Driving in Italy

What you need to know

Driving in Italy

You will almost be guaranteed to be surrounded by stunning views and an array of landscapes when driving in Italy. However, it is said to be ‘an experience’ and not one for the faint hearted. The Italian style of driving is different to most and often comes as quite a surprise to many expats. Below, we have compiled a few tips to help make driving as carefree as possible.

Italian drivers can be a bit crazy on the roads

Concentration is key when driving in Italy. Italians are fast, aggressive and skilful on the roads, and lane hopping and late breaking are common practice.

Although the roads are getting safer, Italians are often voted the most dangerous drivers in Europe , with drivers in the South supposedly more dangerous than those in the North. While the advice is to seize the moment and if you see a gap go for it, we do urge you to be careful and let the Italians take the lead.

Ancient Romans didn’t build roads for cars

As impressive as the Romans were, they didn’t have any major breakthroughs in the automotive industry. Streets were built with pedestrians and horses in mind; today these roads can seem mind-bogglingly narrow for even the smallest of cars.

Parking in the cities is nearly impossible and lots of streets are one way, filled with speeding Vespas that appear out of nowhere. If you are going to attempt it, try to drive in the early afternoon when traffic is lighter and parking is a little easier.

You have to carry some safety gear in your car

There are certain things that you must have in your car when driving in Italy. It’s compulsory to have a warning triangle and a reflective safety jacket, and even a fire extinguisher is recommended. If you are caught without these items, you can face hefty, on the spot fines.

Being covered if you break down

If you find yourself at the side of the Autostrada in a bit of trouble, make sure you have noted down the A.C.I.  (Italian Automobile Club; page in Italian) road assistance number, which is 116. Make sure you have all your insurance papers with you to avoid unnecessary costs or, above all, difficult Italian bureaucratic issues.

If you still need to get car insurance and need advice in English (which can be hard to find in Italy), Clements Worldwide  offer insurance specifically for English speaking expats.

A GPS might lead you up a blind alley

In Italy, it is not uncommon to find two or more towns with the same name and a GPS can often take you to the wrong one. In cities and towns in particular, it is extremely common for a GPS to lead you to a dead end or even to the top of a set of steps! Pulling a maneuver straight out of a Bond film may not be your forte.  

We think you should add an old-fashioned atlas to the list of things to keep in your car.

Watch out for those pesky cameras

After dealing with difficult street signs and adrenaline-loving GPS systems, it’s important to watch out for driving restrictions in cities and historic towns. It’s very easy to slip into a ZTL zone  (Zona a Traffico Limitato - limited traffic zone).

These areas are teeming with speed cameras and it’s very easy to be caught. Some fines take up to a year to come through, so even if you think you have got away with it, it may not be the case.

Keep calm and enjoy the scenery

Although our tips may not have made driving in Italy seem all that appealing, it can be an extraordinary experience. Italy is home to some breathtaking drives, with Top Gear nominating the Stelvio Pass the greatest driving road in the world .

The scenery varies greatly in Italy with a drive along the Amalfi coast’s incredible carved cliffs, surrounded by beautiful coastline, or roaring down the Great Dolomite Road which allows you to cut through the peaks of the Italian Alps. The possibilities are endless.

Further reading

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