Home » Traveling In Italy » Driving in Italy – 2024 Detailed Guide for Visitors
Countryside road in Tuscany, Italy.

Driving in Italy – 2024 Detailed Guide for Visitors

Whether it’s your first time driving in Italy, or you’re back for your annual vacation, it’s always helpful to read about Italian road rules and norms so that you’re prepared to drive on Italian roads, with Italian drivers.

I’ve been driving here since 2003 – as a travel guide, tourist, and resident.  I’m a licensed Italian driver and I’ve driven all over the Italian peninsula.  I’ve driven every type of vehicle in Italy, from mini cars to station wagons, 9-passenger vans to vans with trailers, and everything in between. I’ve used my experience driving thousands and thousands (and thousands) of kilometers here to create this thorough guide for driving in Italy.

I have driven many places in the world – from the USA to Argentina, New Zealand to Sweden – and more. This extensive driving experience helps me look at how driving in Italy may be different from what you’re used to in your home country.

Good To Know for 2024:

  • You can use Apple Pay and contactless payment methods at many toll booths now.
  • You’ll see the Safety Tutor (aka Sistema Tutor) on normal roads now, not just on the Autostrada.
  • Gas stations continue to invest in technology, and many of the newer electronic payment machines require a PIN. And, even if you have a PIN, the machines may not give you the chance to enter it – instead, they reject your credit card (or ATM card). So, always have cash on hand when you’re getting gas.
  • The Amalfi Coast’s main road still limits cars.
  • Fines have increased for speeding, parking violations, and driving while using your mobile phone

When you’re done reading, I hope you’ll feel prepared and confident so that you can enjoy driving in bella Italia!

This article will:

  • Help you decide whether or not to drive in Italy
  • Tell you which areas in Italy are best visited with a car
  • Give you tips for renting a car in Italy
  • Explain which equipment and documents you need to have in your car
  • Teach you important Italian driving rules and regulations, including speed limits and speed traps, and ZTLs (limited traffic zones)
  • Explain how to navigate Italian roads, including traffic signs
  • Explain how to use the Autostrada, Italy’s version of a toll road
  • Give important tips and laws for driving with children in the car
  • Teach you how to get gas and park in Italy
  • Familiarize you with the basics of Italian driving culture
  • Teach you about breakdowns, accidents, and road crimes
  • Give helpful vocabulary for driving in Italy
  • Answer frequently asked questions

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase from the links, we may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Please see our Disclaimer for more information.

Quick Tip: Looking to rent a car in Italy? Don’t miss my popular Complete Guide to Renting a Car in Italy! And, if you’re ready to book, check out rentals on DiscoverCars.com, the consolidator I use and recommend to all of my clients.

Do You Need to Drive in Italy?

Don’t stress out about driving in Italy – you may not need to, depending on where you’re going.

If you’ll be visiting cities in Italy, you can travel by public transport.  Italy has excellent bus, train, and metro networks.  You’ll skip the stresses of city traffic, parking, ZTLs, one-way streets, narrow roads, and pedestrian streets. 

On the other hand, if you’ll be spending time in the countryside, you may need to drive.  Remote villas and accommodations may not have public transport options. 

Driving your own vehicle also gives you more freedom – you can stop where you want and when you want.  You don’t need to stick to any public transport timetables.  It’s also the best option if you have kids, many passengers, or a lot of luggage.

PROS of Driving in ItalyCONS of Driving in Italy
Freedom to visit more placesGas is expensive
Choose your travel scheduleTolls are expensive
More room for luggageResponsible for car and damages
Less expensive with larger groupsParking is tricky and can be expensive
Flexibility with kids (bathroom breaks, etc)May still need public transport if visiting cities

Alternatives to Driving in Italy

  • Train – Italy is well-served by train between all major cities (by fast train, alta velocità) and most secondary cities (by regional train, regionale).  Read more about Train Travel in Italy or print our Italy Train Map.
  • Plane ­– Flying can cut down on long driving times and the abundance of low-cost carriers means plenty of inexpensive fares.
  • Bus – Best for local travel, but there are also long-distance routes (FlixBus, for example).
  • Boat – An excellent way to reach Italy’s islands, including Sicily, Sardinia, Capri, and Elba.
  • Private Driver – You can hire a private driver (NCC – noleggio con conducente) if your destination isn’t served by public transport.  Although more expensive than driving on your own, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenery!

