Can Americans Drive in Italy

Can Americans Drive in Italy in 2024? Tips for Stress-Free Driving Abroad

Can Americans drive in Italy and fully experience the freedom to venture off the beaten path and do it at their own pace?

The answer is yes, but there are a few things you need to know before hitting the road.

In this article, you’ll learn:

Key Takeaways

  • Americans need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in Italy legally.
  • Car rental and insurance should be booked in advance, with the Telepass device for navigating toll roads.
  • Be aware of Italian road rules, parking regulations, and alternatives to driving when traveling around Italy.

Why trust me?

Why trust me? My insights come from not only detailed research but also firsthand experiences. I’ve consulted American friends who obtained International Driving Permits, driven in Italy with both rental and personal cars, used a Telepass, and even dealt with the police. This journey makes me well-equipped to guide you on driving in Italy.


Driving in Italy as an American – The Basics

Americans driving in Italy
Hop into a car and explore the charm of Italian towns and villages.

Driving in Italy may be similar to driving in the US, as Italians also drive on the right-hand side of the road, and the steering wheel is on the car’s left side. However, Americans need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to legally drive in Italy with their Italian driver’s license.

An IDP, sometimes called an international driver’s license, is not a driver’s license. It does not require any test. Instead, it simply translates the details of your driver’s license into different languages. To rent a car, you must be over 18 years old and have held a license for at least one year.

When driving on Italy’s toll roads, called Autostrade, keep to the right and adhere to the posted speed limit signs. The maximum permissible speed on the Autostrade is 130 kilometers per hour. Following these rules will help you avoid traffic violations and ensure safety on the road.

To navigate the Autostrade, you will need to follow these steps:

  1. Upon entering, you will be issued a ticket.
  2. When exiting, you will be required to pay the toll. Be prepared to pay cash, as credit cards may not always be accepted at the toll booth. Also, keep in mind that a police officer may be present.
  3. Always carry your International Driving Permit (IDP) and valid American driver’s license while driving in Italy.

Obtaining International Driving Permit

Obtaining an IDP is easy and affordable. It is available in person or by mail through AAA or AATA in the US. You must provide the required documents and fees to obtain an IDP in person. This includes:

  • Two passport photos
  • Your regular U.S. driver’s license
  • An IDP application
  • $20

The process should take approximately 10 minutes.

If you prefer to obtain an International Driver’s Permit by mail, you can send the application and necessary documents to:

1000 AAA Drive
Heathrow, FL 32746
Attn: Mail Stop #28
Phone: +1 (407) 444-7000.

An international driving permit is valid for a duration of one year, and obtaining an international driving permit is a crucial step for many travelers.

Car Rental Tips for Americans in Italy

Parked car in a coastal Italian town
Renting a small car might be a bright idea, considering how narrow many Italian streets can be.

Booking your car rental in advance can help make the process in Italy go smoothly.

When choosing from the available rental cars, opt for an automatic transmission, as it is more straightforward for most Americans to drive and navigate unfamiliar roads. Smaller vehicles are also recommended, as they are more suitable for navigating Italy’s narrow streets and finding parking spaces.

Picking up and dropping off your rental car at the same location can be cost-effective, especially when dealing with rental agencies and companies. This can help you economize and avoid extra fees for dropping off the car at a different location.

Navigating Italian Toll Roads

Italian toll roads use a ticket system that calculates the toll based on the number of kilometers traveled.

Request a Telepass device when renting a car to save time and breeze through tollways. This electronic device allows you to traverse tollways without stopping and paying.

Note: Not all rental agencies provide Telepass devices, so it is recommended to inquire with the rental car company about their availability.


A Telepass device can significantly enhance your driving experience in Italy by removing the hassle of multiple Autostrada entries and exits and simplifying the payment process.

With a Telepass, you can spend more time enjoying Italy’s beautiful scenery and less dealing with tolls.

Insurance and Liability

American car parked in an Italian Village
Fancy touring Italy the Gran Tourismo way?

Before starting your Italian road trip, secure car rental insurance through your travel insurance plan. This coverage can protect you in case of a car accident, as well as:

  • other accidents
  • injuries
  • illnesses
  • trip cancellations

By securing insurance, you can drive with confidence and peace of mind.

To compare travel insurance plans, consider using websites like Yonder and Travel Insurance Master. These platforms can help you find the best insurance coverage for your needs and budget, ensuring you are well-protected while driving in Italy.

Italian Road Rules

For a safe and enjoyable driving experience in Italy, getting acquainted with some basic Italian road rules is necessary. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep to the right
  • Obey speed limits
  • Don’t run red lights
  • Use mirrors on winding roads
  • Be aware of speed traps, such as Autovelox and Sistema Tutor, which extensively monitor speed through highway cameras.

