Give yourself ample time to study!
Once you become an Italian resident, the clock starts ticking. You have one year to still drive using your U.S. driver’s license. After that, if you’re caught driving without an Italian license, you can be in a heap of trouble. Loads of people trying slipping under the radar, but don’t risk it.
I gave myself a solid nine months. Getting ahold of the official Italian driving manual can be difficult. Usually, you have to get one through a driving school (and be signed up for a class). And, getting your hands on a book that has a side-by-side Italian-to-English translation is not easy. One exists, but not in the States that I’ve been able to find. Still, diving into an all-Italian manual will help start building your language skills. If you’re like me, an initial freakout will soon be replaced by greater and greater comfort.
The Italian driver’s license exam puts U.S. driving exams to shame.
Driving safely in Italy involves a solid knowledge of the rules of precedence at intersections. That’s why it is such a meaty portion of the exams, and one that you’ll want to get under your belt so you can tackle the other “biggies.” In Italy, you’re expected to have a much broader knowledge about driving rules than you’re used to if you come from the States. Then there are the parts of the engine (and braking system), and the rules and obligations of emergency roadside assistance.
So, take my advice, and start sooner than later. If you’re moving to Italy in a year’s or two year’s time, get started now!