A guide to driving in Italy
Driving abroad: Italy
Home of the world's first motorway, Italy was undeniably made for driving.
No matter the type of car you hire, coasting along the country's historic roads is a whirlwind of excitement. Yet, it can also be a tangle of narrow roads and startling obstacles. Knowing what to expect on your Italian road trip can help you ease through the possible chaos.
Our driving guide to Italy provides a full overview of road rules and driving essentials, so you can make the most of your travels.
Toll roads in Italy
Italy's toll motorways, known as autostrade, stretch across the country creating an extensive network of roads. The motorways are identified by an A in front of the road number and green directional signs.
Getting to know the Italian toll roads
Autostrade are controlled by different companies, so prices and tolling systems may vary slightly depending on the road. But generally, you will collect a ticket at the entrance gate and drive on towards your destination. Most of the time you simply pay the toll once you exit, although some motorways will have multiple booths you are required to stop at along the way. You can typically pay the tolls by cash or card, but keep some cash on-hand just in case. Be sure to follow the correct lane for the type of payment you wish to make.
The maximum speed limit is 130 km/h but you will sometimes find it can be reduced to 110km/h or lower on curvy parts.
|Rome – Naples||15.20 EUR|
|Rome – Milan||38.60 EUR|
|Bologna – Taranto||51.70 EUR|
|Verona – Moderna||6.00 EUR|
The pros and cons of using toll roads in Italy
- Toll roads tend to be quicker, so you can spend less time on the road and more time exploring your intended destination.
- On average, toll roads are 10-20 percent shorter than non-toll roads. So if you you've hired a car with limited mileage, you can worry less about going over the mileage limit.
- Italy's autostradas are better maintained than the country's alternative roads.
- Although you can make your petrol last longer on toll roads, fuel and service stations are more expensive on the autostrada.
- Autostradas can be costly, as prices add up to around 9 euro per 100 kilometres.
- While you might reach your destination faster, the views can be far less appealing than taking a more scenic route.
Other road options:
- Superstrada – non-toll motorways
- Strade statali – state roads. Speed limit of 70-110km/h outside of towns. They can be slow but scenic.
Italy's narrow roads can make parking a rather stressful experience. If you can, it's recommended that you park just outside any historic city. Here are a few Italian parking rules to keep in mind:
You are only allowed to park on the right hand side of the road on a street with two-way traffic (i.e. you must park in the direction of travel).
One way streets
Parking is permitted on both sides of a one-way street as long as there is enough room.
Blue zones are designated paid parking areas. You'll need a ticket from a metre or parking disk, which can be obtained at tourist offices or petrol stations. They are typically limited to a certain number of hours.
Is it safe to drive in Italy?
Scooters, mopeds and tailgaters
Three things you're bound to encounter when driving in Italy are scooters, mopeds and other drivers tailgating you. Scooters and mopeds (as well as other drivers) have a tendency to turn without warning or swerve in front of you. Likewise, tailgaters are unavoidable. Don't feel pressured to drive faster than you're comfortable with though. When you have a chance, simply allow space for the other driver to overtake you. Driving in Italy can sound daunting but its not unsafe as long as you expect the unexpected and drive defensively.
Driving around Italy
Which side of road? When in Italy, drive on the right and use the left hand lanes on motorways for passing only. Italian drivers don't take kindly to others casually using the left lane on the autostrada.
GPS – Be wary of relying on a GPS. Often, they'll not account for Italy's network of small roads, sending you in the wrong direction or along a more complicated route.
Filling up – In Italy, most petrol stations are self-serve. Gasolio is diesel and benzina is petrol. Diesel is a popular option and usually costs less than petrol, so double check what your rental takes before filling up. If you can, its better to top up the tank in the city rather than in a rural location, as you'll pay more the further out of town you are.
Zona Traffico Limitato (ZTL)
Q. What are Zona Traffico Limitato or Limited Traffic Zones?
A. These are designated areas that are closed off to non-resident cars and allow only permit holders to drive within. These zones were established around old historical city centres, both big and small, as a way to reduce traffic and pollution. You will find ZTLs in cities such as: Florence, Rome, Milan, Siena, and Assisi.
How do I know if I'm about to enter a ZTL?
A. Marked signs surround the zones, stating the times and days restrictions are in effect. Traffic cameras keep track of the vehicles entering and exiting the area, and hefty fines are given out to those who entre without permission.
However, because there is no physical barrier stopping cars from passing, it can be easy as a foreign driver the mistakenly drive through a ZTL. (Be aware that your GPS won't alert you either). The best thing to do is park your car in a public car park just outside of the city and walk or take public transport in. It is possible to obtain a temporary permit, but must ask you hotel to supply you with one.
Good to know:
|Speed limits||Type of road|
|Minor out-of-town roads||56mph/90km|
|Major out-of-town roads||68mph/110km|
|Minimum age to drive||18|
|Minimum age to rent a car||21|
|Young driver's fee||Yes, 21-24|
|Maximum age limit||No|
Useful numbers and emergency numbers:
- Police 113
- Fire Brigade 115
- Ambulance 118
- European Emergency Number 112
Mandatory items for the car:
- Warning Triangle
- Reflective Vest
- Spare tyre
- Headlamp beam deflectors
- Valid insurance
Italian driving laws
Hands-free devices are permitted
Headphones – You may use headsets in order to use your mobile phone hands-free.
Seatbelts – Must be worn by driver and passengers at all times.
Drink drive limit – Driving is not permitted with a blood alcohol content beyond 0.5g per litre. Drivers with less than three years of experience are not allowed any alcohol in their system.
Horn – Only to be used in an emergency.
Snow tyres/snow chains – Required during winter in some mountainous regions of Italy (such as the Val d'Aosta area). Carefully check Ts&Cs to see whether your rental company will include snow chains or tyres for free. Many suppliers will charge a winterisation fee despite it being mandatory. Road signs in the country will indicate where snow chains are compulsory.
Travelling with children – Children under 150cm should be seated in the appropriate child or booster seat; infants must be seated in a rear-facing car seat.