Local drivers are fairly courteous and driving in Sardinia is reasonably stress-free. Traffic is only really a concern in the main towns (Cagliari, Sassari and Olbia) and in high summer. The main hazards you're likely to face are flocks of sheep.
- To really explore the island you’ll need to use the system of smaller strade provinciali (provincial roads), marked as P or SP on maps. These are sometimes little more than country lanes, but they provide access to some of the more beautiful scenery and the many small towns and villages.
- Many spectacular beaches and rural agriturismi (farm-stays) are only accessible by dirt tracks.
- Sardinia is very popular with motorcyclists who enjoy tearing around the island’s scenic roads and hairpin bends.
- Unless you’re touring it’s probably easier to rent a motorbike once you're in Sardinia.
Italy’s motoring organisation is the Automobile Club d'Italia. Foreigners do not have to join but instead pay a fee in case of breakdown assistance (€115 to €138, 20% more on weekends and holidays). Further charges apply if your car needs to be towed away. Check the website for details.
The UK's AA (www.theaa.com) and the RAC both offer European breakdown cover.
Bring Your Own Vehicle
When driving in Italy you'll need to have the following documents with you:
- your vehicle-registration certificate
- a valid driving licence
- proof of third-party liability insurance cover
You'll also need a warning triangle to use in case of an accident, and a fluorescent safety vest to be worn if you have to get out of your car in the event of a breakdown.
A first-aid kit, a spare-bulb kit and a fire extinguisher are also recommended.
- All EU driving licences are recognised in Sardinia.
- Holders of non-EU licences are officially required to carry an International Driving Permit (IDP) or an Italian translation of their home country licence, though this policy is rarely enforced..
- No licence is required to ride a scooter under 50cc, but you must be 14 or over and you can’t carry passengers. To ride a scooter up to 125cc, you must be 16 or over and have a licence (a car driving licence will do). For motorcycles over 125cc you must be 18 or over and have a motorcycle licence.
- Smaller filling stations tend to close between about 1pm and 3.30pm and on Sunday afternoons.
- Many stations have self-service (fai da te) pumps that you can use 24 hours a day. To use one insert a bank note into the payment machine and press the number of the pump you want.
- Unleaded petrol is marked as benzina senza piombo, diesel as gasolio.
- Prices vary from one filling station to another but reckon on around €1.60 per litre for unleaded petrol and €1.50 per litre for diesel.
- It is always cheaper to arrange car hire before you arrive in Sardinia.
- All the major international car hire outlets have offices at the airports, where you usually pick up your car and deposit it at the end of your stay. You'll also find rental agencies in some of the main cities and in most coastal resorts.
- Age restrictions vary from agency to agency but generally you’ll need to be 21 or over.
- If you’re under 25, you’ll probably have to pay a young driver’s supplement on top of the usual rates.
- To hire, you’ll need a credit card and a valid driving licence.
- In tourist hot spots such as Santa Teresa di Gallura and Alghero you’ll find rental outlets offering motorcycles and scooters.
- Most agencies will not hire out motorcycles to people under 18.
- Note that many places require a sizeable deposit for a motorcycle and that you could be responsible for reimbursing part of the cost of the bike if it is stolen.
The main national and international agencies:
Italy By Car
- Third-party motor insurance is a minimum requirement in Italy.
- Residents of non-EU countries should check with their car insurer whether they need an International Insurance Certificate, known as a Carta Verde (Green Card).
- It's not obligatory but you could ask your insurer for a European Accident Statement form, which can simplify matters in the event of an accident.
- Similarly, a European breakdown-assistance policy will make life easier in the event of a breakdown.
Parking & Traffic Restrictions
Parking in Sardinian cities and at popular beaches can be a headache.
- Blue lines denote pay-and-display parking – buy tickets at the coin-operated meters, from tobacconists or from parking assistants.
- Rates vary but reckon on about €1 per hour. Typically charges are applied between 8am and 1pm and then from 4pm to 8pm.
- White lines denote free parking and yellow lines indicate spaces reserved for drivers with specific passes.
- Areas in the historic centres of Cagliari, Alghero, Sassari, Oristano and Nuoro are off-limits to unauthorised traffic during certain hours.
- If you slip into a ZTL (zona a traffico limitato, or limited traffic zone) you risk being caught on camera and fined.
Road Conditions, Hazards & Rules
- The island’s principal artery is the SS131 (known as the Carlo Felice), a mostly dual carriageway that runs from Cagliari to Porto Torres via Oristano, Macomer and Sassari.
- These and many roads in the more touristy coastal areas are reasonably well maintained but can be narrow and curvy.
- In summer, it is virtually impossible not to get caught in traffic jams along many roads. The area between Olbia and Santa Teresa di Gallura is particularly bad.
- Getting in and out of the cities, notably Cagliari and Sassari, can be a test of nerves as traffic chokes approach roads and exits.
- You will also be surprised by the number of unpaved and uneven roads on the island – a worry if in an expensive rental car. Many agriturismi (farm-stays), prehistoric sites and beaches are only accessible by dirt tracks.
- In Sardinia, as in the rest of continental Europe, drive on the right-hand side of the road and overtake on the left. Give way to cars entering an intersection from the right.
- Front and rear seatbelts are compulsory in cars, as are helmets on two-wheeled vehicles.
- Random breath tests take place and penalties can be severe. The blood-alcohol limit is 0.05%.
- Speed limits on main highways (there are no autostradas in Sardinia) are 110km/h, on secondary highways 90km/h, and in built-up areas 50km/h.
- Speeding fines follow EU standards and are proportionate to the number of kilometres you are driving over the limit.
- Drivers are obliged to keep headlights switched on day and night on all dual carriageways.
- There is no daytime lights-on requirement for motorcycles. On a motorcycle you can enter restricted traffic areas in cities and towns without any problems. Also traffic police generally turn a blind eye to motorcycles or scooters parked on footpaths.