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Driving in Italy

Driving a car is necessary for arriving at your Italian villa. While modern trains can whisk you easily between cities, most villages and the countryside of Tuscany are out of their reach. The local bus service is for taking kids to school early in the morning and is no use to the tourists. We love to drive on Tuscany’s scenic roads from one glorious town to the next, and soon you will too. It’s best to rent a car from the airport, since this will save you time and trouble. Plus, we’ll send you maps and detailed directions all the way to your villa.

International Driver’s Permit

International driver’s permit (IDP) is now required for foreigners driving in Italy. EU passport holders who have a valid license from their own European country do not need this. If you are an American, Canadian, or Australian citizen, you will need to have this permit to rent and drive a car in Italy. Ask your car rental company for their specific requirements. In the USA you can get the international driver’s permit from the AAA that issue them for a $20 fee (in Dec 2018) and you have to send them 2 passport photos.

Autostrada Toll Gates

When entering the Autostrada, drive to the gates marked biglietto, punch the big red button and take the ticket. Don’t drive to the gates reserved only for Telepass. When you exit, you need to give this ticket to the attendant at the manned tollbooth where you can pay with cash or credit card. You can also choose to pay in cash or use a credit card at the automated booths. The lanes are clearly marked for cash, or cards (Carte). Insert the ticket into the machine first, then your money or credit card. The machine returns the card after the charge and lifts the arm to let you continue. Autostrada driving is fun if you follow the simple rule: stay to the right if not passing. Italians will flash their lights and drive close behind if you’re hoarding the passing lane.

Road Rules and Safety

The highest official speed limit is 130kmph (80 mph) on the left side lane at some 4-lane and 6-lane sections of the Autostrada, but usually it’s 110kms (68 mph) on the 4-lane divided highways. Typical speed limit is 90kms (56 mph) on the “Superstrada” 4-lane roads, and 70kms on the 2-lane Provincial Roads. Urban area maximum speed is 50kms. Please observe all road signs and speed limits. Headlights and seat belts must be on at all times by law.

Carabinieri

Carabinieri (State Police) set up roadblocks occasionally to look for stolen vehicles, so they might wave you over with what looks like a gigantic lolly-pop! They usually just want to see your IDP license and the car papers. Pull over, stay in your car, roll down the window, give them a big smile and only speak English! They often wave you to go on once they realize you don’t speak any Italian. You won’t see Italians driving drunk, and we have never seen the police do a breath test for DUI. But accidents happen, so please, don’t drink more than a glass of wine if you’re the designated driver.

Service Stations

Autostrada service stations are open 24 hours, which is NOT the case elsewhere. Local stations follow the local shopping hours and close for few hours at lunch and on Sundays. Some have 24-hour self-service pumps where you put money into a slot machine and choose your pump number. Fill-it-up in Italian is ‘Pieno’, ‘Benzina’ is regular gas (petrol) and Diesel is either just Diesel or ‘Gasoilo’. Attendants staff the gas stations so you don’t need to leave your car if you pay with cash. The staffed full-service (Servizio) pumps are usually closest to the station house. If you are lucky, they may even wash your windshield (small tip is then appropriate). Credit card payments are usually made inside the station house. Self-service pumps have the sign ‘Fai da te’ = do it yourself.