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DRIVING

‘Anyone can do it’: Why passing your Italian driving test isn’t as difficult as it sounds

As Brits living in Italy could be required to sit an Italian driving test if a post-Brexit agreement on reciprocal driving licences isn't reached, one reader explains why it's really not as hard as you might think.

“If I can do it, anyone can,” Liz Walker, who lives in the southern region of Puglia, said when describing her experience of sitting and passing her Italian driving test.

At 68 years old and with a self-assessment of “limited” Italian language skills, Liz claimed she is proof that getting your Italian driving licence isn’t impossible – even if the process sounds intimidating to non-Italians.

Italy is currently one of the only EU countries not to have reached an agreement that will allow Brits living in Italy to swap their driving licences without resitting a test, but the UK government says that talks are still ongoing.

Once Britain left the EU, British residents joined a list of other countries that require drivers to retake their test in Italy in order to get an Italian licence (patente B) and be legally allowed to drive on Italy’s roads.

Brits are still benefitting from a 12-month grace period in which they can continue to use their British licence in Italy.

Since there are now less than four months to go, some drivers may consider starting to practise for their test so that they can still drive from January 1st – in case a deal isn’t made.

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

Liz decided not to gamble on the two countries reaching an accord by the end of December and her decision became easier when the Italian authorities refused to recognise her British paper driving certificate.

Although she’s from England, she didn’t have the plastic card version of her licence as she had been living in South Africa for the previous 40 years.

UK driving licence photocard. (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS / AFP)

After moving to Italy in January 2020, she decided to start revising for her Italian driving test after repeatedly trying, and failing, to get the paper version of her licence recognised.

Italy does not exchange licences from most non-EU countries, including South Africa, so she couldn’t convert that licence either.

Many people The Local has spoken to about sitting the Italian driving test said it can be a lengthy, expensive and difficult process.

And for those who aren’t fluent in Italian, the country does not give the option to sit the test in English – making it even more challenging.

The theory test is often the part non-Italians who need to sit the Italian driving test find most daunting – with some readers telling us they’re still putting it off because they don’t feel confident enough with either the language or the large amount of detailed theoretical knowledge needed.

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

But Liz told us to “be prepared to sit down and study” and if you have that mentality, you’ll pass it.

So how did she do it if her Italian language skills are basic?

Despite not being able to speak much Italian, Liz said that she could eventually read everything after memorising the questions and terminology.

“I practised the theory test for around three hours a day for two-and-a-half months. Eventually, it becomes instinctive and you recognise what the questions are,” Liz said.

She began her studies during lockdown, taking advantage of the extra time on her hands as she was, like everyone in Italy in March 2020, unable to go anywhere.

Photo: Ilse on Unsplash

With the Italian Driver’s Manual in hand, Liz said she went through all 43 chapters and read every question, translating everything and jotting down words she didn’t know.

She practised online quizzes, took plenty of practice tests and eventually went to a local driving school (autoscuola) to book her theory test.

Only the driving instructor didn’t believe she could do it as she couldn’t speak Italian. He watched in disbelief as she kept sitting and passing practice tests with zero errors.

Liz said she paid a total of €200 for theory lessons at which she just turned up and kept passing practice tests.

Eventually, the instructor agreed to take her to the testing centre (with a €30 transport fee) for the official theory test, which she passed again with no errors.

“I was shaking like a leaf when I went to sit the theory exam, but once I read the questions slowly, I had no problems and finished everything within 14 minutes,” Liz confirmed.

You’re allowed a maximum of 30 minutes for 40 true or false questions and Liz said that it’s not difficult if you’re prepared to read what it says – and don’t assume.

READ ALSO:

She revealed that they ask the same question several times, just in different ways or inverted.

Her hard work paid off, as among the group of seven from her driving school, only she and two others passed – and they were all native Italian speakers.

Photo: Daniel Hansen on Unsplash

On to the practical test

Liz was told she needed to take 12 driving lessons, which she was surprised by, given she’s been driving her whole life.

In fact, six hours of driving lessons with an approved instructor are compulsory, as stated on the Italian Ministry of Transport’s website.

Regardless, she did the 12 hours as requested by the driving instructor, which came to another €240.

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

She found the instructor to be “dangerous”, noting that he didn’t adhere to ‘stop’ signs, overtook on roads where it’s not allowed and kept speeding.

