Road rules in Italy

Road rules in Italy

by Stripes Staff
Stripes Europe

When driving in Italy, it is important to not only be aware of traffic laws but also adhere to them, even if it appears that others are not. Many Italian drivers tend to drive aggressively with what seems like little regard for traffic signs and laws. The use of motorcycles and mopeds is extremely popular and can congest already busy urban, built-up areas, posing an even greater risk for accidents, injury and death. 

Due to these issues, fines for offenses such as speeding, illegal passing, careless, reckless and drunken driving can be steep and include imprisonment depending on severity and if the offense caused an accident that injured or killed others. Penal codes for behavior are also written so that you may be arrested or fined if you show disrespect to officers when pulled over. 

Your diligence in observing and obeying the laws while maintaining a keen awareness of other vehicles on the roadways around you will go a long way in keeping you and others safe on the autostrada and other roadways in Italy.


The minimum driving age is 18. U.S. Forces personnel and dependents must have a valid SETAF driver’s license, a valid U.S. driver’s license, and are encouraged to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP), which translates your U.S. driver’s license into 10 languages. Contact your installation’s driver’s license and testing center for testing schedules and locations to obtain an IDP. 

The vehicle’s proof of insurance and the certificate of title should be either present in the vehicle or on the driver while driving in Italy. If the driver does not own the vehicle, then a signed letter by the vehicle’s owner permitting the driver’s use of the vehicle should be substituted.  The SETAF license is valid only in NATO countries.


Here is a quick rundown of important Italian traffic laws. 

Right of way

Driving in bus or cycle lanes is illegal, with fines on the spot. Emergency vehicles, buses, trams and trains have right of way. In the flow of traffic, at unmarked intersections and traffic circles, those on the right have right of way unless stated on signs. Also be aware that drivers attempt to create three or even four lanes out of two-lane traffic. 


Drive on the right and pass on the left. Although drivers who want to pass should indicate with a left blinker, they also might flash their lights or honk the horn. Slower drivers must move to the right and allow drivers to pass. Although horns are widely used to warn other vehicles of their approach, they are illegal in built-up areas. 

Seat belts & safety seats

Seatbelts are mandatory in both front and back seats. Children under 18 kilos must travel in a child safety seat that complies with EU and Italian safety standards, is adapted to their size and weight and uses additional safety belts. Children weighing 18-36 kilos must use a child seat adapter. Rear-facing infant seats are also advised, and children under 150 centimeters may not ride in the front seat. 


Drivers and motorcyclists must use their headlights in the dipped position at all times while driving, whether day or night. 


Using a cellphone while driving is illegal except with a hands-free device.


For private vehicles without trailers in cities or built-up areas -- 50 km/h (31mph); outside built-up areas on open roads -- 90 km/h (55 mph); on two lane highways -- 110 km/h (68 mph); on motorways and autostradas --130 km/h (80 mph). During wet conditions, lower speed limits of 90 km/h (55 mph) apply to two-lane highways and 110 km/h (68 mph) on the autostrada. Drivers with a license less than 3 years old must not exceed 90 km/h (55 mph) outside built up areas and 110 km/h (68 mph) on motorways. Also, beware of speed cameras.

Restricted traffic zones

Many city centers around congested historic sites such as in Pisa, Milan, Florence and other locations now enforce restricted driving zones for only cars with permits. Although restricted areas should be marked with signs stating “ZTL” (Zona Traffico Limitato/Limited Traffic Zone), signage may be obscured. License plates are read via camera, and drivers can rack up tickets while circling in a restricted zone until several tickets come in the mail. 

Plan ahead when traveling to larger cities and try to park away from the city centers. If your hotel is in the city center with zones, you may be able to obtain a temporary pass for that city; contact your hotel for further details. 


Italian police may demand payment for tickets on the spot, but with speed cameras and at some traffic stops, your license plate may be recorded and a ticket issued to you through the mail at a later time. Italian law allows police to send tickets up to a year after an offense. Pay the fine if you receive one, because the fee will continue to increase if left unpaid. 


It is illegal and dangerous to turn right on red lights. Roads marked with flashing yellow or amber lights indicate to proceed with caution, and vehicles on the right have right of way. Be cautious of motorcyclists or those on scooters who dart across the center of flat traffic circles, or even drive in the wrong direction. Drivers will use their hazard lights to indicate slow or stopped traffic. Don’t pick up hitchhikers; you may be a victim of a carjacking or robbery.

Two helpful websites, and, provide information in both English and Italian to motorists about motor safety, the autostrada, tolls, fines and locations of speed cameras. 

While reviewing these basic rules and regulations of Italian motorways, be aware that many Italian provinces establish additional rules or codes. It is best to check with officials at your local installation or your municipal police for continued updates of regulations in your province.

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