Driving In Italy

Laws and Tips and Recommendations

Italy - famous for pizza, Ferraris and Michael Caine robbing armoured trucks...

By reputation Italian drivers drive quickly, aggressively and will ignore traffic laws that don't suit them! Like many Mediterranean countries, scooters are common in all built up areas, and are a hazard to other vehicles and pedestrians alike.

Italians will drive closer that most British drivers are used to. One common piece of advice is to ignore what is behind you, and only pay attention to vehicles in front and to the sides.

Remember that if you are driving to Italy from the UK, you will probably be driving through France and Switzerland or Germany and Austria. Ensure that your vehicle and licence complies with the requirements for the countries you are passing through.

Basic Requirements
Legal Requirements
Driving Tips

Basic Legal Requirements

Driving Licence

UK Driving Licence (Sample) When driving in Italy, you will need to ensure you bring both parts of your driving licence - the Photocard plus the Paper Counterpart (D740). If you do not have a Photocard yet, only the paper copy is required, but you will need Photo ID, such as a Passport

You must be the holder of a full driving licence (not a provisional), and have passed your test. Even if you have already passed your full test, you must be at least 18 years old. Scooters (“motorino”) up to 125cc can be ridden with a full car licence

The International Driving Permit is not required, but if you would like one you can apply through the Post Office. The international driving permit is in addition to your driving licence, so you will need to carry both copies.

While a photocopy may be useful if your licence is lost, you should carry the original with you.

Car Documents

You should carry your vehicles Registration Certificate (V5C) with you, which should be updated to show your correct details. For security reasons, it's best NOT to leave the Registration Certificate in the vehicle while it is parked - it makes it harder to a thief to resell the vehicle if they do not have the documentation.

While a photocopy may be useful if your Registration Certificate is lost, you should carry the original with you.


It is compulsory to have at least third- party insurance for Italy, as for the UK. Most UK insurance policies will allow an element of European driving, often for a limited period.

Before leaving the UK, it is a good idea to contact your insurer, and check what your existing cover allows. You should request a 'Green Card' which is an internationally recognised form of proof of insurance. You should carry proof of insurance with you while driving.

If your existing insurance does not provide European cover for the period required, most insurance brokers will have a suitable policy covering Italy, and will provide a Green Card.

Your Vehicle

headlight beam adaptors for European driving Your headlights will need to be adjusted to ensure that they do not dazzle oncoming users.

Standard halogen headlights and Autobulbs Xenon HID Conversion kits can be modified by the use of a stick on Headlight Beam Adaptor. Vehicles with factory fitted Xenon HID headlights may find there is an adjuster either on the headlights themselves or on the dashboard - check your manual for details. If there is no adjuster, you may need to visit a dealer for them to make the adjustments, and again to change them back after your visit.

Reflective Jackets or vests must be worn when getting out of a vehicle stuck on a motorway, dual carriageway or other busy road. However, there is not yet the requirement to have them at all times. To comply in an emergency it makes sense to have one for each passenger in the vehicle.

European Travel Kit with Spare bulb Kit You must also carry a reflective Warning Triangle in the vehicle. In the event of an accident or breakdown, the triangle should be set up by the side of the road, at least 50 meters in the direction of of the traffic. If you have broken down in the outer lane of a dual carriageway or motorway, or attempting to place the warning triangle would place you in danger, do not use it. Remember to collect your warning triangle before leaving! Warning triangles are not required for motorbikes.

If you are planning on driving in mountain areas in winter, you must carry snow chains or have winter tyres fitted and use them when conditions demand it.

Children under the age of 1.5m (4 feet 10 inches) must use child seats or booster seats. All passengers must use seat belts if fitted

Children under 5 cannot be carried on a motorcycle or moped.

Motorcycles under 150cc are not allowed on motorways.

Number plate with European GB Logo You may have a number plate that already has a valid 'GB' mark. If you do not, you will need to apply a GB sticker to the back of your vehicle.

There is no legal requirement to carry a first aid kit in the vehicle, but it is recommended. Similarly, there is not a requirement to carry a fire extinguisher, but they are generally a useful safety item to carry in your vehicle if you have the space.

It is recommended that you carry a spare bulb kit suitable for your vehicle. While HID bulbs last longer than their halogen counterparts, it makes sense to carry at least one spare Xenon HID bulb suitable for your headlights.

Driving - Legal Requirements


Dipped headlights are required on motorcycles all the time, and on other vehicles when there is low visibility, such as when it is raining. They are also required when driving through tunnels - you will see reminder signs before and after the tunnels. You must not use main beam in built up areas.

Fog lights should only be used where visibility is down to 50 metres or less.

Speed Limits

Speed limits can be modified by local signs, but the usual ones are:

  • Built- up areas: 31 mph or 50 km/h
  • Outside built- up areas: 55 mph or 90 km/h
  • Dual carriageways: 68 mph or 110 km/h
  • Motorways: 80 mph or 130 km/h

In wet weather, the speed limits on dual carriageways are reduced to 55mph or 90km/h, and to 68mph or 110km/h on motorways.

Towing and Carrying

Vehicles towing trailers are subject to lower speed limits. Any vehicle with an overhanging load (such as a bicycle on a rear rack) must display are red and white reflective panel 50cm by 50cm

Traffic Priorities

In general, traffic priorities are the same at the UK, but reversed for driving on the right. Many scooter riders will ignore traffic priorities, traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, and the difference between road and pavement, so be aware of them, especially in built up areas!


Helmets are compulsory at all times for scooters, mopeds and motorcycles. Visors should not have a tint of more than 50%, but apparently the local Police do not rigidly enforce this.


