A Little Wisdom in Italy Goes a Long Way

Sometimes, wisdom is simply having the good sense to just listen to valid information, so that you can save yourself a lot of major issues and headaches.

Let me explain — a few years ago, I relocated a manager of a major aerospace company who was Italian-American. As per my process, I explained very carefully in writing, to both him and his HR manager, that he could drive for up to one year with his state-issued driving license, from the date in which he requested his Italian residency, otherwise, after that date, he could have problems should he ever get stopped by the police.

After numerous conference calls regarding this matter, he felt that because his grandparents were Italian, he knew Italy very well and no one would ever stop him and check his license. The HR manager kept insisting that because he had an international driving permit, there was no need to take the driving test in Italy to get an Italian driving license. Once again, I put in writing that I was not comfortable with this situation, but I had done all I could to make him compliant in Italy.

Two years into his assignment, he called my sobbing — yes, this grown man was reduced to tears! He had been stopped by the police outside of Varese, and after checking up on him, they confiscated his license and impounded his car. As a result of not being able to drive, his assignment ended early, and he was forced to move backed to the US.

This situation could have been totally avoided, if they had had the wisdom to take into consideration the following:

  • An international driving permit is nothing more than a translation of your license — it has no legal value whatsoever.
  • The US does not have a federal-issued license. Instead, each state issues its own license and Italy does not have an agreement with any US state. In fact, even if you move from NY to California, you have to get a new license. Interestingly, in France, state-issued licenses from the following states can be exchanged for a French driving license. Arkansas (limited to Class B), Colorado (limited to Class B), Connecticut (limited to Classes A and B), Delaware (limited to Class B), Florida (limited to Classes A and B), Illinois, Iowa (limited to Class B), Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio (limited to Class B), Oklahoma, Pennsylvania (limited to Classes A and B), South Carolina, Texas (limited to Class B), Virginia (limited to Class B), West Virginia.
  • In Italy, a license from a country, state, or territory with which Italy does not have a reciprocal agreement, is valid for one year from the time you request Italian residency.
  • Before the window of one year expires, if you wish to continue driving in Italy legally, you will need to take the Italian driving test. Unfortunately, this is only available in Italian (French and German are also available if you live in the Italian regions where these are official languages).

The following is NOT possible:

  • You cannot just show up in France and ask for a driving license if you are not a resident there
  • The same applies to Switzerland where the test is available in English
  • Interpreters are not allowed to accompany you to take the test in Italy

These are just some of the workarounds people have suggested to me. I know that it is not easy, especially if you don’t speak Italian, but the only way to get an Italian driving license is to take the test.

When valid information is being presented to you, please have the wisdom to take it, as you may end up saving yourself a lot of stress and anxiety.

If you would like to book a premium consultation for case-specific information, please feel free to contact me www.damienofarrell.com

Get my mini eBook ’50 Tips On Relocating To Italy’ at the super-convenient price of €3.97 today! Download here

To keep up to date with the latest information and news on Italy, global mobility, Italian immigration, and relocation tips, don’t forget to follow my Facebook business page Damien O’Farrell Mobility Services at this link




Global Mobility Specialist and Expat Coach with thirty plus years’ experience in Global Mobility.

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Damien O'Farrell

Damien O'Farrell

Global Mobility Specialist and Expat Coach with thirty plus years’ experience in Global Mobility.

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