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DRIVING

EXPLAINED: How to import your car or motorbike to Italy

If you want to bring your own wheels when you move to Italy, you'll need to register your vehicle and swap your licence plates. We break down the latest rules and what you need to do to keep your car or motorbike on the road.

EXPLAINED: How to import your car or motorbike to Italy
A guide to what you need to know about bringing your car or motorbike to Italy. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP)

The most recent rule changes on importing foreign vehicles spell good news for those wanting to bring their car or motorbike to Italy.

Until now, the Italian Highway Code prohibited residents in Italy to drive vehicles with foreign number plates for more than 60 days.

However, amendments to Italy’s road rules have given drivers more breathing space, requiring you to register your car or bike with Italian licence plates within three months of obtaining your residency in Italy instead of the previous two.

It’s important you stick to this longer deadline in any case – if you don’t, your vehicle could be impounded and you face fines of up to €400.

It’s not straightforward, as is true of any bureaucratic process involved with moving to Italy.

“These procedures and formalities can be very long, complex and costly, in particular for non-EU citizens”, according to the European University Institute.

If you’re still keen to bring your beloved wheels, though, here’s what you need to do.

Photo: Christoph Stache/AFP

Getting going

Your car needs to be registered with the Motor Vehicles Office (Ufficio Motorizzazione Civile) and the Public Vehicle Registry (Pubblico Registro Automobilistico or PRA).

The ‘uffici della motorizzazione civile’ 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.

You have to be a legal resident already to do this, so you’ll need your residence permit (permesso di soggiorno), or if you’re an EU citizen, proof of residence (certificato di residenza). You’ll also need to show an Italian tax code (codice fiscale).

There is no need currently for British nationals who obtained residency before Brexit to have their new biometric residency card, or carta di soggiorno, to complete this process.

Vehicles coming from non-EU countries

To start, you’ll need to tell the licensing authorities in your home country that you won’t be using the car there anymore. For British nationals, for example, you have to inform the DVLA that you’re taking the vehicle out of the UK for 12 months or more – this is known as permanent export. More details can be found here.

READ MORE: ‘Expect the unexpected’: What you need to know about driving in Italy

Following this, you’ll need to prove that your car is roadworthy. Ask for a technical inspection certificate, signed and stamped by the manufacturer or an accredited distributor – and translated into Italian. If it all looks in top shape and meets the Italian road standards, you’ll receive a certificate of conformity – certificato di conformità.

There are reports of this documentation taking months to arrive, so plan way ahead before your move to Italy.

Photo: Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

The paperwork you need to register your vehicle in Italy

With these documents in hand, you then need to go to your local Motorizzazione Civile Office. You’ll be asked to provide the following, as stated by the Automobile Club d’Italia (in English):

  • Ownership certificate
  • Certificate of cancellation of registration in the country of origin
  • Application for registration (domanda di immatricolazione) form TT2119
  • Personal ID: if it’s in a foreign language, you need to get it translated into Italian (unless an exemption is applicable under international laws or agreements)
  • Proof of residency – unless residence is already shown in your ID document
  • NP2D form for registration with the PRA, available at Motor Vehicles Offices or here
  • Photocopy of the registration certificate issued in Italy.

Once the paperwork is checked, the next step is to receive your Italian licence plates (targhe) and a carta di circolazione (registration certificate), which you should carry with you at all times.

There are also taxes due for registration and entry in the PRA of an imported vehicle called Provincial Transcription Tax. This varies depending on the type of vehicle and your province of residence.

Then, within three months you need to enter your vehicle into the public registry, maintained by the Automobile Club d’Italia (ACI).

What you need to do if you’re coming from an EU country

For cars coming from the EU or from a European Economic Area country (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway), you can use the ACI’s Sportelli Telematici dell’Automobilista (STA) service.

This is a one-stop shop for registering your vehicle and getting hold of Italian licence plates. The crucial thing to remember here is: where was your car registered before bringing it to Italy?

It doesn’t matter where you’ve come from or what nationality you are. What counts is the country of registration for the vehicle.

Regardless of whether you come from a member state or a non-EU country, you must register your vehicle and get Italian licence plates. The authorities could issue you with penalties and take your car off the road if you don’t.

Once you’re all set with your new documentation and licence plates, to ensure you’re driving legally in Italy, you’ll need to pay the compulsory road tax (bollo) and arrange car insurance (assicurazione auto) that comprises third-party liability (responsabilità civile).

It’s worth noting that there are road tax reductions for older vehicles registered as ‘classic’ – to calculate how much you’d have to pay on your car or bike, check Italy’s Revenue Agency (Agenzia delle Entrate) website here (in Italian).