Which Areas in Italy To Explore by Car

Tuscany/Chianti – YES
If you’re planning on leaving Florence to visit the countryside of Tuscany and its small cities and villages (San Gimignano, Volterra, Siena, PienzaMontepulciano, Montalcino, Lucca), the coastal towns of Cecina, Forte dei Marmi, or Bolgheri, or the vineyards and rolling hills of Chianti, you’ll want to travel by car.

Piedmont Wine Country – YES
You’ll need a car if you’d like to explore the small wine villages of Barolo, Alba (mmmm, truffles anyone?), Monforte d’Alba, La Morra, or Asti. Vineyards and wineries are often only accessible by car.

Cinque Terre – NO
You don’t need a car to explore the five villages of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. You technically can park outside of the villages, but it’s easier to leave your car in one of the big lots in La Spezia and take the train in.

Road in the Dolomites with towering mountains on the left and green bushes on trees on both sides of the road.
Driving near Passo Gardena in the Dolomites

The Dolomites – YES (but not required)
The Dolomites area has an amazing public transport system, and you could visit car-free, but I prefer the freedom a car offers here. You can stop off at rifugi for a cup of hot chocolate, pull over on a mountain pass to photograph a happy cow, or stop to let your kids roll down a big, green hill!

Read more about Driving in the Dolomites

Puglia – YES
You’ll want to drive a car to explore the small towns and beaches of Puglia and to search for the region’s famous trulli. If you’re venturing into nearby Basilicata to see Matera and its sassi, you’ll want to have a car.

Read my tips for Driving in Puglia

Sicily – YES
Italy’s largest island needs to be explored by car.  You can reach the main cities (Catania, Palermo, Siracusa) by train, but they are often delayed and crowded. You’ll also want to have a car in Sicily to reach archaeological sites, countryside restaurants, and beaches. Check out our guides to Renting a Car in Sicily, Renting a Car in Catania, and Renting a Car in Palermo.

Read my tips for Driving in Sicily

Sardinia – YES
Unless you’re plopping yourself on the beach for your entire visit (which, is entirely ok!), rent a car in Sardinia, or drive one onto the ferry from the mainland.

You’ll want a car for exploring mountain villages, searching out native cheeses, or making your way to San Pantaleo’s picture-perfect piazza.

Umbria – YES
This region is an explorer’s delight, and you’ll want to drive a car to and from its small villages.

Amalfi Coast – NO
Driving in Amalfi is stressful.  You share the narrow, cliff-side roads with huge buses.  It’s not fun.

Leave the car and utilize the area’s buses, boats, and your feet! If you really want to go somewhere not accessible by public transport, hire a taxi for the trip. They’re reasonably priced and easy to book.

Friuli – YES
This gem of a region is best explored by car. Driving gives you the best access to Aquileia, Cividale del Friuli, and the region’s top-notch wineries.

Italian Lakes – YES (if you’ll be in the area for a while)
You’ll want the freedom a car gives you, especially if you want to travel to more than one of the Italian lakes. Even though the lakes (Lake Como, Lake Garda, Lake Maggiore, Lake Orta, to name a few) are clumped together as one ‘area,’ the distances can be great.

Exception:  If you’re traveling to one lake on a day trip or you’ll just be visiting for a couple of days, you can usually arrive by train and travel around by ferry.

Renting a Car in Italy

Car rental agencies in a garage in Florence, Italy.
A car rental garage in Florence

If you’re planning on renting a car in Italy, be sure to check out our Complete Guide to Renting a Car in Italy and Renting a Car in Italy as an American!

Some helpful tips:

  • Don’t forget car rental insurance.  Italian law requires CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) and theft insurance.
  • Choose an automatic transmission vehicle for an easier Italian driving experience.
  • Do a walk around
  • Return your car with a full tank of gas (if you haven’t prepaid for a fill-up)

For car rentals in Italy, I like to use a search consolidator like DiscoverCars.com or AutoEurope.com.
I recommend checking both DiscoverCars.com or AutoEurope.com and the individual car rental companies for the best prices and vehicle availability.

