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Q&A: Your questions answered about driving in Italy on a British licence

Amid ongoing uncertainty and confusion about Italy’s rules for drivers with a UK-issued licence, many readers have contacted The Local to ask for updates and clarification. Here are your questions answered.

Q&A: Your questions answered about driving in Italy on a British licence
Your questions on a possible UK-Italy driving licence agreement answered.(Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP)

When Britain left the EU at the end of 2020, no reciprocal agreement on driving licences had been reached between Italy and the UK.

Italy however granted UK licence holders with Italian residency a 12-month grace period in which they could continue to drive on their British licences. This was then extended for a further 12 months until the end of 2022.

READ ALSO: Driving licences: Is there any sign the UK and Italy will reach an agreement?

But this temporary reprieve doesn’t resolve the issue of what will happen after this latest extension is up – and the situation is now repeating itself this year.

Many British readers of The Local have been in touch to ask for updates and what would happen should no deal be made, as well as for clarification on other aspects of driving and car ownership as a foreign national living in Italy.

Below are answers to the specific questions readers have asked most frequently about the UK-Italy driving licence agreement and general rules on driving in Italy for British nationals, based on the British and Italian authorities’ current advice.

Q: Have there been any updates on a UK-Italy agreement on driving licences?

A: Not since the new year, when Italy allowed a 12-month extension to the grace period in which British residents could continue to drive on their British licences.

In response to The Local’s most recent request for an update on Wednesday, April 20th, the British Embassy in Rome stated: “The Embassy continues to prioritise the issue of UK driving licence validity in Italy and we continue to engage with the Italian government on this issue.”

The embassy also published a Facebook post acknowledging that “many of you are concerned” about the issue.

“We continue to work at pace to reach a long-term agreement with Italy, so that residents can exchange their UK driving licences without taking a test, as Italian licence holders can in the UK,” the embassy stated.

The Local will continue to ask for updates on the issue.

Q: Will I need to sit an Italian driving test or not?

A: It’s not clear whether this will be necessary, but at the moment it appears to be the course of action recommended by the British government.

Although the embassy’s latest statement says that they are working on a deal so that residents can exchange their UK licences without the need to sit a test, it adds “it is important that you currently consider all your options, which may include looking into taking a driving test now.”

The British government’s ‘Living in Italy’ webpage meanwhile recommends obtaining an Italian driving permit.

“You must exchange your licence for an Italian one by 31 December 2022. You will need to take a driving test (in Italian),” the guidance reads.

“If you need to drive in Italy, you should not wait for negotiations to conclude before exchanging your valid UK licence,” the authorities added.

Q: If I have to sit an Italian driving test, can I do it in English?

A: No. To get your Italian driving licence, you’ll need to sit both the theory and practical exams in Italian.

You can also take the tests in French and German, according to a circular by the Italian Ministry.

Read more about taking your Italian driving test here.

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

British residents of Italy can use their driving licenses until the end of this year, the government has confirmed.

British residents of Italy can use their driving licenses until the end of this year, the government has confirmed. Photo by PACO SERINELLI / AFP

Q: Do I have time to take an Italian driving test if no decision is made until the end of the year?

A: Taking the Italian driving test is known to take months – at least six months is recommended for practicing for the theory tests, taking mandatory driving lessons (even if you already hold a UK driving licence), plus the time to sit the final tests and any re-tests.

If no agreement is reached, it would mean you can no longer drive in Italy from January 1st, 2023 – a huge inconvenience for those who rely on private transport for work or those who live rurally.

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

Therefore, the gamble is whether to start the process of sitting your Italian driving test imminently or hold on for a reciprocal driving licence agreement.

It’s unknown when the authorities will make a decision and whether this will be adequate time to begin taking your Italian driving test. The latest 12-month extension was only announced on December 24th, with just days to go before the same possible scenario.

Q: How long can I drive in Italy on a UK driving licence?

A: The UK government announced on December 24th, 2021 that British residents of Italy who didn’t convert their UK licence to an Italian one could continue to use it until December 31st, 2022.

This only applies to British nationals who got residency before 2022, however.

As things stand, the latest driving guidance on the British government’s ‘Living in Italy’ webpage in January states:

“If you were resident in Italy before 1 January 2022 you can use your valid UK licence until 31 December 2022.”

On the other hand, if you became a resident in Italy this year, you can use your licence for 12 months from the date of becoming a resident. After that, you would need an Italian driving licence to continue driving in Italy.

