SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

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 told The Local that 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?

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

BREXIT

What happens if you overstay your 90-day limit in Italy?

If you're visiting Italy from a non-EU country your time here is limited, unless you have a visa - but what happens to people who overstay and how strictly are the rules really enforced?

What happens if you overstay your 90-day limit in Italy?

The 90-day rule has long applied to non-EU nationals like Americans, Canadians and Australians and since Brexit it also applies to Brits.

However it’s not always clear what happens to people who overstay, and whether the rules are being strictly enforced on the ground. 

What is the rule?

Non-EU nationals, including Brits, can stay for 90 days out of every 180 in the EU without needing a visa or a residency permit. This can be in the form of one long stay or several short stays.

The limit is for time spent within the EU, so you cannot simply move to a different EU country, you need to leave the Bloc altogether and go to a non-EU country.

This does not apply to people who live in Italy and have a residency card. 

Brexit: How Brits can properly plan their 90 out of 180 days in Italy and the Schengen zone

If you want to stay longer than 90 days – either because you are moving to Italy full-time or because you want longer visits – you will need to get a visa.

You can find full details on the types of visa HERE, but the key thing is that visas must be applied for in advance from your home country – you cannot come to Italy and then apply in order to extend your 90-day stay.

What are the penalties for people who overstay?

If you spend more than 90 days in the EU or Schengen zone without a visa or residency permit then you are officially an overstayer. And unlike the pre-EU days when passport control consisted of a man in a booth with a rubber stamp, scanning of all passports on entry/exit of the EU makes it pretty easy to spot overstayers.

This is set to become even more stringent when the EES scheme comes into effect next year – full details on that HERE

READ ALSO: Visas and residency permits: How to move to Italy (and stay here)

The EU lists a range of possible penalties although in practice some countries are stricter than others.

Within the system, anyone who overstays can be subject to the following penalties:

Deportation – if you are found to have overstayed, countries are within their rights to either imprison you and deport you, or give you a certain number of days to leave. In practice, deportation is rare for people who aren’t working or claiming benefits, they are more likely to be advised of the situation and told to leave as soon as possible.

Fines – fines can be levied in addition to other penalties and vary according to country. In Italy, those found to have overstayed their visa as a result of border checks conducted while they are voluntarily leaving the country of their own accord are not subject to any fine, but those caught overstaying their visa on Italian soil theoretically face both an expulsion order and a fine of between €5,000 and €10,000.

READ ALSO: What type of visa will you need to move to Italy?

Entry ban – countries can impose a complete ban on re-entry, usually for three years although it can be longer. A complete ban is usually only put in place for people who have over-stayed for a significant amount of time.

Difficulties returning to the Schengen area – even if you avoid all of the above penalties, the overstay alert on your passport will make it more difficult for you to return to the EU, and this applies to any EU or Schengen zone country, not just the one you over-stayed in. People who have this alert on their passport are likely to face extended checks at the border and may even be turned back. You will also likely encounter difficulties if you later apply for a visa or residency.

People who simply stay in an EU country without securing residency become undocumented immigrants and will not be able to access healthcare or social security provisions. If caught, they face deportation.

How is Italy really enforcing these rules?

Among EU countries Italy has a reputation for being among the less strict, and deportations are rare for people who are not working or claiming benefits, unless they have been in Italy for many years without the correct papers.

If it’s a question of simply over-staying by a few weeks it’s very unlikely that police will come to your home and deport you.

However, that doesn’t mean that there are no consequences of your over-stay – what’s likely to happen is that you will be caught next time you leave Italy.

Passports are stamped and scanned on entry, which means that border officials can see how long you have been in the country – if your arrival date was longer than 90 days ago you are likely to be flagged as an overstayer.

While in Italy this shouldn’t lead to a fine, there’s a possibility you may be banned from re-entering the country. 

A re-entry ban can be either for a limited time period or indefinitely and even if you avoid a ban your passport is likely to be stamped as an over-stayer, which can lead to complications for further travel anywhere within the EU. 

SHOW COMMENTS