Guide to Driving In Italy - Drive Safe in Italy
Are there any special requirements for driving or hiring a car in Italy?
Driving is on the right. Drivers tend to be aggressive in Italy so defensive driving is advised, look out for tailgating (cars on your bumper/fender) and crazy overtaking. Having a passenger or GPS system to help you navigate while you concentrate on driving is helpful. Watch out for the buses only lanes. On the autostrada (motorway) you must drive with your lights on. Entry and exit roads on the autostrada are very narrow so be sure to slow right down.
The centre of these three lane roads is for passing. Passing is on the left.
Country roads are often not in good condition and are best avoided, especially in the south and in the alps.
Seat Belt Laws
All passengers must wear seatbelts whether they are in the front or back seats. Children under 12 must have a restraint appropriate to their age which follows the regulations of the country the car is registered in.
Drinking and Driving
The legal limit for blood alcohol in Italy is 50mg per 100ml of blood. This is just over half of the limit in the UK and therefore means that one drink is likely to put you over the limit. For that reason it's best not to drink if you're going to be driving home afterwards. Another good reason is that the penalties can include a prison term, a large fine, confiscation of your car and loss of your licence.
Must Have Documents
You'll need both parts of your UK licence. Non-EU drivers are fine with their licence as long as it's in the Roman alphabet. You'll also need proof of insurance as well as collision damage waiver and theft cover. Our hire cars have this as standard. You will also need to provide your vehicle registration document and proof of ID - your passport will do.
Speed limit signs are in black numbers inside red circles on a white background.
The speed limits for Italy are as follows:
Motorways: 130 km/h (110 km/h in rain)
Open roads: 90 km/h
In Town: 50 km/h
At night or near busy pedestrian areas, you are expected to observe lower limits.
Minimum Driving Age
You have to be at least 18 to be able to drive in Italy. If you are renting a car the minimum age is 21 but with some companies, it's 23. You are also likely to need to pay a young driver premium.
Safety Camera Warning Devices
Safety camera warning devices are illegal in Italy but perversely, the warning function on sat-navs is allowable.
On the Spot Fines
The rules for on the spot fines are complex. You can be fined on the spot if you are a driver from another country. If you wish to contest the fine or pay later, you'll still need to pay a quarter of the maximum fine for the offence.
If you don't pay, your car can be confiscated
Child Safety Rules
In Italy, your foreign registered car must comply with the regulations in the country of origin. In Italy, hire cars will already comply with local regulations if you have requested car seats or booster seats when booking. Bringing your own child restrain system with you may mean you don't comply with local regulations so it's better to ask us to sort it out for you.
A minimum of third party insurance is compulsory in Italy. For hire cars you must have collision damage waiver and theft protection, both of which are standard on our hire cars.
Rules of the Road
Standard European driving laws apply with one or two exceptions.
You must use a warning triangle and have your hazard warning lights lit if involved in an accident or if you break down.
You must have a reflective jacket in your car for use in an emergency or if you park in a restricted area.
You must use headlamp deflectors if using a UK car.
You must give way to the right at intersections, to trams and trains, to cyclists on cycle paths and pedestrians if they've begun to cross.
The police can impound you car for several major traffic violations or if you refuse to pay an on the spot fine.
There are no specific laws for towing a vehicle. The police will rely on you using common sense in making sure others are aware of your actions.
Fixed speed cameras and mobile radar traps are becoming prevalent in Italy, some say mainly as a revenue source. If caught by a fixed camera, the ticket will be sent to your home address or via the car hire company which may charge an admin fee to pass it on.
Using Mobile Phones when driving
It's illegal to use a mobile phone without a hands free device in Italy. An on the spot fine applies if you contravene the rules.
Parking is known as Parcheggio. It is best to park outside the walls of the main villages as the roads inside can be very narrow. If you find a parking lot it is usually a good idea to just park as a lot of time can be wasted looking for a better spot. You can only park in the direction of travel unless it's a one way street in which case you can park on either side of the road as long as there is a three metre gap for cars to get through.
Blue parking signs indicate areas in cities where you must pay. Between certain hours and on Sundays you can park for free. Where the parking duration is restricted, you'll find blue lines on the road and signs will give you the details. Ticket payment is usually at a machine nearby.
Enforcement of parking is done by the police and you may find you are clamped as well as fined. The cost for removal of clamps is expensive so be careful where you park. If you are causing an obstruction you may be towed away. Parking fines will set you back about 70 Euros.
In Italy, the disabled blue badge scheme is recognised but with a few provisos. You will still have to pay for parking but can park in specially designated parking spaces, labelled with a yellow wheelchair logo. If there are time restrictions they don't apply to disabled drivers. You can only park in no parking areas if it is an emergency, otherwise you will be liable to be towed away or clamped. If you use the free white lines parking you need a parking disc as there are time restrictions. This can be provided from your rental company or bought in a tobacconist. The disc can be set to show what time you arrived.
Motor Way Signs
The autostrada is marked with green signs and the letter A, such as the A1 motorway between Naples and Milan. This is known as the Autostrada del Sole. Other European motorways have the prefix E. State roads are marked by blue road signs and the prefix SS on the map.
Autostrada - Motorway
Uscita – Exit
Entrata - Entrance
Tangenziale – Ring Road
Strade Bianchi – Marked white on the map these are country roads
In Autostrada Anabbaglianti Sempre Accesi – Keep your headlights on
Biglietto – Ticket
Autogrill – Motorway rest areas
Disco Orario – Parking disc
Raccordo – Ring way roads around the main cities.
Strade Statali – State roads (dual carriageways)
Ho ripartito - I have broken down
Dove si trova la stazione di polizia? - Where is the police station? -
Ho una gomma a terra - I have a flat tyre -
Sono stato in un incidente - I have been in an accident -
Dove si trova? - Where is?
Dove posso acquistare la benzina? - Where can I buy petrol?
Traffic lights follow the Vienna Convention. You can only turn on a red light if an illuminated arrow indicates so. You'll sometimes see flashing amber which means you should proceed with caution, usually indicating a problem ahead.
Milan has a congestion charge of five euros for cars. There are dozens of toll roads in Italy but they aren't hugely expensive. Locals have electronic devices in their cars to deduct tolls automatically but tourists can pay by cash or credit card at the toll booths.
See our guide to toll roads in Italy here.
The emergency number in Italy is the European standard 112 for the police, fire and ambulance
What to do in an emergency
If you break down on a motorway, you should use the emergency telephones which will give you access to a mechanic or to the emergency services if required.
If you're involved in an accident, minor damage can be resolved between the two parties. If it is major or if someone is injured you must call the police and, if appropriate, the ambulance. You should photograph the scene and if possible, leave the vehicles in position until the police arrive. They will issue a copy of their report which needs to be given to your car hire company.
The price of petrol in Italy is around £1.46 for 95 octane unleaded and £1.39 for diesel. Prices vary between city and countryside so these figures, correct as at April 2014 should be taken only as a guide.