by Maria E. Bellini
It’s likely that you’ll have to rent a car if you fly to Italy. Especially if that incredible trail race that caught your eye some months back starts in a quaint yet slightly obscure mountain village in a remote valley. Getting from the airport to that undefined part of Italy must have been… a mere afterthought whilst ogling at the amazing pics on the race website several months before.
But we promise – it’s not going to be a problem! You’ll have pre-booked a rental car which you are about to collect at the airport office.
The sun’s shining and you’ve got plenty of time…
Printed Maps Anyone - Yes Please!
Even though your rental car has the sat-nav, it’s a good idea to have some sort of printed map. The more up-to-date the better. In certain parts of Italy the rate at which new roads are being built is quite incredible. Add a slow but steady incrementation of roundabouts, overnight one-way systems popping up and the occasional road closure…. and navigating the logistics of driving in a foreign country can sometimes get tricky.
Ok so perhaps we’re exaggerating slightly, but to anyone driving in a foreign country, in areas which may be low on road signs, and low on an English speaking population… we cannot stress how important it is to prepare as much as possible before you come over to the land known for it’s horror stories of mad drivers. Which we can vouch for as being false. Scouts honour.
Cruising along the Motorway…. with the breeze in your hair, and the voice of Andrea Bocelli on the radio
“Cruising” if we remember correctly signifies going along gently… so bear that in mind and always keep well under the speed limit! There are plenty of speed cameras, ready to take a nice ‘holiday snap’ and send you a fine.
So remember: 130 kmph (80 mph) is the speed limit on motorways in Italy.
So what’s the low-down on the Italian motorways?
Italy has a reasonably ample cross section of motorways. Although some areas will be covered by superstrade which are similar to the motorways, but could be lacking in one way or another… perhaps a less well-maintained road surface or no service stations on route.
They don’t come free!
Bear in mind that Italy’s official motorways are nearly always toll roads. You take a ticket as you enter, and pay with cash or credit card as you exit, or at intervals on certain roads. You can also pay with a pre-paid Via Card which are widely available to purchase. Prices can be quite steep, and vary from region to region. So 100km journey in one area might have a different price in a different region.
You can calculate route tolls with the Autostrade per L’italia’s online tool HERE
How many kilometres do they cover?
Motorways are run on a concession basis and nearly 3500km of the official 6,700km are operated by the giant Autostrade per l’Italia. The remaining km are allocated to other operators.
You can find a full list of Italian Motorways here on Wikipedia.
A-roads are for Autostrada …
All of Italy’s motorways are named with the letter A, followed by a number and a name (usually a geographical reference). You can recognize the road signs for the motorways as they are on a green background. So prepare well, do some research, fasten that seatbelt, turn up the volume and enjoy your journey towards the those trails…..
We absolutely love this article in Italy Beyond The Obvious, which gives you a real visual experience of journeying on the Italian motorways!
And for more in depth advice on driving in Italy visit Reids Italy and this article which covers the driving experience.
Maria Elisabetta Bellini is Italyontrail.com’s founder, born in the U.K, she came to running whilst living in Italy, where she still lives and trains. Never ceasing to marvel at what’s at the summit of a hill, or around the bend along the trail, she loves using trail running as a means to explore nature, contemplation and Italy.