Part 2: How to swap a UK driving licence to an Italian one in 340 difficult steps

Yesterday was my third visit to the motorizzazione, in my ongoing saga to convert my UK driving licence to an Italian Driving licence. At 5.30 I arrived at the office with Mrs Sensible in tow, she wouldn’t let me bring my sharpened fork.

Signore Cretino once again asked if he could take a photo copy of my driving licence, Italian identity card and my codice fiscale. Just for fun I also handed him my British Passport. This is the third set of copies he has taken. He must be building up an impressive file.

An Englishman in Italy

Pecora Nera Driving Licence

 The first problem we hit was the name on my UK driving licence didn’t match the name on my British Passport or my Italian Identity card.  Mrs Sensible explained, that in England it is possible to combine the surnames of the husband and wife when they marry. He wasn’t very impressed; I have to take my hat off to Mrs Sensible because she calmly explained that she was right and he would just have to accept the situation.

The next step was my medical. I had to visit the doctor who had an office next door,  but way up on the fourth floor. By the time we had climbed the steps, I nearly needed a doctor to resuscitate me. We passed an old lady on the way up who was slowly climbing the stairs for her medical. She looked about 80 years old. When she finally entered the waiting room she looked 85 years old.

It is impossible for 20 Italians to sit in a waiting room and either sit quietly or to whisper to their partners. It took them about 3 nanoseconds to realise I was English.

Old Lady: “Your husband is English, Does he understand Italian?”

Mrs Sensible: “Yes he is English and no he doesn’t understand much”

Pecora Nera “I speaks Italian small small”

Old Lady “Ah! His Italian is very Good”

Mrs Sensible looked to heaven and I gave a huge grin.

Mrs Sensible then showed everyone in the doctors waiting room, my new driving licence photo. She used the following words as she handed my photo around e’ Brutto, e’ schifo.

The old lady laughed and showed her photo. A second lady who was sat across from us produced her driving licence. I would estimate her age somewhere between 65 and 70. Her photo showed a woman of 26 with a 1960s hairstyle.

Her photo was something like this

Her photo was something like this

Pecora Nera “ That doesn’t look like her, how can the police identify her? I mean she looks like her daughter or even her daughter’s daughter; but with a 1960s hairstyle”

Mrs Sensible “In Italy we don’t need to update our photo”

Pecora Nera “Madness, so you can be 85 and use a photo taken when you were 18?”

Doctor “Next”

Pecora Nera “ I English I speaks Italian small small”

Doctor  “Ok we speaks English, I speaks English little”

Pecora Nera “ Oh your English is so good, thank heavens you understand English”

I passed the medical and we went back to see Signore Cretino at the motorizzazione.

As we entered the office, the following conversation was taking place between a young man and Mr Cretino. Mrs Sensible quietly translated it for me, while I laughed into my hanky.

Young man: My driving licence was suspended by the Carabinieri. When the suspension was over I went back to the office to collect my licence. The Carabinieri in the office had lost it!! So I asked them what they intended to do about it.

The outstanding Carabinieri

The outstanding Carabinieri

Signore Certino: And?

Young man: The Carabinieri said “We won’t do anything, it is your problem. You need to sort it.”

So I asked how do I sort it, what do I need to do? The Carabinieri told me to come here and apply for a brand new driving licence. He said “take your documents and two photos.” I asked him if the photos will need authenticating, he said no, so here I am with the documents and the two photos.

Signore Cretino: You need to authenticate one of those photos; you need to go either to the Carabinieri or to the council.

Young man: But I have just come from the Carabinieri and they said it wasn’t necessary.

Mr Cretino: Well, they could have authenticated them, but they didn’t,  so now you will have to go back to them and come back here tomorrow.

As regards to my driving licence, I am now in possession of a piece of paper with a sticker on it. This wonderful bit of paper is valid for 30 days and only valid in Italy.

3 steps forward and 5 steps backwards.


P.s Multifarious Meanderings is trying to get a French licence in France, go and read.

Part 1

Part 3

Part 4

101 thoughts on “Part 2: How to swap a UK driving licence to an Italian one in 340 difficult steps

  1. Thanks for the good laugh, even if it was at your expense. I shall do a photo like that for my new French licence (I start the adventure on Thursday; off to the Prefecture with a trolley load of documents and a bucket of English cool. Wekk, that’s the plan). Would you like a paper bag? It’s good for panic attacks. And for being sick, too, but you can do that on Mr Cretino.


