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DRIVING

What you need to know about getting an Italian driving licence post-Brexit

UK nationals living in Italy will now need to take a driving test to obtain an Italian driving licence. And if you want to keep driving on the nation’s roads, it’s mandatory you get one.

What you need to know about getting an Italian driving licence post-Brexit
If you live in Italy and haven't exchanged your UK driving licence, it's time to buckle up. Photo: Unsplash/Daniel Hansen

Brexit has dealt a bureaucratic blow to Britons living in Italy, creating even more red tape than there was before. Now, you can add taking a driving test to your ‘Living in Italy’ to-do list.

“If you are a resident in Italy you should obtain an Italian licence. You will need to take a driving test to do so,” states an update to the British government’s website.

If you started the process of exchanging your UK licence before 1st January 2021, you’re in the clear and will not have to re-sit a driving test.

READ ALSO: 'Expect the unexpected': What you need to know about driving in Italy

However, if you haven’t started the conversion, you need to get an Italian driving licence within one year of obtaining residency.

As Britain currently has no post-Brexit reciprocal agreement with Italy to convert driving licences, you can only use your UK driving licence for a maximum of 12 months after getting residency in Italy.

No future reciprocal agreement has been confirmed, so the current requirements are set for the foreseeable.

If you’ve been in Italy for longer than 12 months already, on the other hand, you must sit the Italian driving test as soon as possible.

American and Canadian citizens – diplomatic and consular staff aside – have long had to jump this hurdle. But if you’ve taken EU privileges for granted until now, you’ll need to get into gear as it isn’t a quick procedure and the clock is ticking.

How do you take your driving test in Italy?

To apply for a Patente B, which is the licence for cars (and motorbikes up to 125cc), you have to be at least 18 years old and be in suitable health for driving. This means you’ll need a medical certificate for your eyesight, physical condition and mental health.

This must be obtained from an authorised doctor, in compliance with article 119 of the Highway Code

READ ALSO:

After a visit to the doctor, you can then apply directly to the ‘uffici della motorizzazione civile’ for a permit. These are agencies of the Italian Ministry of Transport, and there’s usually at least one in every town. You can find a list of them on the Ministry of Transport website.

For a helping hand through the paperwork, contact a local driving school, or ‘autoscuola’.

They obtain the temporary driving permit on your behalf, which is valid for six months. This deadline doesn’t change, regardless of whether you go solo or use the services of a driving school.

These six months are the time frame for passing your theory test, as stated on the Italian Ministry of Transport website – and you’ve got two shots to pass. From there, you have five months from the month following the date you pass the theory test to take the practical test. Again, you have two chances to pass that test too.

Photo: AFP

What documents do you need?

To apply for the licence, you need to provide:

  • A completed TT 2112 application form.

  • Proof of payment of €26.40 to current account 9001 (pre-printed stamps, ‘bolletino’, available at post offices and motor vehicle registration offices)

  • Proof of payment of €16.00 to current account 4028 using the same methods as above.

  • A valid identity document, for example a UK passport + photocopy.

  • Photocopy of the medical certificate along with receipt of payment.

Taking the theory test

This is where a driving school comes in handy. They can coach you on what you need to learn to pass the exam and some may even offer language help. However, the final exam is not available in English, so a degree of proficiency in Italian is required.

Depending on your level of fluency, this could be just as much a course in Italian as road safety.

Non-Italians who need to sit the Italian driving test have found this notoriously tricky. So much so that several sources told us they have been postponing the process and still haven’t got their licence, due to the substantial theoretical knowledge needed in Italian.

Diana Zahuranec from the US writes a blog about her life in Italy. She had been living in Piedmont for five years when she started the process of getting her Italian licence. She said relying on public transport and lifts from her boyfriend eventually pushed her into action. She wanted to do her shopping and to access remote villages independently.

She tells us you need to revise a lot for the multiple-choice theory exam and to take practice tests until you consistently pass them. She was already fluent in Italian when she started the process, but, like others, she claimed the detailed knowledge required in a foreign language is considerable. To the point that she can label the parts of an engine in Italian but not in her native English.

A sign on Italy's autostrada. Photo: Paco Serinelli/AFP

Rebecca Ann Hughes, a British freelance journalist living in Italy, said she also found the terminology “technical and formal”. 