“He broke every rule in the book,” Liz told us.

Fortunately and despite the hazardous tuition, Liz had no problems passing the test, which cost another €50.

It took 10 minutes with a short drive and some basic manoeuvres, such as reversing and a three-point turn, and it was over.

So after a few months of hard study and around €500 later, Liz received her Italian driving licence straight after passing her practical test.

Apart from lots of revision (and in her case, the willingness to overlook dubious driving from the instructor), Liz advised the key is to “go in with confidence”.

If you’re planning to sit your Italian driving test, the following sites contain useful resources to supplement your lessons, along with the Italian Driver’s Manual:

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. Obtaining my license was about the same as in this article. I was fortunate to have a bilingual instructor. I paid 550 euro for the whole process, including multiple theory lesson. I spent many hours of study. Another good resource is
    https://www.rmastri.it/quiz-patente-b/ .
    An Italian driving license is required if one is a resident for more than 1 year, until then a license from a country that does not have reciprocity (such as the US) with Italy is OK

  2. I went through the same process. The autoscuola was indispensible. Even if proficient in Italian, one must still put in the hours of study to memorize the minutia contained in the manual. Beware of trick questions on the quiz.
    Also, be aware that after you pass the test, you will be a considered a neopatente, which menas that you will not be able to legally drive a car with more than 95 horsepower (and other restrictions on power), higher insurance, etc. The horsepower restriction is the biggest problem if you already own a car that is more powerful. I had to sell the SUV that I had purchased in Italy. I later became aware of this utterly asinine rule, which penalizes not only foreigners but also Italians who want their newly-licensed children to be able to drive the family car.

  3. I once went to a circus where one act did daring motorcycle stunts. Yet, the Italian crowd wasn’t impressed because it was just like normal driving in Italy. On the road I’ve seen drivers do incredible things that would get them thrown in jail in most other countries. Why is it that Italian drivers routinely mow through stop signs and drive the wrong direction on one-way streets, yet are incredulous when I make a right turn on red? “You can’t do that!” [gasp] And of course it’s always amusing watching mindfully rule following German tourists try to navigate Italian traffic. On the autobahn one can go 120kph in the fast lane, but on the autostrada you can pass on the right shoulder at 120kph. And yet everyone is required to pass a rigorous exam on rules that nobody actually follows

  4. We are Americans and my wife and I are residents of Italy. I agree with rbwallace that the autoscuola was indispensible. There are many trick questions, but if you keep taking the quizes and practice exams online, eventually will have seen every question on the Theory Test. My wife’s Italian is much better than mine so I was paranoid about the Theory Test, which is in Italian. So I took 250 practice exams online. I would just budget about an hour a day and take 3-4. No problem for either of us.
    The practical exam was pretty much an afterthought. The examiner knew we were both experienced drivers and really just had us do two or three basic things (which of course included parallel parking) and off we went.

    Now there is that little thing about not driving a car with over 75kW for a year. I won’t speculate on this post about the Hp/Potenza of our car. But, I will say that within that first year, I was stopped twice for roadside safety checks. The carabinieri went through every document I had in addition to my Patente (Certificate of circulation, insurance, my residence permit, etc.), and never said a single thing about the power of the car.

  5. Agree with the author: the theory exam is difficult, but totally doable if you’re willing to spend time to study. As a Vietnamese with little knowledle of the Italian language, my personal tip is to study in group and do quiz together-lots and lots of quiz to improve ability to translate and understand the questions. I purchased Quiz from https://www.qwizard.it/site/esercitati/ and found it useful thanks to its format (exactly like the real exam), with explanation after each error. 500 quizzes for 12,20eur I think it’s pretty fair.
    Note: starting from Jan 2022 the exam will change: 30 questions, 20 minutes, 3 errors allowed (instead of 40 questions, 30 minutes and 4 errors like before)

  6. Isn’t difficult?!?!??? Not exactly the article I was hoping for when I read the headline.

    “I practised the theory test for around three hours a day for two-and-a-half months. Eventually, it becomes instinctive and you recognise what the questions are,” Liz said.

    Isn’t difficult. This means she studied 225 hours (2.5 month x 3 hours/day), no? Am I misunderstanding this?

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BRITS IN EUROPE

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.

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