  2. hohhohhooohhho Pecora Nera, that’s a good laugh! at least there is some improvement from last time, and you have a piece of paper which is valid for 30 days and only in Italy, so you can’t leave the country yet! I changed my German driving licence for an Italian one donkey’s years ago, as I had taken my driving test in Germany when I was there as au-pair (can you believe it???? I took driving lessons and passed the practice test and also the written test of 30 or so questions, all in German!!!). Then after moving to the UK I changed my Italian licence for an English one… now I stop here. no more changes for a while, I am happy with my lot! looking forward to more adventures at the motorizzazione with Mr Stupido Cretino, it’s good fun to follow this story!


    • You took the test in Germany!!! In a Panzer Tank I guess.

      We spent an hour negotiating which vehicles could be on my new (if it turns up) Italian Licence. My UK licence allows me to drive 7.5 ton trucks, Steam rollers, milk floats, lawn mowers and penny farthings.

      Mrs Sensible wanted to know if I would ever need to drive a milk float. Signore Cretino wanted to know what a milk float was 🙂


      • ah the old milk float… do they still exist? (not in posh central London they don’t….)

        can you imagine my GERMAN driving instructor?, and his lessons on the German Motorbahn!! ?? I consider myself a pretty good driver (aahh) thanks to those German driving lessons, plus a couple of years ago I also did an additional course here in the UK and got and Advance Driving Certificate approved by the UK Police (ah).
        Top that with the milk-float!


  3. I’m losing count – we must be in negative steps now!
    I took a driving test in Qatar, where the policeman, who was my examiner in the car with me, directed me first to do a U-turn in the main road, and then to follow his mate’s car into the narrow side streets where he told me to park while he got out and had a chat! I thought I might never see my colleagues and family again!

    Looking forward to Part 3. 😀


  4. Thanks again for the laughs! Looking forward to the next instalment. Can just imagine Mrs Sensible rolling her eyes to the heavens at you getting complimented on your Italian, what a picture you paint! 🙂


  5. Complimented on your Italian and able to win at scopa!? They are two of my greatest Italian ambitions! Going back to the zebra crossings, my understanding is that they are there purely as a guide to let the ambulance know where to pick up the pedestrians when they’ve been run over…


  6. Just had the worst interview for a job I don’t even really want and needed cheering up. You’ve certainly managed that: ‘Pecora Nera “I speaks Italian small small.”’ Spat my tea all over the keyboard reading this! When I updated my licence at the end of last year, I sent them (D.V.L.A.) a colour photo and my licence came back in black & white. I think that they’re purposely trying to age me because I still sup from the fountain of youth.


      • Thanks. I’ve worked at the place before, doing a different job, but the atmosphere is poisonous (hence not mad on returning!). I only make the very finest of English tea, in a pot, milk in cup first. Any other way is a travesty. Sounds as though another trip to Blighty, courtesy of Brianair, is called for, coupled with many long walks or expensive taxis. It’s no fun not having a licence (or a sticker)!


        • Uffa! I am running out of bacon and tea bags. I think I will have to wait for my licence, if it turns up.

          I am just worried that something will go really wrong, for example everything was lost in translation and he issues me a licence that entitles me to drive a milk float and nothing else. Or I receive a dog licence through the post. After all this is Italy.


    • You were correct, all I got was a miserable piece of paper with a sticker on it. You must be psychic. Can you tell me if my licence will turn up? And what are next weeks lotto numbers. PS If I really don’t exist don’t worry about the questions. 🙂


      • For someone who doesn’t exist, you do make me laugh a lot! Saving my psychic powers for the new ways Ryanair will invent to get more money out of me at the airport… 🙂


        • I am glad I make you laugh, everything I write about has and does happen. Mrs Sensible wouldn’t let me tell porkies. You have got to love Cryinair & Sleezyjet. If I had to fly pay BA or Air Italia prices, I would end up going by sea, probably on a banana boat


  7. Hahaha ….. I’m going to be beginning a similar process of changing a UK driving licence, but for a Spanish one, in the next couple of weeks. Everyone I speak to, or everywhere I read tells me a different way of going about it! I think I’ll need the very best of British luck to give me a helping hand.


  8. Thank you for the good laugh, and I’m sorry for your predicament! At least you got a good story out of it! And the best part, for me, was the picture you used for the lady with the 60’s hairstyle.

    P.S. Don’t wanna rub it in or anything, but when I moved from Canada to Australia, I didn’t have to reapply — my Canadian driver’s license is valid here! I’m thanking my lucky stars now, because the process sounds hellish!


  9. I’m shocked (and a little vindicated) to find out that apparently Russia is not the most bureaucratically-backward country in the world re: licenses. Best of luck in the next several hundred steps.


