Back to Blog

Things You Should Know About Driving in Italy Including Driving Rules

Do you know about driving in Italy rules? Let's say you're ready to take your next European vacation, which involves a road trip around Italy. The roads are smooth, the scenery is fantastic, and the people are friendly. You've likely researched the history and best places to stop, but what about the driving rules? 


If you are not familiar with the traffic laws of Italy, you could find yourself in trouble. The Italian traffic system is different than that of many other European countries and especially different from the United States. Driving in Italy for sure requires some adjustment, but don’t fret!


Read this article to learn about driving in Italy rules and create a safe and fun trip in Italy.


Driving in Italy Rules Summarized


There are three main types of roads in Italy: national highways (Strade Statali), state highways (Strade Regionale), and provincial highways (Strade Provinciali). Then there is driving in cities and understanding traffic/parking.


Next, you should always follow the traffic laws in Italy to avoid any problems. Italian drivers must abide by strict speed limits on all roads. 


The maximum speed limit on expressways is 130 km/h (80 mph). On highways, it's 110 km/h (70 mph), while on secondary roads, it's 90 km/h (55 mph). In most rural or city areas, the speed limit is 50 km/h (30 mph). Please note these are average speed limits. It is essential to look for posted signs while on the road.


Italians drive on the right side of the road, so you'll need to pay attention when turning left at intersections and roundabouts. If you're not accustomed to driving on the right side of the road (not the case for Americans, fortunately), make sure to take extra care when making turns for your safety and that of others around you.


You'll need to be aware of the right of way, especially on narrow roads. Italy is known for these narrow roads, especially in small towns.  In Italy, the right-of-way law applies to all vehicles. This means that when traffic comes to a stop, the left-hand vehicle, or vehicle turning left, should yield, just like in the US. Drivers must also yield to other cars at intersections. As with many other countries, drivers on the right side of the road have the right of way unless signs state otherwise. This may not be the case if you plan on driving in other countries within Europe. 


Another essential driving rule in Italy to remember is focused how you drive. Italian drivers will often overtake you. So be careful, and never pass on a bend or a turn. Keeping a safe distance from other cars is also essential, especially when traveling with children.


Lastly, you must be over eighteen years of age to drive in Italy.


A Few More Important Driving in Italy Rules


Especially if you are from North America, there are no right turns on red lights in Italy. If you want to turn right at an intersection, you must wait for the light to turn green and then use your turn signal to indicate your intention.


Parking laws vary from city to city, so check with your rental agency for specific parking regulations near your destination before driving away from the airport. Parking meters usually accept coins or credit cards, and many cities have automated pay stations that accept chip cards similar to those used at toll booths on highways throughout Europe. Tripiamo guides provide extensive examples and practice looking at parking restrictions and using parking meters within Italy.


On another note, you must wear a seat belt in the front and back seats. Also, using a handheld phone while driving is strictly forbidden, as it distracts other drivers. Instead, use a hands-free device when making an important call.


Watch Out for ZTL


Observing the Zona Traffico Limitato (ZTL) signs is essential when driving in Italy. These signs indicate that a particular area is off-limits to traffic. A ZTL sign is white with a red border. The sign will state the hours of the day and the restrictions in that area. Some ZTL signs have security cameras.


The fines for violating the ZTL vary from city to city. The fines can range from fifty to eighty euros or more. Additionally, the rental car company may add a service fee if you receive a ZTL fine.


When driving in Italy, you must be alert for ZTL signs. Read Tripiamo guides to learn how to navigate Italian roads, including ZTL,  and make the best of your trip.


How are Italian Drivers? Are They Aggressive?


According to a recent study by the ACI, Rome has some of the most dangerous roads in Italy. 


While driving in Italy can be an exciting experience, it can also be dangerous. Italian drivers are bold and aggressive. They don't tolerate hesitant drivers on the road. When traveling in Italy, always remember to buy full insurance for your car to avoid fees for dents and crashes. 


Some cities like Rome and Naples also have extremely heavy traffic with many weaving vespas and motorbikes in between car traffic.. Moreover, many drivers in Italy do not respect the rules of the road. 