It is still unclear whether you would benefit from any reciprocal driving agreement, should one be made, or whether this is reserved for those who obtained residency before January 1st, 2022.

Q: I have been living in Italy for years. Can I convert my British licence for an Italian one?

A: No. Just because you’ve been a resident of Italy for many years, doesn’t mean you can still exchange your UK driving licence for an Italian permit.

As noted above, you have a maximum of 12 months from the date of residency to exchange your UK driving licence to an Italian one. Therefore, if you never did so and continue to drive on a British driving licence, you face getting fined should you get stopped by the police.

According to Italy’s Highway Code, article 116 states that fines range from €2,257 to €9,032 for driving on an expired (or invalid) licence. If you’re caught doing it again within a two-year period, there are sanctions of up to one year’s imprisonment.

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

(Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP)

Q: I got my UK licence last year. Is this accepted in Italy?

A: No. Any UK licence issued before January 1st, 2021 will still be accepted on Italy’s roads, as confirmed in a decree issued by the Italian government on December 30th.

That means if you got your UK driving permit in 2021 and are a resident of Italy, it is not valid for driving in Italy.

In addition, it’s worth noting that according to Italian Ministry of Transport guidelines, converting your driving licence without taking the Italian driving exam is allowed only if the foreign driving licence was obtained before taking up residence in Italy.

Q: I started exchanging my licence before January 2021. Would I still need to sit an Italian driving test?

A: Based on a circular from the Italian Ministry of Transport, the UK government states, “If you started exchanging your UK licence before 1 January 2021, you do not need to take a driving test.”

However, if you are still stuck in the bureaucracy of exchanging your UK licence for an Italian permit, it might be difficult to complete the process now. Ensure you have proof of when you started the exchange if you are still trying to convert your UK licence to an Italian one.

Q: If I obtain an Italian driving licence, will I forfeit my UK one?

A: Unlike exchanging your licence, where you surrender your UK licence for an Italian one, if you sit the Italian driving test, you can keep your UK driving licence and hold both permits concurrently.

This is “less certain for those who split their time between the EU and the UK,” according to the UK Parliament, which states that drivers can only hold one licence at a time.

READ ALSO: How do you take your driving test in Italy?

The type of licence you choose to keep is the driver’s decision, “although it may depend on the number of days each year they live in each country,” the guidance reads.

However, remember that if you have residency in Italy, that ultimately makes your decision for you as you can only use your UK licence for 12 months after registering as a resident in Italy.

Q: Do I need an Italian driving permit for short visits to Italy?

A: No. The rules above apply to UK nationals who are resident in Italy only. People visiting Italy for short periods can continue to drive on a UK licence.

You’ll need to carry your UK driving licence with you when driving in Italy for short stays or holidays.

You don’t need an international driving permit (IDP) to visit and drive in the EU and Italy too, therefore.

However, if you hold a paper driving licence or a driving licence from Gibraltar, Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man, you may need an IDP. You can check with the Italian Embassy here.

The question on a UK-Italy driving licence agreement rolls on. (Photo by FABIO MUZZI / AFP)

Q: If I get an Italian driving licence, can I drive in the UK with it?

A: Yes, you can use your Italian licence to drive in the UK. Keep an eye on the latest rules of the UK Highway Code here.

To drive in any other country, you may need to apply for an IDP, which you would need in addition to your Italian driving permit.

See here to see if you need one and to apply (in English).

If you leave Italy to return to live in the UK, “you can exchange your Italian licence for a UK one without taking a test,” states the UK government.

Q: Does getting an Italian driving licence change the car I can drive?

A: Yes. You are considered a new driver (neopatente) for three years after getting your Italian driving licence and face certain driving restrictions in that time.

Limitations for novice drivers include tighter speed limits on motorways and main roads, harsher driving penalty points and limits on car engine capacity and power.

This might mean that if you already own a high-powered vehicle, you can no longer drive it once you’ve obtained your new permit.

Q: Can I bring my UK registered car to Italy?

A: Yes. If you do this, you’ll need to register your vehicle and swap your licence plates. Here’s a guide on the latest rules on what you need to do if you move to Italy with your car or motorbike.

Note: there are time limits from the moment you get residency to complete this process.

Q: Can I buy a car in Italy?

The answer depends on your residency status. If you are a resident in Italy, then yes, you can buy a car in Italy.

