Driving in Italy Tips

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Gasoline - cost

Americans and Canadians will find gas quite expensive in Italy, so renting a smaller car is good advice. Service stations are open from 7:00AM to 12:30PM and from 3:00PM to 7:30PM. Gas is available 24 hours a day on motorways. Self Serve / Self Pay pumps are available in some places 24 hours a day and require 10,000 and 50,000 lire bill (you would slip the bill in like a vending machine). With a small car, a 10,000 lire bill will give approximately 1/4 tank of gas. It is best to have several of these bills with you when traveling by car.

Should I tip gas attendants in Italy?

Tipping gas attendants

It is considered polite to provide 1000 - 2000 lire to gas station attendants for service.


Highway Tolls

Almost all autostrade (except some of those south of Naples) are toll roads. The easiest and recommended way to pay tolls is to use a major credit card. When you get to the exit ramp, look for the lanes with a large sign showing the pictures of the various credit cards. Insert the toll ticket first (with the arrow pointing forward), then your credit card (with the hologram out). If the machine "talks to you," it's telling you to turn your card around the other way. To get a receipt, push the red button after you retrieve your credit card.

What documents do I need to drive in Italy?

Driving documents

If you are renting a car, a valid national drivers license and passport are all that is required. You can also obtain an International Driving Permit at the airport.


The Auto Strada

The Auto Strada (green signs) is a 2-3 split highway and are generally toll roads costing between 2500 lire and 16,500 lire depending on the distance between toll plazas. Sometimes you pay the clerk directly for the toll, sometimes collect a ticket and pay later. The Autostrada is Italy's equivalent to the German Autobahn. Beware, drivers in fast European cars pass as if you are standing still, even when your car is moving at the speed of 120 kmh (70 miles per hour)! Stay to the right on all highways unless you want to pass.


Speed Limits

Speed limits are seldom posted outside the towns, but can be enforced per the law. The law requires seat belts.

In cities and towns, the limit is 50km. (31.25 m.p.h.)
On other roads, maximum speeds are:
90km. (56.25 m.p.h.) for all cars and motor vehicles on main roads and local roads
110 km. (68.75 m.p.h.) for all cars and motor vehicles up to 1099 cc. on superhighways
130 km. (81.25 m.p.h.) for all cars and motor vehicles over 1100 on superhighways. Be forewarned though, cars in the fast lane of the Auto strada move much faster than 130 km/h.



On three-lane roads, the middle lane is reserved for passing, which must always be signaled in advance with the directional signal, which must be kept on while passing. In towns or city traffic on roads with three lanes or with three or more lanes in each direction, cars are allowed to move in parallel rows.


The Automobile Club Italiano

The Automobile Club Italiano (ACI) is the equivalent of the AAA. It has offices throughout Italy. The main office is at:
Via Marsala 8
00185 Roma
tel. 011-39-6-49981
fax 011-39-6-499-8234


Right of way

At a crossroads, motorists must give way to vehicles coming from their right. Street cars and trains always have the right of way from either left or right.
At a crossroads marked by a precedence sign (triangle with point downwards) or a stop sign, the motorist must give way to all vehicles coming from both left and right.


Traffic Circles

When approaching traffic circles, yield to the traffic in the circle and to those on the right. But, most Italian drivers try to get away with anything they can. Rules such as yielding to those in a traffic circle, not parking in restricted areas and others are often ignored in the absence of the Carabinieri.



Insurance is mandatory for all vehicles in Italy. A "green card" (carta verde) - frontier insurance valid for 15, 30, or 45 days - should be issued to cover your car before your trip to Italy. If you are in Italy for more than 45 days you must have a regular Italian insurance policy.
If you are planning to rent a car in Italy you do not need a green card or an international drivers license, but you will require a valid insurance coverage which can be included in the cost of the rental. Medical insurance may not be included and a separate policy may be advisable.
If a person other than the owner drives a temporary imported vehicle, this person must have certified authorization from the owner and cannot be a resident of Italy. You are not allowed to rent, lend, pawn, sell or give away any temporarily imported vehicle.


Road Assistance

In case of breakdown on any Italian road, you can dial 116 at the nearest telephone. The nearest ACI office will be advised to come to your assistance. On superhighways, use the emergency telephones placed every 2 km.
If you are in need of “spare parts”, any ACI office will give you the address of the nearest supplier.


Italy's roads - classification

Italy's roads are classified as follows:

Autostrade (Superhighways) - most will charge tolls
Strade Statali (State Roads)
Strade Provinciali (Provincial Roads)
Strade Comunali (Local Roads)
On superhighways (autostrade) no U-turns are permitted, and stopping is permitted only in emergency parking areas or parking lanes.
The Italian highway code follows the Geneva Convention and Italy uses international road signs. Driving is on the right; passing on the left. Violators of the highway code are fined; serious violations may also be punished by imprisonment.


See Italy by Car

The freedom to explore Italy by car is unmatched…driving is a great way to see and experience Italy's towns, cities and beautiful countryside. You travel at your own pace, stop when you want to and explore off the beaten path. Throughout Italy the countryside is full of history to explore from Etruscan ruins to hill towns, from mountains in the north to blue seas in the south (and east and west). There are over 4,000 miles of highways throughout the country, making all regions of Italy easily accessible.


Gravel Roads

Gravel Roads (white signs) are the true network of Italy. Gravel roads are everywhere. They may seem a little intimidating at first but soon become part of the adventure, especially at night.



Parking is permitted on the right-hand side of the road everywhere outside cities and towns except on highways (autostrade), at crossroads and on curves and hills not allowing full visibility. If a car is stalled blocking the road because of mechanical difficulty or for any other reason, the driver is required to warn other vehicles by placing a special triangular danger signal at least 30 meters (99 feet) behind. All cars must be equipped with this portable signal, called a triangolo.


Driving IN the Cities

It is advised to leave your car outside the major cities as driving and parking is difficult at best. In an attempt to control the volume of cars, many of the smaller walled cities require a permit to be allowed into certain areas - like the town itself! Warning: If you happen to drive past a gate and find yourself inside the walls of a large old town, you will probably be ticketed by the Carabinieri (the traffic police) or the worse scenario--have your car towed away… (and I've been told it is not a pleasant experience getting your car back!)


The Super Strada

The Super Strada (blue signs) are the 2-4 lane roads that connect many of the small towns and villages to the Auto Strada. They are slower moving and generally wind throughout the countryside.

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