Required Documents and Equipment in Your Car in Italy

Front cover of AAA International Driving Permit.
If you’re not an EU-licensed driver, don’t forget your International Driving Permit!

Make sure your car is equipped with:

  • Reflective safety vest
  • Reflective safety triangle
  • Winter tires (or snow chains in the car) for certain roads during specific periods of the year.  For example, in Tuscany, on many roads, we are required to carry snow chains (or have winter tires on) from November 15 – April 15.
  • Required documents (EU license or non-EU license with International Driving Permit, car registration and insurance

Good To Know:  Make sure your reflective vest and triangle are stored in the car, not in the trunk.  If you need to stop on the road, you need to be able to use the items immediately (exit the car already wearing your vest).

Good To Know:  UK cars must have a UK identifier (on a sticker or on the license plate) and headlamp beam deflectors.

Rules for Driving in Italy

Two young boys watching a red Ferrari drive by in the Tuscan countryside in Italy.
My boys checking out a Ferrari

General Rules

  • In Italy, we drive on the right side of the road.
  • You are not allowed to turn right at a red light.
  • Headlights must be on while driving outside of urban areas.
  • Stay in the right lane except when passing.
  • Don’t use your phone to call or text – it’s illegal in Italy and you will be fined. 
  • Seatbelts must be worn in the front and back seats if the vehicle has them.
  • At intersections, yield to the car on the right.

Driving Age in Italy

You must be 18 to drive a car in Italy.  So, even if you have your home country license at age 16, you can’t drive here. 

Good To Know:  If you’re renting a car in Italy, you need to be 18 years or older and you must have had your driver’s license for at least one year.  Some rental agencies may also tack on a surcharge for drivers under the age of 25. 

Road Types and Speed Limits in Italy

Road TypeEnglish EquivalentSpeed LimitNote
AutostradaToll Motorway130110 in poor weather conditions
Strada Extraurbana PrincipaleMajor Highway11090 in poor weather conditions
Strada Extraurbana SecondariaMinor Highway9080 in poor weather conditions
Strada UrbanaUrban Road50
Strada BiancaDirt or Gravel Roadposted limit

Good To Know:  Speed limits shown in Google Maps directions are relatively new here and are often inaccurate. Follow the general speed limit rules unless you see a sign posted with a different speed.

Autovelox in Italy

Autovelox on the side of the road in Italy.
An autovelox on a country road in Italy

Speed limits on all types of roads are typically enforced with autovelox, machines that measure your speed and photograph your car if you’re speeding.

Italian law requires that drivers are warned.  You’ll almost always see a sign that says ‘controllo elettronico della velocità.’

Italian Safety Tutor

The Autostrada has an additional speed limit monitor, the Safety Tutor. The Safety Tutor photographs your license plate at point A and point B and averages your speed between the two points. If your average speed is above the limit (with the 5% leeway), you’ll be fined.

There are over 1400km of Autostrade covered by the Safety Tutor, with it increasing annually. The presence of a Safety Tutor must be noted at least 250m before and up to 4km before it becomes active.

While you’ll hear many Italians complain about the Safety Tutor, the driving deaths in Italy have dramatically decreased since its introduction.

Remember, if it’s raining, the speed limit decreases by 20km/hr and the Safety Tutor adjusts as well.


ZTL entrance in Florence, Italy along the Arno River.
Entrance to a ZTL in Florence, Italy

ZTL stands for zona traffico limitato – limited traffic zone. It’s an area that’s off-limits to all vehicles without an appropriate permit (like residents, taxis, and buses).

If you drive in the ZTL without permission, you’ll have a nice fine waiting for you on your arrival home (or months later!). You’ll also have an additional administrative fee from the rental car agency. If you don’t pay the fine, a collections agency in your home country may be hired to collect the fees (rare, but it happens). Travel forums are teeming with posts on the infamous ZTL tickets.

