Read these 18 Driving in Italy Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Italian tips and hundreds of other topics.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!)