For members


EXPLAINED: What’s in the Italian driving licence theory test?

The theory quiz is by far the most daunting part of Italy's driving test. We take a look at what the questions are about and what you’ll be asked to do on the day of the exam.

Vintage Italian Fiat and Vespa motorcycle
Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

There are all sorts of reasons why people who’ve relocated to Italy may want to get an Italian driving licence, not least because of the potential lack of a reciprocal agreement (an arrangement allowing foreign nationals to exchange their licence with an Italian one) between Rome and their country of origin. 

As things stand, people from the UK, the US, Canada, Australia and South Africa are not allowed to swap their ‘original’ licence for an Italian one. 

READ ALSO: Explained: Who needs to exchange their driving licence for an Italian one? 

And, while the Italian Highway Code states that non-EU nationals can freely drive in Italy on a foreign licence for up to one year from the moment they become Italian residents, drivers will be required to get an Italian licence at the end of that grace period. 

Unfortunately though, the Italian driving test isn’t exactly a piece of cake and that’s largely because the theory exam, which candidates must pass in order to progress to the practical test, requires quite a bit of technical knowledge and cannot be taken in English. 

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

So, for those who are considering getting an Italian licence and might, one day, be faced with the dreaded quiz, here’s what the theory test is about. 

For starters, once they have put in a request to take the theory exam, candidates have six months and a total of two attempts to pass it. 

Foreign nationals are generally advised to take the test through a driving school (autoscuola) as they will not only help you with all the relevant paperwork but will also provide you with the adequate training regarding the exam questions. 

That said, residents can also choose to take the test privately, which means that they’ll deal with their local licensing office (Ufficio di Motorizzazione Civile, which is roughly equivalent to the UK’s DVLA or the US DMV) directly and book their exam independently. 

Regardless of which path you choose to go down, the structure and procedures of the test are the same for all candidates. 

READ ALSO: Why is it taking so long to book a driving test in Italy?

The theory exam consists of 30 questions of the true or false type and each candidate is given 20 minutes (that’s a little over half a minute for each question) to answer them. 

Italian police officers setting up a roadblock

The Italian theory test consists of 30 questions ranging from road signage to civil liability. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Only three mistakes are allowed, with any number of errors equal to or above four resulting in a failed attempt. 

The questions presented to candidates are randomly selected, which means that some sections of the Italian Driver’s Manual (Manuale di Teoria) might not figure in the test at all. 

That said, you should know that the exam questions generally refer to the following macro-subjects: 

  • Road signage
  • Driver’s duties
  • Speed limits and restrictions to circulation
  • Safe following distance
  • General rules on vehicles’ circulation
  • Right of way
  • Braking, stopping and pulling over
  • Rules on overtaking
  • Use of indicator lights and horns
  • Personal safety equipment
  • Driving licences, circulation documents and penalty system
  • Road accidents and proper response
  • Driving under the influence and first aid
  • Rules on civil liability and insurance
  • Pollution and respecting the environment
  • Basic knowledge of car parts and vehicle maintenance

So, what actually happens on the day of the exam?

Barring some rare exceptions, the theory exam will take place at your local licensing office. 

Prior to the test, examiners will ask you to produce a valid identity document and the copy of a medical certificate testifying to good mental and physical health. After these formalities, you’ll be asked to take a seat at your designated station. 

Please note that you won’t be allowed to take any electronic device nor any notepad to your station. 

Cars queueing before road stop

Candidates only have two shots at passing the Italian theory test. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Once at your station, you’ll find a pc with a touch screen, which is where you’ll be taking the exam. 

By law, all candidates are shown a brief video tutorial prior to the test. After that, it’s game on.

Candidates cannot ask their examiners any question during the course of the exam – this includes questions about words or expressions that one might not know. 

It’ll be possible for you to move freely from one question to the other (i.e. you don’t have to answer a question to progress to the next one) and change your answers. That said, you’d best keep an eye on the remaining time (this is usually shown in the bottom-right corner of the web page).

