Below you will find information on:
Items to be carried or kept in the car are:
Motorway (highway or freeway road network) signs are green with a white text. Roads are numbered from 1: the A1 is the Autostrada 1.
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 (in English) 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 statali and strada provinciali, which are blue with white text.
As much as 75 percent of Italy is mountainous; some autostradas have long tunnels and bridges.
Tunnels link Italy with France and Switzerland: Tunnel du Frejus and the Mont Blanc Tunnel link Italy and France in the Alps and the Tunnel Gran San Bernardino crosses the border to Switzerland.
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 urban roads (even if the limit is higher)
Many 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:
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: Click here
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.
Parking (Parcheggio) in Italy
Many Italian cities have localised restrictions on times when cars are allowed into the centres and where parking is allowed. These restrictions depend on the day of the week, time of day and whether the date is an odd or even number. There are severe penalties for breaking the rules, even unintentionally. Parking restrictions are available form the local authorities.
Illegally parked cars may be towed away and the Italian police are able to charge EU drivers for fines incurred in Italy.
Zona Blue: parking lines are painted in blue denoting either "pay and display" (pay for a ticket from the dispensing machine and display it clearly in the front windscreen) or display a blue parking disc set to the time at parking. Blue discs are available from banks, tourist offices, tobacconists and post offices. Always be aware of the maximum time allowed and confirm if payment is necessary as many blue spaces are free at lunchtime and in the evenings.
White Lines: mark the parking bays indicate that it is free parking.
Yellow Areas: indicate disabled parking (with a disabled permit/Blue Badge) or delivery zones
Most larger towns and cities have underground and multi-storey car parks.
For information on where to find a car park in a specific Italian town or province: Click here (in Italian)
* Traffic Police (Polizia Stradale) manage the Italian highways and roads
* Municipal Police (Polizia Comunale) enforce the traffic and parking regulations in Italian towns
When driving, carry photo ID, driving license, vehicle registration papers and insurance papers. There are penalties for drivers of vehicles without valid insurance. Documents verifying valid insurance coverage must be kept in the vehicle at all times.
Driving above the speed limit, and driving while using a mobile cellular phone are subject to fines.
It is compulsory to keep a reflective jacket (orange, red or yellow) as well as a warning triangle in the car. Anybody not complying with this rule is subject to a fine and having two points taken off the driving license.
People driving with a blood alcohol content at or above 0.5 g/l are subject to a fine, driving ban and/or imprisonment.
In 2003, a new Highway Code (Codice della Strada) was launched in Italy with the objective of making the roads safer. The penalties for various infringements of the law were increased and a points-based penalty system introduced.
A total number of 20 points are assigned to a driver's licence, and with each offence the driver may lose points (1 point, 2 points, 3 points, 5 points or 10 points). Drivers who lose 20 points from their licence must take a new driving test. A driver may get points back provided that no further offences are committed over a fixed period of time.
Serious infringements of the law (such as exceeding the speed limit by more than 40 Km/h, driving in an emergency lane, drinking and driving) may lead to the revocation of the licence.
These rules apply to anybody holding a driving license, even if the points system is not applicable in the country of origin. If 20 points are lost within a year the person is suspended from driving in Italy for a period of 2 years; if the person loses the entire 20 points within a timeframe of 2 years, then they are forbidden to drive in Italy for a period of 1 year; and if the total of 20 points is lost within 2 and 3 years, then the person is forbidden to drive in Italy for a period of six months.
Paying the fine
The driver of a car registered in Italy or in the EU must pay the fine within 60 days, in cash, at the nearest Police Station (Ufficio di Polizia).
The driver of a car from a non-EU member state should pay the fine on the spot to the police officer.
There are strict penalties for those failing an alcohol test.
The legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit in Italy is: less than .05%, also defined as 0.5 grams per litre of blood (50 mg/100 ml of blood).
Italian police may carry out random alcohol tests on drivers at anytime. Testing is more common around Christmas, New Year and in the main holiday period of July and August.
Drivers involved in accidents or who are driving erratically are subject to automatic testing.
The police may confiscate the driving license of a person driving while intoxicated. Failure of a blood-alcohol test has serious implications:
Vehicle insurance is voided if an accident is caused while the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol; the insurance company has no obligation to pay for medical expenses or those injured.
If a driver is found to have traces of marijuana, hashish, cocaine or other banned substance in their system they face a driving ban of up to 12 months.
The ACI can assist in the event of a breakdown.
The ACI is a subscriber service (much like the AA in the UK or AAA in the United States) providing general road assistance to members.
* ACI (Automobile Club d'Italia)
Tel: 803116 (or 116 from an SOS phone)
Tel: 06 491716 for a multi-lingual information service (English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Dutch are spoken)
Website (in Italian)
Note: In the event of an emergency, membership can be granted immediately.
It is compulsory to wear a reflective vest and place a reflective triangle behind the car to warn approaching traffic of a breakdown.
While general-service repair centres have teams of specialists able to fix all mechanical and other problems, there are also garages which focus on particular car problems.
* Autoofficina: handles general problems except bodywork and wheels
* Carrozziere: bodywork specialist repairing scratches and dents
* Gommista: tire and wheel specialists and suppliers of snow tires and wheel balancing
* Elettrauto: all auto electrics including installation of car stereos and alarms
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