Driving in Italy

When you plan your Italian vacation, unless you’ve arranged a tour or plan to arrange transportation to all of your destinations, you will most likely need the help of a car hire. Renting and then driving a car in Europe, particularly in Italy can be fraught with frustration due primarily to language barriers and differences in driving customs and practices. Before taking to the roads, be sure to understand the basics of road travel in Italy.

Car Rentals
You must be at least eighteen years of age to rent a car, although much like the US, drivers under the age of twenty-five maybe charged an additional fee for being a “young driver.” You must have held your drivers license for at least one year. Age restrictions and fees vary by company. When driving your rental car, understand that seatbelts are mandatory (for good reason) and that children under twelve must be restrained appropriately in a child safety seat or booster.

Italian Roads
Italy has a fine collection of roads, arguably one of the best in Europe. When you take to the highways or other roads, keep in mind that you should drive on the right and the center lane is designed for passing. Italy has 4000mi/6400km of express highways and 180,000mi/288,000km of secondary roads. The country is also famous for the autostrade, or superhighways that run the width and length of the country.

Speaking of speed, the legal speed limits are 30mph/50kph in the city, 66mph/110kph on open roads and 81mph/130kph on the highways. While these may be the posted limits, expect to see traffic flying by at a much higher rate of speed. Traffic can be congested as well as many individuals in Italy own cars.

Tips for Driving Success
To drive in Italy, you must have more than a bit of inner fortitude and you would also do well to have a passenger along to read the maps as best he can, search for exits marked obscurely in Italian and help you navigate the trickier spots of the road such as roundabouts.

Expect motor scooters and motorcycles to be anywhere and everywhere as you drive. These smaller vehicles were designed to avoid much of the traffic and do so by driving through stopped or slow traffic, passing on either side of vehicles and even driving on the sidewalk at times. Keep a wary eye on scooters and traffic that might be coming at you in your lane as another vehicle attempts to avoid congestion.

Finally, always carry a bit of cash when you drive. If you are stopped for a traffic violation, police offers in Italy are authorized to collect fees on the spot.