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Navigating When Driving in Italy

Buy the most detailed maps you can find when you are in Italy.

The maps all indicate numbered roads, but you rarely see signs with those road numbers. When you get to an intersection, you will see town signs pointing in each direction. Navigate by memorizing the names of the towns along the road you want to travel. If it is a major highway, find the names of the larger towns the highway goes to. For example, at an intersection near Perugia you may be looking for the road to Todi, but it will say direction 'Roma' because that road ultimately takes you to Rome.

What to Carry in the Car

Apart from your driving license, car documents, insurance papers and reflective safety vest, which you're legally obliged to carry, it's worth having some coins for parking meters. Also, if you're traveling with kids, keep some plastic bags to hand. Car sickness is a real possibility on winding country roads.

Driving Styles

Italian drivers are fast, aggressive and skilful. Lane hopping and late braking are the norm and it's not uncommon to see cars tailgating at 130km/h (81 mph). Don't expect people to slow down for you or let you out. Rather, seize the moment. As soon as you see a gap, go for it. Italians expect the unexpected and react swiftly, but they're not used to ditherers so whatever you do, do it decisively.

Road Etiquette

Much driving etiquette is dictated by unwritten rules. Flashing, for example, means 'Get out of the way' or 'Don't pull out because I'm not stopping.' But if an approaching car flashes you, it's warning you that there's a police check ahead. Similarly, the car horn can mean everything from 'Watch out' to 'Ciao' to 'Let's celebrate; the traffic light's just turned green.'

City Challenges

When driving in cities watch out for traffic restrictions. Many city centers are off-limits to unauthorized traffic and if you slip into a ZTL (zona a traffico limitato - reduced traffic zone) you risk being caught on camera and fined. City driving also involves dealing with one-way systems, scooters appearing out of nowhere and narrow streets better suited to horse-drawn chariots than modern cars. To escape the worst mayhem, drive in the early afternoon when traffic is at its lightest and parking is easier.


Civil Liability insurance is compulsory. For visitors arriving from abroad, the best option is the Green Card, an insurance policy that can even be taken out at the border and is valid for 15, 30 or 45 days.

Drinking and Driving

In Italy, driving is not permitted with a blood alcohol content superior to 0.5 grams per liter, in line with the European average.

Useful Numbers and Emergency Numbers

Police 113
Fire Brigade 115
Ambulance 118