You might hear some horror stories of driving in Italy, or even worse, of friends who have come home to their mail filled with traffic tickets from their trip to La Bel Paese. How can you avoid this happening to you? Truthfully driving in Italy isn’t terrible, once you know what to look out for. This article will, hopefully, help you know how to avoid getting a ticket while in Italy.
Here are some basic rules for driving in Italy:
Before we get into the rules of driving, it’s important to remind you all: you should grab an international driver’s license if you plan on renting a car in Italy. If you instead are living in Italy, remember after one year you will need to get your Italian driver’s license.
When it comes to actually driving: Americans can rest easy knowing in Italy they do drive on the right side of the road. Plus most symbols are similar to ours: traffic lights, yield, and stop signs are the same. However here are a few other rules about driving in Italy you might want to know:
- Speed limits: The speed limit in built-up areas is usually 50 km/h, while on highways it can range from 80 to 130 km/h. It’s important to check the speed limit signs while driving.
- Seatbelts: All passengers must wear seatbelts while the car is in motion.
- Cell phones: Using a cell phone while driving is illegal in Italy unless you have a hands-free system.
- Alcohol limit: The legal limit for blood alcohol content while driving in Italy is 0.5 grams per liter.
- Zona a traffico limitato (ZTL): ZTLs are areas where access is limited to authorized vehicles only. These areas are often found in historic city centers.
- Roundabouts: In Italy, vehicles already in the roundabout have the right of way.
- Parking: Normally white lines mean free, and blue means paid to park. Parking is often difficult in many cities in Italy. Pay attention to parking restrictions and signs, as parking illegally can result in hefty fines or even having your car towed away.
Driving in Italy: Speed Limits
The speed limits in Italy depend on the type of road and the location. Here are the general speed limits:
- Urban Areas: The speed limit in urban areas is usually 50 km/h, but it can be lower however in towns or city centers, especially if there is a school nearby. In these cases, it is often 30
- Out-of-town roads: The speed limit on out-of-town roads is generally 70-90 km/h, keep an eye out for the speed signs, but if you don’t notice, think about how populated the area is. roads with more houses tend to opt for the lower limit, long stretches of open road opt for the higher.
- “Tangenziale”: these are marked with green signs and have speed limits of 110km/h
- Highways: The speed limit on highways is 130 km/h, and the minimum to be on them is 80, however in certain weather conditions the limit does lower.
It’s important to note that speed limits in Italy are often enforced with speed cameras, rather than police, and fines for speeding can be high. These speed cameras are known as “autovelox” and by law have to offer a warning beforehand. They are usually fixed in certain locations and you will see a sign on the side of the road warning one is coming up (however, the best practice is simply to always follow the limit!) Additionally, some cities may have lower speed limits in certain areas, so it’s important to pay attention to the posted signs.
Speed limit signs in Italy are circular, keep that in mind while looking for them!
The Famous ZTL
Zona a traffico limitato (ZTL) is a restricted traffic zone in Italy. These zones are typically found in historic city centers, where traffic is limited to reduce pollution, protect historic landmarks, and improve the quality of life for residents.
In a ZTL, access to is restricted, and only authorized vehicles are allowed to enter. The restriction is usually enforced by cameras or physical barriers. Access to a ZTL may be limited by time of day, day of the week, or specific permit requirements.
Violating the restrictions can result in fines and penalties, so it’s important to pay attention to signs and follow the rules when driving in a ZTL. Some cities may allow access to residents or businesses with permits, while others may allow access to certain types of vehicles, such as electric or hybrid cars. If you’re planning on driving in Italy, it’s a good idea to check with the local authorities to find out if your vehicle is authorized to enter a ZTL, and to plan your route accordingly.
It’s important to note, Google Maps won’t always say if you are entering a ZTL, however, it does note that it is a “toll” road when you enter one.
If I break a rule and get a ticket in Italy, will it really reach me in the US?
Yes, Italian driving tickets can reach you in the US. Italy has agreements with many countries, including the United States, to exchange information about traffic violations. This means that while driving in Italy, you receive a ticket, and the authorities may share that information with your home country’s driving authorities, who may then contact you to pay the fine or take other actions.
In some cases, the authorities may also work with international debt collection agencies to recover unpaid fines from drivers who live abroad. If you receive a ticket while driving in Italy, it’s a good idea to pay it promptly to avoid additional fines or legal action. Usually parking fines for forgetting to pay, or parking slightly in the wrong spot, resulting in a fine of under €100. Instead speeding or ZTL fines could sometimes run into the hundreds.
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