Driving In Italy? This Comprehensive Guide Has All You Need To Know
Driving in Italy may seem daunting, I admit It is a bit nerve-wracking when I first drove in Italy! But with preparation and planning ahead, it’s nothing to worry about. Here I’m sharing all you need to know to become a confident driver in Italy!
Use the above to jump to the different topics and don’t forget to view the Frequent Asked Questions at the end!
Table of Contents
What You Should Know: Tips For Driving in Italy
Driving in Italy
1. The Legal Driving Age in Italy
In Italy, the legal driving age is 18. You need to have a valid driver’s License from your home country (obviously). Familiar with the US rental car rules, If you’re under 25 you will pay an extra fee for the increased liability to rent a car. I rented the rental car in advance as Automatic cars are more expensive and do book out. I rented my car in Milan airport from here, I like this company as they have tons of smaller regional rental companies and have flexible cancelation policies and offer the best price guarantee. FYI, you should absolutely get the extra coverage unless you have primary coverage via a credit card benefit. Like this Card here. Be cautious as some credit cards offer rental coverage but it’s “secondary” coverage.
2. Get Travel Insurance
It is a requirement to have collision Damage waiver and theft insurance unless you have a credit card that offers primary car insurance coverage, as noted above. You should absolutely get the additional car insurance! Italian drivers have a reputation for not using turn signals and driving aggressively. It’s peace of mind that will save you thousands in case of an accident.
3. Driving in Italy You (May )Need A International Driving Permit
Like most European cities, they seem pretty relaxed in regard to checking for an International driver’s license. I’ve never been asked for an International Driver’s Permit at a rental car kiosk, but if you get pulled over you will absolutely need one. When I rented a car in Greece, the same thing, they did not bother to check for IDL but for a minimal fee So it’s not worth the risk of a ticket.
So how and where do you get an International driver’s permit? If you’re from the US, It’s pretty straightforward. I got mine at the AAA branch, make sure to bring in 2 passport photos and the cost is $20 per pass +passport photos. I got my IDL booklet within 15 minutes, it was easy peasy!
4. Get Travel Insurance
You should strongly consider purchasing travel insurance for your trip to Italy. Accidents can happen, and medical care in Italy is expensive for visitors. Make sure your insurance covers medical emergencies, lost or stolen luggage, and trip cancellations. I like to use this travel insurance, they offer reasonable rates and include medical emergencies. Let me just tell you now, Italians drive fast! And their autas srada (freeway) is very confusing. So if you’re driving in Italy for the first time, get the extra insurance coverage for peace of mind.
Here are some tips for driving in Italy for the first time:
5. What Side Of The Road Does Italy Drive On
In Italy, they drive on the right side of the road! This is familiar to most visitors, but keep these other road rules in mind. The right lane is the slow lane/ You pass a car on the left passing lane.
6. Right Of Way in Italy
Here are some driving rules in Italy that you need to know. Cars on the right have the right of way. So remember to always yield to the right at stop signs/crossings.
7. Turning Right On Red is Not Legal In Italy
This is an important Italy driving tip to remember. Do not think you can turn on a red light because it is illegal and you will get honked at and may cause an accident.
8. Best Road In Italy are In The North
Northern Italy has better roads and fewer congestions, and less aggressive drivers. Italians aren’t as aggressive as some movies portray them to be, as someone who drives in California I found it easy to drive here. I would avoid driving in Southern Italy like the Amalfi Coast and Rome and Naples. The roads are tiny and windy. It is mind-blowing the amount of skill the bus drivers have in the Amalfi coast, I remember looking out the bus and I swear there was about an inch of clearance between the bus and the car on the opposite side. I’m a good driver, but this would not be something I would be comfortable navigating!
Also driving in Tuscany, Puglia, The Dolomites, and Sicily are all great cities to drive in. There is plenty of room and it’s a great leisurely way to explore the countryside.
9. Rent a Car From The Airport
Airports will have the largest selection and most often the best prices. It’s also good to keep in mind dropping the car off at a different destination than pick up will be higher in price and sometimes rental car companies will charge you a surcharge.
10. Automatic Cars Are More Expensive
Unless you are comfortable driving in Italy with a stick shift/manual vehicle, make sure to select an automatic vehicle as most will be a stick shift. The price will be more expensive but it’s a good idea to reserve a car early on and keep checking prices and if it changes, cancel and rebook! This is the company I recommend and use they have flexible cancelation policies.
11. What to Know About The Italian Highways Autostrada
What is the autostrada? The autostrada is highways in Italy that have tolls. How it works on the autostrada is you get a ticket when you enter the highway, and you pay the ticket when you exit. From my experience, each entry and exit are going to be all different.
The autostrada will be much more efficient and quicker than nontoll roads. When I drove in the Dolomites it was easy, but a lot of the tolls accepted credit cards without a problem. Each payment booth was different, some took tap to pay, and some you had to insert your credit card.
Tip: Keep your ticket on hand, you will need to insert the ticket first, and then the screen will show how much your toll is. After that, you will pay with a card or cash.
Most will take cash as well. Just keep in mind to go in the correct lane.
