How to drive in the snow in Italy?
The Italian winter, in some regions, can be very harsh and come accompanied by rain, snow and the complete combo (LOL) mainly in mountainous areas, such as the Apennines (Dolomite), where most of the Ski Resorts are located. Getting there is not always so simple because the roads are all covered with snow which can scare some “drivers”, but there are some tips and some extra care that can help make your experience unique and SAFE! So, let’s know how to drive in the snow in Italy! Here at Your Travel to Italy with Ana Patricia you make the trip of your dreams!!! ALSO: see our “Accommodation in Italy – Tips for your holidays!”
When we talk about driving in the snow, many people think it’s an impossible mission! Of course, it requires a lot more attention and caution, but it’s not something that should scare us. Currently the vehicles are very well equipped and have several safety items, including for those who are going to drive in the snow. Also read: Where To See Snow Near The Main Italian Cities?
1) How to drive in the snow in Italy? Snow chain x Snow tires.
We will now know the difference between snow tires and the chains. If you are going to drive, keep a close eye on this item and understand it well before you rent the car.
Know the difference between Snow tires and those with Chains
- The difference between them is that snow tires have a higher grip, even on wet asphalt, which makes it easier when the snow is fresh;
- The chains are used when the snow has already frozen and the tire cannot grip properly, endangering the safety of passengers and is made to be used ONLY with a large amount of snow.
- DO NOT USE CHAINS IF YOU DON’T NEED THEM! It can be extremely dangerous, especially if it is not installed properly. When in doubt, ask for help at gas stations; especially because they know the region, they can guide you on which option is the best option for you!
- What do they call the winter tire in Italian? It is called gomma invernale. And snow chain? They call catena di neve.
- When you’re renting a car in winter, ask for a car with traction! On some stretches of steep mountain a car without traction suffers to climb, which can be dangerous, but if you have a car with traction you will not take so many risks.
Important to know
- Another important item is the special liquid that cleans the windshield. Ask the attendants at the rental car company if the car already has that liquid. If not, ask them to put the special liquid in the water compartment of the windshield cleaner, thus preventing the ice from freezing on the glass: it helps A LOT to avoid that layer of ice that is very boring to remove.
- In winter, when you are going to rent a car in Italy, pay attention to these two items: if the car is equipped with a snow tire and if it has chains on the trunk. IT MUST HAVE BOTH OF THEM, OK?! Remember that!
- How do I recognize a snow tire? Super easy: approach the tire and check its creases; they are bigger than those on regular tires and have small “claws” where the tire has no creases, almost imperceptible, but if you pass your fingers gently, you will feel “pinch”, some of them have visible smalls “nails”, which also indicate that that tire is suitable for snowing days. On the side of the tire there is usually a snowflake, indicating that that tire is wintry.
Traveling by car in Italy
How about if I give you a rental car option? Are you ready for it? If you are renting a car be sure to read our posts in the section Driving in Italy on the blog Your Travel to Italy. In addition to car itinerary tips, we have everything about signage, tolls, roads and many more tips.
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2) How to drive in the snow in Italy? KNOW HOW TO USE THE BRAKES IN THE SNOW…
With much, much, much delicacy! As much as the car has traction and is adequately prepared for snow, this “fluffy white gem” can be quite treacherous. The ideal is to drive at a HUGE distance from the car in front of you, leaving a space where 3 or 4 cars would fit. Remember that in the snow the brakes do not always “hold” the car the way they should, which can make it slip and turn on the track.
Important to know
- If you lose control of the car while driving, take your foot off the accelerator pedal and turn the wheel to the opposite spinning side of the car. – PLEASE REMEMBER: AVOID THIS KIND OF SITUATION DRIVING SLOWLY! This tip is NOT TO BE USED ANYTIME, ONLY IF YOU HAVE AN EMERGENCY!
- Do not step on the brake with full force: REMEMBER TO ALWAYS TO BE AS GENTLE AS POSSIBLE! If you break with a ‘full force’, the tires may block and cause the car to overturn;
- Put the car in neutral (SAY A LITTLE PRAYER!) and step on the brake REALLY slowly!
3) How to drive in the snow in Italy? REMOVING THE SNOW FROM THE CAR!
Get the snow out of the car before you drive! Kind of obvious, I know, but sometimes people go like: it’s not that bad! Well… better ‘waste’ a few minutes than get in trouble! In the market you will find several types of shovels to remove the snow accumulated in the car, but where to start? By the front windshield: remove the excess snow and, with the help of a brush, remove all the snow accumulated in the headlights, side windows, rear windshield and brake lights. When entering the car, turn on the defoggers so that the windows do not fog up.
Important to know
- Always keep a shovel in the trunk; in some places the snow can be dense or fall in abundance, which can cover part of the tire. In order not to be caught by surprise, always have the shovel to help you in case you need to get rid of snow accumulated near the tires.