  10. This is fun! It reminds me of all the hoops one has to jump through to get a Colombian Visa. The Horror! The Horror!


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  13. That is why I am known to “collect” licenses. From each and every country that I lived in, instead of converting, I just get the local license. Being from Malaysia and the license in written in Malay I have to get it translated (sometimes from the country’s Embassy in Malaysia) and authenticated by my Embassy for each country. It is much less of a hassle to just enroll in a class, pay the fees and take the test. 🙂 Learnt this the hard way. 😛


      • LOL!! I considered that too. My country does not allow dual citizenship but if I don’t tell who is to know, right? However, Italy is not the most enticing at the moment. Just thinking of the hops I have to jump through to get it scares me. 🙂


  14. Have you tried to renew a license in England lately? It’s become worse than Italy!!!! seriously!
    I am trying to get a replacement for an expired UK driving license with a name change, address change, and new photo while living abroad.
    The DVLA website basically says it’s impossible. And I phoned three times, and spoke to 3 different people who said contradictory things.
    I think I may have to get out the felt pens and just make one myself.


    • You have to live have an address in the UK and be able to give them an address in the UK were you have lived for the past 3 months.

      I have a house in the UK, but it is rented out. This is why I am trying to get an Italian one.

      However, I have to fly to the Uk in 25 days. if my Italian one does not turn up. I will apply in the UK for one.


      • Sounds like a plan. Just ask your tenants to hand it over when it gets to your address in England – and do not breathe a word to the DVLA that you live abroad, or they won’t hand it over. They were most emphatic about that in all 3 phonecalls.


        • Yup the DVLC are gits, very organised and efficient, but still gits. What happened to the British Empire, my passport say give this man as much help as he needs or something like that. I don’t think Italy signed up to that bit.


          • The passport people have become even greater gits, and plonkers too. I’ve called twice about getting a passport for my son, and they say he probably needs to be “naturalised” as a British citizen, someone will call me back, and then nobody ever does. They’ve changed the rules so that his citizenship is semi-tenuous, “British citizenship by descent”, since he was born abroad.
            I’m afraid I don’t think DVLA are organised and efficient any more. Or Her Majesty’s Passport Prats. It’s all call centres in India or, even worse, Wales. If the people who work for these organisations answering queries don’t know the answer to simple questions, then how can they be efficient? Britain is going to the dogs!


            • That is crazy, I thought he would get a passport through you?

              I was born in Malta, but my parents are British and I received a UK passport. I am no more Maltese than I am Italian..


              • Crazy, I know!
                They’ve changed the rules recently, it seems. And if I were born after 1982 it would be even worse. I thought the fact he was born inside the EU made it easier, but apparently not.
                It seems they are tightening the rules for British citizenship more and more, but still letting in half of Poland and Romania for free NHS treatment. Did uyou know that once we’ve lived abroad for 5 years or more, we have no right to NHS treatment? Yet an EU citizen or even EEA citizen who showed up yesterday does? I don’t understand that.


                • In that case I won’t tell them I have moved to Italy. When I need my triple by pass and new glasses, I might want to go home for them… might.

                  The UK is going to the dogs, really. I know I am an immigrant in Italy, but in the UK there are some cities where the English are in the minority..


                  • I don’t even mind cities in England where they’re all foreign, so long they know how to be efficient and don’t drop litter!!!
                    Don’t ever, EVER consider getting any medical treatment in Italy. They don’t believe in painkillers (not at all) and they talk around you as if they were vets and you were a dog. You suddenly start thinking the NHS is actually really good…. . the situation is THAT bad here!


                    • I want to a Sicilian hospital to visit one of Mrs Sensible’s many relatives.

                      I was stunned at how basic the hospital was, and the toilets!!! I have seen cleaner loos down town Sheffield at 11.00 pm on a Saturday night.

                      The hospital Mrs Sensible went to in Padova was fantastic. And the clinic up here for scans, x rays etc is like something from the USA. But it is very expensive.

                      I don’t like hospitals or dentists in the UK or in Italy, I am allergic to pain.


                  • I’ve got a Swedish dentist here in Sicily who’s the best in the world (since my Dad died). Come down here and he will take wonderful care of you! He actually knows what painkillers are for, which italians don’t. They seem to think you should regard pain as a privilege (caused by being Catholics in my opinion!)

                    As for the hospitals, ahem. One of the (too many) times my son has been in the children’s hospital here, they put him on a dirty mattress with no sheets, on the floor, in the corridor, under an air conditioning unit pouring out dust mites at the temperature of an Antarctic blizzard. I was told by a Tunisian that the hospitals in North Africa are much better than what we have in Sicily – and I saw that for myself on TV during the Libyan crisis.
                    It’s good to hear things are better in the north, at least.


  15. Dear Pecora Nera, Have you now got your new Italian license? I too am in possession of the piece of paper in substitution for my (much cherished) British licence and I ‘ve just read your blog and seen that it’s only valid for 30 days which means it’s already expired!! Looks like I’ll be on the phone ot Autoscuola Enzo in the morning! Sigh…!


