Accidentally breaking the local rules of the road and getting fined is the most common worry among drivers heading across the channel. A lot of British drivers are caught out by traffic restriction schemes in Italy's historic city centres, but even the basics like speed and drink drive limits can be different from home so get to know the local rules before you go to help you keep out of trouble.
Our general advice for motoring in Europe covers the basics like documents, personal safety and vehicle preparation.
In this article:
You must be at least 18 years old to drive a temporarily imported car or motorcycle (over 125cc or with a passenger).
All valid UK driving licences should be accepted in Italy and San Marino including the older, all-green UK paper licence and the older Northern Ireland paper licence with photographic counterpart.
The older (all green) paper licences may be more difficult to understand though, so you may wish to update your licence to a Photocard style licence before travelling or obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP)
- Unleaded petrol (95 and 98 octane), diesel (Gasolio) and LPG are available.
- Leaded petrol is not available but you can buy lead substitute additive.
- You may carry spare petrol in a can.
(Standard legal limits, which may be varied by signs, for private vehicles without trailers)
- Built-up areas 31mph (50km/h)
- Outside built-up areas 55mph (90km/h)
- Dual carriageways 68mph (110km/h) (55mph in wet weather)
- Motorways 80mph (130km/h) (68mph in wet weather)
- Front and rear seat occupants must wear seat belts if fitted.
- Passengers/Children in cars
- Children travelling in a UK registered vehicle, must be secured according to UK legislation.
- You must use dipped headlights during the day outside built-up areas and during snow and rain/poor visibility.
- You may only use rear fog lights when visibility is less than 50m or in case of strong rain or intense snow.
- You must use dipped headlights in tunnels.
- You must use dipped headlights during the day on all roads. Riders must wear a crash helmet and your bike could be seized if you or your passenger are not wearing a helmet.
- You must not carry a child under 5 years old on a moped or motorcycle.
- You may only carry a passenger if the registration certificate states that bike is designed to do so.
- If your motorcycle is under 150cc you must not ride on motorways.
- You must have at least one rear-view mirror (two if your motorcycle is capable of more than 100 km/h.)
Drinking and driving
- The legal limit is 50 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood.
- Penalties are severe and include fines, confiscation of your vehicle and imprisonment.
- There is a zero limit for professional drivers and drivers with less than three years driving experience.
- You could also be tested for narcotics.
- On-the-spot fines can be imposed and are particularly heavy for speeding offences.
- The police can impose the fine and collect a quarter of the maximum fine. They must give you a receipt for the amount paid.
- Fines for serious offences at night (10pm to 7am), including speeding and going through red lights, are increased by a third.
- If you park illegally you could be fined and your vehicle clamped or towed away.
What do you have to carry?
- Warning triangle (vehicles with more than two wheels only)
- Reflective jacket – You and your passenger(s) must wear a reflective jacket or waistcoat if you get out of a broken down vehicle on the carriageway at night or in poor visibility.This doesn’t apply to motorcycles or mopeds.
- Snow chains (or winter tyres) - must be used between 15 October and 15 April, or at other times if conditions dictate.
- Snow chains (or winter tyres) must be used where signs indicate.
- Provinces can introduce local legislation making winter tyres or snow chains compulsory.
- If you’re using snow chains you must not exceed 31mph (50 km/h).
- If your vehicle (car, caravan or motorhome) has an overhanging load at the rear such as a cycle carrier then you must display a fully reflectorised square panel 50cm x 50cm with red and white diagonal stripes (available from most caravan accessory shops). You could be fined for not doing so.
- You will have to pay a toll on most motorways.
- You must not use your horn in built-up areas except in cases of immediate danger.
- You must not carry or use a radar detector and if caught could be fined and the device can be confiscated.
Low Emission Zones
A pollution charge,(formerly ‘Eco-pass’) is payable in the centre of Milan - Area C. This is a combined urban road toll (congestion charge) and Low Emission Zone. Charges apply on weekdays only and generally between 7.30am and 7.30pm. You must purchase an ‘eco-pass’ before entering the restricted zone. Tariffs vary according to the emissions of the vehicle. Mopeds/motorcycles, electric vehicles, hybrids are exempt.
Many city centres across Italy operate traffic restriction zones - ZTL/Zone a Traffico Limitato - these restrict access to all or some vehicles, based on age/emissions but apply differing standards and operate for different periods of time. Look out for the standard 'no vehicles' sign (red circle/white background) and read any associated conditions carefully. View Italy Access Regulations.
You can expect to receive a fine by post if you drive into a ZTL as only residents are permitted to enter.
22 August 2019