READ ALSO: Some of the best learner sites for taking your Italian driving test

Once you have reviewed all of your answers and submitted the test, you will be automatically logged out of the exam page.

What happens after I take the test?

Results will be made available online the day following the exam. 

If you pass, you’ll get the ‘pink slip’ (or foglio rosa) and you’ll have 12 months and a total of three attempts to take the practical test.

If you fail, you’ll have to wait a month before you can have another go. Should you fail your second attempt, you’ll have to re-enrol and submit a new request to take the theory exam (this means paying all the relevant fees again).

Member comments

  1. I am not sure what type of license this article is referring to. The Patente B, which is the normal operating license for motor vehicles has 40 questions in its theory exam, not 30. And the threshold for failure is 4 missed questions, not 3. That said, if you go to a good driving school here and you really practice the online practice exams, the Theory test is not that hard. Some of the questions seem like trick questions, but if you look at how Italian drivers actually behave, they do have a purpose. I highly recommend a decent school and the online exams. As a U.S. driver for nearly 50 years, I was skeptical of the school, but, instead, found it to be a very valuable learning experience.

  2. Anybody who does not use an autoscuola is foolish, IMHO. Amazingly, there can be trick questions on the theory exam, designed usually to trip up non-Italian speakers (e.g. following distance at xxxkm/h is a meno yy meters v. almeno yy meters). The autoscuola instructor will guide you through this potential minefield. The patente process is truly bureaucrats gone wild. Good luck!

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For members


13 ways to make your life in Italy easier without really trying

Living in Italy can be challenging, with bureaucracy, local dialects and new customs to get used to. Here are some tips on how to make life easier without too much effort involved.

13 ways to make your life in Italy easier without really trying

Italy is a great place to live, with (mostly) warm weather, breathtaking landscapes, and a relaxed lifestyle.

But everyday life might be challenging at first, especially for those coming from totally different cultures and ways of life.

So if you feel like your stay in the country could do with a little boost, here are some tips that The Local’s readers (and writers) swear by. 

Always carry cash

Though things have changed quite a bit over the past few years and more shops are now accepting card payments, cash is still very much king in Italy. 

All Italian businesses are legally required to accept card payments, but many merchants across the boot are not very fond of those rules – mostly because each card transaction comes with an average 0.7 percent processing fee – and would rather risk getting a fine than have their clients pay by card. 

READ ALSO: Are Italian taxi drivers required to accept card payments?

So, it’s not uncommon at all to come across places that only accept cash or produce hardly believable excuses (e.g., “our card machine is out of order”). As such, you should always have some notes on you.

Buy ear plugs 

Sleep, and especially good sleep, plays a vital role in good health and well-being, but there are plenty of things that will get in the way of it in Italy.

Whether it’s a pesky neighbour using the aspirapolvere (vacuum) at the most unreasonable time of the day or construction workers running wild early-morning experiments on human noise tolerance, you should try to block any unwanted noise with a good pair of ear plugs. 

Get professonal help with bureaucracy 

Paperwork in Italy is a bit like the Fast & Furious movie franchise. Whenever you think you may have seen the last of it, there’s always more.

In fact the endless red tape is so frustrating and time-consuming that many Italians, when possible, hire a professional to help. 

Accountants and lawyers are not cheap, but can save you a lot of time, if not money in the long run, and their help will greatly improve your chances of success. 

Professional signing papers

Seeking professional help is the best way to navigate Italian bureaucracy. Photo by Scott GRAHAM via Unsplash

Mind your emails

Those who have the fortune (or misfortune, you decide) to work with Italian colleagues or for Italian clients, may already know this: Italian emails read more like a 19th-century epistolary novel than actual emails. 

From obsolete greetings and sign-off lines to various personal titles and odd abbreviations, Italian emails are generally quite stiff and formal. 

It may feel unnatural or irritating, but take your colleagues’ lead on this and strive to abide by the Italian style rules so as to avoid coming off as dismissive or impolite. 

Learn at least the basics of Italian (and some dialect)

This one does require a bit of effort, but it’s essential. Most Italians have a poor command of English, which makes learning Italian an absolute must.

