjoy a few drinks and mingle with the locals and other tourists.
- From Naples, Take Corso Giuseppe Garibaldi and Via Nuova Marina to Piazzale Molo Carlo Pisacane
- Continue on Piazzale Molo Carlo Pisacane to Capri - Napoli
- Take the Capri - Napoli ferry
- Follow Via Don Giobbe Ruocco and Via Marina Grande to Via Roma
- At the roundabout, continue straight onto Via Roma.
Things to Do
Now that you’ve visited the most impressive structures and charming villages, it’s time for you to visit this fun-filled island with your friends and family. Below is the list of things you can do in Capri island.
Hike Monte Solero
If you’re into thrilling adventures, hiking Monte Solero is the perfect activity for you. Monte Solero offers a relaxing view of the entire island, a rewarding experience after a tiring hike. You can either hike the mountain before you swim or after your swim.
Join beach parties on the island.
The island hosts beach parties that fun-loving tourists absolutely love. You can dance your worries away and mingle with other tourists and locals. This would surely be a memorable experience for you.
Take a boat tour to the Blue Grotto Cave
If hiking and beach parties aren’t appealing to you, you can opt to join a boat tour with other tourists to the Blue Grotto Cave. The Blue Grotto Cave has one of the most mesmerizing views in Italy. Sunlight pass through the cave that shines in the water, creating a stunning blue light inside.
Driving in Italy with either your UK license or Indian license is accepted. As long as you are carrying your International Driving Permit to translate your license for you with the law officers, you’re good to go. Get your printed IDP now for only 24 hours if you’re from the U.S. and within 30 days globally, and your digital copy within two (2) hours or less through the International Driver’s Association.
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