Driving advice for every country in Europe

Find up-to-date driving laws and advice for any country in Europe before you visit, including any accessories you may need to purchase. Don't forget the RAC provides European breakdown cover while you're driving in Europe.

Driving in Italy

Italy
Population: 62.1m
Area: 301,318 square kilometres
Currency: Euro (EUR) € = 100 cents
From the northern lakes and mountains down to the sun-baked towns and resorts of the south, there are plenty of ways to explore Italy’s dolce vita from the comfort of your own car. 

But if you’re planning a road trip to Italy, it’s essential you’re fully prepared ahead of time as driving there has many differences to the UK. 

To make your trip to the Continent as safe and effortless as possible, we’ve put together a guide to everything you need to know before you go, from required documents to rules of the road.  

Driving a rented vehicle? Jump to the advice for driving a hire car in Italy section from the dropdown menu.

RAC European Breakdown Cover (Basic, Comprehensive and Single Trip) provides a wide range of benefits should you break down in Italy to ensure you stay safe. If you're planning on driving in the UK, get complete peace of mind at the roadside and at home with RAC breakdown cover today.

To supplement this, RAC also offers travel insurance. Cover will include medical expenses, baggage, personal money and belongings, among many other benefits.

Advice for driving in Italy

In an emergency

Emergency telephones linked to an SOS telephone network are installed at 2km intervals along motorways. There are two types of emergency telephone on Italian roads, from which you either:

  • Connect to the emergency call centre and speak directly to an operator, or
  • Press a ‘spanner’ button for mechanical assistance or a ‘red cross’ button for medical aid. A red light will then let you know your request has been received. 

112 - Here's a really important bit of knowledge; you can dial 112 from anywhere in Europe and an operator will connect you to an emergency service in the country you're visiting. 

Operators can answer your call in their native language, English or French. 

Driving licence laws in Italy

Visitors must be aged 18 or over and hold a full, valid driving licence to legally drive in Italy. Riders of motorcycles up to 125cc must be aged 16 or over, while moped (not exceeding 50cc) riders must be aged 14 or over.  

Driving licences issued in EU and EEA countries are accepted. International driving permits are recognised, but not required. 

European Breakdown Cover

Get covered when driving in Europe from just £7. Plus, get a full refund if Covid-19 restrictions prevent travel.†

Things to take when driving in Italy

Documents for driving in Italy

Vehicles from the UK can be temporarily imported into Italy for up to 12 months without formality. In order to stay on the right side of the law, the following documents should always be carried:

  • Full, valid UK driving licence
  • Proof of ID (passport)
  • Motor insurance certificate
  • V5 registration document

Do I need a GB sticker for driving in Italy?

Yes, you will need a GB sticker on your car to drive in Italy unless it’s equipped with EU number plates, which show the country code in a circle of stars on a blue background.

Driving in Italy packing checklist

In addition to required documents, drivers are also required by law to carry the following items in their vehicle to avoid hefty on-the-spot fines:

  • Reflective jackets – Although not mandatory to carry, you could be fined for walking on the road or hard shoulder if not wearing one
  • Warning triangle – Compulsory in every vehicle with four wheels or more
  • Headlamp beam deflectors – Depending on your car, you will either need deflector stickers or have to adjust the beam manually
  • Crash helmets – Compulsory for riders of mopeds and motorcycles, as well as trikes and quads without closed bodywork. Mopeds and motorcycles on the road must have their lights on at all times
  • Green Card – Although not a legal requirement, it could be useful to back up your insurance documents and show you've got the minimum legal level of cover. To find out more, contact your insurance company

It's a good idea to pick up a European driving kit for Italy to make sure you're carrying all the legally required and recommended items.

Buy a European Driving Kit from £20.99

Don’t get stung with fines abroad for not having a European Driving Kit.

Italian rules of the road

Overtaking and passing

driving in Italy 1

Overtaking is forbidden on and approaching level crossings, at bends, on the brow of a hill, at intersections, and when visibility is limited. It is also prohibited to overtake a vehicle that’s slowed to allow pedestrians to use a crossing. 

Trams can be overtaken on the right if there’s enough space. In one-way streets, it’s permitted to overtake a tram on the left if there’s enough room but overtaking a tram when picking up passengers where there is no island is also prohibited. 

Who has priority?

As a general rule, priority must be given to vehicles coming from the right or on rails unless indicated. Pedestrians on crossings and cyclists near cycle paths also have priority.

Emergency vehicles and vehicles on rails have priority over other road users.

