Failing the theory driving test – Three times

The first time that I was stopped by the carabinieri was when I was a tour guide for an extremely brief period in 1999.  I can remember being totally freaked out by the experience, and I can’t even remember whether I managed to produce the relevant documents that he wanted to look at.  I don’t think I did.  The reason I think this is because of when I was stopped by the carabinieri the second time many years later.  This time I was equally freaked out particularly since he threatened to take away my Australian driving licence.  You see I hadn’t investigated things properly and hadn’t realised that I actually needed an international driving licence to go with my Australian one to continue driving.  And that really as a foreigner intending to live in Italy full time I really did need to get an Italian driving licence.  Due to the fact that I am not from an EU country, I have had to start from square one.  Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would have to re-sit a driving test.

So I started the drama that was  attempting to get my Italian driving licence.  You see I still haven’t got past the theory part of it.  It was one great hurdle.  The first two times I tried to do the test I made lots of errors.  The third time that I sat the test I made only 5 errors, and you are only allowed 4.  That did it  for me.  Then I went right off studying the 200+ page book in Italian given that in my area you can’t seem to find the book in English.  As of this year, it doesn’t matter anyway as they have made the test 10 questions longer and you can still only get 4 wrong.  And the test is only in Italian.  No more advantages to foreigners.

When I dissolved into tears after the third time, the woman behind the desk didn’t show much sympathy.  She said well once upon a time we let stranieri (foreigners) answer the questions orally.  Not so now, and it didn’t help that I saw so many traffic infractions on the way to and from my theory test.  It seems that as soon as you get your licence all the rules get ignored completely.  Plus drivers often break the speed limit, gesticulate and honk their horns if people dare get in the way.

My son believes he has the solution.  I need to get an Ape.  I can just see myself arriving to do the supermarket shopping in my Ape.


Although the urgency at getting my Italian licence now is not currently present given that we are now in the UK, although driving our Italian car here in England is probably going to be an interesting experience.

  • O Cathy! I feel for you! 10 points for trying!!! Better luck in England! Jxx

    • Thanks Janine.  It was one of those really uphill battles.  Thanks for commenting, Cathy xx

  • Hi Cathy. If you are in the UK for a period of time, switch to a UK licence. It’s easier than getting an Italian one. Then, when you return to Italy, the English one is transferable to an Italian licence without having to sit any additional exams.

    • As soon as I am able, that’s what I intend to do Mario 🙂  

  • Debra Kolkka

    I did the driving test nearly 2 years ago and it was one of the worst experiences of my life. I got in just before we had to do the test in Italian, but the English translations in the book were full of mistakes and I thought I would go mad. The instructor I had was as unhelpful as he could be and gave me a hard time in both the theory lessons and the practical. I passed the theory and practical first time…I have no idea how. The whole sorry tale is on my blog Bagni di Lucca and Beyond. 
    I drive very carefully in Italy….I would never wish to repeat this experience.

    • Well done Debra for being successful.  I can absolutely appreciate what you went through.  I do understand why you drive carefully in Italy – there are plenty of irresponsible drivers there.  There were mistakes in the English in the computer test that I did.  I ended up focusing more on the Italian rather than falling back on the English.

  • john

    what a country of idiots! First no one ever tells you that your non-EU driver’s license(NY state) is only valid for ONE year after your first residency.Then 9 out of ten cops tell you that your lricense is OK.Then when that one ignorant cop tells you that your license(international included) is not valid(even though they are)you get a ticket,your car impounded and a fine of 800 to 2000 euros.I called the european court and was told that it was illegal for the Italian police to do that,but they had no way of enforcing it yet.So I paid the fine (800euros) and started the idiot process of getting an Italian license.Trust me ,it is just a money-making scam.It has very little to do about how one drives.( my driving test was all of 5 minutes)It is just a bunch of difficult trick questions that very few Italian driver’s could ever pass,let alone foreigners.The exam in english has so many mistakes lost in translation one really needs a lot of luck to pass. Count on three to 7 attemps to pass,but who knows,you might be lucky and pass the first time.It took me three and a friend 7.good luck!

    • I was sorry to read about your difficulties in getting your Italian driving licence John.

  • Ben Marsden

    Non EU driving license is always valid for one year and drivers need to pass driving test to get the driving license.

    • Yes that is true Ben. Both theory and practical. I’d advise non EU residents to start the process many months before their 12 months grace period ends.

  • Samantha

    I failed the written test twice. The last exam I took was on 31 December 2010, the last exam offered in English. The only problem was that several of the translations were wrong. One word changed the whole meaning of the question, so I didn’t have a hope of passing. Months and months of studying for nothing, and I have had to catch the bus ever since.

    • Samantha, I’m so sorry to hear that you had great difficulty in getting your driving licence. I can totally identify with all that studying for not a great result. Thank you for sharing your story.