Thinking of traveling in Italy? As a country that boasts some of the most picturesque roadside views in Europe it is often one of the most popular motorist destinations for Brits. However before your set off on your holidays there are some top driving tips you need to know.
Driving in Italy: Rules and regulations
Firstly, motorists in Italy drive on the right-hand side of the road. It’s important to remember this especially when approaching roundabouts and setting off from service stations or restaurants on the left side of the road.
The minimum age for driving in Italy is 18 years old, provided you have valid UK driving licence. You will also need to keep your vehicle registration documents, motor insurance certificate and some form of photo identification (if your driving licence does not cover this) with you.
Visitors driving in Italy are also required by law to carry reflective jackets, a warning triangle and headlamp beam deflectors. Hefty on-the-spot fines can be issued if you get caught without them.
Speed limits in Europe are measured in kilometres per hour instead of miles. In Italy, the speed limit is 130 km/h on motorways, 90 km/h on open road and 50 km/h in towns and cities. Be aware that these limits will drop in wet conditions to 110 km/h, 80 km/h and 50 km/h respectively.
Laws on alcohol consumption are also tighter in Italy (similar to France). The legal limit for alcohol in the blood of drivers is 0.05% (it is 0.08% in the UK) and 0 per cent for professional drivers and new drivers with less than three years driving experience.
Driving styles and road etiquette
Local drivers are fast, aggressive and skilful. Lane hoping, late braking and tailgating is an everyday occurrence in built-up areas. But don’t let this put you off, once you’re out of the city it’s a lot quieter and there’s much more opportunity to enjoy the beautiful scenery and open roads. The key to driving in Italy is being decisive. If you see a gap, go for it, because if you don’t someone else will. Much of the driving etiquette in Italy follows unwritten rules as well. Flashing, for example, doesn’t have the same meaning as the UK. It’s much more likely to mean ‘get out of the way’ than ‘after you’.
Smaller petrol stations tend to close between about 1pm and 3.30pm and on Sunday afternoons. This isn’t as bad as it sounds though, as there are often self-service kiosks which are easy enough to use. As always, be sure to top up before you head off on a long journey, especially to rural areas.
Parking can be tricky. There aren’t many car parks and the ones they do have fill up quickly. If you park in the street between blue lines, you need to get a ticket from the nearest meter or tabaccaio to display in your window, so it’s a good idea to keep some coins in the car.
Many city centres are protected by ZTL (zona a traffico limitato) sectors that are exclusive zones for residents only. A wrong turn into one of these can result in a hefty fine if you’re caught by the many traffic cameras. These zones should be clearly indicated by signposts around the cities.
More top driving tips
Tolls are levied on most Italian motorways. They can be paid in cash or card, which is another great reason to keep some coins in the car (as long as you don’t use them all up on parking).
It’s also worth having some plastic bags to hand as car sickness is a possibility on the winding country roads.
If you are renting a car, think about what kind to get. Rural road surfaces can be quite varied and some of the more remote beaches and farms lie at the end of long tracks. Similarly, navigation can be difficult (especially if you are focusing on staying on the right side of the road) so it’s worth considering paying for a sat nav.
Our road recommendations
If you’ve settled on travelling to Italy we’ve got a few great recommendations for you:
- For exhilarating mountainous views, The Dolomites from Bolzano to Cortina d’Ampezzo is a must.
- Traverse the Stelvio Pass to experience its infamous hillside bends
- Discover rustic Tuscany driving from Montepulciano to Montalcino via Pienza
- Admire the outstanding Amalfi Coast travelling from Vietri sul Mare to Sorrento
Author: Joseph Lazare