Driving in Italy: essential tips and road rules for a safe trip

By , 10 April 2024

8 mins read

Jetting off to Italy? Find out everything you need to know about the laws, road rules, and requirements for driving abroad.

Driving in Italy: Essential tips and road rules for a safe trip

Going on holiday is an exciting time, especially when you are going to Italy, the cultural hub of world-famous architecture, music, and art.

While driving in Italy can be a thoroughly enjoyable experience, it can also be quite a daunting task, especially for those who are unfamiliar with the Italian roads and their rules.

That is why it is important to prepare well ahead of your trip and do your research on the country’s driving requirements.

You can also add that extra bit of reassurance to your trip by taking out a standalone excess insurance policy.

Our hire car cover will cover the cost of any accidental damage caused to your vehicle, allowing you to enjoy a stress-free holiday.

Continue reading our handy guide to find out all you need to know about the laws and requirements for driving in Italy, as well as a few handy tips...

Preparing for driving in Italy

It is important to understand that, even though there are some similarities to driving in the UK, driving in Italy can be very different from what you are used to.

GOV.UK states that only 37% of people check the local driving laws of their destination before leaving the UK.

Failing to check the laws ahead of time can result in drivers making dangerous decisions, driving in incorrect areas, getting lost, or worse still, having an accident.

To avoid this, make sure you thoroughly check the laws around required documents, equipment, speed limits, and drink-driving ahead of time.

Just like driving in Spain, it is your responsibility to make sure that your car is fully equipped; otherwise, you may be subject to a fine.

Can I drive in Italy with a UK license?

Yes, you can drive in Italy with a full and valid UK driver’s license when visiting the country.

The legal age to drive in Italy is 18 years old, and provisional licenses will not be accepted.

Before travelling, it is always worth double-checking that your license is in date and not close to expiry.

What documents do I need to drive in Italy?

Your driver’s license is not the only documentation you are required to carry when driving in Italy; you will also need the following:

The hire car company will provide you with any required documents relating to the car. It is best to keep those, and your personal documents, stored in a safe place should you need to supply them while away.

Equipment checklist

In addition to your documents, you are also required by law to carry the following items in your hire car:

You can also carry the recommended, but not mandatory, items in your car for extra peace of mind during your travels:

Whether you are driving in hot weather conditions or driving in snow, it is always best to be well-prepared for all eventualities.

Do I need an insurance green card?

As of 2nd August 2021, you will no longer need an insurance green card to take your car over to Italy.

Will my hire car need a GB or UK sticker?

If you plan to drive your own car in Italy, you will need to have a UK sticker clearly visible on the rear of your vehicle.

When driving a UK-registered car in Italy, GOV.UK states that all drivers must display the UK identifier.

However, if you have hired an Italian-registered car, a UK sticker will not be required.

Failure to add the sticker to your hire car could result in you receiving a fine of up to €135.

Road rules in Italy

Now that we have established the essentials required for both you and your hire car, the next step is to learn about the rules for driving in Italy.

While you may notice that some of the rules are not so different from what you are used to in the UK, it is important to remember that not all of them are the same and should be thoroughly checked before heading out on the road.

Do I need to wear a seat belt?

In Italy, it is mandatory to wear your seat belt at all times, regardless of where you are seated in the car.

If you or any of your passengers are caught not wearing a seat belt, you could face a fine between €76 and €306.

Which side of the road do they drive in Italy?

Much like the majority of European countries, motorists are required to drive on the right-hand side of the road.

This can be quite an adjustment, especially if you are regularly used to driving on the left-hand side.

If you have hired a car in Italy, the driver’s seat will be located on the left side.

Who has priority?

Generally, drivers in Italy must always give priority to vehicles coming from the right, unless the road signs indicate otherwise.

You are expected to give way to traffic coming from the right-hand side at junctions and crossroads; this can include trains and trams.

Just as you would in the UK, you should always give way to any emergency vehicles with flashing lights or sirens.

How do I overtake?

You must only use the left-hand side of the road when overtaking other vehicles in Italy.

If you are on a road with two or more lanes but do not wish to overtake, you must move over to the free lane furthest to the right.

It is important to follow the same rules and precautions as you would when overtaking in the UK, such as checking your blind spots, using your indicators, and keeping a safe distance.

However, please be aware that drivers are prohibited from overtaking when approaching level crossings, on bends, at the brow of a hill, at intersections, and when visibility is limited or reduced.

