SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

DRIVING

Getting your Italian driving licence: the language you need to pass your test

As if the process of obtaining an Italian driving licence wasn’t complicated enough, you also have to take the tests in Italian.

Getting your Italian driving licence: the language you need to pass your test
Photo by Vincenzo PINTO/AFP

If you’re a resident in Italy and want to drive on the nation’s roads, you may need to get an Italian patente di guida – depending on whether Italy recognises licences issued in your country.

At the moment, some of Italy’s British residents are working on passing their tests again in Italian just in case, as it remains unclear whether UK-issued licences will still be valid from the end of this year.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Will my UK driving licence still be valid in Italy after 2021?

Other international residents find themselves taking the driving test in Italy for various reasons, such as finding themselves living in a rural area and needing a car for the first time.

Passing through all the stages of applying, taking theory and practical tests – for which there is a limit on how many attempts you can take – all make for a demanding experience.

The language barrier can be the biggest obstacle to passing, as it’s not possible to take the tests in English.

Some regions of Italy do allow residents to take tests in French, German or other languages widely spoken in the area, but so far none have an English-language option.

And while some of Italy’s foreign residents have told us that they’ve been putting off getting their Italian driving licence, as they were so daunted by this part of the process, others say it’s nothing to be scared of.

Those who’ve done it and made it through the other side, patente proudly in hand, tell us the language needed is “technical and formal”. So much so, that you’ll know how to label engine parts and tyre terminology once you’re through.

As there is an Italian Driving Manual and several online portals for practising the theoretical knowledge in Italian (see the bottom of the page for details), we’ll focus on the practical side of getting your Italian driving licence – the language you’ll need in your driving lessons and the final exam, the esame di guida.

It’s likely your instructor will speak to you in the imperative, the command form, as it’s the most appropriate for asking you to do something quickly. Let’s assume you’re on good terms with your instructor and we’re using the informal version of the imperative.

Here are some useful phrases and driving-related vocabulary that will help you to achieve motoring freedom.

Driving basics: getting going

Accendi la macchina: Turn on the car

Accendi le luci anteriori: Put on your headlights

Metti la freccia: Put on your indicator

Gira il volante a sinistra/destra: Turn the wheel to the left/right

Il semaforo è verde, rosso, giallo: The traffic light is green, red, yellow

Ferma la macchina: Stop the car

Accelera: Speed up

Frena: Brake 

Rallenta / Riduci la velocità: Reduce your speed

Piede sulla frizione: Step on the clutch 

Mettiti la cintura: Put on your seatbelt

Assicurati che gli specchietti siano ben posizionati: Make sure your rearview mirrors are correctly positioned

READ ALSO: Who are the worst drivers in Europe?

Gears (Marce)

Metti la prima, la seconda, la terza, la quarta, la quinta marcia: Go into first, second, third, fourth, fifth gear

Metti in folle: Put the gearbox in neutral

Turning and moving around

Vai in questo senso unico: Drive along this one-way road 

Dai la precedenza: Give way

Supera il camion: Overtake the lorry

Entra/inmettiti in autostrada/rotonda: Merge onto the motorway/roundabout 

Ricorda che è una strada a senso unico/a doppio senso: Remember it’s a one-way/two-way road 

Prendi la prima/seconda/terza uscita: Take the first/second/third exit

(Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI/AFP)

Controlla il punto cieco: Check your blind spot 

Guarda lo specchietto retrovisore/posteriore: Look through the rearview mirror

Cambia corsia: Change lane

Mettiti nella corsia interna/esterna: Take the inside/outside lane

Prendi la prossima uscita : Take the next exit

Precautions

Non superare i limiti: Don’t go over the speed limit

Attento(a) alla svolta/curva: Be careful with the turn/bend

Fai attraversare i pedoni sulle strisce: Let the pedestrians cross at the zebra crossing

Assicurati che l’incrocio sia libero: Make sure there’s no oncoming traffic at the crossing  

READ ALSO: British drivers in Europe to escape speed camera fines (and vice versa)

Parking 

Metti la retromarcia: Reverse 

Accendi le luci d’emergenza/le quattro frecce: Put on your emergency/hazard lights

Parcheggia a nastro/a lisca di pesce/a pettine: Parallel park, park at an angle, park in line

Tira/togli il freno a mano: Pull up/down the handbrake 

Extra useful phrases

Suona il clacson: Honk your horn

Aziona i tergicristalli: Put on the windshield wipers

READ ALSO: What you need to know about getting an Italian driving licence post-Brexit

Now you’re all set for the road, you can prepare for your theory exam with these useful sites:

For more information on driving in Italy, check the Italian government’s page on steps to obtain a Patente B.

Member comments

  1. Sure, foreigners should learn the language of their host country. However, not everyone has the opportunity to do that before requiring a driving licence. And they certainly can’t learn it well enough to pass trick questions that fool even native speakers. Many EU countries understand that, which is why they have licence exchange agreements and offer tests in other languages.

    And then there is Italy. You can go to any bancomat or self-serve petrol station and select any of six languages. Yet, the electronic driving exam only comes in one. There’s simply no technical or economic reason for that.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

ITALIAN LANGUAGE

‘I’m not Onassis’: Seven things Italian dads say and what they mean

As world-famous promoters of tough love, Italian dads have a repertoire of phrases ready for 'creatively' scolding their children. Here are just a few of of their favourite lines.

'I'm not Onassis': Seven things Italian dads say and what they mean

From doors being carelessly left open to requests for unreasonably expensive items, there are countless things that are guaranteed to upset an Italian dad.   

And whatever the misdeed, they’ll have a snarky remark suited for the occasion. 

Here are just seven of the favourite set phrases you’re likely to hear an Italian dad come out with.

Ma ti sembro Onassis?

Usually uttered after a request to buy something indecently pricey, “Do I look like Onassis to you?” is one of the best comebacks in the Italian dad’s repertoire. 

Onassis was a Greek shipping magnate who established himself as one of the richest men on the planet in the 20th century. 

READ ALSO: Ten phrases to talk about cold and wet weather like a true Italian

We might never get to know where exactly Italian fathers’ obsession with the Greek tycoon stems from, but we are sure that countless generations of young Italians will continue to be reminded that their father isn’t nearly as opulent as Onassis. 

Countless alternative versions of this expression exist, including non sono la Banca d’Italia (“I’m not the Bank of Italy”) or those referring to Italy’s very own cavaliere, Silvio Berlusconi, such as: “non sei la figlia di Berlusconi” (“You’re not Berlusconi’s daughter”)

Io non vado a rubare!

Roughly translatable into English as “I don’t steal for a living!”, this is another parenting staple for requests involving the purchase of expensive items. 

The phrase is generally uttered with sheer indignation and accompanied by various expressions of outrage. 

Financial prudence is top of Italian dads’ priorities. Mess with that at your peril. 

Come ti ho fatto, ti distruggo.

The “I’ll destroy you just as easily as I made you” ultimatum is not used lightly but, whenever the circumstances call for it, the real Italian father will not hesitate to pull out this verbal ace.

Generally triggered by grave displays of disrespect or (very) bad behaviour, the expression is nothing short of a psychological warfare masterpiece.

READ ALSO: These are Italy’s most popular baby names

A family of four posing for a photo.

Italian dads are world-famous promoters of tough love but most also have a soft side to them. Photo by Jean-Pierre CLATOT / AFP

Questa casa non e’ un albergo.

Here’s one for the rogue adolescents having a hard time abiding by the sacred rules of the house, especially those turning up late for meals or getting home late at night. 

Italian fathers don’t like to beat around the bush, so any breach of the law of the land is met with a stark reality check: “This house is not a hotel”. 

The phrase might sometimes be followed by “You cannot come and go as you please” (Non puoi andare e tornare come ti pare e piace) but the first part is usually sufficient to get the message across.

Hai la coda?

Very few things upset Italian dads as much as an open door does. 

It doesn’t really matter what type of door – whether that be the front door, a bedroom door or even a car door – as long as it’s one that their unfailing judgement commands should be shut at all times.

READ ALSO: Puns and plot spoilers: How English movie titles are translated into Italian

As a result, any Italian boy or girl forgetting to close a door behind them should expect to be asked whether they have a tail (coda).

It nearly goes without saying, having a coda would theoretically explain why the guilty party didn’t close the door in question.

Perche’ no. 

If you’ve had the luck (or misfortune – you decide) to be raised by an Italian father, you’ll know this one all too well. 

When mercilessly turning down yet another one of his children’s requests, the quintessential Italian dad doesn’t remotely bother coming up with a plausible reason for doing so. 

It’s not happening “because I said no”. That’ll be all.

Ma da chi hai preso?

It’s only right for us to wrap up with Italian dads’ darkest moment of doubt. That’s when the actions of their children make them question whether they actually are the fathers of the misbehaving brats after all.

The phrase in question, which is roughly translatable into English as “Who did you get this from?”, is usually said with a mixture of dismay and bewilderment. 

The Italian father cannot fathom where his offspring’s disposition to reprehensible behaviour comes from but refuses to accept that his genes might be responsible. 

Several hours of silent introspection generally follow the utterance of this phrase.

SHOW COMMENTS