Types of Roads, Speed Limits and Fuel in Italy
Find out about the different types of roads in Italy, the speed and toll restrictions you may encounter and the type of fuel to use...
Motorway (highway or freeway road network) signs are green with a white text. Roads are named with the prefix A and are numbered from 1: the A1 is the Autostrada 1. Autostradas have a speed limit of 130 Km/h, but drivers who only possess A-category licences may only drive at a maximum speed of 100 Km/h for their first three years.
The motorway toll system (pedaggio) charges for each journey. Normally a ticket is dispensed at the start and paid for on leaving the motorway. There is a fixed charge per kilometre (the rate varies depending on the vehicle type).
The Viacard toll pass-card provides reduced toll rates and allows holders to pass quickly through designated priority lanes. The card is sold at banks, tobacconists, service stations and tollbooths. Much like a telephone card, the user buys usage by paying a fixed amount which allows for a certain distance to be covered, monitored and deducted each time the card is swiped at a toll gate.
The Telepass is a subscriber toll pass service. A subscriber is given a sensor to attach to the vehicle. When the car passes through a tollgate, the amount due for the journey is logged and automatically debited from a specified account. Using a Telepass removes the need to stop at the toll; the car can slow down allowing for a reading to be taken and the barrier will open.
Motorways have emergency telephones located approximately every two kilometres. These connect directly to breakdown service supplied by the ACI (Automobile Club d'Italia).
Website Autostrada.it has information about the length, cost and facilities available for each journey, as well as about traffic conditions and estimated journey times.
The road signs are white with black text, except for strada statale and strada provinciale, which are blue with white text.
- Strade Statale: often dual carriageway, not tolled, usually lead to cities or town centres; they are numbered and named with the prefix SS and have a speed limit of 110 Km/h for dual carriageway, and 90 Km/h on open road
- Strade Regionale: denoted by the initials SR, these roads are maintained by regional authorities and resemble the stradale statale
- Strada Provinciale: regional roads which are (sometimes) numbered with the prefix SP and usually have a speed limit of 90 Km/h
- Strada Bianche: can be, literally, white roads that are unpaved/not tarred and connect rural areas; they are of varying quality
- Strada Comunale - Municipal roads managed by the local authorities. They are identified by the initials SC and speed limits vary
As much as 75 percent of Italy is mountainous; some autostrade have long tunnels and bridges.
For cars, and motorbikes over 150cc:
- towns and residential areas (strade urbane): 50 Km/h
- trunk roads (strade extraurbane secondarie, outside towns): 90 Km/h
- main highways (strade extraurbane principali): 110 Km/h
- motorways and highways (autostrade): 130 Km/h
A driver who has held their licence for three years or less must not exceed 100 Km/h on motorways and 90 Km/h on trunk roads and main highways.
Most petrol service stations in Italy are manned, meaning a pump operator will fill the car while the driver stays in their seat. The driver will have to instruct the operator on the type of fuel and how much is required:
- Unleaded fuel: benzina senza piombo (available in 95 and 98 octane)
Full/to fill up: pieno/riempire
Leaded fuel has not been available in Italy since January 2002.
Most petrol stations will take payment by credit card but in rural areas, small garages will only accept cash. Most gas stations in smaller towns and villages close for lunch and all day Sundays. Motorway service centres remain open.
After hours, petrol can be bought and payment can be made in notes or with a European bankcard at specified automatic self-service petrol pumps (although these are rarer in the less-developed south of the country).
- The Autostrade website lists service stations and motorway bars and restaurants.
Smog and Driving Restrictions
The pollution in a number of Italian cities, particularly in the North (Turin and Milan), gets so bad that the authorities elect to suspend traffic.
Usually, they alternate odd and even plates (dispari/pari) in the city, so that not everybody is affected: only drivers of cars with an "allowed" plate number for that day will be permitted to drive into the city. Anyone driving with the "wrong" plate number for that day is liable to a fine.
On some special occasions (such as an important soccer game) the restriction might be temporarily suspended. Moreover, if a car satisfies the "Euro 4" pollution standards, it will be allowed to enter the city despite these restrictions.
Trucks over 7.5 tonnes are not allowed on Italian roads (including motorways) on Sundays from 07:00-00:00. These restrictions do not apply to those granted an exception, such as trucks transporting perishable goods and fuel supplies.