Driving in Italy

Italy has a hugely varied countryside that is undoubtedly best explored by car. Trains and buses will take you to the main villages and towns, but if you want to delve deeper into the countryside and do your own thing, it is better to rent or come in your own car. That said driving in Italy has the reputation of being hair-raising to say the least, as well as being relatively expensive compared to other European countries. However don’t be deterred, Italy is an excellent destination for a motoring holiday and if you are planning on exploring the countryside it is well worth it!

Types of Roads

Italy has a reasonably well maintained national road network, though as you drive south on the peninsula there is a markable deterioration in the upkeep of the motorways and regional roads. The main north-south motorway linking Milan with Naples is a tolled highway and runs up the middle of the boot of Italy. It is known as the the A1 or Autostrada del Sole – literally the road to the sun, or the E35 using its European name. The A1 is transcected by other austrostrade or motorways which go to destinations to the east and west of the A1.


The motorway network is quite heavily tolled in comparison to other European countries, however if you have time you can easily take one of the many state or regional roads to your destination. Tolls you pay depend on the distance you are travelling within Italy, and on the size of your car,if you are towing a caravan or another vehicle. You pay the toll when you exit the motorway in cash, or by credit card (head for the toll booths with the VIACARD sign above them. You can also pay with Viacards which are prepaid cards and must be bought with cash.

Signage for Italian motorways is green, shows the name of the motorway,number prefaced with an A, like the A1 from Rome to Florence, for example, and the direction of travel, towards Rome or Milano. Some road maps now also name the roads with an ‘E’ which is the standard European name.

The ring roads around the major cities are called the raccordo, and often aren’t numbered.

State, Regional & Provincial Roads (SS)

State roads or the strade statali, are dual carriageways (because they are usually two lanes wide) provide cheaper alternatives to getting around Italy from taking the motorway. If you are not used to driving abroad then it may be better to use the state roads as they can be quieter than the majority of the motorways. They are represented by SS on the map (eg. the SS222 from Florence to Siena) and with blue road signs. A ‘P’ or ‘SP’ represents the Strade Provinciali or provincial roads, which will bring you into the real Italian countryside and let you explore the wilderness. The official route numbers are used rather infrequently along the roads to let you know where you are.

Speed limits

The speed limit on roads in built-up areas around towns and cities is 50kmph (31 mph). On rural roads and the highway it’s 130kmph (81 mph). Remember that police can ticket you and collect the fine on the spot if you exceed these limits.


Parking or parcheggio in the towns and cities, particularly those considered tourist centres is not easy. It is best to park in designated parking areas (watch for the large blue and white signs with P on them) or is generally on the right side of the road. Alternatively onstreet parking is allowed generally on the right. White lines indicate free public spaces and blue lines the ‘pay’ public spaces. When parked in blue zones from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Monday through Saturday (except holidays) your vehicle must display a parking ticket. Parking tickets are most conveniently obtained at the parking meters near to the area you want to park in, though sometimes you can buy from a parking attendent, or a local bar. Sundays are usually free as well as Bank Holidays. You will see the Italians parking everywhere around the cities, but don’t be fooled and copy them, because you’ll end up with a hefty fine if you do (around 70 euros).

Road Signs

Here’s a brief introduction to some of the road signs you’ll most often come across in Italy.

A speed limit sign is a black number inside a red circle on a white background. The end of a speed zone is just black and white, with a black slash through the number. A red circle with a white background, a black arrow pointing down, and a red arrow pointing up means yield to oncoming traffic, while a point-down red-and-white triangle means yield ahead.

In town, a simple white circle with a red border or the words zona pedonale or ZTL zona traffico limitato denotes a pedestrian zone; a white arrow on a blue background is used for Italy’s many one-way streets; a mostly red circle with a horizontal white slash means no entry. Any image in black on a white background surrounded by a red circle means that image is not allowed. A circular sign in blue with a red circle-slash meansno parking and if you see passo carrabile it means you can’t park there at all times, and if you do you could be subject to paying a fine.

Useful Links

Italy’s equivalent of the Automobile Association is the Automobile Club d’Italia (ACI), a branch of the Touring Club Italiano. They’re the people who respond when you place an emergency 116 call for road breakdowns, though they do charge for this service if you’re not a member. If you wish, you may join at the border as you’re driving into Italy or at one of the club’s regional offices (in Florence, Viale Amendola 36, tel. 055 24 861 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 055 24 861 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.

European Driving Regulations
For more information on driving rules and regulations in Italy

The AA: Route planner
For route planning around Great Britain, Ireland and Europe

The RAC Route Planner

RAC Route Planner plans your journey from the departure location to your destination and any stops in-between calculating time and distance.

Online Maps to Britain and Europe.

Maporama – Maps and Itineraries of Europe

Road Regulations in Italy

The road rules in Italy are not vastly different from the rest of northern Europe, though it can be said that every country has commonly accepted conventions when it comes to driving, and Italy is no exception. We thought it may be useful to begin with an outline of driving habits that may initially alarm non Italian drivers. Be prepared for tail-gating, a flexible approach to red lights, lane changing without any indication, and high speeds on the motorway. If you are in the left lane on the motorway, and a car behind you is flashing their headlights, this means ‘move over into the right lane, I am coming through’. Read below for the official road rules for driving in Italy.

