Planning a motorbike trip to Italy? Want to tour some of the most beautiful countryside in Europe? Here’s everything you need to know to go motorcycling in Italy, step-by-step.
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Motorcycling in Italy- why you should go!
If you’re looking for somewhere in Europe to visit with a motorbike, and you want incredible scenery, beautiful weather and food-so-good-you’ll-put-on-a-stone-in-a-week, head to Italy.
We’ve explored several times now with our bikes and we can’t wait to go back again. The last time we went, we spent a few days exploring the Dolomites; possibly one of the best motorcycling roads in Europe and we’ve also spent a lot of time in the Italian Lakes and along the Amalfi coast.
We’ve also enjoyed other road trips in Italy, like Cinque Terre, the Italian Lakes, Rome, Florence and the jaw-dropping Amalfi coast. We love the history, the scenery and the food- I’m pretty sure I could live on pizzas, calzones, spaghetti and Italian gelato forever more.
In this post, we’re going to share with you everything you need to know to go motorcycling in Italy, including getting to Italy and how to plan your route, where to stay, some road trip itineraries and places to visit in North and South Italy, driving tips and other practical advice to help you have an amazing Italian motorbiking holiday.
Motorbiking in Italy- Where to go
When planning a motorcycle trip to Italy, the first thing you need to do is decide where you’re going (and how long you have for your Italian adventure!)
If you’re driving from the UK to Italy (we’ll cover that shortly), you need to allow at least a day to get from arriving in France (by either ferry or Eurotunnel) down to the north of Italy. Of course, if you only have a week’s holiday, that only allows a few days to explore the country, so we’d suggest staying to the north of the country.
If you have 10-14 days or longer to tour Italy, you can get a lot further south, certainly as far as Naples/ Pompeii and possibly even further if you’re happy to drive every day.
The more you tour around Italy, the more you’ll realise there’s are some big differences between North and South. There’s much more wealth in the north. There are also more mountains and more big cosmopolitan cities. Southern Italy is much less developed, with some incredible beaches and several islands for you to explore (or camp up next too if you can!)
Make sure you bring a motorcycle camera or helmet cam– the scenery is spectacular.
When to go motorcycle touring in Italy
As with all European road trips, WHEN to go motorcycle touring is almost as important as WHERE.
On our very first trip to Italy, we headed straight for the Italian lakes (one of the most popular areas in Italy) in August.
Funnily enough, there were people EVERYWHERE. It was so crowded, we could barely find a Sosta with any room and all the campsites near the lakes had been fully-booked for months.
That was our fault- we hadn’t planned ahead.
On the flip side, when we did our tour from Rome to Florence (via Pisa), we went in February. There was snow on the ground, it was freezing cold, but the lack of people when visiting the attractions made up for the chill factor. We practically had some of the museums and popular sites to ourselves!
For us, our favourite time to explore Italy is either later Spring or early Autumn. We toured the Dolomites in early October and the weather was perfect. Obviously, the further south you go the warmer it will be. Sicily is where the Italians go to escape the chilly temperatures in the north.
TOP TIP: Many campsites close in winter (normally at end of September or middle of October) and don’t re-open until Easter. If you’re planning to tour Italy using campsites between those times, you’ll need to use Sostas or public services to get fresh water and empty waste.
Planning a motorbiking or driving route from UK to Italy
There are several ways to get from the UK to Italy by motorbike or, if you have one, with a motorcycle camper van. The first question to ask yourself is are you happy to pay tolls, or do you want to take the slower but cheaper back roads?
For us, we’re usually driving to Italy from France and we’re happy to pay the tolls/ tunnel charge and get there quicker, so we head to Mont Blanc at Chamonix (don’t miss the chance to stop overnight in your van at the foot of Mont Blanc and get the cable car up the Aiguille de Midi– it’s spectacular!) From here, it’s easy to drive through the Mont Blanc tunnel and then you’re in Italy!
