It's the land of beautiful shoes, good food, and the Fiat 500. If you're there this summer, make sure you know your linguini from your Lamborghini by following my driving advice.
Driving from London to Rome takes an exhausting 20 hours – preparing yourself and your car is essential. Check all of your lights are working, and that your tyres have enough tread, aren't damaged, and have the right pressure. You don't want to peer through a sticky mess of squashed flies either, so make sure your washer fluid is full, and give the windscreen and headlamps a wash when you stop for fuel. Get a good night's sleep before you go, stop for breaks at least every two hours, and if you're tired have a nap before carrying on.
Watch the Chianti. The drink drive limit is lower than the UK, 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. There is a zero tolerance limit for professional drivers and those with less than three years experience. If you're going to drive, don't drink.
Be safe and be seen. In Italy you must carry a reflective jacket and warning triangle in your car. Cyclists must wear a reflective jacket when riding on roads outside of towns. Daytime running lights are mandatory, and as a visitor you must use dipped headlights in poor daytime visibility, and in all tunnels at all times. They must also be used when on motorways, dual carriageways, and on all out of town roads. Motorcycles must use dipped headlights during the day at all times.
Whether it's down to Palermo or up to Pompeii, speed limits are lower in the wet – keep an eye on the road signs to ensure you're doing the right speed. Remember, the limit is a legal maximum, not a target. On unfamiliar roads, driving on the opposite side of the road, you probably won't feel as confident so keep your speed down, and your wits about you.
Always carry your driving licence, vehicle registration document (V5), and insurance certificate. If you don't have a photo licence, carry your passport to validate the licence. If the vehicle is not registered in your name, you'll need a letter from the registered owner giving you permission to drive. If your car isn't registered in Italy you must have European-style plates or a GB sticker.
All grades of unleaded petrol (benzina), diesel (gasolio) and LPG are available as well as lead substitute additive. Leaded petrol no longer exists. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted, although they may not work at automatic pumps, which are often the only pumps open out-of-hours and at lunch-time, away from the Autostrada. Lunch time is a very civilized noon till 3pm.