Need to call the rental car agency from home? Check out our post Calling Italy From the USA.

Important – you may see cars entering the zone – that doesn’t mean you can!

Also, don’t follow your GPS blindly – the ZTL may not be marked on its map. You also can’t rely on maps with ZTLs marked – the zones sometimes change. The important thing is to keep your eyes open for the ZTL signs when you’re driving in city centers.

What to do if you need to park at your hotel in the center? Don’t fear – you can get a permit if you’re staying in a hotel or parking in a garage in the ZTL. When you arrive, the hotel or garage staff will inform the parking authorities to authorize your car, so you won’t be fined.

Sometimes the ZTL is inactive/open (often on Sundays). The open days/hours are usually noted on the sign at the entrance of the ZTL, or there will be a green light (vs. red when the ZTL is active). You are allowed to drive into the zone when it’s open. Click here to see an example of what the zones look like in Pisa.

Read more in our Guide to the ZTL in Italy.

Drinking and Driving in Italy

The alcohol limit in Italy is .05%. This isn’t much more than a glass or two of wine. Plan appropriately and have a designated driver or take a taxi or public transport.

Navigating Italian Roads

Italian road maps.
These are some of the paper maps I use when I’m driving in Italy

The best tools for navigating the roads in Italy are:

  • GPS devices
  • Google Maps
  • Paper maps

I use a combination of all three but lean toward Google Maps because it seems to be updated more frequently than GPS software.

Using Technology to Navigate Italian Roads

In Italy, Google Maps maps/directions tend to be more reliable than maps/directions from GPS devices.

GPS often comes standard in rental cars, or as an add-on option.

Good To Know:  If you decide to use Google Maps or GPS, do NOT their directions blindly! They may occasionally lead you down a one-way road or into a ZTL (zona traffico limitato, or limited traffic zone).

Good To Know: One of the most important things to know about navigating Italian roads is that Italian road signs don’t use north/south/east/west indicators (like Interstate 5 in the US has northbound and southbound directions). Instead, signs show cities in that direction.

So, if you’re getting on the Autostrada in Florence, you can choose to go toward Bologna or Roma (vs. North or South).  You always need to be aware of where you are and what cities are around you.

Italian road signs showing which direction to turn to drive to certain cities.
Turn left to head toward Siena, and right to head toward Castelnuovo Berardenga.

If you don’t know where cities in Italy are, paper maps and Google Maps will help.

Using Paper Maps in Italy

It’s always helpful to have a paper map on hand.  Get the most detailed version possible.  So, don’t spend your week in Chianti with a map of the entire country – find a map of Tuscany, or Northern Tuscany, or Chianti. 

The best places to buy paper maps for Italy – in Italy.  Yes, there are some available on Amazon, but you’ll find the best selection and versions here.  You can buy them in many places, including airports, gas stations, the Autogrill, bookstores, and tourist info centers.

I recommend:

  • Tour Club Italiano’s regional maps (1:200,000 scale), for example – Tuscany
  • Kompass maps for smaller areas (1:50,000 or 1:25,000 scale), for example – Chianti
  • Global maps for smaller areas (1:25,000 or 1:7,500 scale), for example – Capri island

Good To Know:  When you’re planning your trip, plan extra time for driving on country roads. The narrow lanes and plentiful curves mean you’ll be driving slowly.  Also, to save time, avoid commute hours, and know the major Italian holidays (when every Italian hits the road).

Italian Road Signs

Before you put the key in the ignition, you’ll want to be familiar with the main Italian road signs. 

Check out our post, Italian Road Signs – Guide for Visitors + Photos!

A few important signs to know:

  • Stop Sign
  • Yield Sign
  • Give Priority
  • Oncoming Traffic Gives Priority
  • Maximum Speed
  • Do Not Enter
  • One-Way Traffic
  • ZTL
  • No Passing
  • Right of Way
  • End Right of Way
  • Traffic Circle Ahead
  • No Parking
  • No Stopping
  • Leave Area Free
YouTube video

For more details, be sure to read about the different types of signs in our Italian Road Signs post.

