While the stereotypes of Italian roads being chaotic and the Italian driving-style rather aggressive is not entirely unfounded, road transport in Italy is in fact relatively safe. This is due in no small part to the quality of the major roads, in particular the autostrada – the toll road network that covers much of the country. However, the Italian love of automobiles means the number of cars is very high, so urban driving and especially parking can be quite stressful.
Foreign nationals relocating to Italy with licences issued in the EU or European Economic Area are allowed to drive on their own licence indefinitely. Some non-EU countries have reciprocal agreements with Italy which enable their citizens to drive for up to 12 months before exchanging their licence for an Italian one, but other nationalities will be required to change immediately. In Italy, you drive on the right, and people must be aged 18 or over to take the wheel. The maximum speed limit is 130kph (≈81mph), and there are several mandatory items which must be carried in your vehicle, including your licence, insurance and registration documents, a red warning triangle, and a high-visibility jacket.
Taxis in Italy are usually painted yellow or white and can be pre-booked or found at authorised taxi ranks. It is less common to hail a taxi in the street, although some drivers are willing pick up such passengers. All authorised taxi companies operate on a meter system but the fare rates are often set by local authorities, so they should be fairly consistent. Be aware that you may be charged extra for luggage, night carriage, travel on public holiday services or travel outside city limits.
Buses and coaches
Buses and coaches can be a great way to access some of the more remote areas of Italy where trains and trams would struggle to reach. Intercity coaches are run by several service providers, many of which also link Italy with other European cities by road. Local public bus services are very reasonably priced and usually depart from near municipal landmarks such as the railway station or town square.
The Italian railway network is extensive and there are local, intercity and high-speed links as well as international services around Europe. The network is owned and maintained by the state-run company Rete Ferroviaria Italiana. The majority of services are run by Trenitalia, although there is some competition. The quickest and most modern way to travel is the high-speed train, which covers much of Italy – from Turin to Salerno – with further extension planned. However, local trains are much cheaper and more cost-efficient.
Trams and underground rail
There are metro systems in Rome, Milan, Naples, Genoa, Catania, Brescia and Turin, while several other cities have trams or light railway systems designed for commuters.
As a popular tourist destination and busy commercial centre, Italy has a large number of international and domestic airports. The largest international hubs are Rome Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino Airport and Milan Malpensa Airport, but most regions also have a big commercial airport of their own. Although there are domestic flights in Italy, the rail network is much cheaper and the modern high-speed system can also compete on journey times. Italy’s flag carrier is Alitalia, although it faces tough competition from other international airlines and budget carriers.
Other ways to get around
A popular destination for Mediterranean cruises and a maritime commercial centre, Italy has some of the busiest shipping lanes in Europe. Ferries run regularly to international ports as well as the Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia, while hovercraft and hydrofoils are in some cases the only way to reach Italy’s many smaller outlying islands. Certain cities also have their unique travel quirks, most famously the water taxis and gondolas of Venice.