Getting on the road in Italy

Driving in Italy is not for the faint-hearted but likewise it is a ‘must’ for many expats who retire to the countryside of Italy.

Whilst living in the city may not lend itself to the purchasing of a car, living in the sticks in Italy it becomes essential. As with all administrative tasks, there are a few but essential steps you will need to undertake before you can get on the road. The first and most essential documentation you must have in order to purchase a car is residency. You can only buy a car as an Italian resident and so as an EU resident you may either wish to bring your car with you from your home country or for those who don’t have this as an option to rent a car for the duration until you obtain your residency. Also think about what type of car do you need, just a little run around for the town or something a bit bigger and more powerful to cope with longer journeys. Think what your personal needs are and then look around locally to see what people drive, local cars made in Italy have cheaper parts and repairs.
Whether to buy a new or a used car? This is entirely a personal decision. Buying new is simpler than buying a used car, there is less paperwork to complete, your insurance should be cheaper and the car tax (bollo) for your car will cost less too. The latest models will be more economical in fuel and also cities such as Milan and Turin, where they limit the use of older (and more polluting cars) you won’t have any problems being environmentally friendly. In order to buy a new car you will need your certificate of residency, codice fiscale (tax code), proof of insurance and identity documents. Most towns have new and used car dealerships and many offer promotions throughout the year.
If you decide that your money is better spent on a used car you will be entering a more complicated field of car sales. Used cars are sold through dealerships, through internet auction sites, specific magazines and even notices taped inside cars by their owners – usually with just the word ‘Vendesi’ (For sale) and a phone number. If you find a car you like, take a mechanic with you, take a test drive and have it thoroughly checked over. Where a car dealer usually changes the ownership documents, when you buy a secondhand car, you will need to go with the car’s owner to the Automobile Club Italiano Pubblico Registro Automoblistico (Italian automobile public registry office) and change the ownership. If in doubt, take someone who speaks English and Italian to help you with the process.
Before you can get on the road you must also register your car with the Office of Motor Vehicles (Ufficio della Motorizzazione Civile), often there are offices who will, for a fee, assist and deal with your necessary ownership and registration documents.
Your assicurazione auto (Car Insurance) may be quite expensive depending on the sort of cover you want. Fully comprehensive (casco) and third party (responsabilità civile) can vary enormously. It is best to shop around as Italian insurance companies are becoming increasingly competitive, you can add extra cover to include theft for example. As an expat you may find companies in your home country willing to insure your Italian car at a cheaper rate, giving you more cover for your money.
If your driving licence is an EU licence, you can use it throughout the EU and drive in the EU as long as it remains valid. You can have your licence renewed (or exchanged from a licence issued by another country) only by the authorities of the country where you are resident. They will then exchange your original driving licence for a local one. You will then be subject to the same rules as nationals of that country regarding validity periods, medical checks and so on. If you have a non-EU driving licence your local Italian authorities will direct you as to the correct procedure to follow.
And finally, a few useful Italian words to look out for on the roads:
• Centro – Centre of Town
• Entrata – Entrance
• Uscita – Exit
• Lavori In Corso – Road Works Ahead
• Zona Pedonale – Pedestrian Zone
• Senso Unico – One-Way Street
• Rallentare – Slow Down
• Deviazione – Detour
• Attenzione – Caution
• Entrata Vietata – No Entry
• Parcheggio – Parking
• Parcheggio Vietato – No Parking
• Vietato l’Accesso – Keep Out
Happy driving!