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Driving in Italy and Sardinia

By Keiran Line

In just a few weeks the International 7 Network tour of Sardinia will begin so here we offer some advice for driving in Italy. There is so much to explore in Italy and Sardinia from lakes to mountains and the stunning coastline. Long winding roads bring perfect driving conditions for our cars!

To enjoy the driving and roads of Italy and not bring home an unwelcome souvenir of your trip, it is important to know the rules and here we offer you some guidance to help you make the most of your trip this summer.

The following documents should always be carried: Full, valid driving licence, Proof of ID (passport), Motor insurance certificate, V5 registration document.

If you are driving from the UK from 28th September 2021, the distinguishing mark (or national identifier) displayed on vehicles registered in the United Kingdom changed from GB to UK. This means that vehicles registered in the UK must display the letters “UK” when driven in Italy. This can be incorporated in vehicle number plates or as a separate sticker. Please note however that your car with the letters GB together with the Council of Europe golden stars are no longer valid for driving abroad. If your car does not have the UK identifier within the number plate, you will require a UK sticker when driving in Italy. GB stickers will no longer be valid from the end of September.

In addition to required documents, drivers are also required by law to carry the following items in their vehicle to avoid hefty on-the-spot fines: Reflective jackets – Although not mandatory to carry, you could be fined for walking on the road or hard shoulder if not wearing one. Warning triangle – Compulsory in every vehicle with four wheels or more. Headlamp beam deflectors if driving from the UK. So now you are packed and reading to start driving there are some simple rules for driving in Italy.

Overtaking is forbidden on and approaching level crossings, at bends, on the brow of a hill, at intersections, and overtaking any vehicle that has slowed down to allow pedestrians to use a crossing. Trams can be overtaken on the right but only if there’s enough space. In one-way streets, it’s permitted to overtake a tram on the left if there’s enough room. However, it is prohibited to overtake a tram when it is picking up passengers and where there is no island

Priority, as a rule, must be given to vehicles coming from the right or on rails unless indicated. Pedestrians on crossings and cyclists near cycle paths also have priority. Emergency vehicles and vehicles on rails have priority over other road users. On mountain roads where two vehicles are unable to pass each other, the descending vehicle must reverse to a passing point. If two vehicles cannot pass on a road, priority should be given to the heavier vehicle.

If you watch lots of old films, it would seem the Italians use horns all the time! however the reality is they should be used in moderation as a warning of approach. In rural areas, the use of the horn is compulsory if warranted as a warning whereas in urban areas it is not allowed at any time except in an emergency – so if you need to give a warning flash your lights instead. The exception to this is if a driver is carrying an injured or seriously ill person when a horn is used regardless of imposed limits.

In Italy it’s compulsory to wear seat belts in cars equipped with belts. The fine for failing to wear a seat belt is set between €80 and €323.

Mobile phone or any other electronic device that is not handsfree is illegal

The use of dipped headlights is mandatory outside urban areas , in conditions of poor visibility and when traveling through tunnels. The rear fog lamps may only be used when visibility is less than 50 meters or in the event of heavy rain or snowfall.

Restricted traffic zone ( zona traffico limitato ) - usually these zones are located in the historic centres of cities where it is prohibited without special permission. The only exception is if your hotel is located inside such a zone. When you arrive at the hotel, you must tell the staff the car registration number and model. This will be forwarded to the police, which will add your car to the list of allowed vehicles.

Traffic lights: The international three-colour traffic light system is used in Italy. A flashing red light is used near level crossings, at entrances to mobile bridges, and at ferry boarding points to indicate that road users must stop.

Emergency telephones linked to an SOS telephone network are installed at 2km intervals along motorways. There are two types of emergency telephone on Italian roads, from which you either: Connect to the emergency call centre and speak directly to an operator or press a ‘spanner’ button for mechanical assistance or a ‘red cross’ button for medical aid. A red light will then let you know your request has been received. The 112 number can be dialled from anywhere in Europe and the operator will connect you to an emergency service in the country you're visiting. Operators will answer your call in their native language, English or French.

Italy uses the metric system for all road signs, meaning speed limits and other road signs including distance are indicated using kilometres and metres. The general speed limits for private cars are: In built up areas 50km/h – 70km/h ( according to local signs), Outside built up areas 90km/h – 110km/h, Motorways 130km/h. On some motorways with three lanes in each direction, you may find a maximum speed limit of 150km/h. Speeding fines in Italy range from €40 to €4,400 depending on the circumstances i.e., speed and road conditions. If you are caught exceeding the limit by 60km/h or more could have your licence revoked. All fines for serious offences committed between 10pm and 7am local time are increased by 30%. Radar or speed detectors are prohibited in Italy, although the ‘Point of Interest’ function of a sat nav system can be used to indicate where fixed speed cameras are located.

Police can impose on-the-spot fines to drivers of foreign-registered cars and collect a quarter of the maximum fine there and then. A receipt must always be given. Sometimes, this may be reduced by 30% if paid within five days, although this doesn’t apply to some more serious offences like drink driving. Fines range from €41 for a minor speeding offence to €6,000 for driving under the influence of drugs. Some motoring offences are considered criminal and can lead to the revocation of a driving licence, vehicle confiscation and a possible prison sentence.

Parking as it is in most countries is forbidden on the brow of a hill, near a bend, intersection, in cycle lanes, on pavements, bus/tram stops and loading zones You must park on the right-hand side of the roadway except in one-way streets where parking may be allowed on both sides, providing there is at least 3m of space is left for vehicles to pass. Blue road signs indicate the areas where parking is restricted and must be paid for. This could be at parking meters or automatic machines. Do check local signage as some of these zones can be free of charge for some hours of the day and on Sundays.

Illegally parked cars are likely to be clamped unless causing an obstruction to moving traffic when they will be towed away. In both cases, a fine must be paid to cover the offence plus towing and impounding costs.

Drink-driving is a serious offence and a driver suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be made to undergo a breath test for alcohol or a saliva test for drugs. If there is a traffic accident, then all road users involved may undergo a test. The limit for drivers of private vehicles is 0.05% blood alcohol content. That's lower than some other countries including England. For newly qualified drivers (i.e. less than three years' experience), the limit is 0.00%.

Like many other European countries, Italy has motorways with tolls. Seveners are less likely to use motorways however if you do you can pay for them with cash or a credit card. Most allow a payment system known as Viacard, which is a prepaid card that can be used at toll booths. An electronic payment system called Telepass is also in operation on around 80% of motorways. A transmitter is affixed to the windscreen and allows drivers to go through payment barriers without stopping.

Enjoy your holiday and your driving

For more information on driving in different countries check out



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