La patente di guida requires dedication to these resources:

Your faithful companions on your journey earning your license are the Italian driver’s manual and the accompanying workbook. Make them your friends even though you will probably be incredibly overwhelmed when you find them in your hands by your driving instructor. When I first attended driving school and received my copies, I perused the Italian driver’s 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 absorbed very little in the first class I was attended. Why? Because I was busy trying to figure out what I had to learn and how the heck I was going to do it. I am one of those creative types who have a balance of left and right brain skills. That means I pride myself on creatively approaching a challenge, while simultaneously needing a linear plan for reaching the finish line. The classroom was not the place to figure this out. I needed to be safe at home with quietude.

Hunkering at home with the Italian Driver’s Manual

At home, I opened the manual further and decided to study just four pages. Those pages took me two hours of referring to an Italian-English dictionary and making translations. I made sticky notes to keep track of the content. 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 Italian partner pointed out after looking over the manual, much of the language used is fairly archaic. The manual uses words and terms that aren’t readily found in modern conversation. Yikes!

After attending a few classes each week during the first month, I made a decision. I needed to be more knowledgeable and therefore more at ease with the contents of the manual before I actually could get something out of class. Still, I attended class every so often to start training my ear to hear 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 using Google Translator). I’ll share more of these resources and study tips in a subsequent email.

Here are some specifics about the Italian Driver’s Manual.

Pay attention because these are the things on which you will be quizzed. The manual begins by grounding you in the important road definitions, types of vehicles, and types of licenses. Have Google Translate on and toggle back and forth between languages.

Some context:

In “Intersections and right-of-way you will have to study a wide array of overhead diagrams. These demonstrate different types of intersections (some with as many as 5 roads intersecting)and different types of conditions. It explains the 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. Then the metaphorical light bulb of realization went off.

Responsibility and behavior in case of an accident, First Aid, Physical state of the driver.  Here 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. This also covers 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. Don’t fear, there are defined limits of responsibility until qualified emergency medical help arrives. Be prepared to know what to do if an injured passenger has a foreign object lodged in his or her eye. I  bring this up because 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”.

Resources beyond the Italian Driver’s Manual

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 comes 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 resources more user-friendly. More on that in the post about studying.

In closing, learning the Italian Driver’s Manual IS doable. And it can be fun—particularly if you are creative about how you approach studying and if you find learning methods that work best for you.