Many drivers in Italy do not use their directional signal lights when changing lanes as well. This can be confusing for motorists unfamiliar with Italian driving habits. 


In addition, some drivers will flash their headlights at oncoming traffic to signal that they are about to change lanes or merge into another traffic lane. This can be dangerous if you don't understand what they're doing.


Although Italian roads have low-speed limits, many drivers drive at a higher speed than is allowed. They are also often seen honking their horns. 


Use Your International Driver's Permit In Italy


A valid IDP is an essential part of international travel. It will allow you to drive legally in other countries without worrying about language barriers or other issues with foreign traffic officers.


If you're traveling to Italy and need to drive your vehicle, we recommend obtaining an International Driver's Permit (IDP). 


This document is issued by the designated authority in your country and translates your driver's license into Italian. In addition, many car rental agencies will require this document when you rent a car, so be sure to have one ready before you go!


The IDP is valid for one year. It's best to apply for the permit before you arrive, as driving without one can be risky and lead to severe consequences. 


To obtain an IDP, you must show proof of a valid driver's license issued by your home country. An IDP is recognized worldwide and protects the driver and their family in case of an accident.


What are Italian Roads Like?


Italy has over 6,000 kilometers (4,000 miles) of roads and highways. The most dangerous roads are those in metropolitan areas and can be pretty busy. These roads are prone to accidents and are often the only way to reach major cities. 


In rural areas, roads are often narrow with space signage and safety rails. They can also have poor paving with potholes galore depending on where you are.  In winter, you may need to consider snow, fog, and low visibility.


Small historic town roads will generally be cobble-stoned and very narrow. You may think they are one-way but actually may be two-way!


Highways and roads in Italy are well-maintained with few tolls. However, traffic is heavy during rush hour, which is generally from 7-9am or 4-6pm. 


Motorways have tolls that vary depending on the length of your journey; expect a few Euros for a short trip between two cities or up to €50 for a long trip between two distant cities (e.g., Rome-Milan).


Most motorways are open 24 hours a day, but some may close at night during winter when temperatures drop below 0°C/32°F). 


Car Crimes in Italy are Fairly Common


The most common vehicle-related crimes include stolen goods, embezzlement, fraud, and robbery. The Italian Police are collaborating with public and private communities to curb this phenomenon. 


Often, thieves target drivers in their cars at night or while waiting for traffic lights. Several incidents have been reported in Rome and Milan, especially near motorway service stations. Though most people and travelers are fine, always remember to keep your doors locked, bring valuables with you when you leave the car, and be aware of your surroundings when driving in Italy.


What are the Emergency Numbers in Italy?


You can use emergency numbers to contact the police and the fire service in case of an accident. 


Call the general emergency number, 112, and any police officer will put you in contact with the right service. You can also dial 115 to contact the fire department. Emergency phone numbers are located every two kilometers along the motorways.


It is essential to keep these emergency numbers handy when driving in Italy. These emergency telephone numbers are free and available from anywhere in the country. Emergency numbers in Italy are also helpful in natural disasters or accidents. 


The Italian ambulances are easily identifiable. Ambulances generally look like they would in other countries. In Italy they display the star of life and emergency number 118 on the sides and front. The availability of EMS differs from region to region in Italy, but basic standard services are the same across the country.




Italy has some of the best roads in Europe, but they can be challenging for those who don't know about driving in Italy rules. Regardless, driving in Italy is a truly incredible experience. The country has fantastic roads and scenic views almost everywhere.


However, driving in Italy is different from driving in your home country. The rules of the road are not always as clear and straightforward as you might expect, and there are many different customs that locals adhere to. That’s where Tripiamo comes in. 


This article provides a glimpse of things to know for driving in Italy, but for a truly comprehensive guide and detailed information on driving in Italy as a foreigner, check out Tripiamo’s professional guide to driving in Italy. In addition to all the information you’ll need to effectively drive, Tripiamo’s Italian Driving Guide provides you with virtual driving experience to make sure you understand and experience what it’s like to drive before you start your journey in Italy.

Planning on Driving Abroad?

Tripiamo offers comprehensive driving guides by country for anyone planning an international journey.

Learn More

Receive Additional Travel Tips & Tricks Straight to Your Inbox