She advises to prepare for knowing the minimum height of tyre treads before tyres should be replaced and to rattle off dimensions of loads for different vehicles.

However, after completing lots of practice questions, she said she elevated her good level of Italian to excellent and subsequently passed the theory exam.

For Hami from Norway, this part is the sticking point. He never had a driving licence to convert in the first place, so had to get an Italian patente.

As he’s failed his first two attempts at the theory exam, he has to start the process from scratch, paying all the fees all over again. Now he’s tackling it from a position of experience, his advice is to revise thoroughly for the theory test.

Jed Smith, who runs a personal blog, Italy Wise, said he studied the Driver’s Manual for six months. Admittedly, he was fairly new to the country after leaving America and so the language in itself was a hurdle. However, he said there are creative ways to boost your learning, such as practising online.

To supplement your classroom lessons and the Italian Driver’s Manual, you can prepare for your theory exam with these useful sites:

Once you’ve passed your theory test, you’ll then receive the ‘foglia rosa’, the pink slip. This is a permit that allows you to proceed to the practical test. After you’ve been issued with this, you have six months to take and pass the practical driving exam.

Practise for the road test

Just because you perhaps already had a licence from another country doesn’t mean you can go straight to the practical exam.

It’s compulsory to do six hours of driving lessons with an approved instructor and this must include driving at night, on motorways and on roads out of urban areas.

Rebecca found this the toughest part of getting her Italian driving licence. She said her instructor was an elderly Italian man who often berated her for going too slowly and mainly spoke in dialect.

Her experience isn’t isolated and others have told almost comedic driving lesson tales. Jed said his instructor often shouted ‘cretino!’ at other drivers during his lessons, while frequently alternating between shouting ‘piano, piano’, and ‘vai, vai!’.

Just six hours of this part. Once you’ve got that under your belt, you can proceed to your road test.

Taking the practical exam

After you’ve passed your theory exam and have taken your driving lessons, you can move on to the final stage of the process.

Remember, there’s a time limit from the moment you pass the theory part. If it expires, you have to start from the beginning. If you fail, you need to account for the time it takes to re-sit a test.

As you have 12 months available in total from the moment of residency, it’s advisable to start as soon as possible.

To take the practical exam, you must provide the following:

  • Photocopy of your tax code (codice fiscale) or health card showing your tax code at the time of booking the practical test.

  • Proof of payment of €16.00 to bank account 4028 (pre-printed stamps, ‘bolletino’, available at post offices and motor vehicle registration offices).

  • A certificate of attendance to show you took those compulsory six hours of driving tuition.

Once you’ve succeeded at the practical part, which both Diana and Jed say are over fairly quickly in around 20 minutes, you’re all set and will receive your Italian licence there and then, on the spot.

You can’t hold two licences at the same time, so you’ll surrender your UK one when you get your Italian patente.

For more information on driving in Italy, keep an eye on the UK government website’s Living in Italy section and also check the Italian government’s page on steps to obtain a Patente B.

See The Local's Dealing with Brexit section for more guides and updates.

Member comments

  1. I thought the idea of having a deal would sort these problems out? It’s as if we had no deal which cannot be right.

  2. I am an American living in Italy, so I had to go through this process – a long and difficult ordeal. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to do this through an autoscuola, no matter your driving experience or your level of Italian. The autoscuola will take care of your medical exam, will get you scheduled for the “quiz” for the written exam and the driving exam. A good instructor will have you well prepared for both the quiz and the road test. Not cheap, but worth every Euro, given the level of inconvenience of not having a license, and the difficulties of passing the quiz and getting past the idiosyncracies of teh road test examiner. Also be prepared for being considered a neopatentate if you pass the tests. This to me is the most infuriating part. A neopatentate cannot drive a car with motor more than 95 hp and other size and weight restrictions. I had to sell my car and buy a smaller one. Also double points for infractions for three years, a reduced speed limit on autostrade and other expressways (not really enforced), ZERO tolerance for alchohol for three years, etc.

  3. Good luck getting my UK license off me if I cannot exchange it and have to go and pass a full Italian test – how will anyone know?