Vehicle Requirements:

Warning Triangle
First Aid Kit Recommended
Spare Bulb Kit
Fire Extinguisher Recommended
Reflective Safety Vest – In the event of a breakdown, it is not permitted to walk to an emergency phone without one.

Speed Limits

Car and Motorcycles ( over 150cc)

Built-up areas 50 kph (31 mph)
Secondary Roads 90 kph (56 mph)
Main Roads 110 kph (68 mph)
Motorways 130 kph (81 mph)

With Trailer or Caravan

Built-up areas 50 kph (31 mph)
Secondary Roads 70 kph (44 mph)
Main Roads 70 kph (44 mph)
Motorways 80 kph (50 mph)

Motor caravans over 3.5 tonnes but under 12 tonnes

Built-up areas 50 kph (31 mph)
Secondary Roads 80 kph (50 mph)
Main Roads 80 kph (50 mph)
Motorways 100 kph (62 mph)

Seat Belts

The use of seat belts, both front and rear, is compulsory and fines can be applied if you or your passengers are not wearing seat belts. Child safety harnesses are compulsory for 3 to 12 year olds. Visit the child car travel information site for help on safe travel with children.

Driving Licence

Minimum Driving age 18
Mopeds – 14 years
Motorcycles up to 125cc – 16 years
Motorcycles up to 350cc – 20 years

An International Driving Permit is required unless you have the new Photocard licence from a European nation.


In Italy it is compulsory to have Third-Party insurance and a “Green card” is recommended. A “green card” (carta verde) is frontier insurance valid for 15, 30, or 45 days and it should be issued to cover your car before your trip to Italy.


Motoring offences attract a fine and visitors must pay 25% on-the-spot. An official receipt should be issued with the name of the offence you have committed.

Drinking and Driving

The legal blood alcohol level for driving in Italy is 0.08%. This limit is strictly adhered to and random breath tests are common throughout the country.

Emergency Phone Numbers

Police 113
Fire Service 115
Ambulance 118


Unleaded Super 95/98 – Senza Piombo
Diesel – Gasolio

The Import or Export of spare fuel is prohibited.
The carrying of spare fuel cans is illegal.
Credit cards are not widely accepted for buying fuel.
Many petrol stations (except motorway) are closed on Sundays but many are self service.
The main petrol stations include Agip, Shell, Tamoil, Beyfin and Total.

General driving rules

Drive on the right, overtake on the left.
Use dipped headlights at all times on motorways and dual carriageways. Driving without headlights attracts a hefty fine.
Use dipped headlights in reduced visibility and in all tunnels.
Don’t use the horn in built up areas except for emergencies.
Trams and Trains have right of way.
When a car flashes their headlights, it usually means that they want you to get out the way, instead of letting you go first.

What is the conversion for kph to mph?
1 mile = 1.6 km
1km = 0.6 miles

What documents do I need to carry when driving in Italy?

You need to carry your driving licence, your insurance certificate (Green Card) vehicle registration/ownership papers. If you are renting a car you will need to carry insurance certificates and all the appropriate documentation given to you by the hire company. For any motoring offences, the Italian police are empowered to revoke your licence and to collect fines on the spot. For foreign-registered vehicles and hire cars, police can collect 25% of the maximum fine on the spot. If you contest your fine, you must give a deposit of half the maximum amount in cash to be claimed back in the case that you win your appeal.

Useful phrases for driving in Italy

Rallentare – slow down
Senso unico – one way
Strada a doppie corsie – dual carriageway
Strada panoramica – scenic route
Centro Paese – Town center
Entrata – Entrance
Incrocio – Crossroads
Lavori in corso – Roadworks ahead
Parcheggio – Parking ramp
Passaggio a livello – Train crossing
Rallentare – Slow
Senso Vietato – No entry
Sosta Autorizzata – Parking allowed during times shown
Sosta Vietata – No parking
Stazione Di Polizia – Police station
Svolta – Bend
Tutte le Direzion – All directions
Uscita – Exit
Vietato Ingresso Veicoli – No entry for vehicles
Vietato Transito Autocarri – Closed to heavy vehicles

What to do in the event of an accident?

Depending on the severity of the accident you will need to call one of the following, Police, tel. 113; Fire, tel. 115; Ambulance, tel. 118. If there is any damage to the car or to your passengers, or those in another car then calling the police is obligatory. You will need to take contact details and the registration number of all witnesses to the accident. If you have a camera make sure you take photographs from all angles before any vehicle is moved. If you do not have any pan-European breakdown cover the best company to call is The Automobile Club d’Italia (ACI), FIA and AIT member, operates a breakdown service on all roads, tel. 116. This service offers free tows to visitors driving in Italy with foreign licence plates. If you are in a hire car you must show your plane tickets and the rental contract if you want to get the service free of charge.

For more information on driving rules and regulations in Italy visit the European Driving Regulationswebsite.

Good driving links

European Driving Regulations
For more information on driving rules and regulations in Italy

The AA: Route planner
For route planning around Great Britain, Ireland and Europe

The RAC Route Planner
RAC Route Planner plans your journey from the departure location to your destination and any stops in-between calculating time and distance.

Online Maps to Britain and Europe.

Maps and Itineraries of Europe

Autostrade in Italy
Official Italian Motorway Organisation.

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