Autostrade – Toll Roads in Italy

Sign at the entrance of the Autostrada in Italy.
Sign at the entrance to the Autostrada

The Autostrada is our toll road.  Autostrade (plural) can be recognized by the ‘A’ in the road name (for example, A1 is the Autostrade that runs from Milan to Rome to Naples).  Autostrada signs are green.

If you’re not interested in taking the scenic route, and you want to get from point A to point B as quickly and efficiently as possible, you’ll want to take the Autostrada.

Entering the Autostrada

1. Choose the appropriate lane.  If you don’t have a Telepass (a device that automatically deducts the toll from your bank account), you’ll need to get a biglietto (ticket).  Follow the white signs (not the yellow Telepass signs).

2. Slow down and take a biglietto.  Push the big red button if the ticket is not already sticking out of the machine.  Keep your ticket somewhere handy because you’ll need it when you exit.  Tip:  Don’t let it fly out of the window.

Good To Know:  If the barrier is up, don’t go through without taking a ticket.  Choose a different lane or push the aiuto button for help.

3. Wait for the barrier to go up then drive through.  Pay attention because you often have to choose your direction immediately (it won’t say northbound or southbound – it will give cities in that direction, like Roma or Bologna.)

Driving on the Autostrada

Stay in the right lane.

If drivers arrive behind you and flash their headlights, they’re telling you to move over.

You can stop at Autogrills and other service areas without exiting the Autostrada.  Get gas, eat at a restaurant or bar, shop for snacks and more, or use the bathroom.

Exiting the Autostrada

1. Choose the appropriate lane.  Blue lanes on the road and signs indicate credit card payment.  White lanes and signs indicate cash payment.  Yellow lanes and signs indicate Telepass payment.  You’ll need to choose credit card or cash payment.

2. Drive up, and put your ticket into the machine.

3. Pay the amount indicated.

Good To Know:  You’ll need a credit card with a chip.  If you’re unsure if yours will work, choose the cash line.  If you try your card and it doesn’t work, push the aiuto (help) button and the operator will print a ticket for you that you can pay online.

Read more about
Italian Toll Roads – Driving on the Autostrada
Paying Tolls in Italy

Driving in Italy With Children

Boys driving toy car with father in Forte dei Marmi, Italy.
My boys ‘driving’ in Italy

Car Seats in Italy

Before traveling, check with the car rental company to see if any updates have been made to Italy’s car seat laws. The Italian Automobile Club has English information on the country’s car seat laws.

Car Seats in Italy – General Requirements

In Italy, children under younger than 12 and under 150cm must use the appropriate car seat or booster seat for their height and weight (article 172 of the Italian road code – codice della strada).

Car seats must be rear-facing until a child is at least 15 months old.

Car seats are divided into 5 categories (groups) based on weight:

GroupType of SeatWeight limit
0bassinetup to 10kg
0+car seatup to 13kg
1car seat9-18kg
2booster seat15-25kg
3booster seat22-36kg

If you’re renting a car, you can reserve a car seat.  Usually, you pay for a certain period (the first week, for example) and then you can use it for free for the rest of the rental period. 

The other option is to bring your own car seat from home.  This is more work, but you’ll have the comfort of knowing your child is comfortable in the seat, and you’ll know how it’s been treated (except for the plane trip to Italy).  If you do decide to bring your own car seat, you’ll need to make sure it meets Italy’s legal requirements. 

Another legal requirement is that depositivi anti-abbandono (anti-abandonment devices) are now required in Italy for all children under 4 years old if the car is registered in Italy or a foreign-registered vehicle is driven by a resident Italian. So, if you’re a UK resident driving your UK car here on holiday, the device isn’t required by law.

Again, it’s best to review the links above and speak to your car rental company so you’re up-to-date on any car seat law changes in Italy.

Learn more in our complete guide to Car Seats in Italy

Space in Vehicle

Cars here are much(!) smaller than cars in some countries (like the United States).  I drive what’s classified as a minivan here, and it’s not even close to the size of a minivan in the US. 

You’ll want to pay careful attention to the number of passengers that fit in the car and the amount of luggage that will fit in the trunk.  If you’re not familiar with the vehicle or model, do a quick online search.