Maintaining its roadworthiness is also one to watch out for. After your car is more than four years old, you must visit a mechanic every two years for a mandatory road worthiness test (revisione).

New and used vehicles

If this seems daunting and more than you are willing to go through, you could sell your car or bike in your home country and buy a vehicle in Italy. In that way, a dealer holds your hand through the paperwork and saves you the headache.

If you want to stick to importing, you can bring over both new or used cars from abroad. New cars and bikes include those that have clocked less than 6,000km or have been sold within six months of first registration.

READ ALSO: How you can claim Italy’s auto bonus for a new car

On the other hand, a registered vehicle that has already covered more than 6000 km and that is sold after a period of six months from the date of registration is considered to be used.

Further information on bringing your car to Italy can be found on the Automobile Club d’Italia site (in Italian).

Can I keep my driving licence or do I need an Italian one?

If you’re coming from outside the EU, you may need to re-sit your driving test to get an Italian driving licence. This applies to most third country nationals, who cannot simply exchange their driving licence for an Italian one.

UK driving licence holders can currently keep using their licences in Italy until December 31st this year, as long as they were issued before January 1st, 2021.

After December 31st, 2022, and if no long-term reciprocal agreement is reached, residents in Italy will still have to take a test to exchange their UK licence for an Italian patente di guida (driving licence). 

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

Italy has driving licence agreements with a small number of non-EU-countries including Switzerland, Brazil and the Philippines: find a full list here. If your licence is from one of these countries, you can swap it for an Italian one without having to retake the test.  

Time is of the essence – you have to get your Italian driving licence, the patente di guida, within one year of obtaining residency. There’s a lot to do when you arrive if you want to keep your motoring freedom, so you’ll need a solid strategy and have to be prepared for many steps in bureaucracy.

Member comments

  1. Our local ACI has informed me that we need to take the car to Customs before they can begin the registration process, but I cannot find any information on the Agenzie delle Dogana website as to how to go about this. Can anyone point me in the right direction? We are in Massa-Carrara (MS). Our car was first registered in the UK in 2015 and we bought it in 2018 and it’s been in the UK since then. We became residents here in 2018.

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For members

ITALIAN LANGUAGE

TEST: Is your Italian good enough for citizenship?

To become an Italian citizen, you may need to prove your language skills. Do yours make the grade?

TEST: Is your Italian good enough for citizenship?

From being able to confidently order a gelato to total fluency, there’s a huge variation in the levels of Italian attained by foreigners in Italy.

But there are certain bureaucratic processes that require formal qualifications. When applying for Italian citizenship through marriage or residence (but not via ancestry), you must prove proficiency in the Italian language at B1 level or higher.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Italy’s language test for citizenship

In most cases, getting a carta di soggiorno residency permit has no formal language requirement, though some non-EU nationals may need to sit a language test at the lower A2 level. Read more about that here.

This article relates solely to language ability for obtaining citizenship; the application process has several other requirements depending on which route you take. Read more about this here.

So what does B1 mean?

A B1 level certification is a ‘lower intermediate’ level and means you are proficient enough in the language to manage everyday interactions, according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL).

This level of proficiency allows you to “communicate in most situations that arise while travelling” and to understand topics “regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.”

So there’s no need to write with perfect grammar, have an extensive vocabulary, or be able to recite Dante’s Inferno in the original language – but people at this level should be able to make themselves understood in most everyday situations.

It should also be enough to follow most conversations and TV shows or get the gist of what’s in Italian newspapers.

If you’ve lived in Italy for a while, there’s a good chance you’re already at this level or close to it. After all, a decent grasp of Italian really is necessary for everyday life in the country outside of the main city centres and tourist hotspots.

If not, it might be time to sign up for Italian language classes – if you haven’t already. 

If you want to check, there are numerous Italian language level tests available online, such as this one.

What does the B1 language test involve?

The exact structure of the test varies between the four administered by educational institutions approved by the Italian Education Ministry or Foreign Ministry.

They are: The University of Siena for Foreigners (CILS); The University of Perugia for Foreigners (CELI); The Dante Alighieri Association (PLIDA); and The University of Rome 3 (CERT)

These tests can be taken at language schools around Italy and abroad. If your language school advertises B1 testing for citizenship, make sure they are accredited by one of the above institutions.

The structure of the test also differs depending on whether you’re taking the B1 cittadinanza exam or a regular B1 level Italian language certification.

READ ALSO: 12 signs you’ve cracked the Italian language

Could you pass an Italian language test at B1 level? Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

Both tests involve answering similar questions at the same level, but the B1 cittadinanza is essentially a shorter version which costs less to take. The downside is this certificate can only be used for your citizenship application and not for other purposes, such as for university applications.

