Essential Italy Driving Tips

March 11, 2008 | By | 4 Replies More
Facebook Twitter Pinterest

Driving in RomeDriving in Italy is not for the timid, it’s often frenetic and exuberant with vehicles squeezed onto streets designed as lanes for livestock. On the other hand if you think of your car as a suit of armor in which you venture forth to do battle with all you meet – you’re going to love it. If you can relate to the aggressive driving styles of Boston and New York, you should be fine. In any case, you will need to be on alert at all times and have a thick skin.
Read these tips before taking to the roads in Italy.

The Basics You’ll Need to Know
An International Drivers License is required, although you may never be asked to show it. Visiting a local AAA office is the easiest way to obtain an International Drivers License. You will also need to bring your State issued driver’s license.

– All occupants of a vehicle are required to wear seat belts.

– Italy has strict enforcement of drunk driving laws – don’t drive after drinking!

– Benzina is the fuel for automobiles – don’t touch Gasolio, that’s diesel.

– Gas Stations close between 12:30 pm and 3:00 each day. They will often have an operation automatic pump, but it’s likely it will not accept a US credit card as they are on the ‘Chip and Pin’ system. Carry cash or plan ahead to get your gas when an attendant is available.

– Be sure the pump is reading “0” before an attendant begins to fill your tank or you may be paying double. This happens most often in southern regions.

– For emergency situations on the road dial 116 for road assistance, and 113 for medical emergencies.

– When asking directions, “sinistra” means left, a “destra” means right and “diritto” or “avanti” means go straight ahead.

– Everyone tailgates so don’t take it personally. They also never use their rear view mirrors, so you might want to do the same – pay attention to what’s in front of you and leave the rear to others.

– If there is comfortable space between you and the car in front of you, someone will try to fill it, and won’t consider that cutting you off.

– Don’t flash your lights to let someone know they can proceed. In Italy, flashing lights means “get out of the way I’m coming though”.

– Many roads have two wide lanes allowing cars to pass each other by pulling into the center. The car that is being passed is expected to move to the right and put one set of wheels on the shoulder if possible.

– Keep your blinker on the entire time you are passing a vehicle, clicking it left to pull out and pass, and then to the right when you are ready to pull back into line.

– The person behind you WILL honk as soon as the light turns green, don’t take it personally.

– The Police are authorized to collect fines on the spot, so don’t think you are in the middle of a shake down – (really)?

– NEVER leave any possessions in sight inside the car when you park it. Also put your maps away – don’t attract attention that you’re a stranger in the city.

– Roundabouts (rotaries) will drive you crazy. Unlike the US or the UK, you must give the right of way to the entering vehicle, so all traffic needs to come to a halt half way around if a new car enters from a side road. And then they all wonder why traffic is so backed up!

City Driving
– In a word, don’t. Look for car parks outside of the city (whether it’s a big city or mountainside village) and tour the city without your vehicle.

– Parking is virtually non-existent in cities. Sidewalks often serve as parking spaces and you will need to be a master at parallel parking to fit in.

– Zebra stripes mean that pedestrians have the right of way.

– Be cautious when proceeding through intersections, cars will beat yellow lights until well after they turn red and jump green lights before they turn.

Highway Driving
– You must travel with your lights on when you’re on the Autostrada

– Keep right for slow travel – meaning if you are driving under 85 mph!

– Autostradas are toll roads. You may pay tolls with a credit card. If the machine starts speaking to you it’s likely that you need to turn your card around.

Naples – A story all by itself
– The drivers in Naples are ruder and more aggressive than anywhere else in Italy.

– Drivers are often just plain reckless with no consideration to their life or yours.

– They believe the road is theirs and will try to block you from passing.

– Road scams are rampant where your tire will be punctured and then someone will stop to assist you. They will then figure out a way to separate you from your goods or lead you to a friend who will overcharge you to repair the tire.

Rental Cars
– If you plan to use your credit card insurance coverage, it is essential to verify coverage with your cc company well in advance. Many credit card companies do not cover rental cars in Italy.

– When you compare car rental price quotes be certain that the VAT (value added tax) and all CDW (collision damage waiver) fees have been included.

– If you will be picking up in one city and dropping off in another, verify whether there is a drop off charge.

– Most Europeans drive manual transmission vehicles. Opt for the automatic; you’ll have enough to worry about with the frenetic driving conditions!

These tips are my opinions, advice read in guides and those of friends. Join the fun and share your experiences of driving in Italy with us in the comments section.


Tags: ,

Category: Italy Travel Tips