How do traffic lights work in Italy?

Italian traffic lights follow the international three-colour traffic system, just like in the UK.

However, it is important to look out for a flashing red light when approaching level crossings and mobile bridges, as this means that you must stop.

What are the speed limits in Italy?

Just like the rest of Europe, Italy uses the metric system on all of its road signs for distances and speed limits.

It is always important to keep an eye on your speed and the surrounding signs, as the speed limit can change depending on the type of road and area you are driving in.

Here’s a general guideline:

The above are the standard speed limits in Italy for the listed roads; however, certain vehicles may have special speed restrictions they need to adhere to, so it is always best to double check before you travel.

How much are Italian speeding fines?

Like in many other countries, you will be issued a fine for speeding in Italy.

The amount you will have to pay can vary depending on how far over the speed limit you were driving and what road you were driving on.

For example, if you were driving up to 10 km/ph above the limit, you could expect a fine of €41 upwards.

However, if you were driving 61+ km/ph above the limit, you could expect a fine of €829 and potentially have your license suspended for up to a year.

In addition to fines, offenders can also receive points on their UK license for up to a year after the offence.

More serious offences can result in drivers having their licenses revoked or even facing imprisonment.

Do children require a car seat?

Yes, any child under the age of 12 years old or under 1.5m tall is required by law to travel in an approved child seat.

The child seat must be suitable for the child’s weight and have the approved European label of ECE R 44-04.

Failure to comply with Italy’s child seat laws could see you face a fine of up to €323.

Do I need to wear a helmet if I am riding a bike?

It is not mandatory to wear a helmet while riding a bike in Italy, but it is certainly a way of preventing further injury should any mishaps occur.

However, if you are driving a moped or motorcycle, then you are required to wear a safety helmet.

If you are caught riding either of these without one, the authorities have the right to confiscate your bike.

What is the drink-driving limit in Italy?

While on holiday, you may end the day with a well-deserved glass of wine or a cocktail, but it is always best to just remove driving from the equation altogether.

Italy’s standard legal limit for drivers is 0.5g/l, while the limit for professional and newly qualified drivers (less than three year's experience) is 0.00%.

Any driver suspected of being under the influence of drugs is required to undergo a breath test, just as you would in the UK.

If you are caught drinking and driving, the fine you will receive will depend on your blood alcohol level and can be up to €6,000.

Parking in Italy

To avoid any further unnecessary fines, it is always worth doing your research on where you can and cannot park when driving in Italy.

Parking areas are generally marked by coloured stripes, indicating how they should be used:

Disabled parking spaces are marked with the wheelchair symbol and are usually free.

It is important to know that parking is also prohibited in the following areas:

If your vehicle is found to be illegally parked, it is likely to be clamped and towed away, especially if it is obstructing traffic.

Italian toll roads

Another factor you will need to consider before driving in Italy is toll roads.

Toll roads are easily recognisable as they are marked by green signs with white lettering, and you can usually pay with a card or cash at the toll booths.

However, if you want to save time waiting to pay, you can also use an electronic toll tag system called Telepass, which allows you to drive through a specific toll tag lane and avoid the queues.

Before heading out for a day of exploring, it is always best to brush up on which Italian motorways require a toll payment and avoid any unnecessary charges further down the line.

Availability and cost of fuel in Italy

The time has finally come during your Italian adventure...you need to fill up your car.

While this can seem like a daunting task, as there may be some significant changes to what you are used to, it does not have to be.

To avoid misfuelling your hire car, it is always best to do your research ahead of time to see what fuel is available in Italy and what it goes by.

If you are looking to fill your car up with gas/petrol, you will need to look for the pump under the name of ‘benzina.’

Meanwhile, diesel can be found under the pump labelled ‘gasolio.’

Fuel prices can vary over time and throughout the country, so you should always check the current prices before travelling.

Final thoughts

We want you to enjoy your time in Italy as much and as safely as possible.

By doing your research ahead of time, you can confidently take to the Italian roads in your hire car without feeling out of your depth.

All that is left to do is wish you a fantastic time away!

About the author

Jon spent years travelling Europe and Asia before settling down in the UK when he met his wife.

He’s hired cars across the globe and is passionate about helping people save money with excess insurance.

Since co-founding Reduce My Excess, Jon has found that he can use the knowledge he picked up from his travels by sharing it in online guides and articles.

He hopes to save people from making the mistakes he learnt from over the years by giving them the travel information they need before they head off on their holidays.