Title: Driving the Autostrada in Italy
Category: Transportation in Italy
Author: Daniele Pintaudi Updated: Jan 30, 2019 Views: 6,841
Tags: driving the autostrada in italy drive in italy

Driving the Autostrada in Italy

The Autostrada -- Italy's Turnpike system can be overwhelming for some as cars zip past you, flash their lights behind you, etc. This article takes some of the mystery out of it.

The 'Autostrada' refers to the major tollways that run between major cities in Italy. They are extremely convenient, well maintained, and highly serviced. They are generally either 2 lanes or 3 lanes. When driving through Italy, you will find the Autodrada to be an extremely convenient way to travel.

While traveling on other roads, you will always find many signs that point to the Autostrada. These signs appear as green directional signs that list the name of a major city the Autostrada will take you to in either direction. For example, it may read 'FIRENZE - NAPOLI', meaning that to the north it takes you to Florence, and to the south it takes you to Naples. The sign will also have the Autostrada designator, such as A1 or A2.

Laws of the Autostrada

Speed Limits

The speed limit on the Autostrada is 130 kph. Up until a few years ago, this was not enforced at all, so you would regularly see people driving at extremely high speeds. However, several years ago the Italian government became extremely strict with regard to speed limits, and peppered speed cameras throughout the road system. Additionally, Italian driver licenses changed to a point system, so Italians risk severe fines and the possibility of losing their license if they are not careful. In general terms, this has caused the Italian driver to calm down a bit. However, Italians are often notorious for finding ways around the law. People that travel the Autostrada frequently know exactly where the speed cameras are, and politely slow down for them.


While driving on the Autostrada, your headlights must be turned on at all times.

Autostrada Etiquette

There are rules of the road that everyone lives by, but don't fit into the law category. If you don't follow them, you risk finding some very angry Italian drivers out there.

The Passing Lane

On the Autostrada (actually on all 2+ lane roads), the left lane is reserved only for passing. If you are not passing a car at this very moment, move to the right. You will see that Italians move between the left and right lanes frequently for this reason. Before you venture into the passing lane, be sure to check behind you. Other cars may be approaching at extremely high speeds.

Flashing High Beams from behind

When you are in the left lane, always be sure to keep an eye in your rear view mirror. If you see someone flashing their high beams from behind you, they are signaling their intention to pass you, and are asking you to move over to the right ASAP. Courtesy dictates that even if you are there to pass another car, if it is at all possible, move over first and let the person behind you pass. If you don't observe this rule, you will have many cars practically kissing your rear end while they continue to flash you. It will be quite uncomfortable.

Service Areas

Every 20 minutes or so (sometimes less), you will find a service area and rest stop. The smaller ones usually have a coffee bar with sandwiches, fuel, and a convenience store. The larger ones have Hotels, full-scale restaurants, fuel, convenience stores, mechanic, and much more. Some of the bigger ones contain the store and restaurant in a massive bridge that resides over the Autostrada. It is a very impressive sight. Before you know it, you will be excited looking forward to the next 'Autogrill' you find. The food is excellent, the stores have an amazing selection of snacks, cold cuts, cheeses, and much more. Finally, the sandwiches you get at these places are amazing. Many of them even offer free espresso to tired drivers at night, and if you have been drinking, they will even offer a free breathalyzer :-)

These service areas are a fully contained part of the Autostrada system. They are not exits and entrances. You can only get in if you are a driver on the Autostrada, and you can only get back on the Autostrada in the direction you are traveling when you leave one.

Entering the Autostrada

Some of the larger Autostrada entrances (Entrata) can be daunting. You may suddenly enter and find a few dozen booths. Above the booths, you will see a sign. If the sign reads Viacard or Telepass, stay away from it. These are for people that have a subscription for the Autostrada. Instead, enter one that says 'Biglietto', or one with no sign at all. Once there, you can get your ticket and proceed. Immediately after the booth, you will be able to choose your direction of travel. Be careful not to make a mistake here, as there is never a second chance, and the next exit to turn around may be many miles away. This is a very common mistake, so be careful.

Exiting the Autostrada

When you exit, you will approach the toll booths. Each toll booth lane will have a sign above it. You should look for a sign that shows a symbol of a person paying, or a credit card symbol. If you only see the Viacard and/or Telepass sign, avoid that lane. The toll booths are sometimes manned, but sometimes have automated coin machines and automated credit card machines. The automated machines are usually multilingual.

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