Some useful information if you are thinking of hiring a car and driving in Italy.
International Driving Permit – Americans visiting Italy as tourists and intending to drive shouldobtain an International Driving Permit before leaving the U.S.
For EU member states, a valid photo card driving license is accepted by car hire companies and police.
Speed limits vary according to the road and the weather conditions.
|Motorways||Outside built-up areas||In built-up areas|
|Wet weather Conditions||110km/h||90km/h||50km/h|
In cities and unmarked intersections those coming from the right have priority – unless otherwise stated.
Italian drivers are fast, aggressive and skillful. Lane hopping and late braking are the norm and it’s not uncommon to see cars tailgating at 130km/h. 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.
Much driving etiquette is dictated by unwritten rules. Flashing, for example, means ‘Get out of the way’ or ‘Don’t pull out ‘coz 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’.
When driving in cities watch out for traffic restrictions. Many city centres are off-limits to unauthorised 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.
Private and hire cars are not allowed to enter the historic centre of many Italian cities without an official pass. If your hotel is in the centre of one of these cities, you can buy a pass from most car hire companies. The boundaries of historic centres are usually marked with the letters ZTL in black on a yellow background. Don’t pass this sign as your registration number is likely to be caught on camera and you will be fined.
Your hotel in Florence is in a ZTL zone, I believe. It might be worth buying a pass at either the car hire company or with your hotel.
Your hotel in Milan is also in the middle of a restricted zone. It might be worth dropping your car back at the airport and getting a transfer to your hotel as soon as you get to Milan.
This is a good website formore information of ZTLs:
Parking is a major headache. Space is at a premium in towns and cities and Italy’s traffic wardens are annoyingly efficient. Car parks do exist but they usually fill up quickly, leaving you to park on the streets. If you park between blue lines make sure to get a ticket from the nearest meter (coins only) or tabaccaio (tobacconist) and display it on your dashboard. Note, however, that charges don’t apply overnight, typically between 8pm and 8am.
You’ll find filling stations all over but smaller ones tend to close between about 1pm and 3.30pm and on Sunday afternoons. This isn’t as irritating as it might sound as many have self-service (fai da te) pumps that you can use any time. Simply insert a bank note into the payment machine and press the number of the pump you want. Remembering, of course, to distinguish between benzina (petrol) and gasolio (diesel).
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 travelling with kids, keep some plastic bags to hand. Car sickness is a real possibility on winding country roads and things can prove messy unless you’re prepared.
Some useful websites
This is a blog, it helpsto understand Italian road signs, as there are a lot of road signs. http://italyexplained.com/driving-road-signs-italy/
If driving isn’t for you, do not worry… we can help. We use private cars, but also first class high-speed trains to get you from place to place. We arrange it all for you!0