Overtaking is only on the left (the outside lane of motorways and dual carriageways). Unless you are a scooter, then overtaking is on the left, right or anywhere else there is room!

Italian drivers in general overtake freely. If you are travelling at the speed limit, you may find yourself being overtaken regularly. When being overtaken, you are generally expected to move as far over as possible to make room - vehicles may well overtake into oncoming traffic if you you can move over enough to create a 'third lane'.

On motorways and dual carriageways be prepared to move out of the way of faster vehicles to let them through. They may well flash their lights as they approach to make you aware they are approaching.

Warning with Horn and Lights

As in the UK you should not use the horn except to warn of danger. However, also as in the UK this is widely ignored! Italian drivers, especially in the main cities, will use their horns to get your attention, vent their frustration or generally make themselves heard!

With lights, the official rule is that they should only be used to warn others of your presence. In practice flashed headlights are commonly used to indicate that the vehicle is coming through or planning to overtake.

GPS, Speed Cameras and Phones

You must NOT use any form of radar detector, but as far as we are aware a GPS unit that contains the locations of speed cameras is still allowed.

It is an offence to use a hand- held mobile phone in Italy while driving. Similarly, any display screens fitted, such as a DVD player, must be set up in such a way so the driver cannot see it.


Drink driving in Italy is similar to most European countries. Over 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood will result in a fine. Significantly more will result in much larger fines and loss of your licence. Note that this is slightly lower than the 80mg blood alcohol allowed in the UK, so the safest option is not to drink at all when you are driving.

Be aware that you may still have alcohol in your blood if you have been drinking the evening before.

City Centre Traffic Restrictions

Many of the historic city centres are restricted to local traffic. If you see a sign saying “zona traffico limitato” (ZTL) then only local vehicles can enter. If you inadvertently do drive in one of these areas, you may well receive a fine by post.

Milan also has a pollution charge for vehicles in the city centre, similar to London's congestion charge. You must purchase an 'eco- pass' before entering the area.

Police and Fines

Police in Italy can and issue on the spot fines for a range of offences including speeding and other motoring offences. Fines issued are normally 25% of the normal maximum for the offence. Offences committed at night (between 10pm and 7am) will have the fine increased by a third.

Visitors driving in Italy will be expected to pay the fine immediately by cash or Euro cheque - police cannot take cards or payments in sterling. If you do not have enough cash on you, the police may allow you to be escorted to a cash point. If you cannot pay the fine, the vehicle may well be impounded until you do.

If you do get stopped by the police, remember to remain polite. If you are abusive you can and will be arrested on the spot, and may find yourself facing more than a on- the- spot fine. The Police MUST give you a receipt for any fines paid.

Driving Tips

  • Drive on the right! It's easy to forget to drive on the right when changing roads, exiting motorways, going on to roundabouts or starting for the first time in the morning. Put a sticker on your dashboard, teach the kids to chant 'drive on the right' every time you get in the car or even wear one driving glove to remind yourself.
  • Go round roundabouts ANTI- Clockwise.
  • By reputation Italian drivers drive fast. Be aware of this, and drive at your own speed (and within the speed limits). Local drivers will tend to drive closer than you are used to, and if you leave a space in front someone will move in to fill it.
  • You will be overtaken, and meet people overtaking coming the other way more regularly than in the UK. Drive defensively, and make room by moving over to one side where possible to do so safely.
  • Remember to reverse the directions you look, especially on roundabouts. Your instinct when turning left will be to only look to the right, but as you have to cross both lanes, remember to look both directions. This is particularly tricky when crossing dual carriageways and joining roundabouts. Reversing the directions you check will also help when you are a pedestrian - remember to look right before stepping off the kerb.
  • Not all drivers will stop for red lights - especially scooters. You may even see scooters weaving through pedestrians on pedestrian crossings, going up one way streets the wrong way, or using the pavements to make progress.
  • Traffic can heavy in the major cities, and parking very limited. If you are visiting for the day, you may find it easier to use one of the car parks on the edge of the city centre and walk or take public transport.
  • Most motorways are toll roads and are by the fastest way to get across the country at speed. Take a ticket from the gate you enter, and pay at the gate you exit. Most toll booths take UK credit and debit cards for payment, so ensure you use the lanes with the correct card symbols.
  • Signs are generally the same as their UK equivalents.
  • Petrol (95 and 98 Ron) and diesel is widely available. Note that some petrol stations are automated at night and during the extended 12:30pm to 3pm lunch breaks, and require payment by credit or debit card. Not all UK cards issued by UK banks will work, so check with them before travelling. If you cannot use your card, either travel on and try to find a manned petrol station, or offer cash to another (local) motorist in exchange for them making payment on their card.
  • Lead replacement petrol is not generally available. The best option may be to take along supplies of fuel additive.
  • Spares and parts for some vehicles may be hard to locate in Italy, especially for imported or more unusual cars. It is worth checking the basic wear items like tyres, brakes and windscreen wipers, and carry a spare bulb kit and fuses suitable for your vehicle. Remember to check the spare wheel or inflation kit as well.
  • If you are towing and use a mirror extender, check yours can be used on the left to maximise visibility when driving on the right.
  • If you have UK breakdown assistance, it may well provide limited European cover. If it does not (or you do not have breakdown cover) consider getting this for the duration of your holiday. Recovering your vehicle from Italy could be expensive, and repairing it locally may be difficult to arrange.
  • Be very aware when driving at night, especially in country areas, that road surface quality can be poor. Upgraded headlight bulbs or Xenon HID headlight conversion will help you spot problems on dark country roads faster.

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