Driving in Italy - An Introduction
Speed limits in Italy are measured in KPH (Kilometres per Hour).
|Outside built-up areas||68mph/11kph|
On expressways cars with engines smaller than 1090 cc and motorcycles with engines smaller than 150 cc are limited to 110 kph (68 mph). Cars towing a caravan or trailer, and caravans over 12 tons, are limited to 70 kph (44 mph) outside built-up areas and to 80 kph (50 mph) on expressways. Caravans between 3.5 and 12 tons are limited to 80 kph (50 mph) outside built-up areas, and to 100 kph (62 mph) on expressways. Expressway speeds are reduced to 110 kph (68 mph) during the following: Saturday and Sunday, the Thursday before Easter through the Wednesday after, midweek national holidays, 20 December to 7 January, and from the Saturday before the second Sunday in July through the first Sunday in September.
Tolls are charged on the autostrade. Tickets are obtained upon entry to the expressway system and paid upon exiting. Tolls (except in Sicily) can be paid with cash or a Viacard. Motorists can purchase a €25 Viacard from toll booths, fuel stations, some banks, tourist offices, and tobacconists. Viacards are accepted on all routes except the A18 and A20. At automatic barriers, the card should be inserted into a slot on the controlling machine.
General Tips and Road Information
The middle lane of three-lane roads is for passing. Passing on the right is permitted when the driver ahead has signalled a left turn and has moved to the centre of the road or when multiple lanes are travelling in your direction. By the way, don't be surprised to find Italians paying remarkably little respect to lane definition. In other words, they drive all over the road.
Police are empowered to revoke your licence and to collect fines on the spot. For foreign-registered vehicles, police can collect one-fourth of the maximum fine on the spot. If you contest the fine, you must deposit half the maximum amount in cash (foreign is OK) or in the form of a surety.
Generally, parking is on the right side of the road. Parking in a Blue Zone or Zona Disco is for limited time periods. Parking discs for these zones may be obtained at fuel stations, tourist offices, and motor club offices. When parked in these zones from 9am to 2.30pm and 4pm-8pm Mon-Sat (except holidays) your vehicle must display a parking disc. Maximum parking time during these periods is one hour. Some cities also have Green Zones or Zona Verde where parking is prohibited from 8am to 9.30am and from 2.30pm to 4pm on weekdays.
In Florence, all vehicles are banned from the city centre from 7.30am to 6.30pm on weekdays; visitors may enter the centre in their vehicle during these times to load or unload but must then move on to park outside the centre.
In Rome a sign reading zona tutelato indicates that parking is prohibited from 7.30am to 6.30pm on weekdays; punishment for violating this ordinance may include a prison sentence.
In Venice, parking is very difficult to find. Park instead at one of the mainland car parks; you can take a bus or ferry from there to the city. The parking facility at Mestre, however, is a well-known haunt of thieves. In the Tronchetto garage, park on the left side, not on the right. These mainland facilities are linked to the island by ferry and bus services.
Naples (along with Seville, Spain) is Europe's most infamous lair of thieves. Furthermore, driving in Naples is notoriously difficult. Instead of taking your vehicle into Naples, stay on the Ischia or Sorrento Peninsula. For quick transport to the city, take the catamaran or aliscafi.
Minimum driving age:
The minimum driving age in Italy is 18.
Non European licences and old-style green European licences must be accompanied by an International Driving Permit. EC format pink/green licences, however, are acceptable without an IDP. If you have a UK photo card remember to take the paper counterpart.
To thwart car thieves, police are increasingly subjecting foreign-registered vehicles to spot checks. To pass such a check, operators must present vehicle and personal identification documents - including written permission from the owner if it's a borrowed vehicle. Vehicles which do not pass may be confiscated.
Requirements for your car:
When you are driving in Italy you are required to carry a warning triangle.
Headlights are required from half an hour after sunset to half an hour before sunrise. Headlights should also be used under bridges and in tunnels. Only use fog lights in conditions of poor visibility.
Use of the horn is prohibited in built-up areas except in cases of immediate and extreme danger; at night flash your lights instead. Outside built-up areas, however, you must use the horn to signal your intention to pass.
Compulsory in the front and rear of the vehicle.
Children in the front seat:
Unless you are using a child restraint, children are required to be 12 years old if they are to sit in the front passenger seat.
Motorcyclists must wear a helmet and use the headlamp at all times.
Anything hanging off the end of a vehicle, such as a bicycle, must be tagged with a reflective red and white striped sign 50 cm square. The signs are sold at most automotive shops in Italy. You may be fined €50 if you fail to satisfy this requirement.
Emergency Telephone Numbers
Police: 112 Fire: 115 Ambulance: 118
The above pointers are by no means exhaustive. Drivers spending any time in Italy should try to familiarise themselves with all the rules of the road, including traffic signals, signposting, road-markings, speed limits etc.
Take care and enjoy the drive!