Driving in Italy

Driving in Italy can be terrific fun, but here are some tips to ensure less worry and stress that can come with driving in a foreign country and some rules of the Italian road to be aware of.

In Italy, many cities have instituted congestion zones in the city centers where you are not allowed to drive without a permit. These are called ZTL zones and are indicated by a white sign with a red circle. If caught (electronic detectors are used), drivers face stiff fines.

1.  Have the right international driving permit. The application is available online from a number of reliable sources and are valid for a year.

2.  Getting gas. Many stations close for daily siesta from 1 to 3 pm and on Sunday afternoons. There are, however, self-service stations operated by inserting cash into a machine. Be careful to choose the correct type for your car: benzina (petrol) or gasolio (diesel).

3.  Expect to drive a stick shift. Renting an automatic shift generally costs more and has limited availability.

4.  Right on red is illegal. Don’t do it.

5.  Speed limits are indicated with a white sign and red circle with the number in the center. The number is in kilometers.

6.  Speeding tickets are determined via cameras, not by police officers. These boxes also measure point to point and issue a ticket if you’ve arrived at the next box too quickly. The ticket will go to the car rental agency and they will charge your credit card, so there is no disputing the ticket. The car rental agency will also likely tack on an administrative fee.

7.  The left lane on a highway is for passing, not driving. Leave your left blinker on as you are passing, and turn it off when you return to the right lane. Don’t pass on the right.

8. You can bring your own GPS programmed with a map of Italy, or rent one with your car (and set the language to English!). Also bring paper maps. Frankly,  I prefer maps as I love driving on the local back roads…it’s more fun !roadsign

9. Flashing lights from other drivers? It generally signals a warning that someone is coming through fast and you should get out of the way. If a car flashes its lights when approaching, it is a warning that there is a speed trap ahead.

Buon Viaggio !

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