Driving in Italy ?

smart caragip petrolimited traffic zoneautogrillparking signIf you plan to rent a car and drive in Italy on your vacation, these driving tips may be helpful.

If your driver’s license is from the US you should carry an International Driving Permit along with your local license. You’ll need to show it if you get stopped by the police for any reason. It’s not a license, requires no test, and is basically a translation of your driver’s license. It’s fairly inexpensive and easy to get. AAA offices can issue them on the spot generally.

Once you are in your car and driving, be mindful of the Limited Traffic Zones. Most Italian cities have these zones and even in small towns you may find them in the historic center, the centro storico. A special permit is required to drive in a limited traffic zone (which your hotel can usually provide if it’s within one). There is a camera that takes a photo of your license plate as you enter and you may get a fine in the mail even if you don’t get stopped right away. Look for a parking lot outside the center (universally signed with large blue + white P). You’ll often find one within walking distance or with a shuttle to the center.

The autostrada is Italy’s system of toll roads. Autostrada highways are designated with an A in front of a number (such as A1, the major autostrada that connects Milan and Rome) and signs pointing toward them are green. You realize soon that the furthest destination is signed, though you may be only going half way to Milan on the autostrada from Rome, you will follow direction Milan.

Always drive in the right hand lane, except to pass. The maximum speed limit is 130 kilometers per hour but on some parts of the autostrada the maximum speed is 110, and may be as low as 60 on some curvy stretches, so watch for posted speed limit signs. When you exit the autostrada, you will pay a toll (take a ticket as you enter). US credit cards do not always work at the toll booth so be sure you have cash with you. Rest stops with gas station, snack bar, and often a restaurant are all along the autostrada. They generally excellent and clean.

While a GPS can come in handy for navigation, don’t rely on it exclusively. I have many clients who ended up in the wrong place because they followed GPS directions. In Italy it is common to find two (or more) towns with the same name in different regions so be sure to have a good detailed area map. Keep in mind, getting lost can present some delightful surprises.

Petro – be sure to know if your rental car takes diesel or regular fuel, as both are common. In rural areas be aware that Petro stations are not open 24/7, so plan ahead.

Sunday is a good day for long distance driving on the autostrada, because trucks are prohibited on Sundays. Be aware that in summer, coast roads become very congested, especially on Sundays. Roads around the northern lakes are often congested on weekends, too.


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