I’ve been driving for 10 years. Like most good Americans, I got my permit on my 16th birthday and got my license one icy day in 2ft of snow in New York (still can’t believe I passed that one…). I was a driver. I was finished! Not.
After moving to Europe, I got the bad news: my American license was worthless here. There is no way to ask nicely and transfer my license over to Italy. So, after getting residency in Italy, I decided to finally bite the bullet and look into getting my driver’s license. Again. If you’ve found yourself in my shoes, I’ve got you. Follow these steps, and you’ll be on your way to…well, anywhere within driving distance!
How to get an Italian driver’s license
1. Check your seatbelt
Strap in pals, and hold onto your butts. Helmet optional.
2. Be over the age of 18
Poor Europeans. They’ll never know the joy of driving around all night with their high school friends at 16 or 17 (or younger, in some states), sitting in the Taco Bell or Target parking lot, wondering what they should do and being totally bored despite the new wheels. Those were real formative years.
3. Pay a visit to your doctor
First thing’s first: you need a clean bill of health from your doctor before you proceed. And I’m not just being overly cautious– it’s a requirement for driving here in Italy.
4. Sign up at to your nearest driving school
Study time! Although it’s possible to take your exams and get your license directly through Italy’s Motorizzazione Civile (the Italian DMV, for the uninitiated), most Italians recommend getting your license via a certified driving school, or autoscuola
If you’ve taken a look at the (veryyy high by American standards) price of an autoscuola in Italy and feel hesitant to sign up, consider these benefits (we’re not sponsored by an Italian autoscuola ? ):
- The autoscuola handles all of your paperwork for the Motorizzazione Civile on your behalf
- They get your temporary driving permit from the MC for you (valid for 6 months)
- You take your required eye exam at the autoscuola
- They provide you with a school car for your road test
- And they, you know, prepare you for the notoriously difficult exams (duh)
Driving schools are everywhere, and some even offer options for those with weak Italian skills. At the autoscuola, instructors prepare students for both the theoretical and practical exam, and they only allow you to take the exams once they think you are ready.
So, they’re kinda like the jedi masters of driving. I’m normally a do-it-yourself kind of gal, but even I have to admit that, despite the heavy price tag, the autoscuola seems like a great idea.
5. Take the theoretical exam
Back in New York, I remember one question on my theoretical exam to get my permit asked the test taker, “what does this sign mean?”. The picture below? A stop sign. In Italy, the theoretical exam ain’t so simple. In fact, it’s known for being a headache.
So study hard, and study often. Then, head to the Motorizzazione Civile and destroy that exam. If you’re an American, you should probably think about learning what a kilometer is…
6. Practice for your road test
You passed your theoretical exam. Hooray! Now, you need to focus completely on the practical exam. As a learner, you’ll be given a large “P” sign to hang in the rear window of your car, and you can practice as much as you want with anyone who has had their license for a few years.
7. Take the practical exam
You’re feeling confident. You’re nailing those 3-point turns, and parallel parking is under control. The autoscuola jedis have said you are ready. Schedule your road test at the Motorizzazione Civile! Vehicular freedom is within sight.
Just be sure to take the test before your 6-month permit expires. Otherwise, you’re back to step 1.
8. Get your license
You did it! If you passed the practical exam, you’ll get your driver’s license right then and there. In Italy, they print up an official driver’s license before you take your exam so, if you pass, you’re good to go!
Of course, that begs the question: what happens to the newly-minted card if you fail? Scissors, and what I imagine is a bit of quiet crying/internal screaming.
But you won’t have to bear the pain of watching your card cut up to pieces in front of you. No, you have followed these 8 rules to getting your driver’s license, and you WILL get it!