Driving in Italy: What You Should Know

If you’re planning a trip to Italy, you might be renting a car. Renting a car in Italy is something that’s fairly common for visitors because it allows them to cover more ground and spend less time in train stations. Renting a car also gives you more freedom and flexibility in how you see the country.  

man driving in Italy

When you learn to drive in the United States, it can be completely different from navigating the roads of Italy.  

The following are important things to know and keep in mind about driving in Italy. 

What Are the Requirements to Drive in Italy? 

To drive in Italy, there are a few requirements. First, you will need an International Driving Permit that you take with you in addition to your U.S. driver’s license. It’s not actually a license, and you don’t have to take a test to get it, but it just provides a translation of your American driving license. 

You have to be 18 to drive in Italy legally and you need to have had your license for a minimum of a year to rent a car.  

If you’re under 25, you’ll probably pay a fee, as is often the case here in the U.S.  

You will have to pay for civil liability and there’s also the option to buy what’s called a Green Card insurance policy. 

You’ll need your passport to rent a car and drive too. 

Italy requires that you carry certain safety equipment with you in a vehicle. This includes a spare tire, reflective triangle, and reflective safety vest. It’s also recommended that you have a fire extinguisher. 

Italian Driving Rules 

Before you attempt to drive in Italy, you should give yourself a crash course on the rules of the road.   

If you are in a vehicle with seat belts, you have to wear them, and children who are under 97 pounds or 4 feet 9 inches have to use car seats or booster seats and have to be in the backseat.  

You can’t drive while holding a phone, and there were stricter penalties for using a phone while driving that were recently enacted.  

Unlike the U.S., if you have a bloodalcohol level of more than 0.05%, you’re considered legally intoxicated, and fines can be hefty. You can even face up to a month in jail if you’re caught driving legally intoxicated.  

There is something called Zona Traffico Limitato to be aware of. These are areas where you can’t drive unless you have a special permit.  

The majority of Italian cities and towns have these areas.  

Unless its otherwise posted, the speed limit on highways in Italy is 80 mph and 68 mph on non-major highways that are located outside urban areas. The speed limit unless otherwise posted on local roads is 56 mph.  

There are devices used on the roadway that can catch people who are speeding. One is the Autovelox, which is a camera that takes pictures of license plates. There’s also the Sistema Tutor which is an overhead camera.  

Rental Cars 

When you’re renting a car in Italy, first, you should expect that you’re going to have to pay a lot extra for an automatic transmission. If you know how to drive standard shift or you can learn, that’s your best option.  

Many people also opt to get a diesel vehicle. 

Driving Style 

Getting used to the driving style in Italy can be a challenge if you’re from the U.S. First, you should understand that Italians are typically aggressive and fast drivers. This even holds true on narrow streets located centrally in towns. 

Italians also tend to be tailgaters, so you can expect this even if you’re going above the speed limit.  


One of the biggest challenges of driving in Italy for many people is the limited amount of parking available pretty much everywhere, but especially in the bigger cities. 

It’s a good idea to use a map to find parking lots before you get into a city or town. Otherwise, you might waste a lot of your time driving around aimlessly.  

If you do find a parking spot, it’s probably going to be a tight one.  

You’ll usually get a ticket when you go into an Italian parking lot and then when you’re leaving it you’ll put it in a machine so you can pay.  

You can figure out where you can park by looking at lines. White lines are free parking. Yellow lines mean parking only for residents, and blue is paid parking by meter.  


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