On some mountain roads where two vehicles are unable to pass each other, the descending vehicle must reverse to a passing point. If two vehicles cannot pass on a road, priority should be given to the heavier vehicle.

Warning of approach

Horns should be used in moderation.

In urban areas, sounding the horn is not allowed at any time, except in an emergency. If you need to give a warning, flash your lights instead.

In rural areas, the use of a horn is compulsory if circumstances require it. A horn should always be used by motorists carrying injured or seriously ill persons regardless of imposed limits.

Towing in Italy

Camper vans and cars with caravans are not allowed to exceed 12 metres in length, 4 metres in height and 2.55 metres in width.

Arrival Breakdown Cover

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Italian seat belt law

It’s compulsory to wear seat belts in the front and rear seats of cars equipped with belts.

The fine for failing to wear a seat belt is set between €80 and €323.

Traffic lights

The international three-colour traffic light system is used in Italy.

A flashing red light is used near level crossings, at entrances to mobile bridges, and at ferry boarding points to indicate that road users must stop.

Speed limits Italy

Italy uses the metric system for all road signs, meaning speed limits and other road signs including distance are indicated using kilometres and metres. These are the general speed limits for private cars:

In built-up areas50km/h – 70km/h (according to local signs)
Outside built-up areas90km/h – 110km/h
Motorways130km/h

Special speed restrictions apply to certain classes of vehicle, including mopeds, motorhomes and vehicles with trailers, as well as newly-qualified drivers, so check before travel.

On some motorways with three lanes in each direction, you may encounter a maximum speed limit of 150km/h.

Italian speeding fines

Driving in Italy

Speeding fines in Italy range from €40 to €4,400 depending on the speed at which offenders are caught, and the road on which they’re driving. 

Someone caught exceeding the limit by 60km/h or more could have their licence revoked if it’s a subsequent offence. All fines for serious offences committed between 10pm and 7am local time are increased by 30%. 

Speed camera detectors

Radar detectors are prohibited in Italy, although the Point of Interest function of a sat nav system can be used to indicate where fixed speed cameras are located. 

Travelling with children in Italy

All children travelling in foreign-registered cars in Italy must be secured according to the laws and requirements in force in their country of origin.

For more information on UK child seat laws, see our guide here

Bike helmet law in Italy

Bike helmets are not compulsory in Italy. 

Cyclists riding at night outside of built-up areas or in tunnels must wear a reflective jacket.

Driving a camper van and towing a caravan in Italy

Camper vans and cars with caravans are not allowed to exceed 12 metres in length, 4 metres in height and 2.55 metres in width.

Loads mustn’t exceed 6 tonnes on a trailer with one axle and 22 tonnes on a trailer with 2 axles if the axle is fitted with twin tyres and pneumatic suspensions.

An unladen weight of over 50% of the weight of the towing vehicle must have service brakes on all wheels.

Passengers should only use a caravan when it’s stationary.

Please note: The Department for Transport advises that A-frames are not legal for use by UK campers and caravanners abroad. In practice, this could mean towing your car while it’s fixed to a trailer.*

Penalties and fines in Italy

On-the-spot fines

Police can impose on-the-spot fines to drivers of foreign-registered cars and collect a quarter of the maximum fine there and then. A receipt must be given. 

In some cases, a fine may be reduced by 30% if paid within five days, although this doesn’t apply to offences like drink driving, having no insurance or speeding over 40km/h, amongst others.

Minimum and maximum fines in Italy

Fines range from €41 for a minor speeding offence to €6,000 for driving under the influence of drugs. 

Some motoring offences are considered criminal offences and can also lead to licence revocation, vehicle confiscation and a possible prison sentence.

Confiscation of vehicles

A vehicle can be confiscated for a number of reasons, including when a driver has:

  • no licence
  • no registration documents
  • forged number plates

Mopeds and motorcycles can be confiscated for riders’ failure to wear a safety helmet and carrying an unauthorised passenger. 

The Cross-Border Enforcement Directive

An EU cross-border directive came into effect in the UK in May 2017. This is aimed at tracking down people who commit traffic offences in cars that are registered in an EU member state different to where the offence was committed.

If you commit a driving offence in Italy or any other EU country, the crime will effectively follow you back home to the UK where you can still be prosecuted.

Parking in Italy

driving in Italy 3

Regulations

Parking is prohibited on or near a bend, intersection or brow of a hill, and in cycle lanes, on pavements, and in areas reserved for other activities, like bus/tram stops and loading zones. 

Vehicles must be parked on the right-hand side of the carriageway except in one-way streets where parking may be allowed on both sides, providing at least 3m of space is left for vehicles to pass. 

