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Driving in Italy

Italy
Population: 61,855,120
Area: 301,318 sq. Km
Currency: Euro (100 cents) – EUR (€)
There are a number of differences to consider when driving in Italy - not to mention the fact that they drive on the other side of the road there. 

Some of these include legal requirements of what to include in your car, as well as what documents you need to carry and how the rules of the road differ.

To keep you in the know and help you stay as safe as possible when driving on Italian roads, we have compiled a guide with all the information you need.

Essentials

This section is full of all of the essential items and documents you need to bring with you on your trip.

Driving licence

Driving licences issued abroad can be used in Italy only by visitors who have reached the minimum ages required for holders of Italian licences for the same category of vehicle even if they are qualified to drive at a lower age in their country of residence.

A foreign driving licence does not entitle the holder to drive a motor vehicle in Italy until the age of 18 years old.

Drivers in possession of a licence issued by any EU country do not require an International Driving Permit (IDP).

Going away? Remember to take RAC Travel Insurance with you.

Important documents

Vehicles from the UK may be imported into Italy for up to six months in any period of 12 months. When driving in Italy the following documents should be carried:

  • Full, valid driving licence*.
  • Civil liability insurance is compulsory – a Green Card is the best option, which can be arranged in advance or taken out at the Italian border.
  • Proof of car insurance (third party or above).
  • Proof of ID (Passport).
  • V5C registration certificate.

Visitors driving in Italy are required by law to carry the following items. Hefty on-the-spot fines can be issued for failing to carry specific items:

  • Reflective jackets (must be worn if involved in a breakdown or an accident or alongside a road where stopping or parking is prohibited)
  • Spare tyre
  • Warning triangle (compulsory in every vehicle with 4 wheels or more)
  • Headlamp beam deflectors (depending on your car, you will either need deflector stickers or have to adjust the beam manually)
  • A fire extinguisher is not compulsory but is recommended
  • Motorcyclists: It is compulsory for riders and passengers of mopeds and motorcycles to wear a crash helmet.

It is prohibited to carry a child under 4 years old on a moped or a motorcycle. It is possible to carry a passenger on a moped on condition that the rider/driver is an adult (18 and over) and that the registration certificate states that the moped is designed to carry a passenger.


Rules of the road 

Here we cover how driving on Italian roads can actually differ from the practices to that of UK roads.

Overtaking and passing

The vehicle to be overtaken must keep as far to the right as possible and not accelerate.

On roads with three traffic lanes, overtaking is allowed only when a vehicle travelling in the opposite direction is not already in the middle lane.

It is prohibited to overtake a vehicle which is overtaking another vehicle or a vehicle which has slowed down or stopped near a pedestrian crossing to allow pedestrians to cross.

Overtaking is forbidden on the approach to and on level crossings. It is also prohibited in the following cases:

  • At bends.
  • On the brow of a hill.
  • At intersections.
  • At all places where visibility is limited.

At a junction, if two cars are travelling in opposite directions and each driver wishes to turn left, they must pass each other on the right.

On certain mountain roads, the descending vehicle must reverse unless the other vehicle is close to a passing point.

If a road is too narrow for two vehicles to pass each other, the heavier vehicle – lorry, coach, etc – has priority. If the vehicles are the same category, the one nearest a passing point must reverse.

Priority

Priority must be given to vehicles coming from the right or travelling on rails, except where indicated by road signs. They must give way to pedestrian’s already on crossings and to cyclists near cycle paths.

Drivers must give right of way to all police and emergency vehicles when they are using special audible or luminous warning signals.

Warning of approach

Horns should be used in moderation, but its use is prohibited in built-up areas except in the case of immediate danger. At night, flashing headlights may be used.

Outside built-up areas, when circumstances demand, the use of a horn is compulsory.

Vehicles carrying injured or seriously ill people are authorised to use their horn in spite of the speed limits.

Dipped headlights must be used on two-lane motorways.


Driving regulations

Here we talk about how the countries driving regulations differ to that of UK regulations.

Caravans and campervans

A campervan designed to carry seven people, including the driver, must not exceed 12 metres in length. A caravan may have a maximum of two axles, provided that the distance between each does not exceed one metre.

Caravans with an unladen weight of 750kg or 50% of the weight of the towing vehicle must have service brakes on all wheels. A vehicle may tow only one caravan.

Seat belts

Any person must wear a seat belt whenever one is fitted on the front and rear seats in all vehicles registered in Italy or abroad.

Pregnant women are exempt if they have a certificate from a gynaecologist, as are persons holding a medical certificate proving that wearing a seat belt is contra indicated.

Travelling with children

Children travelling in foreign-registered cars must be secured according to the legislation in force in the country of origin.

Speed limits

The following national speed limits apply:

MotorwaysOutside built-up areasIn built-up areas
Cars (normal traffic conditions)130 km/h*90/110 km/h**50/70 km/h***
Cars with trailers and caravans80 km/h70 km/h50 km/h
Campervans (3.5-12 tonnes)100 km/h80 km/h 50 km/h
*Motorway companies may increase the maximum speed to 150km/h on sections with three lanes in each direction
**90km/h on secondary roads, 110km/h on main roads
***70km/h on urban motorways, where indicated by signs

Speed must be reduced at night according to visibility, near intersections, bends, schools or places frequented by children, on roads with a steep gradient or especially narrow roads and in built-up areas.

