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Travel Essentials

Driving and Autos: Driving Conditions

The information below has been excerpted from the following: 1) the US Department of State's "International Travel" website (, 2) the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's "Smartraveller" website (, and 3) the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office's "Foreign Travel Advice" website ( Additional information is available from these sources. World Trade Press annually assesses the information presented on this page.

United States: Department of State International Travel Information

While in Italy, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Italy has one of the highest rates of car accident deaths in the European Union. Streets in historic city centers are often narrow, winding, and congested. Motor scooters are very popular, and scooter drivers often see themselves as exempt from conventions that apply to automobiles. Pedestrians and drivers should be constantly alert to the possibility of a scooter’s sudden presence. Most vehicle-related deaths and injuries involve pedestrians or cyclists who are involved in collisions with scooters or other vehicles. Be particularly cautious if you rent a scooter. You should remain vigilant and alert when walking or cycling near traffic. Pedestrians should be careful, as sidewalks can be extremely congested and uneven. Riders of bicycles, motorcycles, and other vehicles routinely ignore traffic signals and traffic flows, and park and drive on sidewalks. For safety, pedestrians should look carefully in both directions before crossing streets, even when using a marked crosswalk with a green avanti ("walk") light illuminated.

Traffic lights are limited and often disobeyed and a different convention of right-of-way is observed. Italy has over 5,600 kilometers (3,480 mi.) of Autostrada, or superhighways. Commercial and individual vehicles travel and pass on these well-maintained roads at very high speeds. In rural areas, a wide range of speed on highways makes for hazardous driving. Roads are generally narrow and often have no guardrails. Travelers in northern Italy, especially in winter, should be aware of fog and poor visibility responsible for multiple-car accidents each year. Most Italian automobiles are equipped with special fog lights. Roadside assistance in Italy is excellent on the well-maintained toll roads, but limited on secondary roads. Use of safety belts and child restraining devices is mandatory and headlights should be on at all times outside of urban areas.

U.S. citizens driving in Italy should also note that, according to Italian regulation, if a resident of a non-European Union country (e.g., the United States) violates a traffic law, the violator must pay the fine at the time the violation occurs to the police officer issuing the ticket. If the citizen does not or cannot pay the fine at the time, Italian regulation allows the police officer to confiscate the offender’s vehicle (even if the vehicle is a rental vehicle).

For specific information concerning Italian driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, contact the Italian Government Tourist Board (ENIT), tel: 212-245-5618; or the A.C.I. (Automobile Club d’Italia) at Via Marsala 14A, 00185 Rome, tel: 39-06-4998-2496. For information on obtaining international drivers licenses, contact AAA or the American Automobile Touring Alliance. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of Italy’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety.

Australia: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Travel Advice

There are frequent strikes in Italy that can result in delays and cancellations to regular public transport services. For more information see the Civil unrest/Political tensions section of this advisory.

When catching public transport you must validate your ticket prior to boarding a train or a metro and immediately upon boarding a bus or tram. Failure to validate your ticket can result in on-the-spot fines. In most cities, you are required to pre-purchase bus and train tickets as there are no purchasing facilities once you board a bus or train. Pre-paid tickets are usually available from tobacconists or bars (coffee shops) that display the public transport company’s logo/name. Automatic ticket machines are located at every metro and major train station.

Driving in Italy can be dangerous due to aggressive driving practices and excessive speed. Italy has one of the highest rates of motor vehicle accidents in Europe. On-the-spot fines are payable for a range of minor traffic offences. It is mandatory to use headlights on main roads outside the urban areas and highways, including during the day. For further advice, see our road travel page.

There are regular pedestrian fatalities throughout Italy. You should exercise particular care when crossing roads, including at controlled pedestrian crossings, as motorists in Italy will often not give way to pedestrians.

Vehicle access to the centres of many Italian cities has been restricted to help reduce congestion. Traffic Restricted Zones (ZTL) and their hours of operation, vary from city to city. Fines are levied on vehicles that do not carry ZTL passes. It is unlikely that hire cars will have a ZTL pass. If staying in commercial accommodation in the centre of an Italian city, it is recommended that you ask your hotel about traffic restrictions in the area prior to your arrival. For non-residents, the law allows authorities up to five years to identify the person responsible for the infringement and 360 days after the identification to issue the fine.

Many municipalities have outsourced the collection of traffic fines. European Municipal Outsourcing (EMO) handles the majority of the fines but fines may be issued by other agencies. Further information on ZTL restrictions can be found on the websites of the individual municipalities (comune).

You should only travel in licensed taxis, which can be identified by appropriate signage, roof lights and meters. Unauthorised taxis do not carry meters and charge disproportionately large fares when you reach your destination.

United Kingdom: Foreign and Commonwealth Office Foreign Travel Advice

Road travel

You can drive in Italy with a UK driving licence, insurance and vehicle documents. If you are driving a vehicle that does not belong to you then written permission from the registered owner may be required. On-the-spot fines can be issued for minor traffic offences.

In 2011 there were 3,800 road deaths in Italy (source: DfT). This equates to 6.3 road deaths per 100,000 of population compared to the UK average of 3.0 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2011.

Private and hire cars are not allowed to enter the historic centre of many Italian cities without an official pass. If your hotel is in the centre of one of these cities, you can buy a pass from most car hire companies. The boundaries of historic centres are usually marked with the letters ZTL in black on a yellow background. Don’t pass this sign as your registration number is likely to be caught on camera and you will be fined.

There is a congestion charge for Milan city centre. For further information see the  Milan Municipality website.

To reduce pollution, the city authorities in Rome sometimes introduce traffic restrictions whereby vehicles with odd or even number plates are allowed into a ‘green area’ on alternative days. For further information see the Rome Municipality website.

See the AA,  RAC and Italian Police guides on driving in Italy.

Road hauliers

Trucks over 7.5 tonnes (75 quintali) are not allowed on Italian roads (including motorways) on Sundays from 7:00 am until midnight, local time. These restrictions don’t apply to trucks that have already been granted an exception (eg those carrying perishable goods and petrol supplies). Both the Mont Blanc and Frejus road tunnels linking Italy and France are open but restrictions introduced following fires in 1999 and 2005 are applied to HGVs. These can be summarised as follows:

Mont Blanc: height restricted to 4.7m; minimum speed 50 km/h; maximum speed 70 km/h. Further details from or by telephone on 00 33 (0) 45 05 55 500.

Fréjus: Vehicles of more than 3.5 tonnes are subject to 1-hour alternate traffic flows starting at 8:00am leaving Italy. Special regulations apply to vehicles carrying dangerous loads. Further details from