As a general rule, if you don’t have residency in Italy – even if you own property in Italy or have business interests in the country, you are not legally allowed to buy a car in Italy.

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

According to the Italian Highway Code, you need to have registered your residency with an Italian municipality to be able to buy a new or used vehicle in Italy.

Have you got any further questions on the UK-Italy driving licence agreement? Let us know in the comments below or contact us with your questions.

Find our latest Brexit-related news updates for UK nationals in Italy here.

Find more information on the UK government website’s Living in Italy section.

Member comments

  1. This article states “As a general rule, if you don’t have residency in Italy – even if you own property in Italy or have business interests in the country, you are not legally allowed to buy a car in Italy.”
    Are there any situations where it would be possible to buy a car in Italy? I am a UK resident and have a property in Italy and a car bought when I was resident some years ago.

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For members

DRIVING

EXPLAINED: The traffic signs you need to know about when driving in Italy

When you start driving on Italy's roads, you'll need to get to grips with a host of new signs and symbols. Here are some of the most common ones you should know about.

EXPLAINED: The traffic signs you need to know about when driving in Italy

If you’re a visitor to Italy or are new to the country, you might be confused by the various traffic signs and what all the different symbols mean.

People who get their Italian driving licence have studied all these in-depth, but if you’re driving on holiday or you haven’t the need to sit the Italian driving test, you can easily get into trouble if you don’t understand the country’s particular rules of the road.

Here, we decode some of the most common traffic road signs you’ll come across.

Parking

Not knowing where you can park and for how long can land you with numerous types of fines.

Generally, if you’re not using a dedicated car park, you’ll need to take care and watch out for the colour of lines you see on the road and the signs you see on the street.

Blue lines mean you have to pay to leave your car there, usually via a parking metre.

Take care with yellow lines, as they are reserved for certain users, such as residents, workers or for going to the pharmacy. 

READ ALSO: How visitors to Italy can avoid driving penalties

If you see parking spots indicated by white lines, anyone can use those and they are usually free – but always check the roadside for any signs or instructions in case.

As you may expect, parking spaces are indicated with the letter ‘P’ (for parcheggio in Italian). In Italy, this is usually displayed on a blue background.

On the photo below, there are a few symbols you need to understand.

Starting from the left, this icon denotes a parking metre and means you’ll have to pay for a parking ticket to leave your car in that zone.

This is valid on workdays – demonstrated by the crossed pick-axes, while the cross means the rules also apply on ‘giorni festivi‘, which covers national holidays, as well as Sundays.

The dates and times below the symbols show when these rules are valid – here, it means from April, 25th to September, 30th, from 8am – 8pm, therefore.

Italian traffic sign showing when and how you can park. Photo: Karli Drinkwater
 
There is much more information in the following parking sign, including the changing tariffs for the days of the week and the weeks of the year.
 
We see the parking metre symbol again, with 8-20 written underneath – meaning you need to pay for a parking ticket between 8am-8pm.
 
 
Below that, there are different sections of the year where the rules on parking change.
 
The first part concerns ‘prefestivo di Pasqua‘, which means the day before Easter marks the start of this tariff, and it runs until May, 31st.
 
On holidays (festivi) or the day before a holiday (prefestivi), the tariff is 80 cents an hour or €4 for the whole day.
 
Feriali‘ means workdays (not to be confused with the similar sounding word, ‘ferie‘, meaning holidays), so from Monday to Friday in this period, parking is free (gratuito).
 
The next one down is valid from June, 1st to June, 30th and from September, 1st to September, 15th. The holiday and eves of holidays are the same tariff, but this time, workdays are also paid parking – 50 cents an hour or €2.50 for the day.
 
Below that are the rates for peak season, defined here as July, 1st to August, 31st. The cross and pick-axes can be seen again, meaning that this applies to all days and there are no free parking days in this timeframe.
 
Finally, this sign indicates some extra instructions for camper vans – in this case, the tariff is 50 percent higher.

In the following parking sign, it’s indicated that only 30 minutes of a stop are allowed and the man pushing goods means that parking for this reason is only allowed for loading and unloading.
Photo: Karli Drinkwater

In the following sign, the red circle with a line through a blue circle indicates that parking is prohibited.

In the absence of any other symbols, the parking ban is valid 24 hours a day on roads outside of urban areas.