Best Route to Italy Through France
If you’re planning a road trip through France to Italy, we’ve put together some of the best driving routes for motorcycles, campers and cars (complete with estimated toll charges)
On our very first Italian trip, we returned via the Swiss Alps, by leaving the Italian lakes and heading north. From there, we drove through Switzerland, detoured into Liechtenstein, past Strasbourg, then up into Luxembourg and Belgium where we paid our respects at the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate.
Don’t forget, if you take your bike or campervan into Switzerland, you will need to buy a vignette at the border.
Other motorbike routes into Italy
If you’re not driving from the UK, there are a couple of other options.
From the west, if you’re already motorcycling in Spain, you can get one of 3 ferries from Barcelona to various places in Italy, which saves a lot of driving time.
From the East, if you’ve been motorcycling in Croatia or Greece, you can get a ferry from Greece to Italy (or vice versa!) There are loads of route options, so find one which works for you.
Hiring a motorcycle to tour Italy
If you don’t have your own bike, or don’t want to take it, you can easily fly into Italy and hire one. Just make sure to ask how to get from the airport to the rental agency- not all of them are at the airport itself and you might need to book a taxi.
To rent a motorcycle in Italy most places will expect you to be:
- 18 years or over, depending on the company’s rental policy; (16 years old for scooters and some very small bikes)
- Have a valid driving licence (there doesn’t seem to be a set minimum of years riding experience- it varies from company to company and depending on type of motorbike to be rented.)
- show identification (identity card for EU citizens or a valid passport for other nationalities)
Make sure you have proof that you can take the vehicle across a border if that’s what you’re planning to do.
Don’t forget, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure the vehicle has the required safety equipment. The on-the-spot fines apply to you as the rider, not the company. Check in advance with the company what kit they will provide with the vehicle and what you will need to bring. If you are solo motorcycle touring, remember you’ll need to carry everything yourself, including any motorcycle camping kit.
Take a list of what is legally required with you and check it off one by one as you are given the handover. Do not drive until you are happy you comply with the local laws.
You can expect to pay anywhere from 80€-180€/ day- based on model. Make sure you ask the right questions to know what’s included in your rental, such as:
- Mileage limits/ surcharge
- Kit included
- Luggage included
- Helmet rental available
- Pillion allowed
- Breakdown/ insurance cover
- Times & location of pick up/ drop off
- Documents needed
Motorcycling in Italy- what gear do you need to carry?
Just like most of Europe , there are certain things you MUST carry with you whilst motorbike touring in Italy.
Don’t forget, if you are motorcycling through France to get to Italy, you need all the kit required by those countries, as well as the kit needed in Italy.
Things you need to ride in Italy- safety gear
These are the things you MUST have with you when you’re motorcycle touring in Italy.
- It is NOT mandatory to wear any other protective gear- but I highly advise that you do!
- Hi-vis reflective jackets – you must wear them on the side of the road or hard shoulder or risk being fined. You do NOT have to ride with one on if you don’t wish to.
- You do not need headlight beam converters on a motorcycle in Europe unless your headlight points dramatically to the left.
- Country (UK) sticker attached to the back of bike on reg plates. (NOT the EU or GB sticker anymore!)
- If you wear glasses you MUST carry a spare pair.
- Wearing a helmet is mandatory for riders and pillions and you will be fined for breaking this.
NOTE – If buying a helmet, check for an ECE 22 E-Mark label to be road-legal on European roads. Read more.
TOP TIP: Buy these essentials for riding in Italy in advance. If you wait until you’re at the ferry/ tunnel, you could spend THREE times as much!
Recommended bike accessories you MIGHT need when motorcycling in Italy
The following kit are things you might need to carry in your kit.
- Winter tyres are compulsory
- Warning triangle
- First aid kit – not compulsory but worth carrying.
- Spare bulbs
- Snacks and water- just in case!
Don’t forget to do your motorcycle maintenance checks before you leave- grab your FREE motorcycle maintenance checklist here
What documents do you need to road trip in Italy?
If you’re riding in Italy, you need to carry the following documents with you at all time (unlike if you’re motorcycling in the UK.)
- Passport (or identity card)
- Driving licence (check it is in date!)
