Thursday, 3 September, 2015

Car rental: A guide to driving in Italy

A guide to driving in... (1)


Big Boot Italy is the perfect setting for any type of get away; Mountains for Snowboarders, Rivieras for Sun Worshippers and Historical Architecture for Sightseers, there is something for couples, families and solo travellers alike!

If you are already one of the annual 2.5 million Brits that visit the “Bel Paese” (Beautiful Country), you may have already experienced a good chunk of what Italy has to offer. If not, hiring a car and exploring comes highly recommended!


Below we have highlighted some of the essential information you’ll need when driving in Italy.

Requirements for Car Rental

You can hire a car from the age of 21, but expect to succumb to those additional pesky ‘young driver’ fees until you reach 25! (Oh, but the girl driving alongside you on a moped who looks more like a kid? She probably is, the legal age to ride one is 14!)

You’ll need a full, valid driving licence that you have had for more than 12 months. Just to be safe, take your paper counterpart if you have one.

What else will I need?

– A valid Credit Card – some providers require you have one in the name of the person driving the car for security / deposit reasons.

– Your Passport.

– An International Driving Permit if visiting from outside the EU.

And are there any essentials to be kept in the car?

You are legally obliged to keep the following in your car;

– Your licence, insurance, car and registration documents, including the International Driving permit if this is applicable.

– A high viz jacket per passenger is also required. If you run into any problems, these must be put on before you exit the car.

– A warning triangle.

Most Autostradas (motorways) operate a toll system, payable by cash or card, so make sure you keep this in mind when setting off.

It’s also useful to keep the hire company contact information with you too…you never know!


Photo Credit Moyan Bren

Photo Credit Moyan Bren


Rules of the road in Italy.

Stick to the speed limits! Cameras litter the Autostradas, dual carriageways and some town roads. They are extremely strict with enforcing speeding rules and it is not uncommon to receive your huge fine up to a year after the offence! (Your car hire provider has your details…!)

It’s also worth mentioning that speed limits vary depending on the weather, so here is a little overview of what is best to stick to;

Motorways = 130km p/h or 110km p/h when raining
Dual Carriageways = 110km p/h or 90km p/h when raining
Open Road = 90km p/h or 80km p/h when raining
Town Driving = 50km p/h always.


– You drive on the right – and remember to keep to the right on fast roads – if you cruise along in the left lane, you are likely to be bombarded with rude hand gestures!

– Children up to 12 must travel in an appropriate child seat. Those between the ages of 4-12 can ride in the passenger seat.

– Going to the mountains between October 15th and April 15th? You’ll need to have snow chains fitted – if not, the police can prevent you from travelling any further. Different provinces will have different rules when it comes to winter tyres and snow chains, so be sure to check this out before you set off so you are adequately prepared.


In truth, if you are visiting a major city such as Rome, Florence or Milan, a car wouldn’t be required due to the impressive public transport system. Most of the larger cities are trying to eliminate the need for cars by implementing a ‘ZTL’ or Zone of Limited Traffic – driving in one of these zones without a permit will result in a hefty fine. If where you are staying is inside one of these zones, speak to your hire car provider about purchasing a permit prior to your arrival.

However, cars a great way to explore smaller and lesser known towns, as well as The Lakes, Amalfi Coast, Tuscany or Apulia – just don’t be afraid to get a little lost! GPS Systems are great as we know, and will be very useful when it comes to motorway navigation, however, for the smaller roads and towns, it is probably more helpful to go old school and grab an up to date map; it’s not uncommon for several towns to have the the same name within different regions – if you’re not familiar with area codes, this is where issues can arise!

If a road trip is what you’re after, the below routes comes highly recommended;

Sorrento to Vietri sul Mare, a picturesque drive along the 50km stretch of the Amalfi Coast

Bolzano to Cortina d’Ampezzo for breathtaking views of the mountains; Cortina d’Ampezzo is a popular skiing resort.


Picture Credit:  Moyan Brenn

Picture Credit: Moyan Brenn


Bizarre driving rules

– Headlights must be on when travelling on the motorway or dual carriageways outside of the towns, regardless of the time of day!

– Think about some of those habits in the UK that are everyone’s pet peeves; tailgating, flashing lights, sudden braking….yep, this is all common driving etiquette in Italy! If you are travelling in the left lane and are flashed, you have to get out of the way! And don’t be surprised if you are tailgated, even when driving at 130km p/h.

– A popular one in Europe – if you require glasses to drive, keep a spare pair in the car too!


Our Top Tips

Don’t Drink and Drive! This seems obvious, but the legal blood alcohol limit is just 0.5mg, equal to 1 glass of wine. You can face anything from an on the spot fine to imprisonment for committing this offence.

– Familiarise yourself with the road sign meanings before you go. Most are colour coded; Blue for main roads, green for Autostradas, brown or white for attractions. A yellow diamond indicates your right of way whilst a Bullseye directs you to a city centre.

– If you do plan a road trip, please check there are no mileage restrictions on your hire car!

– Book your car in advance and remember it is also best to compare a few providers to ensure you get the best deal!

Enjoy all that Italy has to offer, and we are sure that you’ll be back for more!

About Franki Napolitano

I love to Blog, Read and Sight-See, although you'll usually find me in the Gym!
One Response to "Car rental: A guide to driving in Italy":
  • Mark
    2015-09-10 3:27

    Good article, has a lot of good information in it I will have to refer people coming to my site to check out this article if they are looking for any specific information other then what I give them. Mark