You want to make sure that you have enough space for your passengers and equipment, but with as small of a car as possible, so that you’re not stressed while driving on narrow roads and parking in small spaces.

Good To Know: I get a lot of questions about Italian rental cars that can fit 3 carseats across. Our cars are so much smaller here – the best option is to get a car that seats 6 or more passengers (if you’re a family of 5).

Take Advantage of the Autogrill

When you’re driving in Italy with kids, the Autogrill is your friend!  It’s a “one-stop-shop” that you can access from the Autostrada without exiting.

Inside you’ll find a full-service restaurant or snack bar, a mini-market (often with prosciutto legs, chunks of parmigiano, or other Italian delicacies), restrooms, and a shop with toys, maps, music, and more. The Autogrill will also have an attached gas station.

Other rest stops that are similar to Autogrill include Sarni, Chef Express, Finifast, MyChef, and Ristop.

Getting Gas in Italy

gas station in italy
Gas station entrance – serviced pumps on the left (SERV) and self-service pumps on the right (SELF)

The most important thing to remember when getting gas in Italy is to put the correct fuel in your tank.   Your main options are gasolio (diesel) and benzina (gas). Don’t get confused and fill up your car with gas(olio) if it needs benzina! Your car will stop working and you’ll need to have the tank drained before you can continue your vacation. If you have a car that needs benzina, don’t worry – the nozzle of the diesel pump is larger, and it won’t fit into your car’s tank. Usually, the cap of the tank is colored green if you have a car that takes benzina, and the pump is colored green as well.

Gas is expensive.  As I write this, it’s 1.80€/liter in my town, more than $8/gallon!  The good news is that most cars get much better gas mileage here than what you’re probably used to in your home country.

For all the details on getting gas in Italy, check out – Italian Gas Stations – A Guide to Getting Gas in Italy

Parking in Italy

This car is easy to park – even in Rome!

Parking in Italy can be stressful, especially in town or city centers.  If you have the option, park on the edge of town and walk to the center. 

You’ll need to pay attention to the colored lines on the ground:

  • BLUE spaces are paid parking.  Payment is typically done via a nearby machine.  Have coins handy, but now you can often pay by credit card or with an app (info posted on the machine).  Pay and display your ticket on the dash of your car.

Rarely, you’ll need to purchase a scratch-off parking ticket from a tabacchi. 

Good To Know:  Many machines now require your license plate.  If you don’t have it memorized, keep a photo on your phone.

  • WHITE spaces are free, but sometimes only for residents.  Check the signs carefully!  Even if it’s free parking, it may be for a limited period, and you’ll need to display your arrival time on a parking disco (disc).  If you don’t have a disco, you can buy one at a tabacchi or newsstand.
  • YELLOW spaces are disabled parking or loading zones (look for symbols of a wheelchair or person loading goods).
  • NO LINES on the ground? Be sure to read the posted signs.

Parking Tips

  • Take a photo of the street you’re parked on or the intersection you’re at.  Or take a screenshot with Google Maps if you have data on your phone.
  • Don’t follow the locals’ lead.  You may see cars parked in strange places, but often those drivers know the area and how to avoid fines.
  • Don’t park in front of the passo carrabile sign.  You’ll be towed.
  • Don’t leave valuables unattended in your car, even hidden in your trunk.
  • Note street sweeping days/hours.
  • Fold in your mirrors when you parallel park.  If you don’t, you risk not finding them attached to your car when you return.

Learn more in our Complete Guide to Parking in Italy

Italian Driving Culture

Italian drivers often take rules and regulations as ‘suggestions.’ It’s not uncommon to see Italians blasting through crosswalks, speeding on all types of roads, ‘pausing’ but not stopping at stop signs, and parking wherever they please. Italians are confident and assertive drivers – you should be too. If you aren’t, you won’t survive on Italian roads.

