By law, you are required to carry liability insurance for your car. Although no one is going to ask you for proof of insurance when you pick up the car from the port, it is something you should get beforehand since you’ll eventually have to anyway. If you are not driving the car back from the port, instead you will be hiring truck to transport it, then you don’t need to rush to get insurance.
For non-historical vehicles, if you have don’t have either residency or local vehicle registration, you can forget about obtaining insurance coverage from an Italian company. Most Italian insurance companies will simply not provide insurance for vehicles without an Italian registration. Even if you do find one, the cost will be outrageous. If you have a historic (classic) car – a car that is at least twenty years old, you will find a much easier time getting insurance from an Italian company, even without Italian license plates.
Even with residency and the eventual Italian plates, you may save considerable amount of money by not using an Italian insurance company for an odd reason: no matter how many years of experience you had as a driver in the U. S., the Italian insurance companies don’t recognize it. Therefore, they will charge you the highest rate offered to new drivers.
So what’s the realistic option? Expat insurance offered by companies like Clements International, a company based in Washington D. C. From the comparison of quotes I got, they offer the best value and price compared to all the Italian insurance companies I checked. Although their insurance premium is higher compared to what you would pay in the U. S., they are much lower than those of Italian companies. For example, on my car I paid about $1200 a year with full coverage and a $250 deductible, rental car insurance reimbursement, compared to the $2600 to $5000 I was quoted by several Italian companies – with minimum coverage! You can also apply on-line and get the coverage the same day. The downside is that they require comprehensive coverage, and do not offer liability-only coverage. They are reasonably responsive when you have a claim, and will get back to you within a week. The reimbursement payment can take up to a month to process.
Once you apply, you can print the little square insurance card and put it on your windshield. In a few weeks, you should receive the original one in the mail. However, it makes no difference in its legal effect.
If you are caught driving without insurance in Italy, you could get a hefty fine (300 euros or more) or the possible suspension of your vehicle.