I have not written about the ins and outs of obtaining an Italian Driver’s License. Our situation is a bit different from most Americans because back in the 1990s we lived in Germany and, at the time, we could obtain a German license easily and still retain our US ones. These licenses never expire(!). All EU countries and many non-EU countries have agreements where you can exchange a license for one in another country with reciprocity. We are trying to take advantage of this by exchanging our German licenses for Italian ones.
The United States does not have reciprocity with Italy. The main issue is that America does not have a country driver’s license. Each state issues their own license. When we move from state to state in the US sometimes we even have to take the test to get a new one depending on the rules of each state. So this means Americans can drive legally in Italy using their US license for one year after they become residents after which time they need to take the tests for an Italian license. Many Americans are under the impression that they can obtain an international license from AAA and drive legally on that, renewing it yearly. This is not true. You can drive on one of these for only one year before having to take the tests. The penalties are onerous if you don’t get an Italian license after a year. Fines and worse than that, your auto insurance will not cover you in the event of an accident.
I can’t speak from experience since I have not taken the test but I do know what it entails. There are two parts; written and practical. You can study for the written test and take it on your own. Once passed then you will need to enroll in an auto scuola to take the practical part. You cannot take this on your own due to a recent law requiring you to enroll in a school. It is a real scam because it costs at least 500€. The written test is all in Italian and extremely technical. There are ways to study for it online or you can go to the school for this too. Here is a first hand account of an American going through the process. It is long but very informative.
Once you are finally able to get your license there are restrictions for the first three years of driving (even though you may have been driving for 40 years!). You may not drive faster than 100 KPH On toll roads and no more than 90 KPH on non-toll roads. For the first three years there is Zero alcohol allowed. And for the first year a limitation on the size of the engine or horsepower of the car you can drive.