Americans Driving in Italy: Tips and HintsApr 20, 2023
Italy is one of the most popular destinations for Americans traveling to Europe. And for good reason—there is so much of the Mediterranean country that is best seen by car (to get inspired, check out our “20 Places to See in Italy” post). However, we also know driving in Italy can be daunting. Many tourists have the same questions: “Is it safe to drive in Italy?”; “How do I read Italy road signs?”; “What is the speed limit in Italy?”
While we think the best way to learn the driving rules in Italy is to use our comprehensive guide, this blog will give you a tiny peek into what the comprehensive guide will teach you.
To get the first question out of the way, yes, driving in Italy is completely safe (and we recommend it!) While driving in Italy can have its challenges, it’s not significantly different from driving in America. These are the key tips we give to Americans driving in Italy.
1. Italy Speed Limits:
The general speed limits in Italy are as follows (unless otherwise posted):
- Urban areas: 50 km/h (31 mph)
- Non-urban roads: 90 km/h (56 mph)
- Major roads outside urban areas: 110 km/h (68 mph)
- Highways/autostrade: 130 km/h (81 mph)
2. ZTL Zones:
Many Italian cities have Limited Traffic Zones (Zona a Traffico Limitato, or ZTL) where access is restricted or prohibited. These zones are often marked by signs and cameras. Pay attention to the ZTL signs and avoid entering these zones if you are not authorized. Unauthorized entry may result in fines.
3. Defensive Driving:
Italian drivers can be assertive and display a more aggressive driving style than in some other countries. Drive defensively, stay alert, and be prepared for unexpected maneuvers from other drivers.
4. Motorway Tolls:
Italy has an extensive network of toll roads (autostrade). Keep in mind that you will encounter toll booths along these highways, and you'll need to pay the appropriate toll fees. Be prepared with cash or a compatible credit card.
Finding parking spaces in city centers can be challenging. Pay attention to parking regulations and signs, and use designated parking lots or garages to avoid fines or towing.
6. Alcohol Limit:
The legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit in Italy is 0.05%. However, it's advisable to refrain from drinking and driving altogether.
7. Seat Belts:
Seat belts are mandatory for both drivers and passengers in Italy.
8. Mobile Phones:
It is prohibited to use mobile phones while driving unless you have a hands-free system.
Italy has many roundabouts. When approaching a roundabout, yield to traffic already in the roundabout and enter when it is safe to do so.
10. Italy road signs:
In Italy road signs follow the standard international conventions, with some specific signs that are unique to the country. Here are some unique road signs you may encounter while driving in Italy:
- Speed Limit Sign: Circular sign with a red border and white background, displaying the maximum permitted speed limit in kilometers per hour (km/h).
- Priority Road Sign: A white diamond-shaped sign with a red border. It indicates that you are on a priority road, and vehicles entering from intersecting roads must yield to you.
- Parking Sign: Blue sign with a white "P" symbol. It indicates parking areas or zones.
- Roundabout Sign: A white circular sign with a red border and black arrow symbols. It indicates the presence of a roundabout ahead.
These are just a few examples of road signs you may encounter in Italy. It's important to familiarize yourself with the various road signs and their meanings before driving in the country. For more detail, check out our driving guide to Italy. We’ve been able to help travelers feel confident to drive in Italy even if they haven't before, helped them avoid getting hefty fines stressful situations, all by teaching them the nuances and providing practice before they get there.
While this just scratches the surface of driving in Italy, we hope it’s helpful to show that driving in Italy doesn’t have to be scary. If you’re planning on renting a car in Italy, check out our driving guides, which feature instructional videos on what you need to know to drive in Italy and even a 360-degree interactive driving tour to get comfortable and prepared before you go. Buon viaggio!
Sign up for our newsletter