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DRIVING

Do you have to take Italy’s driving test in Italian?

If you're planning on driving when you move to Italy, you may need to sit the Italian driving test. Here's what you need to know about the language aspect of taking your theory and practical driving exams in Italy.

Do you have to take Italy's driving test in Italian?
Can you take your Italian driving tests in English? Photo by Bas Peperzak on Unsplash

Making the move to Italy comes with no small amount of practical tasks. From registering for residency, enrolling with the healthcare system to getting your tax code (codice fiscale), your ‘to-do’ list can seem daunting when you first lay down roots in Italy.

READ ALSO: Beat the queues: 19 bits of Italian bureaucracy you can do online

One key part of life for many people making the move is ensuring they can continue to drive – especially for those who have decided to live in more remote areas with fewer public transport services.

Using your own vehicle is often essential to carry out basic tasks such as going to the supermarket, getting to work, or taking children to school.

Although you can drive in Italy as soon as you arrive, the clock starts ticking for how long you may be able to use the driving licence you already own before needing to take the Italian driving test from scratch.

Some countries have reciprocal agreements with Italy in place, meaning they can convert their driving licences without the need to take the Italian driving tests, according to Italy’s Ministry of Transport.

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

However, for others, this option doesn’t exist and you have just 12 months from registering your residency to take and pass the Italian driving exams to get your Italian licence known as ‘Patente B’.

If you don’t complete the required exams within this timeframe, you can’t drive on Italy’s roads until you obtain an Italian licence.

The United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and – at least for now – the UK, don’t have reciprocal driving licence agreements, which means citizens coming from these countries need to start the process as soon as possible after gaining residency in Italy.

READ ALSO:

One significant hurdle in achieving this, according to many readers of The Local, is the Italian language requirement of both the theory and practical driving tests.

The final theory exam and the practical driving test are not available in English, so a degree of proficiency in Italian is required.

Can you request to take the Italian driving test in English?

“The exam can be taken in Italy only in the Italian language and, upon specific request, in German and French,” confirmed ILC & Associates Law Firm to The Local.

“Previously this was different – that is, it could also be taken in English. But in 2012, Italy implemented EU legislation under which, in EU countries, the driving test had to be taken in the language of the country in which the test is taken.

“The only exceptions in Italy for the French and German languages were provided to meet the needs of linguistic minorities in Italy, namely the bilingualisms of regions Valle d’Aosta and Trentino Alto-Adige,” the legal firm added.

You’ll need to get an Italian driving licence to legally drive on Italy’s roads. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP)

The ruling isn’t part of the Italian Constitution, which protects all minorities – “but an EU regulation that unfortunately represents a source of original law and therefore must be transposed directly by the government and in our case by the Ministry of Transport,” the legal experts clarified.

How difficult is it to take the test in Italian?

While some who’ve done it say the Italian driving test is “not as difficult as it sounds”, worries about understanding the language are considerable for others, who have found this to be the reason they are unable to pass.

“My question is why can’t you take your driving test in English? Adding it as an option for taking the test would help,” says Njideka Nwachukwu, who moved to Italy in 2019. She failed the theory test and has to try again, at a further cost.

If you’ve just moved to Italy with a low level of fluency, this could mean just as much a course in Italian as road safety – especially as the theory test is renowned for being technical and the multiple choice questions are said to be linguistically tricky, even for Italians.

US citizen Jed Smith told us he studied the Driver’s Manual for six months before taking the theory test, because he was new to Italy and so the language in itself was a hurdle.

Others who feel they possess a good or excellent level of Italian have told The Local that, despite their proficiency, the language aspect of the Italian driving tests continues to be a source of concern.

“I can speak Italian, so, fingers crossed I should be okay with the theory test,” UK citizen David Kevin Tickle told us.

“However, it is written using precise vocabulary and requires knowledge of Italian to a high standard. If your Italian is anything less, then this becomes a severe language test; it tests your ability to read and understand Italian, and your knowledge of the Highway Code will not stand a chance.

“It should at the very least be available in an appropriate form for speakers of other first languages,” he added.

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

Rebecca Ann Hughes, a British freelance journalist living in Italy, said she also found the terminology “technical and formal”, even though she already had a good grounding of Italian to begin with.

Areas to read up on in your language revision are terms for engine parts, load limits for different vehicles and car tyre treads.

The latest government circular stipulates that candidates will need to take 30 true or false questions, of which you can only get three wrong for a pass.

It’s worth bearing in mind you have two shots at the theory within a six-month period, after which you’ll receive the ‘foglia rosa’, the pink slip. This is a permit that allows you to proceed to the practical test, for which you can have three attempts in an 11-month period, according to the latest government guidance.

You can’t take the Italian driving test in English, even on request. (Photo by FABIO MUZZI / AFP)

How can I prepare for the Italian driving test language?

