Italy is a country known for awe-inspiring architecture and art with history around every turn, and touring this impressive nation by car gives you the opportunity to discover other hidden treasures. Explore ancient historical ruins and indulge in some of the world's best food and wine. When you take a self-driven tour of Italy, you're able to experience the country on your own terms, free from restrictive tour schedules and having to deal with expensive and often unreliable public transportation.
Learn more about the powerful past of the city of Rome, the country's capital, while touring Italy by car. Discover archaeological remains from ancient Rome and the treasures of Vatican City, and then take some time to simply reflect on the beauty of your surroundings. How you spend your time in the city is up to you, but with added convenience of a car rental in Rome, you'll be able to see it all.
This guide has been designed to help you make the most of your next trip to Italy. You'll learn more about driving in Italy, including basic rules of the road, how to adapt to local driving customs and how tolls are structured throughout the country.
Thinking about driving in a new country can be stressful at first and even intimidating, but knowledge is power and more you know about the rules of the road in Italy, the better prepared you'll be. Follow these driving tips, and your time behind the wheel in Italy will become a stress-free, enjoyable experience.
Distracted driving in any country is ill-advised, but driving in Italy requires another level of attention, as locals are known for what Americans may consider "reckless driving." Turn signals are often neglected, local drivers also travel at high speeds and are known to make abrupt turns. In most cases, these individuals are familiar with these roadways and are able to navigate the roadways in Italy accident-free. For your safety, seatbelts are required for both drivers and passengers, and if you're caught without one you could be subject to a hefty fine.
Tailgating in Italy is common practice, so don't become shaken when this happens. Do your best to keep up with traffic, but do not drive faster than what makes you comfortable. Tailgaters will pass you at the first opportunity, so just keep your cool and give them room.
Many larger Italian cities have instituted ZTL (Zona Traffico Limitato) zones in order to reduce traffic congestion in major city centers. These areas are surveyed by traffic cameras and the instant your vehicle crosses this zone, a ticket is issued and forwarded to your home address. It's important you know where you can and cannot drive in Florence, Rome and other cities with ZTLs in order to avoid traffic citations.
In addition to speeders and tailgaters, you'll have to watch out for scooters and mopeds while driving in Italy. Don't be surprised if they pull right out in front of you from a side street without warning. Defensive driving is important when touring Italy by car, be on the lookout at all times and be prepared for anything. The swell in traffic during the busiest tourist months can make navigating the streets by car a bit more difficult, so wary travelers would do well to research the best time to visit Italy depending on what you're looking to see and do.
We'll say it again - your full attention needs to be on the road when driving in Italy. The use of cellphones and other mobile devices behind the wheel is prohibited, unless you're using a hands-free system, and even then, we strongly advise against it. If you're renting a GPS unit with Auto Europe, you'll be able to take your device out of the car and pre-program your desired route for the next day. This means you won't have to spend any time fumbling with the unit while driving or worrying about where to turn next.
Travelers should never get behind the wheel of a car in Italy if they've been drinking. It's important to remember that even though you're on vacation, the law still applies to you, so always designate a driver. The legal limit for Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) in Italy is 0.05%, however, if a driver has held their license for three years or less, they must abide by a BAC of 0.00%. Drivers should be aware that Italian police are apt to carry out random alcohol tests on drivers at any time. Testing is more common around Christmas, New Year and the main holiday period of July and August.
There are numerous toll roads in Italy, and it can be tricky to understand since there isn't one single company in charge of collecting money. Individual stretches of roadway are monitored by separate companies, with the toll amount depending on the distance traveled. It's advised to always carry cash on you when driving in Italy in order to pay tolls. Credit cards are accepted at some locations, but not at others.
Gas stations that are located along the Autostrade are usually open 24 hours a day. Some stations along other Italian roadways are open from 7am-7pm, with a break around noon. When picking up your rental car in Italy at the local rental counter, be sure you know which type of fuel your vehicle requires, and that you're up to speed on the company's fuel return policy.
Parking on the street in Italy is typically confined to the right side of the road and designated "blue-zones." These parking areas are marked with blue lines and have a one hour limit. For drivers who choose to use these areas, they must first require a parking disc, which can be purchased from a tourist office, gas station or ACI office.