Italy is one of the most popular tourism destinations in southern Europe. From its seaside cities to gorgeous mountains and lakes, Italy offers travelers a wide range of cultural, historical, and architectural wonders. Italy is home to numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites and of course, gastronomy delights from every region. Italy’s most famous cities include Rome, Venice, and Florence, each which offers a wealth of cathedrals, castles, gardens, museums, and architectural sites to explore.
For thousands of years, Italy has been a power player in European culture and historical events. From the birth of the great Roman Empire until today, Italy has continued to be a driving force in cultural, religious and political events. From her masterpieces in sculpture, paint, and architecture to the hottest nightclubs in town, Italy is a popular travel destination for European as well as international global travelers.
One of the most popular destinations in Italy is the city of Rome. That city itself provides a variety of historical sites and wonders from the Coliseum to the aqueducts, to the Vatican and St. Peters.
In Venice, the beautiful Piazza San Marco and church there are popular visiting places, as are the canals, palaces, and museums scattered throughout the city.
The city of Florence is home to beautiful Renaissance architecture including the Duomo and the Baptistery, and also serves as a home to numerous palaces and gardens.
The city of Milan is known as one of Europe’s richest cities. Here, travelers from around the world spend their days shopping, dining, and absorbing the cultural heritage. While in Milan, visitors also take advantage of one of the most famous opera houses in the world – La Scala.
Naples is an exciting city, located on the coastline in the southern part of the country. As one of the older cities in Rome, it too provides visitors with numerous artistic and historical sites to see.
Turin is a popular destination in the north of Italy, nestled in the foothills of the Alps. Visitors visit sites of historic palaces and baroque architecture, as well as enjoy numerous shopping and dining options.
Travelers visiting Italy often travel down the western coastline to the ‘boot heel’ of the country and then back up along the eastern coastline in order to see as much as possible of the beautiful country.
Driving in Italy
When driving in Italy, be sure to abide by driving regulations. When renting a car in Italy, be prepared to drive defensively! City driving can be quite intense for those not used to the traffic or the driving habits of native Italians.
When driving in Italy, it is recommended that you obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) or license. Contact your local auto insurance company to determine the process for doing so. The IDP is in essence a translated form of your own country’s driver’s license that includes your current valid driver’s license information. When traveling, bring your original driver’s license along with you as well. In the United States, it’s easy to obtain an International Driver’s Permit or license through the AAA for under $25, valid for a year.
Rules of the Road
You must be at least 18 years of age to drive in Italy. Be aware that certain requirements come with renting a car in Italy. For example, reflective vests and hazard triangles are mandatory. Keep in mind that while driving in Italy, you’re supposed to keep your headlights on at all times, and mobile phones are not allowed unless you have a hands-free device or headphone.
As in any other country, speed limits vary depending on location and weather conditions. The main “freeway” in Italy is called the Autostrada, and the speed limit on that is approximately 150 kph. On other roads throughout the country, speeds can vary from 110 kph to 50 kph, so watch for the speed limit signs. In Italy, speed limits are posted on white signs with a red circular border.
During wet or rainy conditions, the speed limit may automatically drop between 10 and 20 kph, which is often not posted, but expected. Here’s a brief rundown:
- Autostrada – 130 kph (possibly 110 kph in rain or snow)
- Main highways: 110 kph (may slow down to 90 kph in rain or snow)
- Outside of towns – up to 90 kph
- Urban highways – 70 kph
- Inside town limits – 50 kph
In Italy, seatbelt use is mandatory for front and rear passengers and must be worn at all times. Children under 12 years of age are not allowed to ride in the front seat, and children up to age 4 must be sitting in or have appropriate child restraints.
Throughout Italy, gasoline averages €1.78 per liter. Gas stations are plentiful in urban and rural areas, although in rural areas, these gasoline stations may not be open 24 hours a day. Plan accordingly before traveling long distances, especially at night. Also be aware that many smaller gasoline stations may close between 1:00 and 3:30 in in the afternoon. Many gas stations are also closed on Sundays.
Avoiding Fines and Penalties
Fines for speeding and other infractions in Italy can get quite pricey, and the same goes for drunk driving. Drunk driving laws in Italy are extremely strict and you can be over the limit anywhere in the country if your blood alcohol content is over 0.5%.
Be aware that traffic restrictions exist in many city centers, and if you inadvertently drive into a reduced traffic zone, you may be caught on camera and issued a fine.
When it comes to parking in Italy, you may need to be creative as well as be prepared to walk, as car parks do exist but fill quickly. If you park on the street, make sure to obtain tickets from nearby coin meters and park between the blue lines. In addition, parking tickets must be placed on your dashboard.