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

If you spend extended periods of time in Italy, can you buy a car to use while in the country? It all depends on your residency status.

Reader question: Can I buy a car in Italy if I'm not a resident?
Cars in Austria can be sold privately or through a dealer. Photo: Cristian Macovei on Unsplash

Question: ‘We own a second home in Italy and we’d like to purchase a car to use there during our visits. But we’re not registered as residents. Are we allowed to buy a car in Italy?’

It’s a common question from people who spend extended periods of time in Italy but are, for one reason or another, not registered as Italian residents.

The short answer is: if you’re a legal resident in Italy, then 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: Can second-home owners get an Italian residence permit?

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.

While you might find a friendly neighbour willing to sell you their old motor regardless, you would also need to register the change of ownership with the Motor Vehicles Office (Ufficio Motorizzazione Civile) and the Public Vehicle Registry (Pubblico Registro Automobilistico or PRA).

This is where you’d run into trouble without the right paperwork, which includes a residence permit (permesso di soggiorno), or if you’re an EU citizen, your proof of residence (certificato di residenza). You’ll also need your Italian tax code (codice fiscale) and other documents, some of which you may not be able to obtain without residency.

So could you instead bring your own car to Italy from abroad? For short periods, there’s no issue with doing this – assuming that you’re willing and able to drive between Italy and your home country.

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

But for the longer term, importing a car to Italy and registering it here would again require you to be able to show proof of Italian residency.

If you live between two or more countries, there’s a lot to consider when deciding whether you should – or could – register as a resident in Italy.

Doing so is more than a simple declaration of your presence in Italy; being registered as a resident means you’ll face certain requirements (most notably those related to paying taxes) as well as rights in the country. Read more about the process of obtaining Italian residency here.

So if registering as a resident is not an option in your circumstances, you may have to stick with the rental car for now or explore the longer-term alternatives to hiring a car in Italy.

Please note that many bureaucratic processes and requirements often vary from one part of Italy to another. This article is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to purchasing or registering a car in Italy.

For further information and advice please contact your local Motorizzazione Civile office or consult the Automobile Club d’Italia.

See more in The Local’s Driving in Italy section.

Member comments

  1. This article is extremely misleading and actually in error. It is very important to note that it is a requirement to have a Carta d’Identità to register a car in Italy. You cannot legally drive the car without having it registered. And you cannot register it without having the Carta d’Identita (not just a permesso). AND further, if you have a registered car in Italy (by having a Carta d’Identità, then you also cannot legally drive and be covered by car insurance (even if they sell it to you) unless you have obtained an Italian driver’s license within 1 year of receiving a Carta d’Identità. So there is a very big can of worms opened here once someone buys a car (which can be sold to you without having a Carta d’Identità), or receives a Carta d’Identità. And of course, there are also tax implications once someone stays in the country more than a certain number of days per year OR receives a Carta d’Identità. 🤪

    1. Hi,
      As you can see, this article is focused on the question of how residency status affects your right to buy a car in Italy – rather than on the car purchase process, the paperwork required to register a car after you’ve bought it, insurance, residency rights, etc – though these are important points, they are beyond the scope of this particular article. We have linked to further information about the registration process for those who want to know more.
      If you could let us know exactly which points you believe are misleading and in error we’ll be pleased to check them.
      – Clare

  2. The fundamental question of the article focuses on the ability to purchase and use (drive) a car in Italy, as is clearly stated directly under the title of the article as follows: “If you spend extended periods of time in Italy, can you buy a car to use while in the country?”
    The short answer is that an individual must have a Carta d’Identità to be able to successfully purchase a car and then legally drive that car on the road. A car cannot be used (legally driven) on the road without being first registered and insured by its owner, who must present his/her Carta d’Identita at registration. A permesso di soggiorno (referred to as a residence permit in the article) is NOT enough.

  3. Hello, I found the following information on a message board which leads me to believe that a non resident Italian with a second home in Italy can register a car. If anyone has any experiences on this matter please share.

    Art. 134.
    Circolazione di autoveicoli e motoveicoli appartenenti a cittadini italiani residenti all’estero o a stranieri (1) (2)

    1. Agli autoveicoli, motoveicoli e rimorchi importati temporaneamente o nuovi di fabbrica acquistati per l’esportazione, che abbiano già adempiuto alle formalità doganali, se prescritte, e appartengano a cittadini italiani residenti all’estero o a stranieri che sono di passaggio, sono rilasciate una carta di circolazione della durata massima di un anno, salvo eventuale proroga, e una speciale targa di riconoscimento, come stabilito nel regolamento.

    1-bis. Al di fuori dei casi previsti dal comma 1, gli autoveicoli, motoveicoli e rimorchi immatricolati in uno Stato estero o acquistati in Italia ed appartenenti a cittadini italiani residenti all’estero ed iscritti all’Anagrafe italiani residenti all’estero (A.I.R.E.) e gli autoveicoli, motoveicoli e rimorchi immatricolati in uno Stato dell’Unione europea o acquistati in Italia ed appartenenti a cittadini comunitari o persone giuridiche costituite in uno dei Paesi dell’Unione europea che abbiano, comunque, un rapporto stabile con il territorio italiano, sono immatricolati, a richiesta, secondo le norme previste dall’articolo 93, a condizione che al momento dell’immatricolazione l’intestatario dichiari un domicilio legale presso una persona fisica residente in Italia o presso uno dei soggetti di cui alla legge 8 agosto 1991, n. 264.

    2. Chiunque circola con la carta di circolazione di cui al comma 1 scaduta di validità è soggetto alla sanzione amministrativa del pagamento di una somma da euro 80 a euro 318. Dalla violazione consegue la sanzione amministrativa accessoria della confisca del veicolo, secondo le norme del capo I, sezione II, del titolo VI. La sanzione accessoria non si applica qualora al veicolo, successivamente all’accertamento, venga rilasciata la carta di circolazione, ai sensi dell’articolo 93. (3)

    (1) Articolo così modificato dalla Legge 25 gennaio 2006, n. 29 e dal D.L. 27 giugno 2003, n. 151.
    (2) Vedi art. 340 reg. cod. strada.
    (3) Comma così modificato dal D.M. 22 dicembre 2010, in G.U. n. 305 del 31-12-2010

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For members


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.


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


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.