In Rome, parking is prohibited in the historic centre on working days between 7am and 8pm except for vehicles with residents permits. 

Paid parking

Blue road signs indicate the areas where parking is restricted and must be paid for, either at parking meters or automatic machines which issue tickets indicating the length of parking time that has been paid for.

Some of these zones can be free of charge for some hours of the day and on Sundays, so check local signage for details.

Enforcement of parking regulations

Illegally-parked vehicles are likely to be clamped unless causing an obstruction to moving traffic, when they will be towed away. In both cases, a fine must be paid to cover the offence plus towing and impounding costs. 

Disabled parking access

EU-issued disabled permits should be recognised in Italy.

Blue Badge holders must not park in pedestrian areas or restricted access areas unless signs indicate they are allowed to do so. 

Drink-driving law in Italy

Legal limit

The general limit for drivers of private vehicles is 0.05% blood alcohol content. That's lower than the 0.08% in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but the same as Scotland.

For professional drivers (driving a bus, coach, HGV or public service vehicle), as well as for newly-qualified drivers (less than three years' experience), the limit is 0.00%.

Drink-driving test

A driver suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be made to undergo a breath test for alcohol or a saliva test for drugs. All road users may undergo a breath test following a traffic accident.

Italian tolls

Like many other European countries, Italy has motorways with tolls. You can pay for them with cash or a credit card.

Most motorways allow a payment system known as Viacard, which is a prepaid card that can be used at toll booths. Viacards cannot be used on Sicilian motorways.

An electronic payment system called Telepass is also in operation on around 80% of motorways. A transmitter is affixed to the windscreen and allows drivers to go through payment barriers without stopping. 

Italian service areas

There are many service areas along the Italian motorways.

Availability of fuel

Different types of clean fuel are available in Italy, including biogas, LPG and E85. 

Automatic petrol pumps are found in some large towns. 

Driving a hire car in Italy

Not all of the information in the guide above will be relevant to those looking to rent a hire car in Italy. Though it might be a good idea to read through everything anyway, here are the most important things to know for drivers of rental vehicles:

Rental information

  • The minimum age to hire a car is 21
  • You need a full, valid UK driving licence and usually a second proof of ID (passport)
  • Some car rental companies ask that you have held your licence for a minimum term - check with your hire company first
  • Most companies require you to use a credit card for deposit
  • You may not be able to drive outside of Italy unless planned in advance - check with your hire company first
  • Make sure you get car hire excess insurance before your trip to protect yourself from unexpected costs. It's almost always cheaper to do this with a separate insurer and in advance

Hire car driving tips

  • Italians drive on the right and overtake on the left - the opposite to the UK
  • The national speed limit on Italian motorways is 130km/h (80 mph). On a main road outside a built-up area it varies between 90km/h and 110km/h. For built-up areas it’s between 50km/h and 70km/h
  • Dial 112 in an emergency
  • It’s compulsory to wear seat belts in the front and rear seats
  • The blood alcohol content limit for drivers of private vehicles is 0.05%. That's lower than the 0.08% in England Wales and Northern Ireland, but the same as Scotland.

Driving in Italy FAQs

  • Can I drive my car in Italy?

    Yes. You must have a valid UK licence and V5 document, along with sufficient insurance and breakdown cover for your trip. You should also familiarise yourself with the laws around driving in Italy before you set off to keep yourself and other road users safe.

  • Can I drive my car in Rome?

    Yes, although Rome, like several other major Italian cities, has a ZTL (Zone a Traffico Limitato) in place which limits the roads where non-residents can drive. You could face a fine if you make a wrong turn and get caught.

    Rome is also known for the somewhat aggressive driving of its locals, so be prepared to drive defensively and don’t let the actions of other road users influence your decision-making. Consider parking outside the city and taking public transport into the centre if this doesn’t sound like your idea of fun.

  • What are ZTL zones?

    ZTL zones (Zone a Traffico Limitato) are zones established in several major Italian cities including Rome, Florence, Milan and Pisa, that restrict the movement of non-resident motorists in certain areas through the use of traffic cameras.

    It is possible to apply to the local police force to register your vehicle as a tourist vehicle, but it may be easier to simply avoid these areas and ensure you’re not hit by a fine of around €65.

  • How do I drive to Italy?

    Getting to Italy by car from the UK is probably easier than you think. Firstly, you’ll need to take your car across the Channel to Calais on either a ferry from Dover or the Eurotunnel from Folkestone.

    Once you’re in Calais, drive down through France and across the border into Italy, which should take around 10 hours.

  • What side of the road do they drive on in Italy?