  4. I think what we need to do is get a petition going for help from the Embassy to extend, renew the agreement between Rome and London for driving License exchanges again. What with Brexit plus Covid an extension is needed.
    Why is it that France and Germany you have got up to June, July? Local can you help?:

  5. I have spent the last few days looking at this problem as my wife and I arrived in Italy just before Christmas and applied for residency which we got but did not get underway with the exchange arrangement for the driving licence. Today I contacted the Department of Transport who referred me to the Foreign and Commonwealth to ascertain which minister was handling driving licences and point out the absurdity that Italian drivers can apply to exchange in the UK without having to sit a test and we seem to have failed to get a reciprocal exemption. Why ? The Two people I spoke to regarding the pickle were pretty shocked. One has guided me through the gov website to a point where I can put the point in writing. I had been through the website thoroughly but not managed to go down one leg and hit a search button. Pauls comment above ref covid and France and Germany is exactly what I found. Fairly frustrating to find that unless there is a change we will all be in driving school and the extra costs etc.
    When I have submitted my complaint I will post a copy here for others to see.
    Cheers everyone.

  6. We are british citizens holding british passports and UK driving licences. How is it that the reciprocal agreement of swapping valid UK licences in Italy have been cancelled from the end of December 2020 meaning UK driving licence holders will need to take an Italian test. The Italians in the UK are not facing the same and can exchange their licences. It seems that this is not fair and which minister or ministry agreed it. There is a risk at some point of UK drivers being found guilty of driving illegaly and if that is the case they could end up facing big fines, bans and jail if it was a serious accident etc. Please advise the minister who we need to address the concern with. I have spoken to two very kind and helpful operatives at the MIT and Foreign and Commonwealth but neither could help pinpoint the right person.

  7. You are absolutely right William this is just ridiculous and needs to be sorted now.
    Please keep us informed with any info anyone might have. thx.

  8. The reply was rather poor IMHO
    We continue to engage with the Italian government on the future right to exchange a UK licence for an Italian one without needing to re-sit a driving test. Please continue to check our Living in Italy page for updates.
    I have now gone back to ask for a second time who is dealing with it.

    I sent an enquiry
    ENQW241844 CRM:0462011354
    David F has responded but not answered the question as to which minister or ministry has the responsibility ? Sure tell me to look at the website for an update but I could be looking until Xmas and there is no change. Who is handling this particular issue. Please answer the question and if you do not know escalate the enquiry to somebody who does. Its not a difficult request is it ? Thanks for your prompt attention.
    Will keep this thread posted if I get any progress.

  9. My stepdaughter had a US drivers license. When the local carabinieri told her she could not drive without an Italian license, she had no choice other than to embark upon the outrageously expensive process of acquiring one. One thing that no-one else has mentioned is that the theoretical exam includes trick questions that are designed to flummox even native Italian speakers. This is one of the many factors that make it enormously difficult to obtain an Italian license other than by exchange. Despite this draconian bureaucratic process, the per-capita road accident death figures in Italy are twice as high as those in the UK. Clearly a civil service factotum has effed up big time and something needs to be done.

  10. Response from my second enquiry.!
    Thank you for your enquiry of 23/02/2021

    We understand that this is a difficult and frustrating time

    If you are a legal resident in Italy you should obtain an Italian driving licence. If you started the process in 2020 to exchange your UK driving licence for an Italian one, the Italian government has confirmed that you will be able to complete the exchange on the same basis as now. You will not have to re-sit your driving test.

    We continue to engage with the Italian government on the future right to exchange a UK licence for an Italian one without needing to re-sit a driving test. Please continue to check our Living in Italy page for updates.

    The Italian government has confirmed that visitors to Italy (non-residents) using a UK driving licence will not require an International Driving Permit or a translation of the licence to drive here.

    We hope this information helps.

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For members

DRIVING

Why is it taking so long to book a driving test in Italy?

People trying to sit their driving tests in many parts of Italy are reporting long delays when booking their theory or practical exam. The Local looks at why this is happening.

Why is it taking so long to book a driving test in Italy?

Getting an Italian driving licence (or patente di guida) isn’t exactly a piece of cake, especially for foreign residents, who, besides familiarising themselves with the national Highway Code, must also achieve a high level of Italian language proficiency before taking the test.

But the process has become more of a challenge over the past few months for candidates experiencing long waiting times – up to five months in some cases – when booking their theory or practical tests.

READ ALSO: Who needs to exchange their driving licence for an Italian one?

As many local licensing offices (Uffici di Motorizzazione Civile, which are roughly equivalent to the UK’s DVLA or the US DMV) fail to explain these delays, candidates are left wondering what the problem is. 