- Motorcycle Insurance documents- check you are covered for riding in Europe
- Vehicle V5 logbook (which must show your correct address)
We advise to also have the following documents to hand:
- Vehicle tax
- Breakdown cover
- International Driving Permit if required
- Trailer certification (if towing)
- Personal travel insurance
Do I need an international driving permit to drive in Italy?
Most UK citizens do not need an IDP to drive in Italy, as long as you have a card driving licence issued in the UK (in date, of course!).
If you hold a paper driving licence or a driving licence from Gibraltar, Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man, you may need a 1968 IDP. Check with the Italian Embassy.
Motorcycling in Italy- where to stay overnight
In Italy, there are several types of stopovers you can use.
- B & Bs
Italian Camping sites for motorcycles
It’s easy to find motorcycle campsites in Italy and they’re much like campsites anywhere else in Europe. Some are rustic and have very basic facilities, while others are designed for long-term visitors and have entertainment, clubs, pools and bars!
Many campsites have large pitches, excellent (and clean) facilities and stunning views. And most have staff who speak excellent English.
TOP TIP: If you’re touring Italy in summer, make sure to get a pitch with shade. You’re going to need it when the sun gets hot!
TOP TIP: If you’re planning to stay in one area for a long time (30+ days), negotiate a special rate with the campsite directly. Most of them have some sort of discount- some are as little as £10/ day, including electric.
Driving tips for Italy
The Italians are known for being… exuberant with their driving (similiar to if you’re motorcycling in Portugal). The scariest thing about the Italian driving style is that they generally seem to overtake, on a blind bend and just hope that nothing is coming the other way. So our advice is to take it slowly, expect the unexpected, and be prepared to slam on the brakes at any moment.
We routinely just let people overtake – it’s easier than worrying about which blind corner they’ll try to kill themselves (or you!) on next.
Speed limits in Italy
Speed Limits for motorcycles are as follows (unless otherwise signed!)
- 130 km/h (80 mph) on motorways
- 90km/h – 110km/h outside built-up areas
- 50 km/h (31 mph) in built-up areas
- On some motorways with three lanes in each direction, you may encounter a maximum speed limit of 150km/h.
In rain or snow conditions, the limit is lowered to 110 k/h on motorways and 90 k/h on trunk roads- this WILL NOT be signposted- you’re expected to know it
Italians love their horns. They’ll beep to say hi to each other, they’ll beep to tell each other off, they’ll beep to let you know they’re barrelling around a blind corner on your side of the road…! They also like to flash their headlights at you when they’re on YOUR side of the road- as if you hadn’t seen them!
Parking in towns and cities
Parking in most built-up areas is tough but doable for motorcycles. Just park with care- you’ll see cars, buses and lorries parked in the most ridiculous places, often blocking the road entirely whilst they unload or conduct their business.
If you are parking, white lines seem to denote free parking places, blue lines mean you need to pay (usually at a meter nearby), although it’s not always clear if or when motorcycles need to pay to park.
Most roads in the north of Italy are of decent quality- similar to France or the UK. There is a noticeable difference between the roads in the north and south- they get steadily worse as you go down.
There are usually roadworks on the major motorways and often crash barriers and safety features are missing, so drive carefully.
Fuel Stations in Italy
First thing to know- Buy fuel anywhere apart from on the main roads- it’ll be cheaper. Fuel prices are comparable to France. and slightly cheaper than the UK.
Secondly, there is a ‘two-tier’ payment system in Italy. A cheaper option if you fill yourself, and a more expensive rate if you get a forecourt attendant to do it for you. BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU PULL UP- they get very upset if you park at an attended service fuel pump and then don’t want them to pump your fuel for you. There’s often a symbol of a man with a pump, but ‘con servicio’ or servizio for service and ‘self’ for self-service.
Many stations close overnight and on Sundays. Chiuso means closed in Italian and Aperto means open.