Other helpful things to know about driving here:

  • Tailgating is common.  If you’re uncomfortable, pull over and let them pass.
  • Road rage isn’t common here.
  • If a car is flashing its lights from behind, it means “pull over to the right, I’m coming through quickly!”
  • If a car coming toward you is flashing its lights, it means “slow down, there’s a hazard or police stop ahead”
  • Hazard lights (red triangle) are used if traffic in front is stopped or slows quickly.
  • If you’re driving in the countryside, you will probably encounter cyclists. They are legally required to ride only two next to each other but are often in large groups. If you’re unable to pass, try a friendly toot of your horn. While it may be frustrating to get stuck behind a group of cyclists, remember that cycling is a major part of the culture here, and try to imagine one of the cyclists is your daughter, father, or friend before attempting to pass the group unsafely.
  • Italians don’t overtake on the right.
  • Compared to your home country, you may find Italians less likely to stop at a crosswalk and more likely to be creative with parking and turning 2-lane roads into multiple lanes.
  • Mopeds will weave in and out of lanes. Don’t worry about them – just drive and they will find their way around you.
  • Italy loves the traffic circle/roundabout! They keep traffic flowing if used properly. Always yield to traffic entering the roundabout, and once inside, move to the outer lane to exit the roundabout. Use your turn signals.

Driving in Italy Vocabulary

  • macchina – car
  • patente – driver’s license
  • guidare – to drive
  • libretto – car documents
  • pedaggio – toll
  • uscita – exit
  • sinistra – left
  • destra – right
  • dritto – straight ahead
  • benzina – gas
  • gasolio – diesel
  • ZTL – limited traffic zone
  • zona pedonale – pedestrian zone
  • passo carrabile – leave area free
  • servito – serviced by personnel
  • self / fai-da-te – self-service
  • servizi / WC – toilets

You’ll find more helpful Italian words and phrases in our post – 100+ Useful Italian Travel Phrases!

Car Trouble and Accidents

Unfortunately, breakdowns and accidents can even happen on Italian vacations.

Car Breakdowns

If you have car trouble, turn on your flashing emergency lights. Move to the side of the road, and completely off the road if possible. While wearing your neon safety vest, place your neon safety triangle on the road behind your vehicle (at least 50 meters, and 100 meters on the Autostrada).

For roadside assistance, call 803.116. This number reaches the ACI (Automobile Club d’Italia), which can help arrange towing services (you’ll need to pay for them). On the Autostrada, there are yellow call boxes approximately every 2 kilometers that can be used to call for assistance.

If your car needs to be towed, you can call a taxi to take you to your destination. Remember to remove your luggage and valuables from the car.

Car Accidents

You’ll need to follow the same procedure as a car breakdown, but call the Italian police at 112.

Make sure to get the personal details from the driver and any personal details from witnesses. You may have trouble getting an Italian to agree that they have witnessed the accident – the legal process can be quite lengthy and complicated here.

Take photos of the cars and license plates and any other parts of the scene relevant to the accident. Contact the rental car company to report damage to the vehicle.

Common Road Crimes and How to Avoid Them

The False Flat Tire

If someone tries to flag you down or signals from their car that something is wrong with your vehicle, be aware that they may be trying to scam you. If you can, proceed cautiously to a gas station or populated area before you pull over. Criminals will try to get you to pull over in a secluded area so they can rob you.

The Gas Station Distraction

You’re filling up your tank with gas and someone comes up to ask you a question. Meanwhile, his/her accomplice is reaching into your car (even opening up your passenger door) to grab a purse, wallet, or any other valuables you’ve left within reach. Always lock doors in these situations and keep valuables out of sight.

Trunk/Boot Theft

Recently, a woman in my town put her purse in her trunk before leaving her house, drove to a recreation area, and parked in a large lot with people around. She went for a jog and returned to find her car open, and her purse stolen. Lesson – it’s not enough to hide your valuables (even before arriving at your destination!). Don’t leave them in your car! If you check out of your accommodation and must store luggage in the vehicle, have someone always remain with it. Or find a left-luggage service (at your hotel, a train station, etc).

I hope this information on how to rent a car in Italy has been helpful.  Driving in Italy can be a memorable adventure and the perfect way to explore Italy’s hidden gems.  Buon viaggio!