The short answer is that Italy’s licensing department is facing critical understaffing problems, which, by the look of things, aren’t going away anytime soon. 

“The problem is national,” Emilio Patella, national secretary of Italy’s main driving schools’ union UNASCA, tells The Local.

“The size of the [licensing department’s] current workforce is half of what it was ten years ago, or half of what it should be on a regular basis.”

READ ALSO: Do you have to take Italy’s driving test in Italian?

Cars line up to cross the Italian-Swiss border

People taking their practical driving tests in Como face a waiting time of 140 days on average. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

This means that, presently, there simply aren’t enough employees around to meet the market’s demand – a situation which is the result of “over 20 years where few to no hirings were made”, according to Patella.

Not all local offices are currently registering gigantic delays, with waiting times varying from area to area based on demand and the number of staff available.

Regions in the north-west and north-east of the country – especially Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna – are bearing the brunt of the national crisis.

Como has the worst-affected office in the country, Patella says, with the average waiting time for candidates looking to take their practical test standing at 140 days (or well north of four months).

Other cities experiencing long delays include Brescia, Bergamo, Milan, Turin, Vicenza, Verona, Piacenza, Parma, and Reggio Emilia.

Katherine Sahota, a British national living in Brescia, has been trying to book her theory test since September, but says there have been “little to no appointments available” in the area.

While being denied the opportunity to book a test is sufficiently frustrating in and of its own, the issue is particularly pressing for Britons in Italy at the moment.

READ ALSO: ‘So stressful’: How Italy-UK driving licence fiasco threatens couple’s Tuscan dream

The 12-month grace period allowing British nationals to drive across Italy on UK licences is due to expire on December 31st and, with negotiations over a reciprocal agreement between Italy and the UK showing no sign of progress, many British nationals have chosen to get an Italian driving licence. 

But the delays affecting many licensing offices across Italy are already undermining their efforts and mean it’s unlikely some residents will be able to get their licence before the deadline.

Sahota might just be one of them. 

“It is a helpless situation not being able to plan anything,” she tells The Local.

“I don’t think they understand how this affects the lives of people who need to drive for work, for families, for their own freedom of movement.”

Sahota’s situation, and that of many others across the country, isn’t being helped by the inherent nature of the Italian licensing system, which is built on a series of tight, consecutive deadlines. 

Red Vespa motorcycle and vintage Fiat

The Italian licensing system is based on a series of tight deadlines, which make candidates susceptible to even the shortest delays. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

After submitting a request to take the test, candidates have six months to pass the theory exam, within a maximum of only two attempts. They then have 12 months and a total of three attempts to pass the practical exam. 

Also, those who have to resit either exam can only do so at least a month after the failed attempt.

As a result of this, even a waiting time as ‘short’ as two months might keep a candidate from being able to retake an exam within the set timeframe. If this happens, the candidate has no choice but to re-enrol and pay all the enrolment fees again.

Several reports of residents not being able to retake an exam through no fault of their own have emerged over the past few weeks. 

Stefano Galletti, president of Bologna’s UNASCA office, said last week that candidates in the city “can barely take an exam” in the given time span, with longer-than-usual waiting times often keeping people from retaking in case of failure.

READ ALSO: Some of the best learner sites for taking your Italian driving test

While hiring more examiners looks like the solution to the problem, but increasing the Italian licensing department’s workforce might not be as straightforward as many would think. 

According to Patella, the Italian government will have to either implement a special hiring policy known as ‘piano straordinario’ – an option which, he says, hasn’t been considered so far – or delegate tasks to employees of other national agencies in order to fill the current gaps. 

But, even if one of the above measures were to be put into effect, Patella believes that “we would only manage to get back to a normal state of things in around three years” – that’s also because “being an examiner is not a very sought-after job and few people are still willing to do it”.

In the meantime, residents facing delays can get in touch with the Italian licensing department’s support centre to report their issue or ask for guidance. 

It’s also worth noting that residents are allowed to sit their driving tests in a province other than the one where they reside. 

However, if the province where they choose to take the test doesn’t border that in which they are resident, the licensing office can ask candidates to give a valid reason for the choice and to provide additional documentation.

For further information, contact your local licensing office (Uffici di Motorizzazione Civile). Find details of your nearest office here

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