Aspetta per favore! My Italian Driving Licence Nightmare.  

Lecce l ©ornaoreilly (1)

Rumours of Italian bureaucracy have always been rife, so when, in early 2013, I permanently moved from Ireland to Italy, I was mentally prepared for hassles.

However, without any fuss whatsoever, I opened an Italian bank account, bought a new apartment, was granted full residency status, purchased a brand new Fiat 500, got fully comprehensive car insurance and been accepted by the health service. A fair bit of queuing had been involved, but no major dramas or delays. I began to think that the rumours I had heard about the allegedly trundling juggernaut of Italian bureaucracy had been somewhat exaggerated.

But wait please! Aspetta per favore!

I had yet to apply to have the address changed on my driving licence; a relatively simple procedure you might think. After all,  I was now a resident, had my own little car and was driving on an EU licence; to my mind I was almost a bona fide Italian!

Orna in her Cinquecento

But here was where I met my Waterloo in the form of the Italian driving licence authorities.

In November 2013, I went to ACI (Automobile Club of Italy), who act as agents for driving licence applications, and applied to swap my Irish address for my new Italian one here in the Veneto.

Nessun problema! No problem!” the lady behind the counter assured me.  I was sent away to get little photos taken, brought back to do an eye test and then I waited. And I waited. And waited…….

After countless visits to see the lady at ACI, Sandra (we were on first name terms by now) discovered the root cause of the long delay. The problem, apparently, arose due to the fact that I had lived in South Africa during the nineties and this had entailed exchanging my Irish/EU licence for a South African one.

On my return to Ireland in 2000, I had handed the green ID book to the Irish licencing authorities and received a brand new Irish/EU driving licence with no trouble at all. However, little did I know that the fatal number “70” was lurking in the column under the heading “Restrictions”.  This innocuous-looking number indicated that my driving licence was a substitute licence from a country outside the EU.
Aspetta l ©

On Sandra’s advice, I duly applied for a clearance certificate from the licencing authority in Ireland, which I submitted to ACI. But even this did not suffice and they then wanted written proof that I had actually done a driving test. The fact that I could not possibly have an EU licence if I had not done a driving test was of no interest to them. They wanted proof! Unfortunately, the Irish authorities do not hold records of ancient pre-computer-era driving tests and consider the clearance certificate more than adequate proof of legitimacy. I even produced an International licence, issued in Ireland, dated 1974, as proof that I had been holding a licence prior to my stint in South Africa, but perhaps they didn’t equate the young girl in the photo with the not-so-young woman on the up-to-date one! Who knows, but it appeared to make no difference and, needless to mention, I was incredibly frustrated by this time, more than two years after my initial application.

But Sandra, my over-the-counter friend,  kept up the pressure on my behalf. Every time I walked into ACI she threw her hands in the air crying “Aspetta per favore!” Finally she sent my application to Venice, where they, in their turn, got in contact with the Irish Consulate in Rome for verification.

In the meantime I had had enough time, between applying for my new licence and receiving it, to meet and marry a wonderful American gentleman of similar vintage in a full-on Italian civil wedding (read Moving On).


We are currently putting the finishing touches to our newly built home in Puglia, where we plan to move later this year.

Villa Allegra 17th June 2016 (41) twinked

Finally, on July 21st, 2016, while my brand new husband and I were wrapping up our honeymoon with lunch in Asolo, I checked my emails only to find that my licence was ready for collection; just two years and eight months after I initially applied for a change of address.

Picking up my brand new Italian driving licence the next day, there was no “Aspetta per favore!” to greet me, just lots of smiles, and I honestly felt that Sandra was even happier than I was. In fact, I’m sure she’ll miss me!

Aspetta l ©


Orna O’Reilly

Veneto, Italy


16 thoughts on “Aspetta per favore! My Italian Driving Licence Nightmare.  

  1. Blessings to you both! Orna, I love your wedding dress! We have followed your and Tom’s blog for years and am happy you both ! Love the blogs!!!