One route is to go to an Italian driving school (autoscuola), who will not only help with all the paperwork of getting your Italian driving licence, but will also train you in the theory questions.

Once you consistently pass the practice tests, they’ll submit you for the theory exam.

To bolster these classroom sessions, you can revise in your own time by practising online and by studying the Italian Driver’s Manual. Here are some useful sites to help you prepare:

Once you’ve jumped over this hurdle, you’ll need to complete six hours of practical driving lessons and take the practical test in Italian.

To revise for the language you’ll need for that, see our guide here.

For more information on driving in Italy, check the Italian government’s page on steps to obtain a Patente B.

Member comments

  1. When the article states the following: “However, for others, this option doesn’t exist and you have just 12 months from registering your residency to take and pass the Italian driving exams to get your Italian licence known as ‘Patente B’,” it is referring to getting your Carta d’Identità, NOT your Permesso di Soggiorno.

  2. When the article states the following: “However, for others, this option doesn’t exist and you have just 12 months from registering your residency to take and pass the Italian driving exams to get your Italian licence known as ‘Patente B’, ” it is referring to receiving your Carta d’Identità, NOT a Permesso di Soggiorno.

  3. For many expats, who have driven for years in other countries, the primary problem is the language and not the theory. I ace the theory exams when I take them in English. Other than a few rarely seen road signs, the questions aren’t all that difficult or too technical.

    The problem with the practice websites and apps is that they are geared toward native Italian speakers who are learning the theory. Yet, they are not very helpful for learning the Italian needed to take the exam.

    I gathered some statistics on the exams and the result was interesting. The exams have a vocabulary of around 5000 words. Yet, you really only need to know around 300 core words to make sense of the test questions. And the exam seems less daunting when you realize you only need to learn a couple hundred words rather than become totally fluent in Italian.

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TRAVEL NEWS

TRAFFIC: The worst dates to travel on Italy’s roads this August

Heatwaves and traffic jams are not a good mix - but both are inevitable during an Italian summer. Here are the busiest dates to avoid when travelling on Italy's motorways this month.

TRAFFIC: The worst dates to travel on Italy's roads this August

Italy’s autostrade, or motorways, usually see little in the way of heavy traffic, at least outside of the major cities.

But in summer that all changes, as everyone escapes the baking hot cities for the cooler air of the mountains or the coast.

READ ALSO: The 7 signs that August has arrived in Italy

Not only do motorways become much busier, but many smaller roads, particularly in coastal areas and around holiday hotspots, become completely clogged with traffic.

The increased number of vehicles on the road isn’t just inconvenient: it can also be dangerous, with traffic deaths rising by an estimated seven percent in August.

That’s why the Italian government issues warnings each year advising motorists to avoid peak travel times, and even publishes its own calendar showing when traffic is predicted to be at its worst.

The official forecast, produced as part of the ‘Viabilità Italia’ summer travel plan drawn up by the government, emergency services, and and state road agency ANAS, notes particularly busy dates to avoid.

READ ALSO: How will Italy’s Amalfi Coast traffic limit for tourists work this summer?

The calendar is colour coded, with a ‘yellow’ spot indicating heavy traffic, ‘red’ indicating heavy traffic with ‘possible critical conditions’, and ‘black’ indicating ‘critical’ (i.e., dire) traffic. 

The roads in August are (predictably) set to be most crowded on weekends, the government’s forecast shows, with at least a ‘red’ level warning issued for Saturdays and Sundays throughout the month.

Italy's August traffic calendar warning.
Italy’s August traffic calendar warning. Source: Polizia di Stato

Traffic is anticipated to reach its worst levels on the mornings of Saturday, August 6th and Saturday, August 13th, which have been marked as critical ‘black’ periods.

Unlike in July, Fridays are also consistently a bad time to travel on Italy’s roads in August: ‘red’ warnings are attached to every Friday bar August 19th, which has a slightly lower-level ‘yellow’ warning in the morning (but a ‘red’ warning for the afternoon/evening).

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

Traffic is expected to remain at broadly normal levels during the working week throughout the month bar the August 15th Ferragosto national holiday, which this year falls on a Monday; and August 31st, which will see a large number of Italians return from holiday (both ‘yellow’ days).

Yellow heavy traffic warnings have also been issued for the mornings of Monday, August 22nd and Monday, August 29th.

To cover the tail end of the holiday period, ANAS has also put out alerts for the first couple of weeks of September.

Motorists can expect to experience heavy traffic from Friday afternoon to Sunday evening on the weekends of September 2nd-4th and 9th-11th, with especially clogged roads (‘red’ warnings) on the morning of Saturday September 3rd and the afternoon of Sunday September 4th.

Generally speaking, congestion is usually seen on roads heading south or towards the coast in early August, while traffic jams are more likely going in the other direction in the first week of September as Italy begins il rientro, or the return to the cities for work and school.

Check the situation on the roads before you set off on motorway company Autostrade per l’Italia’s real-time online map.

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