Driving in Italy as a tourist can be a great way to get off the beaten path and really set your own agenda. Not having to worry about time tables of public transportation gives you much more flexibility with your travel itinerary and also lets you visit those less-frequented "hidden gem" locations.
If you plan on driving in Italy during your upcoming trip, here are four tips to remember for a more pleasant experience:
1. Invest in a GPS
Unless your travel partner plans on being a full-time navigator in the passenger seat with paper maps, it's wise to make sure you have some type of GPS technology in the car. In fact, many people in Italy don't even drive without GPS these days!
Some rental cars have built-in GPS systems available, but even if they don't, most rental car companies will offer an add-on GPS rental for an added cost. If you find that neither option is available, check with your mobile provider about international data plans so you can access GPS on your smartphone.
With all the roundabouts, one-way streets, and abrupt turns you will inevitably encounter on the road, GPS can save you lots of time and frustration during your trip.
2. Watch Out for Limited Traffic Zones
Don't assume that because you see a road in front of you that you can drive on it! Many Italian cities have restricted driving zones, called Zona Traffico Limitato or often just abbreviated to ZTL. You'll often see these in historical zones of some cities as a way to control congestion and pollution.
Some of these zones will only allow cars with a certain pass to enter, while others will allow cars at only certain times of the day. Driving in a ZTL will likely result in a significant fine, so please keep these thoughts in mind: don't make a concrete plan on driving in historical city centers and always think twice before driving where you see the sign with the red circle.
3. Keep Default Speeds in Mind
You may find that speed limit signs aren't posted as often as you're used to on the road, which can lead you to you stressing about whether or not you're obeying local speed restrictions.
If you find yourself asking, "What's the speed limit here?" remember the following default speed limits that apply unless otherwise posted:
3. Don't Stay in the Left Lane
In Italy, the left lane is for passing only. Driving in the left lane for any other reason is sure to result in a lot of disgruntled drivers and dirty looks sent your way.
If you want to pass a slow driver in the right lane, keep your blinker on the entire time you are traveling in the left lane, but move back to the right as soon as possible.
4. Cameras Are Watching
In Italy, you're more likely to get a ticket from a camera than a patrolling police officer. Cameras are very common at traffic lights, in ZTL areas, and also on motorways along with radar speedometers.
Even if you are driving a rental car, the data from your license plate can still be used to issue a ticket in your name—even if it takes a few months to be sent to you. Drive as if a camera is always watching so you aren't tempted to break any traffic rules!
We hope these few tips help you enjoy your Italian driving adventures. Buon viaggio!