Hitting the Road: Driving Terms in Italian

| Thu, 10/01/2020 - 04:25
driving in italy

Of all the adventures that await in Italy, from climbing Renaissance-era bell towers to sampling authentic Neapolitan pizza, perhaps none is more thrilling (or terrifying) than driving. Whether you’re navigating Rome’s famously snarled streets or getting lost along Tuscany’s backroads, taking the wheel in Italy is bound to result in at least one anecdote worthy of your next dinner party.

There are a number of ways you can make your Italian driving exploits a bit less daunting, but one of the most important is developing a basic vocabulary of driving terms before you hit the road so you can ask for and follow directions, read road signs, fill up your tank, or communicate when something goes wrong.

Read on for a few important driving terms to keep close at hand the next time you put the pedal to the metal in Italy:

Asking For and Following Directions

Despite packing maps, downloading directions, and firing up your GPS, it is a given that you will get lost at least once while driving in Italy. Swallow your pride and stop to ask directions - ‘indicazioni stradali’ - with these terms:

Asking for directions:

Mi sono perso/a - I’m lost
Mi può indicare la strada? - Can you show me the way?
Sa dove sta… - Do you know where … is?
Sto cercando… - I’m looking for...

Direction terms:

Sinistra - Left
Destra - Right 
Nord - North 
Sud - South 
Est - East 
Ovest - West 
Accanto - Next to
Vicino - Near
Lontano - Far
All’angolo - At the corner
Davanti - In front of
Dietro - Behind
Dietro l’angolo - Around the corner
Di fronte - Opposite/In front of 
Dopo - After
Fino a - Until, Up to
Metri - Meters
Chilometri - Kilometers
Proseguire/Andare dritto/Sempre dritto - Go straight
Girare - Turn
Superare - Pass
Tornare indietro - Turn around
Fare l’inversione - Do a U-turn
Semaforo - Traffic light
Incrocio - Intersection
Rotonda/Rotatoria - Roundabout or traffic circle
Stop - Stop sign
Viale - Avenue
Strada/Via - Road
Stazione - Train station
Fermata - Bus stop
Benzinaio/Stazione di servizio - Gas station
Strada principale - Main road
Strada secondaria - Side road
Strada a senso unico - One-way street
Strada statale - Local highway
Autostrada - Main highway
Strada bianca - Gravel road

Reading road signs: 

Unless you want to to risk committing a traffic violation - ‘infrazione’ - that might come with a heft fine - ‘sanzione’ or ‘multa’ - you’ll want to be able to read some of the basic road signs - ‘segnalazioni stradali’ - that you may come across while driving in Italy. Here are some of the most common:

Centro - Downtown
Entrata - Entrance
Uscita - Exit
Zona Pedonale - Pedestrian area
Senso Unico - One-Way street
Rallentare - Slow Down
Lavori in corso - Road work ahead
Deviazione - Detour
Attenzione - Caution 
Parcheggio - Parking 
Parcheggio custodito - Parking with attendant
Parcheggio vietato - No parking 
Divieto di accesso - Keep Out
ZTL - Limited traffic area
Pista ciclabile - Bike lane
Caduta massi - Falling rocks
Accendere i fari - Headlights on
Code - Traffic ahead
Disporsi su due file - Two-lane traffic
Divieto di fermata - No stopping and standing
Divieto di transito - No through traffic
Ghiaccio - Ice
Parchimetro - Parking meter 
Passaggio pedonale - Pedestrian crossing
Nebbia - Fog
Strada ghiacciata - Ice on road 
Strada sdrucciolevole - Slippery road
Veicoli lenti - Slow lane

At the pump

Sooner or later, you are going to have to stop to fill the tank. Larger gas and service stations have both ‘self’ or ‘fai da te’ pumps where you can pump your own gas and ‘servito’ pumps where the station attendant pumps gas for you; some small gas stations may have only one or the other option. Be sure to check if your vehicle takes gas or diesel fuel before refilling the tank!
Benzinaio - Gas station
Stazione di servizio - Service station
Il pieno - Fill the tank 
Benzina - Gas 
Normale - Regular 
Super - Super 
Gasolio - Diesel

Other Road-Related Vocabulary

Here are another few terms that might come in handy when taking on Italy’s roadways: 

Camion/Tir - Truck
Macchina - Car
Furgone - Van or small truck
Vettura - Vehicle
Moto/Motocicletta - Motorcycle
Motorino - Scooter
Lampione - Lamp post
Marciapiede - Sidewalk
Informazioni turistiche - Tourist information
Traffico - Traffic
Ingorgo - Traffic jam
Patente - Driver’s license
Patente internazionale - International license
Incidente - Accident
Assicurazione - Insurance
Polizia/Carabinieri - Police forces
Caserma - Police station

Buckle up and get ready to take on Italy’s roads with this helpful list of driving terms to cover any situation