If you’ve chosen to rely on a comfortable and familiar mean of transportation by renting a car to move around while you’re in Italy, there are a few tips and guidelines you need to know before you hit the road.
Unless you’re from a country with very different rules, or you’re used to driving on the opposite side of the road, the norms you’ll need to follow won’t be hard to catch up on, but during long distance trips, you’ll have to deal with Italian highways (also known as freeways or motorways), called autostrade (singular: autostrada), which come with their own set of rules, perks and instructions for how to best travel along them.
If you need to stop during your trip, don’t miss the Autogrill rest stations. They are almost full-fledged restaurants and bars, with a souvenir shop and where you can buy snacks, magazines, toys, books and all sorts of useful items. It’s great for a bathroom break, but some toilets might require you pay a small sum to enter, such as 50 cents or 1 euro – this to ensure the standard of cleanliness can be maintained. Self-service petrol stations can also be found here and instructions for how to refill your car are easy to follow.
Autostrade are tool roads. As you enter, you must take a ticket, and you’ll have to pay the toll as you exit the autostrada, based on the distance travelled. You can pay with cash, by using a card or you can enter the Telepass lane and the fee will be sent through a monthly invoice. However, a Telepass is not something rental cars are equipped with, so take care to enter the right lane for your chosen payment method, as entering a Telepass lane without having the device will cause you trouble and will result in a fine. During high season you can expect to find queues, and since most Italians pay by cash, lanes for card payments might be less packed.
How to Calculate Distances and Toll Fees
You can search the web to find a website that will allow you to calculate the toll fee and distances before you actually have to ride along an autostrada, and Autostrade.it is the perfect option to make sure you’re ready to pay the toll.
Speed Limits and Penalties
The leftmost lane of the autostrada is the one with the fastest driving speed. If drivers behind you are urging you to speed up or keep passing you, either accelerate or move to the lane to your right, where the minimum speed is slightly lower. The signs will tell you speed limits (in black over a white circled framed in red) and minimum speeds for the chosen lane (in white over a blue circle). Respecting the minimum speed is very important.
As autostrade are monitored, be careful to respect the speed limits or else you will automatically be fined. If your car is a rental, the fine will be processed by the rental company with an added fee.
The maximum speed allowed on an autostrada is that of 130 km/h (110 km/h in the event of bad weather), otherwise, pay attention to the signs and keep alert.
Safe travels and have a great time riding across Italy!