Speed limits in case of precipitation (rain, snow, etc.):

  • Roads outside built-up areas: 90kph
  • Motorways: 110kph

Radar detectors are prohibited. The Points Of Interest (POI) function of a car navigation system can be used to indicate the position of fixed speed cameras.

Tunnels: there are minimum 50km/h and maximum 70km/h speed limits imposed in the Mont Blacn and Fréjus tunnels.


Penalties

On-the-spot fines

The Italian traffic police are authorised to impose fines on-the-spot for the violation of traffic regulations but they cannot collect the fine. If the payment is made within 60 days the motorist pays one quarter of the maximum fine.

If the driver wishes to contest the fine, they must contact the Prefecture within 60 days.

Confiscation of vehicles

Vehicles can be confiscated by the police in many cases (e.g. when the driver has no licence, when the number plates are forged, when the EE- Escursionisti Esteri registration documents have expired, etc.).

Mopeds and motorcycles can be confiscated for 3 months in the following cases:

  • Failure to wear a safety helmet.
  • Carrying a passenger unless allowed (specified in certificate).

Parking

Parking can be difficult at the best of times, let alone when the regulations are completely different abroad - here's our advice:

Parking regulations

In built-up areas, stopping and parking are only permitted on the right-hand side of the road in a street with two-way traffic.

In a one-way street, parking and stopping are permitted on the right or left-hand side of the street provided at least three metres of clear space is left free in the middle of the road.

Paid parking

Zones where payment is required have been created in major towns in areas near the centre.

These zones are indicated by blue road signs.

The zones can be free of charge for some hours of the day and on Sundays, as indicated locally by panels.

Areas where parking is limited to certain duration are indicated by blue stripes. Motorists must buy a ticket from a machine.

In Rome, parking is strictly prohibited in part of the historic centre on working days between 7am and 8pm, except for local residents or anyone holding a special permit obtained from the town hall.

Enforcement of parking regulations

Wheel clamps are used in particular cases instead of towing away, for example when the vehicle is parked on the pavement.

Vehicles are towed away when causing an obstruction to the circulation of traffic.

In both cases, a fine must be paid which includes the fine, the cost of removing the vehicle and of impounding it.

Disabled parking access

Cars displaying the international sticker for the disabled can be parked on spaces specially marked by yellow lines and the yellow international symbol of the wheelchair.

In areas where parking is prohibited these cars are exempt from the restrictions in the case of an emergency.

In most areas it is necessary to pay if payment is required, however, disabled motorists may park without time limit where parking is free of charge but restricted by time.

Although the Italian law does not specifically mention foreign badge holders, the Italian police should allow them the same concessions as Italian badge holders.


Traffic lights

The international three-colour traffic light system is used.

Green, amber and red arrows are used at some intersections

A flashing red light is used near a level crossing, at the entrance to a mobile bridge or near a ferry boarding point to indicate to road users that they must stop.

A Flashing amber light indicates that traffic must slow down and proceed with caution, respecting the priority rules.


Drink driving

Limits for drink driving also differ in Italy, so it is important to know the regulations to avoid potentially breaking the law.

Legal drink-driving limit

The general legal limit of alcohol in the blood of drivers is 0.05%. 

For drivers with less than three years' driving experience, as well as for professional drivers - private drivers, bus drivers, HGV drivers, etc. - the limit is 0.00%.

Getting pulled over

The police can request a driver suspected of being under the influence of alcohol to take a breath test.

A driver involved in an accident can be tested by the medical services at the request of the police.

A driver suspected of being under the influence of narcotics can also be tested and receive a sanction.


Roads and fuel

Tolls are levied on most Italian motorways.

Tolls can be paid in cash or with the following cards: Eurocard, Mastercard, and Visa. (Debit cards Maestro and Electron are not accepted).

Service areas

There are many services stations on Italian motorways offering a wide range of facilities to motorists, e.g. fuel, restaurant, motel, shop.

Emergency use phones

Special emergency telephones are situated every two kilometres on motorways.

There are two types of telephone: one with which the motorist can speak to the emergency centre and one where you must press either a button bearing a spanner to call for mechanical assistance or a button bearing a red cross to call for medical aid.

A red light confirms that the message has been received at the central motorway alarm system.

Useful numbers:

  • Police: 113
  • Fire brigade: 115
  • Ambulance: 118
  • 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, and French. 

Availability of fuel

Fuel is sold 24 hours a day on motorways. and during the following hours on other roads: 

  • From May to September: 07:00 to 12:30 and 15:30 to 19:30
  • From October to April: 07:00 to 12:30 and 15:30 to 19:00

Only 25% of petrol stations on ordinary roads (inside and outside towns) are open from 0000 to 2400 hours on Sundays and public holidays.

Petrol stations which open on Sundays remain closed on Mondays.

Night service (3% of petrol stations) begins at 2200 hours in winter and 2230 hours in summer and lasts until 0600 hours.

Opening hours are clearly displayed at petrol stations, as are the addresses of the nearest garages which are open.

The above hours do not apply to petrol stations on motorways, on ring roads classified as motorways or in the immediate vicinity of frontier posts.

Means of payment

Credit cards are generally accepted at petrol stations.


Useful guides and maps

Michelin - National Map Italy
Michelin Motoring Atlas: Europe

UK Government travel advice

See up-to-date travel advice

 

Source: All information in this document is sourced from the AIT (Alliance Internationale de Tourisme), Italia.it & the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) and, to the best of the RAC’s knowledge, is correct at the time of publication (August 2017).

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: InfoRome@fco.gov.uk

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: info.italy@britishcouncil.it