Driving in Italy - Keeping you in the Know
By Dom at Compare Breakdown Cover,
03 August 2018
Ciao Bella! Benvenuto and welcome to the sun kissed, olive tree-lined wonderous landscape of Italy.
Whilst you’re here, put your feet up, relax, dip some biscotti in a chilled glass of Vin Santo and let us guide you through all you need to know about driving through ‘lo stivale’, or as you may know it: The Boot.
The driving style of Italians is much the same as other European nationalities. Where this drastically changes though is in the cities. Italian city drivers are notoriously aggressive and impatient. Everyone has places to be, and understandably, they want to get there as quickly as possible. This can be a tad daunting for any inexperienced driver, so best to avoid driving through big cities if you’re nervous. For more adventurous drivers, just remember to be decisive. The one thing Italian drivers dislike the most is an unsure, hesitant or slow driver.
Where this advice can be counter-intuitive is, that inner city driving in Italy is also rather complicated at times. Roads are narrow, and signposts are sudden and abrupt so plan your route as much as you can to avoid going wrong on the complicated back roads of a city that you’re totally unfamiliar with.
When it comes to unwritten driving rules, the most important one to learn is about light flashing. If you see a car flashing their lights at you, it will most certainly NOT mean that they are letting you out. Most of the time it means “I’m not stopping’. If you see it in your rear-view mirror, then 99% of the time it means ‘Get out of my way’ (in the politest way possible).
These are similar to other European countries. We’ve outlined the 3 major speed limits used but do make sure you keep an eye out as some special speed limits will be enforced occasionally.
Major Roads outside of Urban Areas: 90-110km/h
Urban Roads: 50-70km/h
This point is important as it’s specific to Italy. Many city centres are protected by ZTL (zona a traffico limitato) sectors that are exclusive zones for residents only. These zones are heavily monitored, and usually have cameras watching them constantly, so you really should keep away if you want to avoid a hefty fine. When using your GPS, it is always best to make it take you via main roads as much as possible, the most direct route will not always take you on roads that you can drive on, especially in city centres.
Much like France, in Italy you will be given an on-the-spot fine for any failure to follow traffic laws. These may range typically between €150 - €250 Euros, so it’s a good idea to not do anything silly; having said that we know that driving in a different country can be stressful and sometimes your brain does things that you can’t explain, so even if you’re the most honest, good willed, law-abiding driver around, make sure you’ve got enough cash on you to cover a fine, if the worst were to happen.
We end with some vital phrases that you should at least be aware of, you’ll be surprised how these might save you a few close calls along the way!
Autostrada - Motorway
Uscita – Exit
Entrata - Entrance
Tangenziale – Ring Road
Strade Bianchi – Marked white on the map these are country roads
Mantenere i fari attivi – Keep your headlights on
Biglietto – Ticket
Autogrill – Motorway rest areas
Disco Orario – Parking disc
Raccordo – Ring way roads around the main cities.
Strade Statali – State roads (dual carriageways)
Wherever you end up in the sublime country of Italy, make sure you’ve got breakdown cover. Have a look at our European Breakdown Cover now, to start yourself off on the road to La Dolce Vita!