In Italy, right turns at red lights are consistently prohibited. Additionally, mirrors are placed on the side of the road adjacent to corners to help drivers perceive what may be coming and avoid potential difficulties. Observing these rules can minimize the risk of traffic violations and ensure a smooth journey.

Being aware of Limited Traffic Zones (ZTLs) – city areas with restricted access to certain vehicles at specific times – is also necessary.

To recognize and avoid ZTLs, look for specific signs at each entrance and check municipality websites for maps and additional information.

Parking and Limited Traffic Zones (ZTLs)

Parking in Italy can be challenging, especially in popular tourist destinations and city centers.

To find free parking, consider looking for parking lots with shuttle services outside major cities. You can use pay lots with GPS assistance to locate available parking spaces inside cities.

Comprehending street parking designations is vital to avoiding fines and towing.

In Italy, street parking color designations are indicated by blue and white signs with a ‘P’ and yellow curbs for designated parking for persons with disabilities. Additionally, some areas use a parking disc system to regulate free parking spaces with time restrictions.

Remember to be cautious of Limited Traffic Zones (ZTLs), areas in cities where access is restricted to certain vehicles, typically during specified times of the day.

To avoid entering a ZTL without the required permits or exemptions, pay attention to signs at each entrance and consult municipality websites for maps and additional information.

Roadside Emergencies and Traffic Tickets

In case of a roadside emergency, while driving in Italy, you have a few options for assistance:

  1. Ensure your rental company offers 24/7 assistance.
  2. Call ACI (Automobile Club d’Italia) for English-speaking support.
  3. If you cannot connect with either, all major motorways in Italy have emergency phones located every mile.

If you receive a traffic ticket while driving in Italy, you will likely receive an email notification from your rental car company and an administrative fee.

To reduce the traffic ticket cost, pay the fine online as soon as possible using the IBAN number on the ticket. This method is the most efficient way to settle your traffic violations and avoid additional expenses.

Being prepared for roadside emergencies and traffic tickets allows you to confidently navigate Italy’s roads and concentrate on enjoying your trip.

Top Destinations and Itineraries

One of the best ways to experience Italy’s natural, cultural, and historical destinations is by car. Some of the premier road trip itineraries in Italy for American tourists include:

  • Tuscany
  • The Amalfi Coast
  • The Great Dolomites Road
  • Sicily
  • Emilia-Romagna

These destinations offer stunning scenery, cultural experiences, and delectable cuisine.

To optimize your road trip, here are some steps to follow:

  1. Conduct pre-trip research on your selected destinations.
  2. Compile a cheat sheet of Italian road signs to help you confidently navigate unfamiliar roads.
  3. Make a list of must-see attractions to ensure you don’t miss any during your trip.

By following these steps, you can have a successful and enjoyable road trip in Italy.

Whether exploring the Colosseum in Rome, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or the natural beauty of Lago di Garda, driving in Italy fully immerses you in the country’s rich history and vibrant culture.

Alternatives to Driving in Italy

While driving in Italy provides freedom and flexibility, it might not be the ideal choice for everyone.

If you prefer not to drive, consider using public transportation to explore Italy’s major tourist cities, such as Florence, Rome, and Milan. Italy’s public transportation system, particularly the train and bus network, is generally reliable.

To simplify travel planning, use Omio, a booking platform to explore train and bus routes and reserve tickets. This can help you find the most suitable travel arrangements for your schedule and budget.

Whether you drive or use public transportation, there are plenty of ways to experience Italy’s breathtaking scenery, rich history, and vibrant culture.

Train going through hilly scenery in Sardinia
Traveling by train can also be a good idea if you can’t rent a car.

American Driving In Italy Conclusion

In conclusion, driving in Italy as an American is possible and an exciting way to explore this beautiful country.

By obtaining an IDP, renting a car, and familiarizing yourself with Italian road rules, you can confidently navigate Italy’s roads and discover its natural, cultural, and historical treasures.

Whether you drive or use public transportation, Italy awaits your visit!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I drive in Italy with a US license?

Yes, tourists may use their valid American driver’s license if accompanied by an official translation in Italian. Residents must apply for an Italian license within one year of registration.

Can I rent a car in Italy without an international driver’s license?

Yes, you can rent a car in Italy without an international driver’s license, but it is legally required and could result in a hefty fine if stopped by the police without one. Obtaining an International Driver’s Permit before arriving is recommended to avoid any potential issues.

What are the driving rules in Italy for tourists?

Driving in Italy requires drivers to be over 18 years of age, drive on the right side of the road, and overtake to the left. Dipped headlights must be used on two-lane motorways, and the horn should only be used in emergencies.

What is the recommended type of transmission when renting a car in Italy?

For an optimal driving experience in Italy, renting a car with an automatic transmission is recommended.

How can I obtain a Telepass device for Italian toll roads?

Request a Telepass device from your rental car company when booking your vehicle to access Italian toll roads easily.


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