4) How to drive with snow in Italy? SPEED TO DRIVE IN SNOW
Speed to drive in the snow. First of all: SLOW DOWN! Always: nice and slow! Take your time and don’t overtake, NEVER OVERTAKE. If the driver in front of you is going “slow, almost stopping”, there’s a reason for that! It’s common for dealerships to report road conditions through signs and it’s not hard to find a convoy on more critical stretches, so be sure to hold you “Ayrton Senna spirit” and go “piano, piano” (very slow)! In some stretches you won’t exceed 10 Km/h! Sad, but true! Also read: What Is The Climate In Italy?
- Keep the gear low, so you avoid using the brake constantly and do not run the risk of slipping.
5) How to drive in the snow in Italy? WITH OPEN, CLOSED ROADS, WEATHER ALERTS…
How to drive in winter with roads closed, open, with weather alert, etc? The road information service is constantly updated during winter (especially when it’s snowing) and the warnings are always very accurate! If there is road information saying that the road is closed, do not try to “find an alternative”, as they usually close the main roads and their main accesses, which includes the “alternatives” ways as well.
If an alert has been issued for some road to be closed, it is because the conditions are indeed hostile and can present dangers to drivers. It is RARE to find some road closed, after all there are safety items available that allow driving in snow, but it can happen. On the Autostradas (Italian Higways) website, it is possible to know, in real time, the conditions of all of them, if there is traffic, if it is closed, etc. If you having some doubts, ask at your hotel reception about the situation going on. Also read about Road Signs.
Important to know
- Always inform yourself BEFORE leaving for your destination! Check with the Hotel Reception, read the local news, or ask for information for the local staff. Never risk an adventure without having all the important and necessary information for your SAFETY;
- Sometimes they CLOSE the roads for safety reasons. In some stretches there are risks of landslides, falling trees because of the weight of snow on their canopy, etc, etc, etc; in other words: no one enters and no one leaves! BE PATIENT!
ATTENTION – PART 1!
Important Tips and Advice on how to drive in the snow in Italy:
- Always have your mobile phone battery completely charged, take an extra battery or a power bank and always have the main emergency numbers (fire, police and ambulance) kept on your mobile phone and written down on a paper.
- Always carry, besides the shovel in the trunk, the ice scraper, water, some kind of food and blankets in the car. You may be caught by surprise on the way and find roads closed and when this happens, God knows what time the road will be cleared! Be prepared and well fed. Have some snacks in the car and water.
- Keep the gas tank FULL! Think, there may be a detour on the road and it may end up increasing your scheduled route.
- Headlights ALWAYS ON! ALWAYS!
- It’s very common to see large vehicles throwing salt down the road to reduce snow! Do not overtake them, because if it is on the road it is because there is a lot of snow and ice accumulated; once again: be patient!
Important to know
- If the conditions are not so good or you are unsure about taking the road with snow: DO NOT INSIST! (No one will ‘judge’ you for not knowing how to drive in the snow, MANY of those who are used to it also choose not to leave home when the snow falls heavier, it’s more usual than you think, ok?!)
- Be careful to park! Park visibly for the other drivers, never stop in a forbidden place and memorize where the car is, because a “snowfall” during the night can cover your car COMPLETELY! TIP: Take a photo of your spot and of some referential place! (A sign, an entrance… )
ATTENTION – PART 2!
- ALWAYS take a look at the map before you hit the road. Know the main exits and stopping places like gas stations or service centers and always be aware of the Road Signs.
- ALWAYS wear suitable clothing for the winter. Think that, in case of emergency, you will need to keep warm, that is: forget “light” clothes like jeans and clothes that are not waterproof. We’re talking about heavy clothes!
- Always keep in hand fluid anti-freeze for fuel. Take it in the trunk; we never know when you might need it!
- If you get bogged down in snow, don’t panic. Open the window to ventilate and do not let any passengers SLEEP! Try to use the shovel to get the accumulated snow off the tire and, if you can’t, call for help. ALWAYS SIGNALIZE THE ROAD IF YOU ARE STUCK TO AVOID ACCIDENTS.
- Be careful when it is VERY cold and drizzling. It is a super dangerous combination, because this climate creates a thin layer of ice on the asphalt which increases the lack of grip of the tires.
Important to know
- Avoid the “dark” snow, with mud on it. The brown color indicates that the snow there has already melted and it gets VERY slippery. It’s very common to find them on the roadside.
- As we said, make very delicate movements! Everything gets slower on snow or ice: acceleration and braking, so always be careful, ok?!
- LEARN to install the chains! How? There are several videos on YouTube that teach you very easily. If you want to have an idea, CLICK ON THIS LINK and remember that there are several forms of chains, but almost all are quite simple to install.
- Never, under any circumstances, consume alcoholic beverages before driving and do never use your mobile phone while driving!
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How to drive in the snow in Italy? Snow driving requires some care, but following our tips, you won’t have any major problems.
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