    • Hi Brit abroad,
      Nope I am still fighting the system, I am onto my third bit of paper, that allows me to drive in Italy. On Thursday I have to fly to the UK, the problem is I won’t be able to hire a car using “the bit of paper”. SO I will have to use the bus!!!


      • OMG! Your third “bit of paper”!! That means we’re talking more than 2 months! :-((( Even with almost 9 years of Italy and numerous arguments in uffici pubblici under my belt I never dreamt it could take so long. I called the “agenzia” this morning (before seeing your response) and told them my “bit of paper” had expired…the lady said it wasn’t down to them (non dipende da noi) but that I should drop by to get my new “bit of paper”, she didn’t seem particularly surprised by my revelation!

        What are you going to do about your trip home?! Will Mrs Sensible drive instead? Maybe if you call the DVLA they could help you in some way??


        • I am into my third month, when the first bit of paper expired Mr Cretino told me not to worry and just to explain to the police that it was still valid. He said they are used to this problem!!

          I am going to the UK on my own, I have arranged a few lifts, but it will be a struggle. I am tempted to renew my UK licence. It will then give Mr Cretino 5 more years to get his act together.

          I phoned the DVLA and explained the problem, I told him I still have a house in the UK. The man from the DVLA was not surprised with my fun and games with Italy. He said “if you fill out the paperwork and say you live here… you live here”


      • Ciao Pecora Nera,

        Yes, starting my 2nd month but my UK licence doesn’t expire until October 2013. Being fairly experienced with la burocrazia I decided it would be a good idea to start in advance.

        If only I’d thought of blogging when I first arrived here 9 years ago, it might have alleviated a little of the stress and Italian bureaucracy induced mental health issues! I can still recall my poor Italian husband telling me that it might be easier to drive my British car back to UK and leave it there since the Motorizzazione would not accept my DVLA export document. I retorted that if the car was to return to UK, I’d be going with it and I wouldn’t be coming back! Happy Days…

        For now, I will put my trust in Autoscuola Enzo and keep my fingers crossed. If the pressure gets too much, I may join you expat bloggers.


  16. Ominous Update: I dropped into Autoscuola Enzo to get my updated “piece of paper” . I was told I didn’t need to worry about the piece of paper expiring. I asked what to do if I should get stopped my the police and they said I should tell the police to call the motorizzazione where they could check my details. Anyhow, this isn’t the ominous news… during these discussions the large but friendly Sig. Enzo said that the motorizzazione had already produced my new licence and it was on a list of licences due to be handed over to him last week. At the last moment they had retracted mine and scored it off his list… he is hoping it will be available tomorrow when he makes his next visit. Doesn’t that sound odd to you I asked him…and, not for the first time, he replied the motorizzazione are a law to themselves. Fingers crossed it’s not a bad sign…


      • Ciao Pecora Nera, How is is your trip to UK going? Are you managing okay with the public transport? Another driving licence-less week has just passed for me too!


        • I am back in the land of chaos, I had a short but great 3 days, much beer was drunk and much fish and chips, bacon butties were eaten.

          I also have another week without a driving license. Uffa


          • Dear Pecora Nera, I have BIG BIG news! After you kindly sent me the Motorizzazione – DVLA letter, I realised that my name consistency (thankfully I didn’t bother changing my name when I married) meant that they really had no excuses for the delay and I decided to see Sig, Enzo and ask him to push harder on my behalf. I arrived at the office and found Sig. Enzo SENIOR (il Papà anziano)…my heart sank as I knew it was the son who knows what’s what. I explained that I had been waiting since end of May blah blah. Sig. Enzo senior said if Sig. Enzo junior hadn’t called me it meant the licence wasn’t ready. Just as the words came out of his mouth he opened a drawer and a pink driving licence miraculously appeared with my picture on it!! “E’ Lei!” he exclaimed. What excitement! Alas the licence was BRUTTISSIMA…and I’m not talking about the photo (which is ludicrously tiny and so any crows feet and a slightly crooked tooth are mercifully imperceptible), but it isn’t a patch on my old UK one. It looks about as official as a store loyalty card! My husband says they are also flimsy and his is cracking after only a year. :-((

            Anyway, I am not yet in possession of said licence as I need to see Sig. Enzo Junior tomorrow and to pay him his fee. I can’t believe that it’s almost complete…I’ll be celebrating if it works out! I hope that they figure yours out very soon too!


  17. Pingback: An open letter to Mr Simon Tse Chief Executive DVLA | Englishman in Italy

  18. That overheard conversation is exactly how every conversation in any office in Italy goes!
    At least you can convert your license…I’m in the process of getting one from scratch 😦 I’ll definitely make a blog post of the experience, but first I think I want to pass the exam so it’s not too embarrassing if I announce anything too early!

    Liked by 1 person

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