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Navigating the complex process of integrating into Italian society can be difficult for a newly arrived Expat and once you have your residency permit, health card and your tax status sorted out you still need to get out on the road!
Travelling around Italy by public transport is generally quite easy, however having your own car makes it far more convenient, especially in the rural parts of the country.
Getting your driving license is a process which takes place in stages; beginning with applying for a learner’s permit, followed by the theory and practical tests.
The Basics Of The Driving Licenses And Age Categories.
The last thing you want to do once you’ve moved to Italy is to fall foul of the law; so knowing the basics will keep you out of trouble during your stay!
- To drive in Italy you must be over the age of 18 and possess a valid license. Anyone caught driving without a license can face hefty fines or worse.
- There are different categories of vehicle in Italy; classified as AM, A1 and A2 for motorcycles and mopeds, but the most important one for you to know about is the category B license, which is for cars.
The legal age to drive different types of vehicle in Italy varies from 14 to 18 years old. The minimum age to drive a car (B) or motorbike of over 125cc (A2) is 18 years while the minimum age to drive a motorbike of between 50-125cc (A1) is 16 years and to drive a moped of under 50cc (AM) it is 14 years.
As you’ll discover when you move to Italy, mopeds and small motorbikes are a very popular option for getting around, particularly in the major cities; but having a car is still the ideal, particularly in the rain or during the cold winter months.
Can You Transfer A Foreign Driving License To Italy?
Depending on where you are moving from your current driving license may still be valid.
If you are moving to Italy from another European Union country then your license is still valid and you can just convert the license issued to you in your home country to an official Italian license.
However, if you are moving from the United States then you cannot simply convert your driving license to an Italian one. You are allowed to drive for one year in the country after you arrive but then after that year is over you need to apply for an Italian driving license. You will also need to go to driving school, take the theory test and finally pass the practical driving test before you can drive on the roads again.
Be Careful Not To Be Led Astray By Dubious Claims.
It’s worth noting that you might see some Expats on Facebook groups, and other social media, claiming that you don’t need an Italian driving license – with some saying that they have been driving on the roads for years without one!
When you move to Italy as an Expat you should certainly obey the law and get an official driving license instead of trying to evade the police for the duration of your stay. Therefore, if you see these types of claims being made you should discount them and take your local Italian driving tests so that you can drive legally in the country.
How Do You Get Your Driving License In Italy?
After your year of driving on your American driving license is up you will need to pass an Italian driving exam. You will also need to have a medical certificate from a doctor that confirms your eyesight is adequate to be safe on the roads as well as your mental and physical health. The medical test is more of a formality and is nothing to worry about, however it must be completed by a doctor.
There are 3 main stages that you need to complete in order to get your Italian driving license, which are as follows:
- You first need to pass a Theory Test. This is a multiple choice test that is taken in Italian.
- You must then obtain a Learner’s Permit, known as a ‘foglio rosa’, in Italian.
- Lastly, you must pass a Practical Driving Test which takes place with a registered instructor/examiner.
Getting A Drivers License – The Stages In Detail.
There are a few steps involved in learning to drive in Italy.
The Theory Test.
The theory driving test is the first stage in obtaining your driving license and must be completed before you can start to practise driving on the roads. The test consists of 40 True or False Multiple Choice questions which are based on the Italian Highway Code, or ‘Codice della Strada’.
Unfortunately, since the beginning of 2011, the theory test must be taken in Italian, even if it’s not your first language. There are a few exceptions to this rule, in that you can take the test in French if you are living in Valle d’Aosta or in German if you are in South Tyrol.
Books which help you to learn the Highway Code are sold in all good bookshops but are only issued in Italian; however, some driving schools may sell translated English versions to help Expats.
To take your theory test you require the following documents, which must be submitted to your local Motorizzazione Civile office:
- Completed TT 2112 Form
- Codice Fiscale (your tax code)
- Photo ID (such as passport)
- Permesso/Carta di Soggiorno (proof of residency)
- 2 x Passport Photo. These must also match the photo which is used on your medical certificate and must not be more than 6 months old.
- A Photocopy of any other driving license you have – for example, your American driving license.
- Application fee.
What’s In The Theory Test?
The test consists of 40 multiple choice questions that cover several main topics. These topics include speed limits, civil and penal responsibilities and the different types of drivers license. The test will also cover the rules of the road and all aspects of good conduct on the road. You are also required by law to be able to perform basic First Aid to people who have been in an accident and so this is also included in the test. You will also be asked about the parts of a car, including the suspension system and brakes.
As you can see the test covers a wide range of topics compared to most countries, and to make things even harder there are even trick questions thrown in, so you’ll have to read each question very carefully. You should try to take as many practise tests in advance as you can to get used to the format and make sure that you feel confident before you take the real theory test.
Once you pass the theory test you will be issued with a foglio rosa, or learner’s permit, and can start learning or refreshing your practical driving skills with an instructor. As of January in 2013, you can only apply for a foglio rosa after you have passed your theory test. After you have your foglio rosa you have a total of 5 months to pass your practical driving exam.
The Foglio Rosa (Learner’s Permit).
The foglio rosa can be applied for at your local Ufficio Motorizzazione Civile (Provincial Office of Motor Vehicles). Once you receive your foglio rosa it remains valid for 5 months during which time you must pass your theory and practical driving tests or else apply for a new one.
To apply for your foglio rosa you require:
- A completed MC 2112 MEC form (you can pick one up from the Motorizzazione Civile).
- Medical health certificate confirming your eyesight, mental and physical health is adequate for driving.
- Valid photo ID (passport).
- Permesso/Carta di Soggiorno (proof of residency).
- 3x passport photos. These must be a match for the photo used in your medical certificate and be less than 6 months old.
- Application fee.
Once you have your foglio rosa you can continue on to take your practical driving exams. It’s highly advisable that you practise with an instructor from the driving school until you feel comfortable on the roads before you take your practical exam. Your instructor will also give you tips and hints for how best to pass the practical exam so even if you feel confident about driving it is still worth doing a few lessons with an instructor.
The Practical Driving Exam.
The practical exam can be a little nerve wracking but if you stay calm and remember what you’ve learnt you should breeze through it! It is not mandatory to practise with an instructor beforehand if you previously held a foreign driving license but it is highly advisable.
To take the practical driving exam you require:
- Photo ID (passport or similar).
- Photocopy of your vehicle insurance.
- For Expats you also require your Permesso/Carta di Soggiorno (proof of residency).
The practical driving exam is taken with an instructor who decides if you pass or fail on the spot. The exam must be taken in a dual control vehicle.
If the exam is taken in an automatic car then you will be limited to only driving automatic vehicles afterwards, however, it’s more common to do the test in a manual vehicle after which you can drive either automatic or manual cars.
If you fail the practical exam your documents will be returned to you so you can use them again the next time you take your practical exam. If you pass the practical exam you will be issued with your official Italian driving license immediately and you can start driving right away!
An Italian Driving License Will Enable You To Explore The Beautiful Country.
Once you’ve passed your driving exam you can really start to explore Italy; visiting all the tiny hilltop towns and villages that are scattered throughout the stunning rural areas. You’ll also be able to make those quick city hops as you continue your integration in Italian society as you begin to live more and more like a local.