Test plates

Test plates are used for technical tests, but often also by dealers to make people try the cars without paying taxes or insurance: in this case, sometimes, they can be used with another normal plate. It's possible to see very old test plates on very new vehicles because these plates can be used a lot of times and so are moved to different vehicles!

Until 1933: test plates were not required until 1909 and the very first Italian test plates, introduced in 1909, were triangular, with the number of the province of origin (see table) followed by a serial number on white background (picture number 1). They expired after one year and didn't change until 1927. Then, as for all Italian plates, the new code of origin made by two letters was introduced (see table) placed after the serial number and the characters became white on black background: on the plates there was also the symbol of fascio (picture number 2). You can also find a picture of one of these test plates from Rome in the old photo gallery (picture 14). Last, in 1933 test plates changed their shape and became rectangular like all the other Italian plates.

1933-1975: the third and the fourth picture show test plates issued between 1933 and 1975: actually the first of them was issued before 1959 and it has the origin code and the number on two different lines for a total of three lines, while the second was issued after 1959 and the origin code and the number are on the same line. As you can see, the plates are black, with the red print "PROVA" on top and the format is AA 0000, where the first two letters are the origin code (see table) and the number didn't have leading zeros. In 1963 test plates, like all the other Italian plates, started being made in plastic.

Test plate
Picture 1: 1909 - 1927
Test plate
Picture 2: 1927 - 1933
Test plate
Picture 3: 1933 - 1959
Test plate
Picture 4: 1959 - 1975

1975-1982: test plates issued between 1975 and 1982 had the same format used before, but with the print "PROVA" vertically in the middle, still in red, as you can see in the fifth picture.

Test plate
Picture 5: 1975 - 1982

1982-1994: in 1982 the look of test plates changed, but not the numbering system, as you can see in the sixth picture. The background is reflective white with a small green "P" (it stands for "Prova") and the seal of the Italian Republic in the middle: the position of the green "P" can change and it can be over or under the seal.

Test plate
Picture 6: 1982 - 1994

1994-2003: in 1994 the numbering system of test plates changed (like all other Italian plates), but not the look, as shown in the last picture. The format is AA 0000, where the first two letters are serial and there can be leading zeros if needed, as you can see in the picture.

Test plate
Picture 7: 1994 - 2003

2003-Today: in 2003 a completely new test plate was introduced, with the same format for all kinds of vehicles (autovehicles, motorcycles, trailers, agricultural vehicles). On the top line there is the letter "X" followed by two digits with a smaller "P" in the middle; on the second line there are 4 digits of the serial number. All characters are black on white background (picture number 8). Moreover, for the first time these plates were not produced only by the Italian DMV, but also by some authorized agencies: in this case all characters can be customized except the small "P" (picture number 9).

Test plate
Picture 8: 2003 - Today
Test plate
Picture 9: 2003 - Today

There are not front test plates in Italy, but you can find some self-made front plates: you can find a very interesting example of this in the old photo gallery (picture 15).

In this site you can find also test plates for motorcycles, for agricultural vehicles and for work vehicles, and also the test plate used in Trieste after the Second World War.

I want to thank Guglielmo Evangelista for the first picture and his explanations on the subject, Gino Pisanelli for the third, Alessandro Libanore for the forth and the fifth, and Paolo Tosato for the picture number 8. The second picture is taken from the web site TorpedoBlu, from an article written by Adolfo Verbena.

Plates in Rome by Michele Berionne