Getting your Italian driving licence: the language you need to pass your test

Getting your Italian driving licence: the language you need to pass your test
Photo by Vincenzo PINTO/AFP
As if the process of obtaining an Italian driving licence wasn’t complicated enough, you also have to take the tests in Italian.

If you’re a resident in Italy and want to drive on the nation’s roads, it’s mandatory to get a patente di guida – this now includes British nationals who didn’t convert their UK licence before 31st December 2020.

Passing through all the stages of applying, taking theory and practical tests – for which there is a limit on how many attempts you can take – all make for a demanding experience.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Do British second-home owners in Italy need to get an Italian driving licence?

What seems to be a stumbling block for many is the language barrier, as it’s not possible to take the tests in English.

Some of Italy’s foreign residents have told us that they’ve been putting off getting their Italian driving licence, as they were so daunted by this part of the process.

Those who’ve done it and made it through the other side, patente proudly in hand, admit the language needed is “technical and formal”. So much so, that you’ll know how to label engine parts and tyre terminology once you’re through.

As there is an Italian Driving Manual and several online portals for practising the theoretical knowledge in Italian (see the bottom of the page for details), we’ll focus on the practical side of getting your Italian driving licence – the language you’ll need in your driving lessons and the final exam, the esame di guida.

It’s likely your instructor will speak to you in the imperative, the command form, as it’s the most appropriate for asking you to do something quickly. Let’s assume you’re on good terms with your instructor and we’re using the informal version of the imperative.

Here are some useful phrases and driving-related vocabulary that will help you to achieve motoring freedom.

Driving basics: getting going

Accendi la macchina: Turn on the car

Accendi le luci anteriori: Put on your headlights

Metti la freccia: Put on your indicator

Gira il volante a sinistra/destra: Turn the wheel to the left/right

Il semaforo è verde, rosso, giallo: The traffic light is green, red, yellow

Ferma la macchina: Stop the car

Accelera: Speed up

Frena: Brake 

Rallenta / Riduci la velocità: Reduce your speed

Piede sulla frizione: Step on the clutch 

Mettiti la cintura: Put on your seatbelt

Assicurati che gli specchietti siano ben posizionati: Make sure your rearview mirrors are correctly positioned

READ ALSO: Who are the worst drivers in Europe?

Gears (Marce)

Metti la prima, la seconda, la terza, la quarta, la quinta marcia: Go into first, second, third, fourth, fifth gear

Metti in folle: Put the gearbox in neutral

Turning and moving around

Vai in questo senso unico: Drive along this one-way road 

Dai la precedenza: Give way

Supera il camion: Overtake the lorry

Entra/inmettiti in autostrada/rotonda: Merge onto the motorway/roundabout 

Ricorda che è una strada a senso unico/a doppio senso: Remember it’s a one-way/two-way road 

Prendi la prima/seconda/terza uscita: Take the first/second/third exit

(Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI/AFP)

Controlla il punto cieco: Check your blind spot 

Guarda lo specchietto retrovisore/posteriore: Look through the rearview mirror

Cambia corsia: Change lane

Mettiti nella corsia interna/esterna: Take the inside/outside lane

Prendi la prossima uscita : Take the next exit

READ ALSO: Covid-19: Italy confirms new extension for expired ID documents


Non superare i limiti: Don’t go over the speed limit

Attento(a) alla svolta/curva: Be careful with the turn/bend

Fai attraversare i pedoni sulle strisce: Let the pedestrians cross at the zebra crossing

Assicurati che l’incrocio sia libero: Make sure there’s no oncoming traffic at the crossing  

READ ALSO: British drivers in Europe to escape speed camera fines (and vice versa)


Metti la retromarcia: Reverse 

Accendi le luci d’emergenza/le quattro frecce: Put on your emergency/hazard lights

Parcheggia a nastro/a lisca di pesce/a pettine: Parallel park, park at an angle, park in line

Tira/togli il freno a mano: Pull up/down the handbrake 

Extra useful phrases

Suona il clacson: Honk your horn

Aziona i tergicristalli: Put on the windshield wipers

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

Now you’re all set for the road, you can prepare for your theory exam with these useful sites:

For more information on driving in Italy, check the Italian government’s page on steps to obtain a Patente B.

Member comments

  1. There seems to be many rumours circulating about the mystery of whether a reciprocal agreement is in discussion between London and Rome on the issue of converting UK licence post Brexit, without the need to sit a new driving test….
    We all know Brexit is showing its farcical/sad side, but issues like this really affect expats…This will be a defacto driving ban for many of us living here unless you are fluent enough in Italian to sit the practical exam…even Italians struggle with it and it very nuanced questions.

    Does anyone have a concreate answer on what Boris and his boys are doing on this matter…?? If they can’t sort this kind of issue easily what hope is there for future deals for anyone….As I understand nothing has changed for EU citizens converting an EU licence to a UK licence…pay £43 and that’s it…Does anyone in the Brexit office see these posts on TripAdvisor??????

    1. Hi Steve, we’ll post any updates on this issue as we get them, but unfortunately there’s still no reciprocal UK-Italian agreement on the horizon yet. Fingers crossed that changes soon.

  2. That’s a great start local but i,m still hoping there will be a new agreement between London and Rome.
    Apparently, before the government change they had started talking.
    I,m really hoping this will be renewed.

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