Some quick tips for driving in Italy:
- Italy drives on the right, like much of Europe
- Crash helmets are compulsory, even on scooters
- Motorways are GREEN, dual carriageways are blue (opposite to the UK and much of Europe)
- The maximum speed for private vehicles under 3.5t is 130kph (81mph) on motorways
- When on two-lane motorways, dipped headlights must be used.
- If driving through towns and villages, only use the horn in an emergency.
- Buses and trams have right of way.
- In-car speed camera detectors and motorcycles sat-nav systems warning of the presence of radars are illegal (whether they’re in use or not!)
- Minor traffic offences can result in on-the-spot fines.
- UK driving licences are perfectly acceptable to use and you probably won’t need an IDP
- On some mountain roads where two vehicles are unable to pass each other, the descending vehicle must reverse to a passing point. If two vehicles cannot pass on a road, priority should be given to the heavier vehicle.
Is filtering legal in Italy?
Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Sorry, i’ll compose myself. Spend more than 5 minutes in Italy and you’ll get about 7000 bikes and scooters flying past you, most barely missing you. Unlike many other countries in Europe, filtering and lane splitting seems to be actively encouraged, or at least completely ignored. Just be very careful- Italian drivers are not known for doing the sensible or most obvious thing.
Tolls in Italy
Italy doesn’t have a vignette- it has tolls (pedaggio). You collect a ticket at the machine as you enter the road system and pay (either a person or machine) at the end in cash or on a card. Tolls are generally more expensive than Spain but cheaper than in France.
You can use a tollpass/ telepass (like e-Movis) or you can pay-as-you-go by cash or card (we always recommend carrying some cash- just in case!) Signs indicate the means of payment accepted on each lane.
You can calculate the toll cost of your intended route here
Getting fuel in Italy
Petrol and diesel for propulsion are found at fuel stations all over Italy.
Petrol (Unleaded) is Benzina senza piombo/ “Benzina verde”.
It’s also called Normale (95) or Speciale (98) and will be green handles at the pump.
Diesel is Gasolio / Diesel and will be black or yellow at the pump.
Prices in Italy are usually slightly higher than France or Germany- about equivalent to the UK.
Driving in Italy- what to do in the event of a road traffic accident
You should have a European Claim Form provided by your insurer before you leave. In the event of an accident, all parties complete and sign the form at the scene and then send a copy to your insurer for assessment.
What to do at the scene:
- Stop your bike immediately but safely- out of the flow of traffic if possible.
- If a vehicle is blocking the road, use hazard lights and put the red warning triangle 30 metres from the scene to warn approaching traffic
- Exchange your details with the other involved parties. Be sure to get:
- Name and address of all the people involved in the accident
- Vehicle registration numbers of all parties
- Insurance company details of all parties
- Take photos of damage using a camera, GoPro or phone
For more details, read our step-by-step guide on dealing with a road traffic accident in Europe
Motorcycling in Italy- Itinerary ideas and places to visit
Obviously, it’s impossible for us to know how long you have, where you’re arriving from and the sorts of things you want to do during your motorcycle tour of Italy.
So here are a couple of itinerary suggestions for you, which will give you starting point to build on.
Suggested Motorcycle itinerary for Northern Italy
If you like national parks and incredible scenery, this is for you. You can squeeze it into a week, or add in some extra bits if you have longer.
Gran Paradiso National Park
Start your trip at Gran Paradiso National Park. You could easily spend a few days here. If you have time, pop down to Cinque Terre– it’s a VERY steep and small road in and parking is tough, even for a motorcycle. We stayed at a nearby campsite called Camping Valdeiva, which was lovely and open out-of-season (we visited in February)
Then (as long as it’s not high season) head to the Italian Lakes. They’re all pretty, but our favourites are Maggiore and Garda. Don’t miss the Gorge road near Garda– it’s spectacular. Sirmione is also well worth a visit.
Motorcycle campsite/ sostas at Lake Garda
We parked our van at Densenzano del Garda, a sosta which costs 17.50€/ night (not including electric). It was nice enough, but there are a couple of nicer campsites around. You might wish to get one with a pool, as there are strong rumours that swimming in the Italian lakes is bad for your health!