- There are Blue (credit card payment) lanes and White (cash) lanes and yellow (telepass) lanes . You want to go in the white or blue lanes only! I didn’t have any issues with the credit cards not working so I went in the blue/white lanes
- Headlights have to be on in the Autostrada
- The speed limit is 120 -140 KM per hour approx 75mph. From my experience, many cars will go much faster in the left fast lane, and they will high beam you without slowing down to alert you to move over.
- Exiting the highway, you need to choose a lane to pay. Insert your ticket, and pay
- You can only pay with a Chip Credit Card
- Carry cash with you for tolls just in case
12. Italian Highways Autostrada Tolls
These tolls vary by region. When I drove in The Dolomites, the tolls were a bit more expensive. It all depends on the distance you travel. The most expensive tolls was about 12 Euross. It does feel like you are constanly entering a new freeway and having to pay and get a ticket.
A few things to note, just like FastTrak in the states, Italians have something similar called Telepass. Don’t go through the yellow gates with “telepass” signs. You will get a ticket because your rental won’t have this subscription. From my experience, it’s better to just go through the cash or card lane. For more information check out the official website https://www.autostrade.it/en/pedaggio
you can also look at real time traffic on this site
13. Know Where the ZTL Zones Are Ahead of Time
What is the ZTL? Zona Traffico Limitato, which essentially is a prohibited zone in the middle of busy cities to prevent traffic and congestion. In some parts, ZTLs are only during certain times of day, but usually, they’re 24/7 so check the signs before proceeding. Google Maps is notorious for not disclosing these so make sure to look on an actual map first to avoid this area. There are camera lights everywhere to capture unsuspecting tourists entering this zone. Often there are places to park on the edge of a ZTL.
Make sure to look at the official maps to see where the zone is located. The signs are small but it’s pretty clear where they are located. But if you’re driving in congested cities such as Rome, Milan, Or Florence, it’s better to know where the ZTL zones are. Google will not tell you this information!
14. Purchase or Rent a Pocket Wifi
What is pocket wifi you ask? It’s a handy wireless pocket router that will make navigating the roads and enable you to use google navigation on the fly. I don’t usually mind using free wifi when traveling, but if you plan on driving, having reliable GPS is essential. It’s easier than fumbling with sim cards and less expensive than the ridiculously expensive data plans with your wireless provider. Also, you can share your wifi with up to 10 people at once.
- Rent a pocket wifi here, or purchase one (I travel often so purchasing one made more economical sense. This is the one I used and purchased for Italy and Japan)
15. Things To Know About Parking Rules In Italy
- Take a photo of your car’s license plate as you’ll need this number at the parking meter (Reggio Calabria). Print the receipt out and place it on your dashboard.
- Handy parking apps are MyCicero and EasyPark Italia.
- White lines are free parking spots
- Blue Lines are paid parking spots
- Yellow lines are for disabled parking or residents only
16. How To Navigate Italian Roundabouts
Driving in Italy and its roundabouts seems hectic, but It’s not as scary as it seems, just remember: yield to traffic entering the roundabout, and once inside, move to the outer lane to exit the roundabout. And let me just tell you now, there are A LOT of roundabouts!
17. Gas Stations in Italy
Ok, this driving in Italy tip will save you a lot of stress. Because I couldn’t figure out how to use the payment machines until half way though my trip! Gas stations in Italy are easy to navigate but you need to know what to expect and how to navigate getting gas (more on that later).
What you need to know about gas stations in Italy is:
- Gas is by the litter and it is expensive. Gas is about $7-8 per gallon equivalent.
- Make sure you know if the rental car you have takes Gasolio (Diesel) or Benzina (Gas). They sound very similar and have similar colors and if you don’t pay attention you may end up getting the wrong fuel!
18. How To Get Gas In Italy
What you need to know about getting gas in Italy is:
- There is a self sevice ( Fai da te) or a full service (servito). The service will cost more.
- Credit Cards will not work at the machines!! Why? Because you need to sign for the card. and since there isn’t a way to do that on a machine your card will be declined. This tip is very important to know. So if the gas station is open you can go in and pay with a credit card otherwise cash is king.
- The machines do not give you change! So make sure to put in small bills only.
- The gas stations close during lunch 1-4pm and sundays. You can still pump gas but you have to use the machines.
- At self service, you pump the gas first, and then go inside the station to pay!
Driving in Italy is not as bad as it seems. Now you have all the information to make yourself a confident driver, knowing all the driving rules in Italy and what to expect will make your driving in Italy much more pleasant. Just keep in mind to follow the rules and pay attention. Avoid driving. in Naples or the Amalfi coast and you will be just fine. Happy driving! Ciao!
Still have questions?
If you cannot find an answer to your question in our FAQ, you can always ask in the comments below!
Your pictures of the countryside are simply stunning. I love to visit Italy, and this just makes me want to go back! Great tips on driving.
Good call out about automatics being more expensive! I’m lucky my boyfriend knows how to drive a stick when we visit!
I found driving in Italy the most difficult of all European countries. The Italian drivers drove so fast, especially on winding roads. These are some great hints for preparing to drive in Italy, but good luck everybody in driving there.
As someone who enjoys road trips, I find your post super useful and comprehensive. I am surprised that automatic cars are still a more expensive option in the country.
This is incredibly helpful! I’ve wanted to see more of Italy when I go back again but I am nervous about driving. Definitely saving this to refer to when I’m ready to start preparing for my trip. Thank you so much!