Driving in Italy FAQ

Can I drive in Italy as an American?

If you’re a visitor to Italy, you can rent a car and drive in Italy with your valid US driver’s license and an International Driving Permit. If you’ve been a resident in Italy for more than one year, you’ll need to get an Italian driver’s license to drive legally in Italy.

Can I drive in Italy with a US license?

Yes, you can drive in Italy with your valid US driver’s license. You’ll also need to have an International Driving Permit.

Is driving in Italy difficult?

If you’re an experienced driver, you’ll be able to drive in Italy without problems as long as you know the rules of the road, Italian road signs, and you drive assertively.

Is it safe to drive in Italy as a tourist?

Italy is a safe place to drive as a tourist if you follow the Italian road laws and understand the basics of Italian driving culture. There are a few common road crimes that you should be aware of.

Is driving in Italy the same as in the US?

No, driving in Italy isn’t the same as the US, but with proper preparation, you can drive confidently in Italy. You’ll want to review the Italian road signs, many of which are different or new if you’re a US driver.

Can foreigners drive in Italy?

Foreigners can drive in Italy with the appropriate documents. If you’re from an EU country, you need your EU driver’s license. Drivers from non-EU countries need their valid driver’s license plus an International Driving Permit.

What do I do if I lose my Autostrada ticket before I exit?

When you exit the Autostrada and arrive at the barrier to pay, push the ‘aiuto’ (help) button to speak with an operator. Technically, you are required to pay the toll for the earliest entrance you could have made. A way around it – tell the operator where you entered and pay the appropriate toll. You’ll receive a printed ‘ticket.’ Go to https://www.autostrade.it/en/rmpp/ and pay.

How old do I need to be to rent a car in Italy?

Most car rental companies require the driver to be at least 18. Usually, drivers under 25 must pay an additional fee. Check with the rental company to be sure.

Are there any helpful apps for driving in Italy?

The Google Maps app is helpful for directions and traffic flow. The MY WAY Autostrade per l’Italia app shows live Autostrada traffic feeds and lets you know exactly where the Safety Tutors are located. Check out my favorite Italy Travel Apps.

Which is the best driving map of Italy?

The best paper maps of Italy for driving are the Touring Club Italiano maps and the Michelin Italy Road Atlas. They can be ordered pre-trip on Amazon or on arrival at airports, gas stations, and bookstores.

Is driving through Italy safe?

Italy is a safe country to drive through. Make sure you follow the rules of the road. Take precautions like you’d take in your home country – don’t leave valuables in your car, don’t sleep in your car, make sure you don’t run out of gas, don’t talk to strangers when you’re pulled over, avoid stopping in dark or unpopulated places. The best thing you can do is to learn about driving in Italy (which you’re doing by reading this!).

Is it really difficult to drive in Italy?

No, it’s not difficult to drive in Italy if you are confident and assertive, and you’re aware of the rules and regulations. Also, don’t try anything new – if you drive an automatic car at home, rent an automatic car in Italy. If you don’t drive in the dark at home, don’t do it in Italy.

I got a driving ticket while I was in Italy. What should I do?

The best thing to do is pay it as soon as possible, preferably while you’re still in Italy. If you’ve returned home, you can pay online. If you receive a fine in the mail, check to see if the car rental company has already paid it (with your credit card). The company may not have paid it yet – confirm they have it in their system and that it’s a legitimate fine. If you don’t pay it, some rental companies will send a collection agency after you, and you may have problems renting again in Italy.

Can I drive in Italy without using the Autostrada or toll roads?

Yes, you can drive throughout Italy without using toll roads. Regular roads are often more scenic, but can take longer. If you’re trying to get quickly from one place to the next, toll roads are usually the best option.

How can I located electric car charging stations?

Google Maps is an easy way to locate charging stations for electric vehicles. You can enter ‘electric vehicle charging station’ or ‘colonnine elettriche’ or ‘stazioni di ricarica EV‘ in the Google Maps search bar.

Is Uber in Italy?

Uber does operate in some cities in Italy, but not in the same way you’re used to at home. Read more about Uber in Italy.

Candice Criscione Avatar