Some of the other popular campsites at Lake Garda include:
- Camping Il Faro- complete with 25m swimming pool. Can be blissfully quiet out of season
- Camping Baia Verde- very popular and often very noisy!
- Camping Cappuccini- with incredible lake views if you’re lucky
From here, you have a choice North, East or South.
North takes you to the Dolomites and you can enjoy enjoy riding incredible places like the Great Dolomites Road and Tre Cime di Lavaredo
Verona and Venice (east)
Verona is famous for the Romeo and Juliet balcony and the old town has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Venice is one of the most famous cities in the world and well worth a couple of days of your itinerary. Avoid in high summer- it’s just too crowded to see anything. If you’re exploring Europe in February, don’t miss the Venice Carnival – it will be crazy busy but spectacular!
Best campsite near Venice
Camping Fusina is the only camp site in the region that overlooks the Venetian Lagoon and gives a view of Venice from its eastern edge. There is a passenger ferry which will take you across the water to Venice and back.
Address – Via Moranzini, 93, 30176, Venezia
GPS co-ordinates of campground: 45˚ 25’ 9” N, 12˚ 15’ 21” E
Florence and Rome (south)
Florence– I love this city. There are so many incredible things to do here. Stay at Camping Firenze, which is easy walking distance to the city, but avoids the ZTL No-Driving Zone.
Rome– It’s rare we return to a place twice, but we have with Rome. Stay at Village Flaminio- 11km north of the city centre. It’s a great campground for van owners who want to leave their vehicle somewhere secure while they visit the city.
Of course, if you have the time, extend your motorcycle trip in Italy further south and enjoy incredible places like the Amalfi Coast, Pompeii and Herculaneum, Sicily and Matera
Motorcycling in Italy- security
Italy has a fairly high crime rate and motorcycle thefts do happen, as does petty theft and pickpocketing.
We highly recommend paying extra attention to your motorbike security when travelling in Italy. I know it’s not always possible, but try not to leave your bike unattended in an unsecure area.
More useful things to know when motorcycling in Italy
Emergency Numbers: 112 will get you everything
– Police 113
– Fire Brigade 115
– Ambulance 118
Language– Italian. English usually spoken in campsites and in tourist areas, but not often elsewhere
Cards– most major credit and debit cards are accepted. American Express is only taken in large stores (not at tolls and often not at fuel stations)
Timezone– GMT+1 (or one hour ahead in BST)
Tipping– Service is usually included in a restaurant, but do check. It’s common to tip other services, like taxi drivers
Shops– Many shops close on Sundays. Bigger supermarkets may be open, but will close at lunchtime. If bakeries open on Sundays, they are often closed on Mondays instead. Many shops and businesses also shut for a long lunch (between 12-2pm) and some will not open on Wednesday afternoons.
Touring Italy with a dog
Italy is pretty dog-friendly and they are widely accepted on public transport. Take a muzzle and their pet paperwork, such as the AHC- although we’ve never been asked to show this.
We also found dogs were allowed on the beaches except in high season, which makes sense and they’re often allowed in restaurants if they’re well-behaved and on a short lead.
DISCLAIMER: This post was last updated in October 2021. We try to keep it as up to date as possible, but cannot be held responsible for any changes made to the law since the last update. If you do find any discrepancies, please do let us know. Thanks.
4 thoughts on “Motorcycling in Italy- the Ultimate Guide”
Fantastic insight to travelling around Europe, great advise given.
I’ll be travelling alone on my 1250gs all my biker friends are younger with commitments family/work etc. I will be wild camping, staying in accommodation 1-2 nights a week. I’m retired so I’m on no time limit. I’m 67yrs years young and I’ve always wanted to tour the coastline of southern Europe. I’m expecting my trip to be approximately 2 month.
I’d totally recommend this site to anyone travelling Europe.
Fantastic! I hope you have an amazing tour. Let me know how it all goes.
hi kevin! did you di your south italy trip? we olann it for 10 september. please share impressons and tips.
How did you protect your motorcycle in Italy from theft?