Driving in Italy?
Driving in Italy
At a Glance:
- Italy has a well-developed road network, with nearly 7,000 km of motorway (autostrada) connecting all corners of the nation.
- Citizens of EU countries with a valid license can drive in Italy on their home license, while nationals of non-EU countries must get an International Driving Permit.
- Nationals of some countries can simply exchange their driver’s license for an Italian one, while others must take a written and practical test before they can legally be on the roads.
- If you wish to bring your car over from your home country, you must register it in Italy in order to get Italian license plates.
For tourists and expats alike, the idea of driving in Italy is very often an unnerving one, as Italians are stereotyped as being aggressive drivers — but this is not necessarily true. If you yourself are a safe and confident driver, then you will find that driving in Italy is not as daunting as it is made out to be.
It’s true, in many cases Italians break more road regulations than they follow. But, as with driving anywhere, you should always be aware of motorcycles, mopeds, bikes, and pedestrians. However, if you avoid peak rush hour traffic and the center of larger cities, then you will come to find that driving in Italy can in fact be quite pleasant. In the cities, it is often more practical, less stressful, and cheaper, to use public transport to get around the busy center.
A car will, however, be especially useful for driving in Italy’s beautiful countryside. In general, it is a good idea to avoid driving directly through small towns, as this can get confusing, and the roads may be extremely narrow. When visiting small villages and towns, you’d be better off leaving your vehicle on the outskirts of the village and explore on foot, as maneuvering through the narrow alleys will be difficult, and parking is next to impossible!
If you are planning a sightseeing trip on a weekend, make sure to bring plenty of patience and allow plenty of time for the journey. Many Italians tend to stream out of cities on Friday afternoons and back in on Sunday evenings, meaning traffic can very often be an issue.
Cruising along the Autostrada
Italy was the first country in the world to build highways and therefore has a well-established system of motorways (autostrade). There are approximately 488,000 kilometers of roadways in Italy and 6,760 kilometers of them are autostrade. In certain mountainous areas, you will find yourself driving through tunnels and across bridges more often than not.
Driving in Italy comes at a price, though: most autostrade are toll roads. Italy has an electronic card system, where toll payments are automatically charged to drivers’ accounts. This is quite useful for drivers that regularly take toll roads, as it minimizes the problem of traffic jams at toll booths.
Low Emission Zones
Italy has jumped on the EU bandwagon and has begun implementing so-called Low Emission Zones (LEZ) in some regions. There are two options for enforcing the LEZ guidelines. In some cities, your vehicle may be required to have a stamp that states it meets the standards for low emissions zones. Alternatively, your license plates may be photographed while you are in an LEZ equipped with cameras.
The European Union’s site on LEZs advises which cities in Italy have these zones and how you can comply with the regulations. Fines for driving in an Italian LEZ without a proper vehicle, or at the wrong time, can result in a hefty fine.
Hazardous Driving Habits
Driving in Italy still has its risks: with an average of 55.6 deaths per million inhabitants caused by road accidents in 2014, Italy’s statistics are worse than the EU average, yet there are still many other European nations that perform much worse. However, Istat revealed that in 2016 there were 175,791 road accidents which resulted in injury or death in Italy, a 17.5% decrease from 2010. This is thanks to improvements of the quality of infrastructure and general safety conditions on the roads.
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