Each country has its own unique set of traffic regulations and although there is a degree of universality in the European Union, Italy still has its own laws when it comes to driving in the wintertime.
The rules regarding winter tires and snow chains in Italy vary in different parts of the country. This is simply because the winter weather is so different in the North and South of the country. For instance, in Northern Alpine regions snow is a daily occurrence whereas in Sardinia, in the South, it’s almost unheard of!
Provincial and regional authorities in Italy have the power to determine which roads require snow tires or, at the very least, snow chains to be carried on board your vehicle. This applies to small roads as well as major highways and toll roads.
What Are Winter Tires And Why Use Them?
Essentially, winter tires are designed to offer drivers the optimum level of grip and traction when driving in snowy or icy conditions. Winter tires will stop your car from skidding as you turn corners and will significantly improve your safety when driving on steep slopes in the mountains.
Winter tires have deeper groves, called ‘sipes’, than standard tires. These groves are designed to disperse water and snow so that the rubber of the tire can make proper contact with the road’s surface. This improved contact means that you will maintain better control of the vehicle, even in wet or snowy conditions. Without the traction that winter tires and snow chains provide, driving on wintery roads can be extremely dangerous.
You can tell a legally recognized winter tire because it will have ‘M+S’ written clearly on the side of the rubber. The tire should also have a symbol of a 3-pointed mountain and a snowflake on the inside as well. These symbols will prove that the tires have been designed to provide the necessary traction and performance in snowy or icy conditions. The tires must also have a minimum tread depth of 1.6 mm in order to be in compliance with Italian winter regulations.
Overview Of The Regulations In Italy.
Regulations surrounding the use of winter tires and snow chains vary based on regions and townships. For the purpose of driving, in most parts of Italy, winter lasts from Nov. 15 to April 15. In the Aosta Valley it starts on October 15th and on November 1st in other mountainous regions.
According to the Italian Highway Code, known as the ‘Codice della Strada’, you must be prepared to handle the weather conditions during the winter. The law in Italy states that between 15th October and 15th April all drivers are required to either have winter tires/all season tires or the on-board means of providing non-slip driving on snow or ice, which refers to snow chains. Drivers typically have a one month grace period starting from October 15th during which they can change to winter tires.
In many cases, winter tires are not mandatory but you will need to attach snow chains to your wheels if the weather turns bad. However, if you see a sign that says ‘obbligo di pneumatici invernali o catene a bordo’, it means that you must either be using winter tires or carrying snow chains on board with you.
Essentially, while driving in Italy during the winter you should have snow chains in your car with you at all times. If you are planning to rent a car in Italy during winter, you will be surprised to know that many of them do not have winter/all season tires. Talk to the rental company regarding the rules and regulations in that area before you drive the car out of the lot.
Fineds For Not Having Snow Chains.
Yes, in areas where you are required to be carrying snow chains you can be fined if you are stopped by the police. Snow tires, or carrying snow chains, is mandatory between the 15th October and 15th April each year.
In residential areas, the fine starts at around 41 Euros and can go up to approximately 168 Euros. In areas that are outside of urban areas, the fines are larger and range from about 84 Euros up to 335 Euros.
If you are stopped by a police officer and are found not to have either snow tires or snow chains on board, then you will not be allowed to start the vehicle again until you have remedied the situation! If it is impossible for you to get snow chains you will be fined a further 84 Euros. You will also have 3 points deducted from your driving license.
These fines may change in the future, however, the numbers quoted above are a fair representation of what you could expect if you fall foul of the regulations in Italy.
After the 15th May, if you continue to drive with snow tires you can also face a fine of upwards of 400 Euros.
Theoretically, you are only required to carry snow chains with you in your car. However, there is anecdotal evidence that if the police stop you they may even ask you to prove that you know how to properly mount the snow chains to your tires. Therefore, you should not only be carrying snow chains with you but you should also know how to use them correctly.
The Roads To Avoid If You Are Not Using Winter Tires.
There are numerous roads that require the mandatory use of winter tires or the carrying of onboard chains between 15th October and 15th April. In fact, even if you have snow chains you still cannot drive on certain roads during the winter in Italy. Each of these roads, and even certain stretches of these main roads, have different regulations, so it’s worth checking on the official Autostrade website before you set off!
These regulations apply to different sizes of vehicles and only apply on certain stretches of the road. This is due to the winter weather conditions in these parts of the road and the surrounding terrain. Therefore, it’s almost impossible to remember all the affected roads unless you frequently drive a particular route.
A complete list of the roads on which winter tires or on-board chains are mandatory during this period can be found on Italy’s official Autostrade website, about halfway down the page, here.
Best Place To Buy Winter Tires In Italy.
Winter tires are made with superior materials to standard tires and are specifically designed to handle cold weather conditions. High quality winter tires provide stability, traction and safety, even when driving in the harshest winter conditions.
One of the top suppliers of winter tires is Gommista Specialista. The company supplies winter tires for passenger cars, SUVs and larger vehicles. When you order tires from Gommista Specialista they will be delivered to you and attached to your car for a small additional fee, usually about 23 Euros per tire.
Gommista Specialista has a huge range of tires including both winter tires and 4-season tires. 4 season tires, provided they have the ‘M+S’ symbol on them, are suitable for driving in the snow and ice as well as during the warmer, drier weather. However, if you are unsure, then you should purchase winter tires to insure that they are in full compliance with the Italian Highway Code.
The Best Winter Tires On The Italian Market.
There are many different makes and models of winter tires available in Italy. The following are some of the best:
ORIUM – Winter.
These passenger car winter tires are designed for maximum performance in all weather conditions. With extra secure grip, improved braking distances and superb handling, the ORIUM winter tire can manage snow, ice and wet roads. A great all-around snow tire for a family car, the ORIUM winter tire is second to none and comes at a very reasonable price.
Barum Polaris 5.
Barum’s Polaris 5 winter car tires deliver excellent traction and grip in snow, ice, rain and mud. Designed for cars and passenger vehicles, the tire’s rubber stays soft in the coldest conditions which means you won’t lose traction. The deep grooves make use of optimal positioning, cut at carefully chosen angles, to give you superb rolling resistance as you drive.
ORIUM – SUV Winter.
These winter tires are suitable for 4×4 vehicles and SUVs and provide unbeatable grip in winter conditions. Safe to drive on dry or wet ground, the tires incorporate new technologies to deliver secure high speed performance, even in the snow and ice. The tires are also optimized to reduce your fuel consumption and are made with a new silica-based compound to improve their durability.
Be Safe While Driving In The Italian Winter.
During the winter in Italy, you need to take extra precautions to ensure that you’re driving safely, even in the snow or ice. Of course, it’s absolutely essential to have suitable tires while driving in the mountainous regions but even when roads are icy in central regions it’s worth taking a little extra care.