And though it’s shorter, it may not actually be easier to pass; if you fail on one section you will have to retake the entire test (as opposed to just retaking that section under the standard B1 level tests listed above.)

If you’re fairly confident of passing and don’t need it for anything else, it may be the more convenient option.

In any case, the test will involve at least four sections; a written test, reading tests, listening test and an oral test where you have a conversation with an examiner.

Listening 

For this section you will have to listen to two recordings; one of a conversation, and another of a short monologue.

The format varies and each section will be played at least twice.

Here is a sample question from a past paper, after the candidates had listened to a short clip of someone talking about the southern region of Puglia – click here for the audio and transcription.

Ascolta il testo. Poi leggi le informazioni. Scegli le informazioni presenti nel testo (3 per testo).

A) Il programma radiofonico riguarda la cucina tradizionale italiana.
B) Gli ascoltatori partecipano a un quiz e possono vincere un viaggio.
C) La regione Puglia ha ricevuto un importante premio.
D) Questa estate in Puglia è diminuito il numero dei turisti.
E) In Puglia ci sono paesi tranquilli dove ci si può rilassare.
F) La Puglia offre un’ampia scelta di sistemazioni turistiche.

Reading and grammar

This section involves reading two pieces of text, testing your reading comprehension and grammatical knowledge.

Here are some sample questions from a past B1 paper, relating to a report about new public services from the regional government in Tuscany.

A) La Regione Toscana vuole migliorare i servizi online per i cittadini e i turisti.
B) Attraverso un numero verde i cittadini possono segnalare difficoltà, chiedere informazioni, dare consigli sui trasporti pubblici.
C) L’attivazione del numero verde ha lo scopo di limitare i danni ai viaggiatori nell’ambito del trasporto locale.
D) Il numero verde 800-570530 non è attivo il sabato e la domenica.
E) Se il numero verde riceve una telefonata di protesta su un servizio deve informare la ditta responsabile di quel servizio.

See the text and further questions here.

Writing

For the writing test, you’ll need to choose between two prompts and then write 80-120 words.

In this example, you’re asked to write to your landlord to tell them you’re moving out because you have problems with the neighbours.

You’re asked to explain the problem and ask what you need to do, and whether you need to pay rent for the next few months.

Hai dei problemi con i vicini e hai deciso di cambiare casa. Scrivi un messaggio al proprietario del tuo appartamento per chiedere cosa è necessario fare. Spiega perché vuoi trasferirti e chiedi se devi pagare l’affitto dei prossimi mesi.

Do you understand the prompt? Now you need to prove your ability to get the double letters and accents in the right place when writing.

Speaking

The speaking section is in two parts.

The examiner will ask you to begin by introducing yourself and talking about your work, family or hobbies – the examiner will then ask you some questions about yourself.

It should be a discussion, with the examiner asking questions and giving other responses which you are expected to understand. This part will last 6-7 minutes.

Then you’ll be given a choice of several topics to talk about for 7-8 minutes. These topics can be almost anything; you won’t see exactly what they are in advance, but the examiner should give you some time to read through the options and may help you decide which one to choose.

Your answer should include certain grammar points and involve giving your opinion. Again, the examiner will prompt you with questions and it should become a discussion.

Some examples of topics you may be asked to talk about:

    • Preferisci vivere in città o in campagna? Quali sono i vantaggi e gli svantaggi?
    • Quali sono gli aspetti della cultura italiana che senti più lontani rispetto alla tua cultura?
    • L’assistenza sanitaria in Italia e nel tuo Paese: somiglianze e differenze.
    • Quali documenti ti servono per ottenere la cittadinanza italiana? Quali sono le procedure?

Translation:

    • Do you prefer to live in the city or in the countryside? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
    • What are the aspects of Italian culture that you feel are most distant from your culture?
    • Healthcare in Italy and in your country: similarities and differences.
    • What documents do you need to obtain Italian citizenship? What are the procedures?

Could you keep a simple conversation going on these topics in Italian? Then you might be ready for the citizenship test. 

These sample questions are from the CILS B1 cittadinanza exam – see more details on the university’s website here. Exam questions will vary and the structure of exams from other institutions may differ.

READ ALSO: Which italian verb tenses are the most useful?

It usually costs €100 to sit the B1 cittadinanza exam, though some schools also add a default charge for a preparatory course.

Even if you already have a higher level of Italian, exam preparation courses could be useful as they explain the exam structure and likely content.

Find out more about taking the exam in a separate article here.

Speak to your local Questura or consulate, or see the Interior Ministry’s website (in Italian), for the latest information on the process and requirements when applying for citizenship.

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