Skip navigation guide to driving in Italy

A rural view in Tuscany, ItalyGetting started

Despite the reputation Italian drivers enjoy for being fist-shaking, horn-honking madmen, taking your car to Italy can be surprisingly easy – and great fun. The key is to stick to the countryside where having your own transport gives you access to lakes and mountains, idyllic farming villages and jagged coastlines.

Cities are another matter: confusing, dangerous, jammed with traffic and almost impossible to park in. Don’t even think about driving in Naples, which even Italians like to avoid.

Hit the road

Italians drive aggressively. To survive, you’ll need to be assertive, alert and quick off the mark at traffic lights (it’s not uncommon for slow starters to be rammed from behind).

If you’re caught speeding you’ll face a hefty fine, payable on the spot. If you’re found to be over the 50mg blood-alcohol limit you’re likely to be fined and can have your licence confiscated.

The autostradas are excellent, and not prohibitively expensive. The toll from Rome to Florence, for instance, is €14.60 (€18.80 with a caravan).

Star drive

The Amalfi coast road between Sorrento and Salerno is among the most dramatic in the Mediterranean. Postcard-perfect villages cascade down steep mountainsides to meet an azure sea, the twisting shoreline punctuated by sandy coves, medieval towers and terraced orchards. The road itself – a triumph of engineering over sanity – clings to the rock face, soaring and plunging into one blind hairpin after another

Best of the rest

Two hours north of Verona, high in the Dolomites, the winding 100km road between Bolzano and Cortina provides spectacular views of jagged limestone peaks. Or follow the back roads from Bologna through Chianti to Siena – then whizz back on the autostrada.

Laws of the land

  • All car passengers must wear seatbelts if fitted
  • Children under 3 years old or less than 1.5m high are not allowed in a car unless in an approved child seat/restraint system. Children over 3 years of age should travel in the back though they may travel in the front if taller than 1.5m. If using a rear-facing child seat in the front, the passenger side airbags must be deactivated
  • You must carry a reflective safety vest and a warning triangle. If you stop on a main road and get out of your car without a vest you can be fined
  • Dipped headlights must be used on all main roads. Full-beam lights can be used only outside cities and towns
  • Don’t use a horn in a built-up area except in an emergency
  • Dial 112 for emergencies and 116 for breakdowns
  • Motorcyclists must dip their headlights during the day and wear crash helmets (including passenger). A passenger must be at least 4 years old and a bike must be over 150cc to use the motorway
  • Italy operates some Low Emission Zones (LEZs), so make sure you check the emission standard of your car and that it meets the requirements for wherever you are in Italy. For more information on LEZs in Italy and LEZs in general, click here. 

Italian speed limits

Road type

Speed limit

Urban areas

50 kmh

Outside urban areas

90 kmh

Dual carriageways/urban stretches

110 kmh (90 kmh in the wet)

Outside built-up areas

110 kmh


130 kmh (110 kmh in the wet)


Local knowledge

In cities, you must park in the direction of the traffic. Don’t leave your car in a zona di rimozione (towaway zone). Tuck in your wing mirrors and make sure you don’t park overnight in a street that has a morning market.

Outside urban areas, Italians use their horns to signal their intention to overtake. At junctions, if in doubt, give way to traffic entering from the right.

Did you know?

If you strap a bicycle to the rear of your vehicle you must secure it with a reflective square panel.

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