Rules for winter tyres in Italy and France

March, 5 2020 | Update: 18/11/2021

As with so many traffic regulations, every country has its own rules concerning the use of winter tyres. If you are going to France or Italy for a wintersports holiday, or will be driving through the mountains on your way to a hotter destination, it’s important to go out on the road fully prepared and with the correct tyres fitted to your car. I’d like to explain to you exactly what you need to know about winter tyres in France and Italy.

When are winter tyres mandatory in France?

If you’re going on a wintersports holiday to France or are crossing the country to another holiday address, it will depend largely on your route whether or not winter tyres are mandatory. In France they are actually only mandatory when this is indicated by signs along the road.
You may come across these signs between 1 November and 31 March. As you cannot simply change your tyres along the way, we advise you to set off from home with winter tyres during this period, if you are expecting to be driving in mountainous regions where it can snow. If you are going for winter sports and will be in search of snow, there’s a great likelihood that you will also need to have snow chains with you.

Do I need snow chains?

If you are going into the mountains, such as the Mont-Blanc region and the Mont-Blanc Tunnel, it is often mandatory to have snow chains with you. This requirement is indicated by a blue sign showing a tyre with chains around it..
If there is a second sign showing ‘pneus à neige admis’, it is sufficient just to have winter tyres. Another important thing: you can only use snow chains on roads covered with snow, otherwise you will damage the asphalt!

Winter tyres are sufficient on this road.

Winter tyres are sufficient on this road.

What specifications must my winter tyres meet in France?

Your winter tyres must in all cases have a tread of 3.5 mm. This is mandatory. A tyre must also have the M+S marking, which stands for mud and snow. If you want to be certain of a good winter tyre, choose a tyre with the Alpine symbol. This will reduce the likelihood of skidding on the road. These tyres are also mandatory, for example, in Germany.

The Alpine symbol.

The Alpine symbol.

Can I drive in France with all season tyres?

Regulations are not completely clear about this, so it’s best to fit tyres with the Alpine symbol. You will then comply both to safety and to any legal requirements. This is also convenient when driving through Luxembourg, because winter tyres are in fact mandatory there.

Wintersports campsites in France

Regulations for winter tyres in Italy

Winter tyres are also not generally mandatory in Italy, it depends on the signs beside the roads. If you see a sign with ‘obbligo di pneumatici invernali o catene a bordo’, you must either be using winter tyres or carrying snow chains.

Winter tyres or snow chains are mandatory with this sign.

Winter tyres or snow chains are mandatory with this sign.

When are winter tyres compulsory in Italy?

In Italy the various provinces decide whether winter tyres are compulsory. This can be confusing, especially if you are passing through. As a rule of thumb, you can only drive through Italy with winter tyres from 15 October to 15 April, in order to avoid any unpleasant situations.

Useful to know:

  • Winter tyres are always compulsory in the Aosta Valley between 15 October and 15 April. It is also advisable to have snow chains on board.
  • Winter tyres are compulsory in South Tyrol, in the municipality of Bozen and on the Brenner motorway between 15 November and 15 April. Make sure you also take snow chains with you on the Brenner motorway during this period.

Tyre type and tread depth

It is of course important that you don’t skid on Italian roads. Your winter tyres in Italy must have a minimum tread of 1.6 mm, but your tyres really should have more tread than that! Winter tyres with the M+S marking are also sufficient here.

Finally, we advise you to use winter tyres in winter conditions. There are all season tyres with the snowflake symbol; these tyres are officially recognised as winter tyres in all countries. It remains unclear whether all season tyres with just the M+S marking are officially recognised in France and Italy during winter conditions. We advise you, therefore, to choose winter tyres. That way, everyone can go on the road in safety!

Prepare yourself well for the winter weather.

Prepare yourself well for the winter weather.

Winter tyres banned from driving in the summer?

For some time now there has been discussion as to whether driving with winter tyres in the summer is prohibited in Italy. However, there is no general ban on driving with winter tyres in summer in Italy. Please note that winter tyres must be adapted to the maximum permitted speed of the vehicle.

In principle, you may not drive in the summer with tyres that have a lower speed index than the vehicle, especially between 15th May and 14th October. In winter, winter tyres with a lower speed index may be used. If you use winter tyres with a lower speed index than your vehicle has, you must place a corresponding sticker on the dashboard in plain view showing the maximum speed. This shows the driver how fast the vehicle may be driven.

Wintersports campsites in Italy

Are you planning a winter sports holiday to Austria and Switzerland? Then read our blog about the rules for winter tyres in Austria and Switzerland.

  • Author: Bianca van Steenbergen
  • Since my motorhome trip through Canada I've been infected with the camping virus. I used to explore Germany and Austria with my parents and sister. Now, with my husbund I'm am discovering the rest of Europe, and beyond!

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