Once you have settled a little more in Italy, have your residence, permesso di soggiorno, and your tessera sanitaria and doc figured out, you might want to look into getting a driver’s license. As a little reminder when you first become a resident in Italy, you will be able to get your International Drivers License from AAA and drive legally for a year. Unless you are lucky enough to be included on this list, you will then have to sign up for a Drivers License.
I am currently going through this process. Here I just wanted to gather information about the process, to read some other blogger’s experiences with the process, scroll on down!
Italian Driving Laws
If you plan on driving in Italy, living long term here, you’ll need an Italian driver’s license. As mentioned if you are visiting you can use a International Drivers License to rent and drive a car short term. If you are living here long term and have an American license, it is a bit different. Your first year as an Italian resident, you can see your US license and International Driver’s License. After this year, you are going to hop into Autoscuola and start from 0. If you are coming from one of the countries on this list, you are able convert your driving license to be valid in Italy.
A little note: you will find some of us living in Italy who do not follow these rules. You SHOULD follow the law, it is your responsibility to follow it and if you get caught well, you’ll have to live with the consequences.
If you need any help getting settled in Italy, book a call and let me help you figure out life in Italy.
Autoscuola: Getting your Italian Driver’s License
You can go through the whole license process without going to the famous autoscuola. However, due to the bureaucracy, and all the complex concepts you will have to figure out (trust me this is hard even if you are a native Italian speaker!) you will want to go through an autoscuola. There is a lot of paperwork to file, and if you go through a school, they take care of everything.
Cost of the school varies A LOT, to ask around the ones closest to you. These prices will cover classes, driving lessons, all taxes and stamps, a medical exam and two exams you have to take. Ask for a breakdown to understand the price better. Just to get ahead of your questions: NO, YOU CANNOT TAKE THE TEST IN ENGLISH. Therefore, NO there is not an English language Autoscuola.
Signing up for Autoscuola
In order to sign up for driving school, you will need a few documents ready-
Your Carta identita or Permesso di Soggiorno- this should be valid for the length of the course but isn’t necessary. If you do renew it during the course, you will need to bring the new document to the school.
A certificate “anamnestico” from your own doctor- basically saying that you are in fit health to drive. If you are on SSN and have a medico di base, they will do it for free, very quickly. If you are not yet (Why not! check out the post on getting a doctor) then you may have to pay a private for a quick visit.
Fototessere- 3 passport size photos which you can get done at many kiosks found in some train stations and grocery stores, or at a photoshop.
Then, the Autoscuola may require you to get another check from their own doctors, which you will have to pay for (20-45euro) and they will give you 4 “versamenti postali” to pay. These fees are ones that are charged directly by the Italian DMV and there is no way around them. They will be 3 for 16euro and 1 for 20. They come in the form of those long red bills, like the ones we use for Permesso di Soggiorno renewal.
These can be paid at the post office, or if you don’t want to wait in line some tabacchi shops will let you pay there. Look for the ones that do telematici services, or Sisalpay (I have found most to offer these services!)
Again the price of the autoscuola may vary.
Italian Drivers License: Classes & Exam
As soon as you sign up you can start attending classes and going over the theory text book. This will be reminiscent of your good old Driver Ed days. Think of this as studying for your permit exam. Classes will follow the book lessons and go over practice exams.
Classes are not mandatory, it is up to you when to go. But I would say get the most out of them as you can as you are paying.
You will learn, all that you expect about driving laws, signs, road symbols etc. But something new that is covered in the Italian exam: car parts and basic mechanic principles, and some first aid related or crisis response (what to do in an accident).
Your permit exam will be 40 questions, all true or false, no multiple choice simply yes or no. You can only get 4 wrong, and questions are designed to trick you not only through concepts but also with the language. Even native speakers struggle. Though not available in English the exam is available in Italiana and French (and I thought Spanish but check with your local autoscuola, it could depend).
Exams are offered throughout the year, it is up to you and your instructor to decide when you feel ready and book your exam!Once you take it and pass you will get a driver’s permit, also known as a foglia rosa.
Then on to practical- Italy Driving Lessons
Unlike our American permit, this permit is only valid for six months, so you will have to get moving on the practical exam to complete your license process. You have to wait at least a month from when you get your foglio rosa to when you can take the exam. During this time you will need to log some official driving hours. You will have at least 6 hours of driving lessons with an instructor. In theory, if you have already been driving a few years, and driven in Italy already this shouldn’t be too tough to master. But remember the horror of driver’s ed…. whatever little quirks your instructor asks for, do them. Even the mirrors, seat belt, hands on the wheel, direction to look, anything they mention. Remember they are teaching you how to pass the exam, don’t get offended at their criticsms.
Congrats you can now drive in Italy
Given you have passed you will receive a Patente B driver’s license. Just like our American licenses these different types of patente will let yo drive different things. With B you can drive a car with up to 9 people, a scooter up to 125cc.
But it isn’t over yet…. for your first 3 years of holding an Italian drivers license you are still considered a new driver (neo-patentato) . This comes with a few restrictions, for example,the size of the car engine you can drive. It also may affect your insurance for the first three years.
So what is driving in Italy like?
Driving in Italy is not as crazy as you may think. Sure cities have traffic and you have to keep your eyes open, but not much different than the traffic in other big cities. Something you will learn on the drivers exam is speeding limits as they can be a bit confusing. In cities you need to look for “ZTL” or limited traffic zones, they are in every historic city, and basically block you from entering the historic center.
If the parking lines are blue, you need to pay for parking, if white it is free, if yello, usually you cannot park there.
When in towns and out in the countryside look out for “Autovelox” automatic speed cameras. These will be marked by signs in advance, as well as on Google Maps.
Also, get real comfortable with stick shift 😉
For more information on moving to Italy, getting residency and permesso di soggiorno check out Moving to Italy as a non-EU citizen: A Guidebook to Italian Bureaucracy! Grab a copy here.
Some other first hand experiences that can help you get an idea: