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BREXIT: UK driving licences to remain valid in Italy until end of 2021

Drivers with a UK licence who were officially living in Italy before January 2021 can continue to use it for 12 months after the end of the Brexit transition period, the Italian government has confirmed.

BREXIT: UK driving licences to remain valid in Italy until end of 2021
Brits in Italy have until the end of 2021 to replace their UK driving licence. Photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP

Residents with a licence from the UK, who had been warned they might have to take an Italian driving test immediately, are in fact allowed to use their current permit until December 31st 2021, according to Italy’s Interior Ministry.

In a new circular dated April 24th, the ministry states that UK driving licences had the same status as EU ones until the end of the Brexit transition at the end of December 2020, which means that the requirement to replace them only came into effect from the beginning of January 2021.

Brits who were living in Italy before this date, then, have 12 months from January 1st in which to obtain an Italian licence – regardless of when they became resident.

Holders of a UK licence still have to take an Italian driving test from scratch to get their patenta di guida, though the British Embassy has said that talks continue on a reciprocal agreement that would allow Brits to swap their licence without resitting the exam.

If a deal is reached before the end of the year, people with UK driving licences could end up escaping the notoriously tricky theory and practical tests, which have to be taken entirely in Italian.

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Photo by JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER / AFP

Article 135 of Italy’s Highway Code states that drivers whose licence was not issued by another EU country – or Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway – have one year from the date they register their residence in Italy in which to get an Italian licence.

But the article cannot be applied retroactively, the Interior Ministry specifies in its circular, which means that even long-time British residents can begin counting their one-year grace period from January 1st 2021 rather than the date on which they actually declared residency.

Meanwhile people who exchanged an Italian licence for a UK one should be allowed to swap back to an Italian patenta without resitting the test, the circular also states.

“Negotiations with Italy are on-going on a future agreement for UK nationals living in Italy to be able to exchange their UK driving licence for a local one without re-sitting their test,” the British Embassy in Rome told The Local earlier this month, without indicating when a deal might be reached.

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Only UK licence holders who have their full-time residence in Italy are required to get an Italian licence. Tourists and second-home owners can continue to use their UK licence when they visit and do not need an International Driving Permit.

While residents with licences from other EU countries – formerly including the UK – can swap their documents without retaking a test, Italy does not exchange licences from most non-EU countries, including the United States, Canada, India, Australia, New Zealand and currently, the UK.

Italy does have reciprocal driving licence agreements with around 20 non-EU countries, including Switzerland, Brazil, the Philippines and Turkey (full list here), which allow holders of these licences to swap their permits without a test.

Member comments

  1. Brilliant! As I wanted to do the right thing I applied for a licence before the end of last year. I’m likely to return to the UK before the end of this year so it looks like that was a waste of time. Now I’ll have to see how to change the licence back to British when I return.

  2. Dave , to exchange an Italian Licence is no problem in the UK they allow it!

    This is good news though, but we do still need that reciprocal agreement.

    1. I was getting worried about the lack of a reciprocal agreement, so you’re saying it’s OK to swap back to the UK one if you’ve previously had a UK licence?

      I noticed when I got my Italian licence it was only for category B (cars), cat A (motorbikes) was empty. My UK licence had both. I’m not sure if that was a mistake or commonplace.

  3. Dave, if you check the GOV site it tells you you can exchange an Italian Licence for a UK one.

    When you exchanged here it should be like for like if a category is missing go back and complain.

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WHAT CHANGES IN ITALY

What changes about life in Italy in October 2022

From energy bill changes to the start of ski season and a (possible) new government, here's what changes in Italy in October.

What changes about life in Italy in October 2022

End of face mask rules – As of Friday, September 30th, face masks will no longer be required on Italian public transport (buses, trains, trams, ferries, etc.). 

The mask mandate was originally meant to lapse on June 15th but it had been extended by outgoing health minister Roberto Speranza after an uptick in infections at the beginning of the summer.

Friday will also mark the end of mask-wearing requirements for those accessing healthcare facilities or care homes, whether they be visitors, patients or staff. 

Although mask requirements have been lifted, staff and visitors will still have to produce a valid ‘super green pass’ – i.e. a health pass certifying that the holder has been fully vaccinated against or has recovered from Covid-19 – to access the above-mentioned facilities.

Barring any extension, the ‘green pass’ mandate will expire on December 31st. 

National airline staff strike – Pilots and cabin crew from Ryanair and Vueling will take part in a national strike action on Saturday, October 1st.

In particular, Ryanair staff will hold a 24-hour walkout, whereas Vueling staff will strike for a total of four hours, from 1pm to 5pm.

READ ALSO: Italian low-cost airline staff to strike on October 1st

It’s still unclear the extent to which the strike will affect passengers, though significant delays or cancellations can not be ruled out. 

Energy bill changes – for some

Those on old Maggior Tutela ‘protected’ contracts governed by Italy’s energy regulator Arera – that’s around one third of Italian households – could find their energy bills spiking from October 1st.

Arera sets electricity and gas tariffs based on market rates, and usually updates them quarterly. From October, however, prices will be updated monthly, and instead of being indexed to the Amsterdam energy exchange, rates will be tied to the Italian virtual exchange point (PSV).

It’s unclear at this stage exactly what effect this will have, but the research institute IRCAF has warned that it could result in bills doubling. For its part, Arera has said the move will protect consumers and guarantee the continuity of supplies.

The majority of Italian households have transitioned away from the Maggior Tutela system – which is due to come to an end completely from January 2023 – and on to free market contracts with private companies since Italy’s energy market opened up to competition.

Those on fixed rate contracts with private companies should be protected from further price hikes until May 2023, under the terms of the decreto bis aid decree.

Start of ski season – Aosta Valley’s ski season will officially start on Saturday, October 1st, when the popular Cervinia ski resort will open its doors to winter sports enthusiasts. 

This year, a daily ski pass in Cervinia will cost between €51 and €57 – it was between €47 and €53 last year. 

Aside from Cervinia’s early start, all the other ski resorts in the Aosta Valley region will open their doors to the public on November 26th provided that there is enough snow on their slopes.

(Some) households allowed to switch on heating

Italy has restrictions on when (and how much) you’re allowed to heat your home, and the first places to be allowed to crank up the thermostat are northern and mountainous parts of the country, usually starting from-mid-October.

Italy is divided into several categories depending on when authorities think it’s appropriate to turn the heating on in each area.

Those in the warmer coastal areas in places like Sicily and Calabria are last to be permitted to flick the switch on at the start of December. Here’s when you can turn your heating on in a typical year in Italy.

This year, because of the ongoing energy crisis caused by Russia’s war on Ukraine, the date on which the first households can turn on their heating has been pushed back one week to October 22nd (with concessions for areas where particularly bad weather is forecast).

The maximum number of hours the heating can be switched on over the course of the day has been reduced from 14 to 13 hours.

Pensions increase

Pensions under a certain threshold are set to rise by two percent from October 1st thanks to measures contained in the aiuto bis aid decree.

A reevaluation of pensions usually takes place in Italy at the start of each calendar year, but the process has been brought forward by three months to combat the cost of living crisis.

The increase affects those on pensions of up to €35,000 per year; pensioners on higher incomes will receive a 0.2 percent rise from November.

New government (?)

After the hard-right centrodestra coalition emerged as the victors in Italy’s September general elections, negotiations are now underway to form a new government.

The process has in the past taken anywhere from four to twelve weeks, which means the country could see a new government sworn in by the end of the month – but it’s not a given.

Clocks go back

At 3am on Sunday, October 30th, the clocks will go back by one hour, marking the end of summer time.

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