Not having any Italian language skills will make your daily interactions much more stressful than they need to be and will seriously handicap your social life. As such, you should try to achieve basic proficiency at the very least.

READ ALSO: Five tips that make it easier to learn Italian

It might also be useful to pick up some words or expressions from your local dialect as you go along as residents love to use it when communicating with each other.

Embrace Italian habits

From the cappuccino+cornetto (cappuccino and croissant) combo for breakfast to the restorative post-lunch pennichella (nap), you might want to adopt at least some of Italy’s particular traditions.

Aside from the likely health and well-being benefits, doing so will also make you feel more in tune with your new home.

READ ALSO: 17 ways your eating and drinking habits change when you live in Italy

A cup of coffee being prepared

Expect coffee to be the cornerstone of your life in Italy. Photo by Jess EDDY via Unsplash

Forget about being punctual 

Italians are chronically late and that’s not going to change (or, at least, not anytime soon).

As a result, you can pretty much forget all you know about being punctual and adapt to the collective lateness.

For instance, if you and a local friend of yours plan to meet at 2.30pm, you’ll want to turn up at about 2.45 or even 2.50 to avoid twiddling your thumbs for a good quarter of an hour.

It’s worth noting however that you shouldn’t apply the above rule to your work meetings nor to other official appointments.

Get nerdy with mobile apps

However surprising you might find it, Italy seems to have finally caught up with the digital revolution as the popularity of mobile apps keeps growing by the day. 

As a resident, you should be taking advantage of some of these new online services to make your life a tad easier.

READ ALSO: Six essential apps that make life in Rome easier for foreign residents

Useful apps include: Moovit (for public transport), Enjoy (car-sharing), RideMovi (bike-sharing), Glovo (food delivery) and Free Now (to order a taxi).

Get a supermarket loyalty card (or more than one)

Groceries and everyday goods can be quite expensive in Italy, especially in major northern cities

And while going to the best-value supermarket in your area might allow you to save as much as 2,000 euros a year, there’s another money-saving hack that many shoppers tend to ignore: getting a supermarket loyalty card.

READ ALSO: From coffee to haircuts: How the cost of living varies around Italy

Loyalty cards will give you access to generous in-store deals and discounts on store-brand items. By accumulating loyalty points, you’ll also earn yourself the right to claim a free gift, which could be anything from tableware to home furniture. Happy days, eh?

Take advantage of the saldi

If you love a bargain, you might want to make a note of your local area’s saldi (sales) dates. 

There are two rounds of sales every year – one in the summer and one in the winter – but the start and end times vary from region to region.

READ ALSO: When do the January 2023 sales start in Italy

Discounts are usually around 20 or 30 percent but they can climb as high as 70 percent. Shops are required to display the original prices next to the discounted ones, so you’ll know exactly how much of a bargain you’re getting.

A shop's window

‘Saldi’ season is the best time of the year to go shopping in Italy. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

Learn about Italy’s tax bonuses

Each year, the Italian government offers a number of tax deductions to encourage residents to engage in economy-boosting, energy-saving or otherwise worthwhile projects.

In fully Italian fashion though, the paperwork involved is usually a black hole of bureaucratic despair.

READ ALSO: From renovations to cinema tickets: The Italian tax ‘bonuses’ you could claim in 2023

That said, with the appropriate professional help (see above), you might be able to save you and your family tens of thousands of euros.

Sign up to streaming services

From dull game shows to sleep-inducing talk shows, Italian TV is for the most part utterly atrocious – something which most locals will happily admit.

In Italy, you’re better off turning to streaming platforms or resorting to alternative sources of entertainment.

Up your cleaning game

As you may already know, Italians in general have very high cleaning standards and tend to look unfavourably on people who don’t keep their homes squeaky clean at all times. 

If you don’t keep on top of the housework, there will come a time when an Italian friend or relative pays you a visit at your place – and that visit will have to be preceded by hours of deep cleaning. 

You wouldn’t want that now, would you?

Do you have any more tips on making life in Italy slightly easier? We’d love to hear them in the comments section below.