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DRIVING

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

As if the process of obtaining an Italian driving licence wasn’t complicated enough, you also have to take the tests in Italian.

Getting your Italian driving licence: the language you need to pass your test
Photo by Vincenzo PINTO/AFP

If you’re a resident in Italy and want to drive on the nation’s roads, you may need to get an Italian patente di guida – depending on whether Italy recognises licences issued in your country.

At the moment, some of Italy’s British residents are working on passing their tests again in Italian just in case, as it remains unclear whether UK-issued licences will still be valid from the end of this year.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Will my UK driving licence still be valid in Italy after 2021?

Other international residents find themselves taking the driving test in Italy for various reasons, such as finding themselves living in a rural area and needing a car for the first time.

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.

The language barrier can be the biggest obstacle to passing, as it’s not possible to take the tests in English.

Some regions of Italy do allow residents to take tests in French, German or other languages widely spoken in the area, but so far none have an English-language option.

And while 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, others say it’s nothing to be scared of.

Those who’ve done it and made it through the other side, patente proudly in hand, tell us 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

Precautions

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)

Parking 

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. Sure, foreigners should learn the language of their host country. However, not everyone has the opportunity to do that before requiring a driving licence. And they certainly can’t learn it well enough to pass trick questions that fool even native speakers. Many EU countries understand that, which is why they have licence exchange agreements and offer tests in other languages.

    And then there is Italy. You can go to any bancomat or self-serve petrol station and select any of six languages. Yet, the electronic driving exam only comes in one. There’s simply no technical or economic reason for that.

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For members

ITALIAN LANGUAGE

Ten of the best podcasts for learners of Italian

Listening to podcasts is a great way to immerse yourself in a new language. For everyone from beginners to advanced learners, here's a list of audio shows that will help improve your Italian.

Ten of the best podcasts for learners of Italian

For beginners to intermediate learners:

In 2022, there’s a vast range of podcasts for people wanting to learn Italian from scratch – here we’ve selected just a few.

Since beginners will often struggle to understand even slow Italian, all these podcasts come with a paid subscription tier that provides access to transcripts and other accompanying materials.

That said, you don’t need to pay anything to simply listen to any of these shows. Give them a try, and see what you can pick up for free.

Coffee Break Italian

The creators of this show are on to a winning format: stop native speakers of a language in the street to ask them questions on a given theme; slowly repeat their answers and translate them into English; replay the interviews so the listener can fill in the gaps they missed the first time around.

It’s a simple but highly effective technique, allowing learners to acquaint themselves with the language as spoken by real Italians while giving them the tools they need to extract meaning from strong accents and colloquial turns of phrase.

News in Slow Italian

This podcast does exactly as advertised: gives you the week’s major international news in a (very) slow Italian.

READ ALSO: Ten of the best TV shows and films to help you learn Italian

It’s good for keeping up with current events as well as learning the language. One particularly useful function of the paid tier is that it allows you to hover over certain phrases in the transcript and see the English translation.

Italiano Automatico

Alberto Arrighini has taken his highly popular Youtube channel, Impara l’Italiano con Italiano Automatico, and made each episode available to listen to via the Italiano Automatico podcast.

While those who opt to listen via the podcast will miss out on the captions and slides Arrighini provides in his Youtube videos, it’s ideal for busy listeners who want to learn on the go. 

Each episode is roughly 10 minutes long and tackles different aspects of Italian such as regional accents, conjunctions, and answers to questions like when to use essere vs stare.

Which podcasts can help you learn Italian?

Which podcasts can help you learn Italian? Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash.

Quattro Stagioni

This bite-sized podcast from Alessandra Pasqui takes the form of five-minute long episodes covering everything from recipes to travel diaries from Italian cities to biographies of famous Italians.

The programme’s short length makes it perfect listening for walks to the shops or when waiting in line at the post office.

Simple Italian

Simone Pols hosts this programme for intermediate Italian speakers. It’s another basic set up: Pols takes as his starting point a theme or a recent experience and spends around 20 minutes taking about it in slowed-down Italian.

READ ALSO: Seven songs that will help you learn Italian

Recent episodes including his musings on include why it’s important to say no, the definition of beauty, and what he learned from spending six weeks in Palermo.

For advanced learners: 

These podcasts were made for native Italian speakers, but you don’t need to be one yourself to enjoy them.

Practically non-existent until just a few years ago, the Italian podcasting industry has flourished in recent years. Whether you’re into true crime, long-form narrative journalism or science, these days there’s something for everyone.

Here are just a few well-known Italian podcasts for advanced speakers wondering where to start.

Veleno

This 2017 podcast is often referred to as ‘Italy’s Serial’, both for its in-depth investigative journalism and the fact that it’s credited with introducing large swathes of the population to the concept of podcasts altogether.

The story centres around a Satanic Panic that gripped the Bassa Modenese territory in the late 1990’s, leaving huge destruction and grief in its wake.

READ ALSO: The top five free smartphone apps for learning Italian

It’s an impressive piece of longform narrative journalism that makes for uncomfortable listening in some parts and will make you burn with righteous indignation in others.

Radiografia Nera

The Radio Popolare news station didn’t exist before 1976: but what if it had? 

That’s the starting point for this podcast from Tommaso Bertelli e Matteo Liuzzi, who in each episode recount a different crime that took place in post-war Milan up until the year the station was founded, sourcing most of their facts from archived court documents and police reports.

You’ll hear plenty of stories about bank robberies and stick-up jobs, but also learn of broader historical crimes such as attempted coups.

The hosts have a rapid-fire style of delivery, so Italian learners may want to slow the podcast down or go back and listen more than once to fully grasp the whole story – but it’s good practice if you want to challenge yourself.

XXX. Photo by Siddharth Bhogra on Unsplash.

Limoni

L’Internazionale‘s Annalisa Camilli has won awards for her in-depth reporting on migration to Italy, but there’s one story from her past that she always kept at arm’s length – until now.

In Limoni, which was released to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the G8 protests in Genoa, Camilli looks back at what happened at the 2001 event in which hundreds of protestors were injured and over forty unarmed people were set upon and tortured by police as they prepared to go to bed.

Camilli, who attended the protests as a young person, examines the events in light of information that has come out in the years since, bringing a new clarity to what happened and why things went so badly wrong.

Il gorilla ce l’ha piccolo

Despite its irreverent name (which translates roughly as ‘Gorillas have small d**ks’), this animal-focused podcast contains a genuine treasure trove of information about the animal kingdom.

Presented by the biologist Vincenzo Venuto, each episode takes a broad relational theme, such as families or cheating, and examines how these things play out among various animal species. In looking at how animals handle aspects of sex, birth, ageing, death and grief, Venuto gives us a greater insight into our own species.

Problemi

From Jonathan Zenti, creator of the excellent (sadly only three-episode-long) English language podcast Meat, comes Problemi. In each episode Zenti talks about something he has a problem with, helped along by interjections from one of his own voice-altered alter egos.

In other hands, this might sound like a relatively dull basis for a podcast, but not in these ones. Zenti’s persona as a host is prickly and impious, but equally capable of deep compassion. His lack of interest in self-censorship and sometimes uncomfortably frank disclosures can make this mostly humorous show surprisingly painful at certain moments. It’s one of the few I’ll sometimes return to.

Do you have any recommendations for an Italian podcast we haven’t mentioned here? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

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