Getting around: travel and transport in Italy
You’ll have no trouble either getting to Italy, all year, or traveling around the country once you’re here. Forget the cliché about only Mussolini managing to get the trains to run on time; the truth is that Italy has a splendid and well-run rail network! So whether you’re taking planes, trains, automobiles or Vespa, you’ll enjoy your travel options in Italy.
Driving in Italy
Okay, the basics: Italians drive on the right hand side of the road (unless something is on their way). You are legally allowed to drive a vehicle from the age of 18, must wear a seatbelt if you’re travelling in the front, and headlights should be on at all times whenever you’re travelling on a motorway. Read our in-depth guide to owning a car and driving in Italy.
In general, parking in Italy is organised based on a disc system. You purchase these blue discs at banks, post offices and petrol stations.
Outside of the major cities, you’ll find that Italian roads are relatively congestion free. Driving in cities at rush hour can prove problematic, so where possible, avoid doing so. The speed limit differs depending on the type of road that you are on, but there are plenty of signs everywhere, allowing you to keep track of what speed you can travel at. Italian roads are generally of an excellent standard; it is really only country areas where you’ll encounter narrow windy, or gravelly roads, which require extra caution.
You are legally required to keep all of your car’s documentation in your car at all times, as well as the following:
- Reflective vest
- Spare tyre and tool kit
- Red warning triangle
As a driver, you’re also legally obliged to stop and help if you see an accident.
Parking regulations in Italy vary from region to region, and each town and city has different rules about the times of day that cars are permitted. This means it’s always advisable to check restrictions before parking up.
In general, parking in Italy is organised based on a disc system. You purchase these blue discs at banks, post offices, petrol stations and the like, and then you pay money into a meter and display the time that you arrived in the spot in the windscreen. In most areas where this system is in place, you can park your car for two hours free of charge.
If you have a British driving licence, you have 12 months from the date you become a resident to apply for your Italian licence.
Elsewhere, parking spaces are colour coded:
White lines: These spaces mark where you are able to park your car for free, but you’ll often find that the time you can stay is limited.
Blue lines: Where you see these lines, you will have to pay and display, much like in the UK. You can pay with card or cash at a meter, and define how many hours you require. In some locations, there are attendants that monitor these spots, and issue the tickets directly to you.
Yellow lines: These spots are reserved for disabled drivers, and are completely free as long as you have a disabled permit. Holders of these permits can park in any of the lined areas free of charge. If you are disabled but don’t yet have your permit, you can obtain one from your local town hall.
Pink lines: Although rare, these spots are reserved for pregnant ladies, or for mothers with small children.
If you’re heading to Italy to view property, get your free Italian Viewing Trip Guide before you book those flights and car hire!
Obtaining an Italian driving licence
If you have a British driving licence, you have 12 months from the date you become a resident to apply for your Italian licence. Fail to do so and if the traffic authorities stop you, your car and licence could be legally impounded. Fortunately, applying for your Italian licence is a simple process, (at least until Brexit, more of which here) that doesn’t involve re-taking your test. It is possible that you might be asked to provide a medical certificate of health from your local doctor, especially if you’re of retirement age.
Re-registering your vehicle
To buy a car in Italy, you need to be an Italian resident. If you are planning to bring your British vehicle to Italy, you have six months before you have to re-register and insure it in Italy. Technically, you can leave the country just before the six months is up, re-enter and get another six months, but if you’re pulled over you will be at the mercy of the traffic authorities, and whether they are in good spirits that day or not.
Trains and buses
For traveling to Italy by train, which can be an utter joy via the Bernina Express, for example, visit the most authoritative website seat61.com. It is perfectly feasible to reach the northern cities in a day from London. And if you are traveling further south, the occasional trip on a sleeper service can be quite exciting using the Thello service from Paris.
Once in Italy, travelling by train is one of the simplest ways to travel around, whether that is between major cities, or from region to region. The major train companies are Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori (NTV) and Trenitalia. Italian trains seem to be more geared up for long-distance travel, with plentiful space for baggage. If you’re traveling from Lake Como to Milan on a Sunday evening though, expect to stand!
Italy boasts a great network of buses too. Although there is no national bus network, there are a number of respected companies that can transport you from A to B. Each of the major cities boasts extensive public transport systems that include buses, trams and even water buses in Venice. More often than not, you’ll find Italian train stations located within walking distance of bus terminals, or underground stations, and tickets are very reasonably priced.
Almost all major cities in Italy have airports, in fact, there are over 130 airports dotted across the country. Although easy to catch a flight almost anywhere, this is the most expensive form of transport. Popular domestic carriers include Merdiana, Air One, Alitalia, and Air Italy, but budget airlines like easyJet, also operate regular flights to domestic destinations.
The process of buying property in Italy is significantly different from here in the UK. This is why we’ve created our completely free Italy Buying Guide, to provide those dreaming of a new life in Italy with all of the practical, legal, and financial information needed to help them realise that dream.