    • Thank you SO much Cecilia. I’m delighted you liked my dress (LK Bennett) which I was greatly taken with when I saw it first and thought it fit the bill: a bit of white and some happy flowers. I was terrified that Tom wouldn’t like it, but he loved it too. And I’m so glad you love our blogs. We’ll keep them coming. 🙂 Orna

    • Hi Janet. We required a Nulla Osta (no obstacles) cert each. Mine was fairly speedy, being an EU citizen, but Tom’s took ages – being American – with a lot more formalities involved. From deciding to get married until we actually tied the knot took about 5 months. Lots and lots of paperwork! But worth every bit of it. I’m glad you liked the dress – I loved it. I thought is was springlike and fresh. 🙂

  2. As bad as your experience was with your licence it was not as bad as mine. I had to do the written test and the practical test in Italy as Italy does not recognise Australian licences. It was truly one of the worst experiences of my life and I hated Italy for quite some time afterwards. Renewing my Permesso every year is bad enough, but the licence thing really did my head in.

    • That sounds truly awful Debra. I’m lucky being an EU citizen: I don’t have to renew my Permesso ever and now that I have my licence organised I don’t have to bother about it again for 5 years. I was just thunderstruck by the level of bureaucracy involved when I already have an EU licence But I love it here and will never leave. Well worth the hassle, I think. 🙂

  3. What a mess, and so typically Italian. I had my own nightmare when I got my drivers license here. I actually had to earn it ‘from scratch’ so to speak, as in full on practical and theory lessons, all in Italian I might add, because my American license was not eligible for a simple ’swap’, or so I was told anyway. Back when I was trying to get my license, you had to go to the Italian DOT and get a learners permit (called a ‘foglio rosa’) that was valid for six months and allowed you three exam attempts overall, that could be divided at will between practical and theory with an waiting period between failed exam attempts. Basically if you failed one of the two exams you had one extra chance to pass so long as you waited the required amount of time. I was very worried about the practical exam because even tho I had been driving for years, I never learned how to drive a manual (still hate driving a manual) and the traffic in my adopted city (Genoa) is an absolute nightmare, so I opted to take my theory exam first (because I figured I could I stood more chance of passing that one) and use my two additional tries for the practical exam. I carefully calculated the validity of my learners permit to allow for max practice time in order to face the practical exam. I aced the theory easy peasy, language barrier and an all, and happily showed up for my practical exam (at the crack of dawn I might add) ONLY to find out, as I was standing on the curb with a bunch of hopeful teenagers that the examiners were on strike. Like the whole guild or something. Friggin STRIKE. I was a bit miffed that we were all left standing on a corner but I wasn’t too worried, I was sure that I would be able to book a new exam in time, after all, it wasn’t my fault there was a strike… Yeah, uh huh, I forgot that I was in Italy, where red tape is an art form. I literally went from the exam site to my drivers school to re-book the exam and they gave me the next available date… And HERE is were things went funky. You remember that ‘waiting period’ I mentioned? Well as it turns out, my new test date was two days too late for me to fail AND respect the waiting period for my second attempt, meaning that if I passed my exam on the first try, no problem… but if I didn’t, well my ‘foglio rosa’ would expire before I was legally allowed to try again.

    And, just as I had feared, I failed the practical exam. Had I been allowed to take the test on the day I originally scheduled it, I would have been allowed a second try that fell within the six month validity of my learners permit, but thanks to the THEIR (as in the Italian DOT) and THEIR (still the DOT) inability to reschedule a new exam any sooner, my second exam attempt was not possible by TWO days. TWO DAYS! I went to the Italian DOT, stood inline for hours, screamed at some poor (tho rude) low level schlep with dead eyes, begged, pleaded got irate with my drivers school, all to no avail. In the end, some three hundred or so euro later, I was required to purchase a NEW learners permit, took my test about two days after it was valid and passed no problem. I still get knots in my stomach when tell this story.

    • That’s a horrendous story Elizabeth. I think I’m developing an ulcer just from reading it. I get the feeling that, here in Italy, there is no compromise whatsoever when it comes to dotting I’s and crossing T’s. I thought my story was fairly dramatic – Ireland is so relaxed and hi-tech that things are easy there – but your’s really takes the biscuit for frustration. Orna

      • Its years ago now, but I couldnt talk about it for the longest time without my blood boiling. I totally respect the examiners right to strike for whatever on earth reason they were doing so, and I don’t even hold it against them that they did it with no advanced warning (well not too much anyway), but I will never understand why their right to strike superceded my right to three exam attempts due to a sceduling technicality.

      • I’m not surprised your blood was boiling. You were very unfairly treated. They should have made an exception as the time problem was not your fault. An awful story! Glad to hear it’s years behind you and I’m sure you have been enjoying the pleasures involved in taking to the roads here in Italy!! 😉

  4. Hi Orna – where in the veneto are you?
    I am applying for residency in Torre di Mosto, I’ve just found your blog and will be reading much more of it.

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