(This section deals with some of the issues that car owners encounter. We won’t approach the idea of where or how to buy a car, but simply outline the requirements for making a new (or used) car legal in Italy.
We note that buying a car in Italy is much different than doing so in the US. In the US, it’s difficult to get out of a dealership without buying. In Italy, this seems not to be the case. Things happen slowly. You probably can’t drive off with a car even if you want to because the dealership will want to see an insurance contract and payment first, and these things generally must be arranged elsewhere.
If you’re thinking of moving a car from the US or other non-EU country to Italy. Don’t. Just don’t.
Registering a Car
Car registration is handled by the Motorizazzione Civile, the Italian version of the DMV. As AAA does in the US, the ACI (Automobile Club d’Italia) can help with performing this registration. In either case all cars must be added to the Pubblico Registro Automobilistico (PRA). Residence in a comune is required to register a car. As you might expect, car ownership registration requires roughly €80 in fixed fees, plus a provincial transcription tax which varies by location and the power of the vehicle. In Ascoli Piceno province, the APT is currently €4,56 per kw (measuring of the power of your engine in kilowatts). As an example, the small engine size that newly licensed drivers are restricted to for the first year is 55 kw.
This page from the ACI provides an overview of the vehicle registration process and required documents. There is an office of the ACI at
Viale Indipendenza 38/a in Ascoli. The Motorizazzione is a bit further out of town in the industrial area on Via della Tessitura.
Cars with non-Italian plates must be registered in Italy within 60 days of arrival. It is possible to register a car in Italy that was previously registered in a different country, but the documentation requirements (plus translation expense) are significant.
If you buy your car from a dealer, all of the above will probably be done for you. Once your car is duly registered, you will be in possession of a Carta di Circulazione which must be in your car at all times. You will also get a receipt with a long alphanumeric string that can be used to look up your digital ownership certificate in the PRA. Keep this safe at home because you will need it should you want to sell your car.
Insurance in Italy is for the car, not the person. All cars must have a standard 3rd party liability insurance policy (responsabilità civile autoveicoli). This provides liability coverage for damage you car does to other people or property. The terms are pretty standard and there aren’t any options that we know of. You will need such a policy before you can drive your new (or used) car out of the dealership. Expect to pay at least
€650 a year for a RC policy for a small car. In a big city, it might be considerably more.
You can also choose to buy insurance for theft and fire, damage to your car that is your fault (Kasko), or windshield damage.
A number of us in Ascoli contract for insurance with an office of Assicurazione Generali on Via Napoli. Their prices seem sensible, but we haven’t done a detailed survey. If you are coming from the US and can get a record of no claims from your US insurer for the last 5 years, this might save you some money on your car insurance.
When driving, you must keep the following three documents in your car:
- Your driver’s license
- The Carta di Circulazione for your car
- Motor vehicle insurance certificate (carta verde)
Every year, you must also pay a “bollo”, a road tax if your will. This payment is due on the anniversary of your car’s first registration (perhaps by a previous owner). You can pay this tax online, or at the ACI, or at any tabbacheria.
Starting when your car is 4 years old, a “revisione” is required every two years. This is a general car checkup analogous to a smog check in California, except that it covers more of the car’s operational functions. Certain mechanic shops that bear the moniker “centro revisioni” are licensed to perform this test. The date of your next revisione is indicated on your Carta di Circulazione.
In many parts of Italy, including Le Marche, winter tires are required from mid-November to mid-April. Buying two set of tires is a pain, we know. It may be the case that certain all-weather tires are acceptable for both seasons. You can instead carry a set of chains during wintertime, but this will not be a happy solution if you actually encounter snow or ice (which you might). If you wind up with two sets of tires, you should be able to find a mechanic who will perform tire changes for you and store your off-season tires. Mounting both sets of tires on rims makes this process a lot easier.
Many Italian cities are short on space, so parking comes at a premium. You may find that an urban parking space, whether at your dwelling or in a commercial garage, costs a fair fraction of your housing expense. Some sort of reserved space is nevertheless preferable because reliance on on-street parking can add considerable stress to your daily life. We have noticed that in some communities, individual public parking spaces are sometimes informally allocated to specific residents. If you don’t know about or abide by such unwritten customs, it might cause some neighborly discomfort. Even reserved parking spaces are often quite a lot smaller than folks in the US are used to. This is yet another reason why smaller cars are preferable for most Italians.
Most small Italian cities have designated parts of their city centers as ZTL (Zona Traffico Limitato). These restrictions are often enforced with cameras that photograph the license plates of cars entering the ZTL. If you enter without permission, you will receive a hefty fine (multa) in the mail. If you try to appeal the multa, you will probably lose and then have to pay more. If the letter containing the multa doesn’t reach you right away for some reason, you might miss the payment deadline and then have to pay more. Some ZTLs don’t have cameras, in which case you most probably will only get a multa if you try to park therein.
Center city residents usually can get permits to enter and park in a ZTL if they reside there. If there are multiple ZTL zones, you will get permission only for the one where you live. In Ascoli, yearly parking permits cost €25 and can be purchased from SABA (the parking lot concessionaire) at their offices in the Torricella parking garage. Bring proof of your residence address, and place the resultant parking pass in a visible place on or near your windshield.
You will not often find police-manned speed traps in Italy. What you will find is a plethora of speed cameras, any one of which can detect you speeding and cause a ticket (multa) to arrive in your mail. (See the section on ZTLs for a discussion on multe.) Speeding tickets not only cost money, but deduct points from your license. You start with 20 points, and each regular speeding ticket deducts 4. So, a persistent speeder could lose his or her license in a single cross-country trip.
Speed cameras come in multiple varieties. Many local municipalities install them at the town limits on the main road, right around where the speed limit is reduced to 50 kph. The presence of a speed camera is always pre-announced by law with a sign indicating “controllo elettronico della velocità”. Mapping applications like TomTom have downloadable location data for cameras which cause the TomTom device to emit a beep as you near one. In rural areas, many speed cameras don’t actually work. But you never know.
The Autostrade have a much more robust system of speed cameras. On older roads, there are single point systems (or one per lane) which measure your speed one time. More advanced systems on newer roads, however, keep track of cars along long stretches of roads at multiple points and thus can calculate your average speed along those stretches.
If you take trips often, you will probably want to acquire a Telepass device for your car. This device allows you to use the Telepass lane on the Autostrade and thus avoid stopping at toll plazas. It can also be used to pay for parking in certain areas. Your Telepass account can be associated with a bank account so as to pay bills for tolls only a monthly basis. Enquire at your bank to get one. Or, you can stop at one of the Autostrade areas marked PuntoBlu,
The ACI not only provides car registration, but it also sells insurance, maps, and road incident coverage (much like AAA in the US). If you like the idea of having a number to call for help if your car breaks down, you might want to enquire about joining ACI.