    Unlike in the UK, motorists drive on the right-hand side of the road in Italy and overtake on the left – which can take some adjustment if you’re used to driving on the left.

  • Can you drive in Italy with a UK licence?

    Yes, you can legally drive in Italy with your UK-issued driving licence without the need to apply for an International Driving Permit.

  • Do I need extra insurance to drive in Italy?

    Italy and the UK are both part of the Green Card System, a Europe-wide scheme allowing all countries to recognise foreign vehicle insurance policies of visiting motorists, so it’s quite possible your existing insurance will cover you.

    However, before setting off on your trip, you should contact your insurance provider to make sure no additional cover is required, as you won’t be able to buy short-term cover at the border entry points.

    Please note this may change when the UK withdraws from the EU.

  • Is driving in Italy dangerous?

    Driving in Italy is generally very easy once you get used to driving on the right side of the road. Main roads are in good condition and well signposted. Be careful on steep mountain roads if you’re unaccustomed to them, and be wary if you go off the beaten track as the quality of the roads and signage can vary.

  • Do I need a GB sticker to drive in Italy?

    You will need to display a GB sticker on the rear of your car unless it has EU number plates with the country code in a circle of stars on a blue background.

  • Do I need headlamp converters in Italy?

    Yes. Depending on your car, you should use deflector stickers or adjust the beam manually. This is so you don’t dazzle oncoming traffic when driving on the right side of the road at night.

  • What is the national speed limit in Italy?

    The national speed limit on Italian motorways is 130km/h (80 mph). If you’re driving on a main road outside a built-up area, the limit varies between 90km/h and 110km/h, and for built-up areas it’s between 50km/h and 70km/h.

  • Do I need snow chains in Italy?

    In the Val d’Aosta region in northern Italy, vehicles must be equipped with winter tyres or carry snow chains between 15 October and 15 April. In other areas, this requirement is signposted and applies from 15 November to 15 April.

    Restrictions on weight and speed limit are in place for vehicles with chains.

  • How much are toll roads in Italy?

    The amount you pay per toll will depend on the length of the road and the area you’re driving in.

    Visit https://www.viamichelin.com to calculate the cost of your journey.

  • How do you pay for toll roads in Italy?

    There are two ways to pay for tolls – electronically or manually. On most toll roads, you take a ticket when you enter the motorway and pay when you exit at a booth with a green arrow. Simply insert your ticket into the machine and it will show you how much you need to pay. You can pay by cash or credit card or pre-paid card.

    If you regularly use toll roads, it may be worth signing up to the Telepass scheme which takes you through the fast lane without having to stop and pay.

  • Does Italy use mph or kph?

    Italy uses the metric system for all road signs, so speed limits and other signs including distance are shown in kilometres and metres.

UK Government travel advice

See up-to-date travel advice


Source: Information in this document is sourced from the AIT (Alliance Internationale de Tourisme) & the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) and, to the best of the RAC’s knowledge, is correct at the time of publication (November 2020).
 
*https://www.campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk/helpandadvice/travelplanning/eurotraveladvice/europeancampingguide/page5

European Breakdown Cover

Get covered when driving in Europe from just £7. Plus, get a full refund if Covid-19 restrictions prevent travel.†

British Embassy Rome

Office: British Embassy Rome
Street Address:    Via XX Settembre 80/a
ZIP Code: 00187
City: Rome
Country: Italy

Telephone: +39 06 4220 0001
Fax: +39 06 4220 2333
Email: [email protected]

British Consulate-General Milan

Office: British Consulate-General Milan
Street Address:    Via S. Paolo, 7
ZIP Code: 20121
City: Milan
Country: Italy

Telephone: +39 06 4220 2431
Fax: +39 02 8646 5081

Contact form: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/consular-enquiries-in-italy

British Council Rome

Office: British Council Rome
Street Address:    Via di San Sebastianello, 16
ZIP Code: 00187
City: Rome
Country: Italy

Telephone: +39 06 478141
Fax: +39 06 4814296
Email: [email protected]

† Price for 1 day cover for up to 9 people travelling in a vehicle up to 1 year old in Zone 1. For more information visit rac.co.uk/breakdown-cover/european-breakdown-cover

^£11 a month is for existing Camping and Caravanning Club members purchasing new personal based Caravan Standard cover only on a monthly renewing contract. Vehicle based cover from £10 a month. New member personal based prices from £16 a month.

† Price for 1 day cover for up to 9 people travelling in a vehicle up to 1 year old in Zone 1. For more information visit rac.co.uk/breakdown-cover/european-breakdown-cover