On urban roads, without any other instructions, the ban is in force from 8am to 8pm. Supplementary signs with figures, symbols or short inscriptions may limit the scope of this.

In this case, we can see a parking symbol next to an icon denoting the police. This indicates an exception to the rule for police vehicles.

The image below that showing a car being towed indicates that parking constitutes a serious obstruction or danger and that any vehicle parked there may be removed and transported to the municipal depot.

Photo: Karli Drinkwater

This parking ban sign is 24 hours a day, indicated by the numbers below the ‘no parking’ symbol.

Again, we can see that any vehicle found parked there may be removed.

Photo: Karli Drinkwater

In this example of a parking sign, you are allowed to park your car for 15 minutes, indicated by the 15′.

The symbol to the left of the number represents a parking disc, which you must display in the window of your car at your time of arrival.

If the time on the disc shows that you have been parked longer than 15 minutes, you could incur a fine.

Photo: Karli Drinkwater

You may come across so-called ‘pink parking’ (parcheggio rosa)while driving in Italy.

Be aware that these are reserved for pregnant women and parents with children under two-years-old, so don’t park there unless that applies to you.

Since Italy’s Highway Code was updated, you’ll also need a permit to prove you’re eligible for these priority parking spaces.

Find out more about Italy’s pink parking here.

Italys pink parking permit allows pregnant women and parents with children under two years old to park in priority spots. Photo: Karli Drinkwater

ZTLs

Beware of the ZTL – this is one sign you’ll need to learn before driving anywhere in Italy, as there are a lot of them and infringing the rules can sting.

They catch out the best of us; they can be easy to miss as you may not even know what they are.

If you see a round road sign, a red circle containing the letters ‘ZTL’, don’t drive down that street unless you have a special permit.

If you’re just visiting Italy, it’s unlikely you will.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Can I buy a car in Italy if I’m not a resident?

ZTL stands for Zona Traffico Limitato (Restricted Traffic Zone) and you’re most likely to find them around congested areas and inner cities. The government introduced them to reduce pollution and so the only vehicles allowed to enter a ZTL are residents or businesses in the area.

If you unwittingly sail past one, the camera will take a shot of your registration number and you’ll get a fine of between €83 and €332, plus administrative costs, according to article 7 of the Highway Code.

In this road sign, we see that the ZTL applies 24 hours a day (0-24), but the extra information below shows there are some exceptions – under ‘eccetto‘.

You can drive down that ZTL without a permit if you’re on a scooter or motorbike, are disabled, a taxi or in this example, travelling to the two streets specified for services only.

READ ALSO: Reader question: What are the longer-term alternatives to car hire in Italy?

You would need electronic access to reach these streets in any case, which is something you’d receive with a permit.

Generally, if you’re just visiting Italy, don’t drive down a ZTL.

The red cross over the blue circle below that means no parking or stopping. In the absence of additional information, the ban is permanent and 24 hours a day. Your vehicle will be removed if it’s found stopped in any area where this sign is displayed.

Photo: Karli Drinkwater

The following sign indicates that the ZTL has ended and you can drive beyond that point without needing a permit.

Photo: Karli Drinkwater

Residential areas

Take care when driving through residential areas, as the rules may differ compared to driving in a town centre.

The top traffic sign of a house and tree with children playing indicates the start of a street or residential area where special rules apply, which are shown on another sign. We can see them right below.

Driving through this area is restricted to a max speed of 30km/h, followed by a sign prohibiting the transit of goods transport vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of more than 3.5 tonnes – unless it’s for loading and unloading goods.

That is unlikely to apply to you but the sign below might. It informs you that, if parking, you must park in the provided spaces.

Photo: Karli Drinkwater

Pedestrian areas

You can’t drive down areas that are meant for pedestrians only, which is displayed with a round, blue sign containing a figure of a person walking.

It might also be accompanied by the description ‘area pedonale‘, meaning pedestrian area. Here, there are no times specified, so assume that it applies 24 hours a day.

There are exceptions in this sign, though. Cyclists may use that route, shown by the cycle symbol and the description ‘velocipiedi‘ (any form of pedalled vehicle with two or more wheels), as may authorised vehicles (veicoli autorizzati).

That could mean street sweepers or residents, for example. If you’re in doubt, it’s unlikely you can drive down that area.

Photo: Karli Drinkwater
 
See full details of Italy’s highway code here and visit our travel section for the latest updates.
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