The Italian Driver’s Manual – Definitely NOT Light Reading.

Italian driving manual and workbook.

The Italian driver’s manual and workbook (with sample tests) are large and comprehensive.

Your faithful companions on your to journey getting your license are the Italian driver’s manual, and the accompanying workbook. Yes, make them your friends, even though you will probably be incredibly overwhelmed when they are placed in your hands by your driving instructor. When I first attended driving school and received my copies (on loan from the school for the duration of the course), I perused the manual, gulped, and tried to breathe. Never before in my time in the States had I seen a driving manual so thick and so comprehensive. “Surely I can’t be expected to know all of this!” I exclaimed to myself, as if to repel a dark force coming over me. Well, I WAS expected to know all of “this” if I wanted to get an Italian driver’s license.

I heard little of the first class I was attending, because I was busy trying to figure out what I had to learn and how I was going to do it. I am one of those creative types who have a balance of left and right brain skills – which means I pride myself on creatively approaching a challenge, while simultaneously needing a linear plan for reaching the finish line. Class was not the place to figure this out. I needed to be safely at home with quietude.

At home, I studied the manual further, and decided to study just four pages. Well, those four pages took me two hours of referring to an Italian-English dictionary, and making translations on sticky notes, to begin comprehending the content. And, the manual is over 300 pages. If my studies of the Italian language had been more advanced, this would have been much less daunting. Still, as my partner pointed out after looking at the manual, much of the language used was fairly archaic with words and terms that aren’t readily found in modern conversation. I had a real job ahead of me…

After attending a couple of classes each week for the first month, I decided that first and foremost I needed to be more knowledgeable and therefore more at ease with the contents of the manual before I could get the most out of class. I continued attending class every so often to start training my ear to hearing Italian spoken in this setting.

For six months I carved out time every day to study the manual and to use online websites dedicated to studying (and Google Translator, thank you Google). I’ll share more of these resources and study tips in a subsequent email.

Here are some specifics about the manual and what is contained (and on what you will be quizzed). The manual begins by grounding you in the important road definitions, types of vehicles, and types of licenses. Then it is organized by:

In “Intersections and above you will have to study a wide array of overhead diagrams demonstrating different types of intersections (some with as many as 5 roads intersecting) and different types of conditions (types of cars and indications in which direction they are intending to turn). At first I could not, for the life of me, figure out the underlying reasoning between the right of precedence. And, then the metaphorical light bulb of realization went off.

In “Responsibility and behavior in case of accident, First Aid, Physical state of the driver” you will be required to understand what procedure you follow if an accident occurs (there is a specific form you must keep in your car that has to be filled out), civil and criminal responsibilities, and what to do if there are injuries. You are obliged by law to stop, even if you aren’t involved in an accident, and render medical assistance (within defined limits) until qualified emergency medical help arrives. For instance, be prepared to know what to do if a injured passenger has a foreign object lodged in his or her eye (it was one of the questions on my exam).

In “Constituent elements of the vehicle, lenses, Insurance, restraint systems” be prepared to learn how different types of engines are constructed and how they work. The same goes true for braking systems. I don’t know about you, but for my driver’s license tests in the States I wasn’t required to know the specific workings “under the hood”.

A useful online resource is the QuizScuolaGuida website. This is the Google translated version. Be aware that, while Google does a great job in this regard, the translations are not always “smooth” – particularly when it comes to translating material that contains words not commonly used in modern Italian. Online resources like this came in very handy when I was working to translate the manual with greater speed. Other online studying resources are:


Your driving school will also provide you with a workbook. It is packed with sample tests (answers are in the back) supposedly containing all possible questions you could be given on the exam. Your instructor should provide you with answer sheets to keep track of your progress. While the workbook is indeed useful, I found other online resource more “user friendly”. More on that in the post about studying.

In closing, learning the manual IS doable, and can be fun – particularly if you are creative about how you approach studying, and provided such creativity reflects learning methods that work best for you.

An important disclaimer: These are simply my opinions and observations based on my experience of getting an Italian driver’s license, and are in no way meant to be a substitution for your own research and decisions in how to proceed.