Daily Life: Rolling the Bureaucratic Ball to Obtain the Italian Driver’s License

Early this morning, I finally set in motion the bureaucratic ball to obtaining the dreaded Italian driver’s license by visiting my local family doctor who issued me a clean bill of health, but first, I must visit another town thirty minutes away to see an Eye Specialist, who will determine if my forty-something eyes are good enough for these Sardinian mountainous roads.

To see the eye specialist you need an appointment. So, I called the local hotline four times and I was able to speak to a person who quickly directed my call elsewhere, where I was put on hold again. Then, this automated robot that talks too fast in Italian said that all operators are busy and to try again another time. Click.

Just me and my invisible Italian car and Canadian driver’s license.

I tried again and was finally able to speak to someone who told me to call another office (ATS). I called ATS and they told me I must first call a different office (CUP). So, with every fiber of patience left in my body I called CUP three times before I was finally able to speak to someone.

She was kind. She asked me for my name, date of birth and the requisition number from the doctor. I told her that the doctor didn’t give me a referral form with the requisition number. She said, you need that unless you want to pay. I told her that I didn’t mind paying for the visit. She asked me what city I would prefer the specialist visit to be in, I told her Tempio Pausania.

I heard the click-clack of the keyboard and a short ummm. She said – there are no appointments available in the north of Sardinia to see an eye specialist. There’s an appointment available in Cagliari on September 15th at 8:45 am. Would you like this appointment?

Cagliari is three and a half hours away from my place of residence.

I kindly asked her to check again if there are any appointments in Alghero, Olbia, Sassari or Tempio but to no avail. She suggested I call back tomorrow to waste another hour and a half of my time on hold, to see if there’s an opening, but it will be difficult, almost impossible, she said.

Without the approval from the eye specialist I can’t write the theory exam. Without the theory exam I can’t book my required six to twelve driving lessons. Without the driving lessons I can’t get my license, even though, I’m legally licensed to drive in Canada for the last twenty-nine years!

The rules are different for Italians that immigrate to Canada. If you are already licensed in Italy, you are required to write the theory test and take one driving exam with an approved ministry of transportation road examiner. At the ministry of transportation there are these 1970’s type binocular contraptions that test one’s eyesight, there is no need to see a specialist three and a half hours from home, or pay specialist fees.

Time spent trying to obtain Canadian license … roughly one hour: thirty minutes for the theory test and thirty minutes for the road test. Total cost to obtain the Canadian driver’s license (in 2015) … $85 about €60.

On the other hand, a fully licensed Canadian in Italy must take six to twelve driving lessons at a cost of €30 to €40 a lesson. €60 transferred to the ministry of transportation Italy for fees and taxes, and anywhere from €40 to €100 for the eye specialist.

I am now stuck in the bureaucratic cycle of trying to obtain this license. Will it ever be possible? Will the powers that be, let it be?

This has been seven years in the making and the moment I decide to jump someone moves the pool.

Trying to get the ball rolling in Italy is a bureaucratic nightmare. One needs nerves of steel and patience that will outlast time.

10 thoughts on “Daily Life: Rolling the Bureaucratic Ball to Obtain the Italian Driver’s License

  1. Jennifer, can you not go to a semetra that deals with licence changes? I know you must do the test where as we didn’t, just a straight forward swap took place. We had to have a ‘medical’ & ‘eye’ test which were done in the office along with our paperwork. In all it cost about 100€ (if my memory is correct). I can give you the name of the semetra we used if that is any help. They are not in TP but over this way. Chrissie D.

    • Hello, thanks for the advice. I can’t change my license here as there is no reciprocal agreement between Canada and Italy. I have to do everything as if I’ve never been licensed.

  2. I went through this many years ago. It was one of my worst experiences in my 18 years in Italy. When I had to renew my licence a few years ago I had to do the eye test. I read the line easily with one eye covered. When I tried the other eye sun was shining brightly into it and I could not read the next line. The doctor helpfully read the line for me. You have to laugh….except that it is not funny.
    I did pass my theory exam the first time, which was a huge relief.

  3. I had to convert my Swiss license into an Italian one and went to an agency that took care of everything, including the eye specialist visit. They’re called “agenzie pratiche auto”, I believe. What you’ve described is a nightmare, I know they’re not efficient here but what happened to you is absurd!

    • Hello, thanks for commenting. It is absurd, and I’m able to clearly communicate my needs in Italian, really, it’s just a run around here. Go here, all there, go to this office, no actually it’s that office. Ugh. I can’t convert my license, I have to start from the beginning like I’ve never driven. Did you have to do 6 to 12 driving lessons when you converted your Swiss license?

  4. Jennifer
    Wow that is a shame, I had no idea that it would take all of that to receive a driver’s license in Italy!!! Stay the course, something will turn up with a closer appointment and you will be able to continue your driver’s quest! Sorry to hear it is so difficult! Stay safe, have a better, beautiful week and May God Bless.
    Love & Hugs,
    Rosemarie Kleinberg

  5. Wow Jenny, what a frustrating time you are having. If you had obtained an international drivers licence before you left Canada, would that have helped in any way?

    Sent from my iPad


    • It is frustrating and I’m sure I’ll resolve it at some point. An international permit would have allowed me to drive in italy for one year, after that I would have to go though the same process that I’m doing now. So, no, unfortunately it wouldn’t have helped.

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