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Tips for Driving in Italy

By: Tracy Whitelaw - Updated: 10 Jun 2014 | comments*Discuss
Tips For Driving In Italy

Italy is a beautiful country for touring with expansive roads travelling through gorgeous countryside and mountain ranges. It’s a country that truly does have a little bit of every kind of scenery and whether you want to drive in the big cities or do a vineyard trek, you’ll find that there’s always something to look at. One of the major issues with driving through Italy can be not being sure of the road signs and not being aware of local customs, but learning these before you go can really help your overall experience.

Essential Tips for Driving in Italy

In order to drive legally in Italy you must have your full UK licence and be at least 18 years of age. Similar to many other countries in Europe, Italy has a legal driving age of 18, so you can’t drive there aged 17, even if you have a full UK licence. Always remember to drive on the right hand side in Italy and of course overtake on the left. You can’t use your mobile phone while driving there, unless you have a hands free kit. Seatbelts are obligatory in Italy and should be work in the front at all times. If they’re fitted in the back, they should also be worn there.

Children aren’t allowed to sit in the front of the car if they are under the age of 12 and you can be given a fine if you break this rule. As with many countries in Europe, it’s essential that you can with you a reflective warning triangle in the event of a breakdown and a reflective vest that should be worn at the side of the road. In Italy, if you wear glasses or contact lenses, it’s advisable to carry a spare set with you as Italian driving licenses state if you wear them. As a visitor to Italy, keep your registration papers, insurance document and driving licence safe also and have it on your person if you’re in the car.

Speeding Laws in Italy

There are strict speeding limits in Italy that should be adhered to at all times. If you’re a foreign national driving there and are caught speeding, you’ll still have to pay the fine and could suffer more dire consequences if you’re speeding over a certain limit. The general speed limits are:

  • Motorway Speeds (autostrade) – 130 km/h
  • Main Highways – 110 km/h
  • Trunk Roads (outside of towns and cities) – 90 km/h
  • Residential Roads – 50 km/h

Any driver who is considered to be a new driver (driving for less than three years) should be aware that they are not allowed to exceed 100 km/h on motorways or 90 km/h on main highways. This is in place as an effort to prevent the high number of young driver accidents that occur in Italy every year.

The drink driving limit in Italy is lower than in the UK and you are only allowed 50mg per 100ml of blood. As tempting as it may be to indulge in some lovely wine whilst enjoying the scenery at a small Italian restaurant, it’s probably better to avoid alcohol altogether if you’re planning to drive. You can face a severe punishment such as a high fine, driving ban or even imprisonment if you’re caught driving over the legal limit. If you receive a fine, you must pay it within 60 days in cash at the nearest police station, so keep this in mind if you’re tempted to drink drive or speed.

Road Rules in Italy

There are a number of road rules that are only specific to Italy and it’s worth familiarising yourself with them before you travel.

  • Always give way to buses, emergency vehicles, trams or trains
  • Headlights should be switched on and dipped when driving on motorways and dual carriageways – even during the day
  • If your car is not registered in Italy, you must have EU style number plates and a GB sticker on the car
  • In developed areas, you must give way to traffic joining from the right, unless otherwise stated
  • If you’re on a hill or mountainous road, the car travelling upwards has priority
  • Smog in some of the northern cities can get so bad that traffic will be suspended. At times they’ll alternate odd and even plates in the city, so be aware of this
  • Most petrol stations are manned, so you stay in your car and a pump operator will fill up your vehicle for you
  • Leaded fuel is not available in Italy
  • Much of Italy is mountainous so expect to have lots of long tunnels and bridges

Restricted Areas in Italy

Many areas in the historic centres in Italy are not open for private cars. If you are going to be staying at a hotel based in a city centre, you will need to obtain a pass. You can buy these at most car hire outlets, but be aware that you’ll need individual passes for each city, one pass doesn’t cover every city. The boundaries are usually fairly well signed with the letters ZTL in black on a yellow background. Don’t try passing this boundary unless you have a pass as you will be caught on camera and will face a fine. If you do have a car and want to access the city centre, park outside in an allocated legal space and take public transport into the city.

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Always useful to hear about those little extras and idiosyncrasies - thanks again Ian.
AboutDrivingAbroad - 10-Jun-14 @ 10:24 AM
Italians drive intuitively and are less beholden to rules than we are in the UK. One result of this is that they are trusted to make decisions, and the motorway speed limit drops to 110km/h in poor driving conditions. When pulling out into a main road, do not wait for a gap as you would in the UK. As long as there is a reasonable gap, the oncoming vehicle will slow down to accommodate you. Overtaking vehicles coming towards you will expect you to pull hard to the right to make room for them. Don't be surprised if locals ignore red lights.
Ian - 10-Jun-14 @ 5:37 AM
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