Driving in Italy: Tips from the Italian Concierge
SELF DRIVING IN ITALY
For the adventure seeking traveler who is looking to self drive in Italy, here are some of the Italian Concierge suggestions on how to stay safe (and legal!) on the road.
Although you do not always need an international drivers permit to rent a car, legally American tourists should have an International Driving Permit when operating a vehicle.
Before leaving the states, you can easily apply for this permit through AAA. Go to your local AAA branch, or contact the AAA Worldwide Travel Dept via mail (1000 AAA Dr., Heathrow, FL 32746) or phone: (407) 444-7000.
Tourists may also use their U.S. driver's license IF you have an official Italian translation along with it. The offices of the Italian Automobile Club (ACI) can provide these translations (Click here for more information: http://www.aci.it/il-club/soci-in-viaggio/driving-in-italy/driving-in-italy-information-for-visiting-motorists.html)
Unfortunately, there is no agreement for reciprocal recognition of drivers' licenses between the United States and Italy. The Italian Ministry of Transportation does not allow a U.S. driver’s license to be “exchanged” for a domestic one. If you will be in Italy long term and need an Italian driver’s license, you must go through the usual procedure to obtain an Italian license (a written test, a driving test, a medical examination, and pertinent documents).
What to Watch Out For
Driving in Italy is a whole other ball game. Aside from the windy roads and crazy drivers, there are certain things you should look out for. When driving on the highway, speed traps are very common, though hard to notice. These speed monitors are called AUTOVELOX (see photo to the right), and may be found on highways or local roads. Watch out for these, or always stay under the speed limit. If you are speeding and caught, you will receive a fine (often months, up to a year later) via mail. Probably not the kind of travel memento you are looking for!
Another important rule to be aware of is the fine for driving in the centro storico ( historic center) of any city. There are cameras posted at perimeter of the historic center, and unknowing drivers may receive a fine if they enter the restricted area. If you are self driving and your hotel is located in the center of a city (or town), you need to register your license plate with the reception desk at your hotel. Certain hotels, due to their location in a historic center, have the authority to register their guests in order to avoid fines.
Here is a list of some vocabulary words that may be helpful when driving in Italy:
SINESTRA - Left
DESTRA - Right
VAI DIRETTO - Go Straight
AUTROSTRADA - Highway
DOVE? - Where?
E LONTANO?- Is it far?
E VICINO? - Is it near?
E IN QUESTA DIREZIONE?- Is it in this direction?
DOV E IL CENTRO STORICO? - Where is the historic center?
USCITA - Exit
PARCHEGGIO - Parking
DIVIETO di PARCHEGGIO - No Parking
PERICOLO - Dangerous