Have you rented a car but are feeling a little nervous about driving on Italy’s toll roads (Autostrade)?
Maybe you heard that the Italian Autostrada (singular for Autostrade) is full of cars driving 200 km/hr.
Perhaps you’re wondering if you should even use the Autostrada, or just stick to country roads during your time in Italy.
This post will help clear up any questions you have about Italian toll roads (Autostrade).
- What the Autostrada actually is
- Which vehicles can drive on the Autostrada, and when
- Speed limits on Italian toll roads and how they’re enforced (including Sistema Tutor)
- How to enter and exit the Autostrada
- How to calculate and pay tolls on the Autostrada
- Where you can stop to eat and get gas
- How to avoid traffic on Italian toll roads
- Helpful tips and vocabulary for your journey
I’ve been driving on Italian Autostrade for almost 20 years, for work and play. I collaborated on this post with my husband who drives thousands of kilometers per month on Italy’s system of toll roads.
Andiamo – Let’s go!
What is the Autostrada?
The Autostrada in Italy is a toll road system of (hopefully) well-maintained roads. Autostrade (plural) are anywhere from two to four lanes, depending on where you are in the country.
They are listed as an ‘A’ followed by a number. For example, A1. See the complete list of Autostrade below.
Signs for the Autostrada are green.
Learn about Important Italian Road Signs (with Photos)!
Good To Know: Sometimes you’ll see green signs for a raccordo. A raccordo is a link to an Autostrada from another city. For example, there is a raccordo between Siena and Florence. You can drive on it (90 km/hr, 2 lanes each direction) between the two cities, and it helps link Siena to the Autostrada (in this case, the A1).
Good To Know: You may also hear the Autostrade called motorways, expressways, or even freeways. Whatever term you decide to use for them, they are large toll roads with high speed limits.
Good To Know: The Autostrada is different from a superstrada, which is more like a (non-toll) highway.
Which Vehicles Can Use the Italian Autostrada?
If you’ll be renting a car, you can drive it on the Autostrada. Examples of vehicles that can’t enter the Autostrada:
- Vehicles that can’t reach a speed of at least 80 km/hr
If you’re driving your own vehicle from outside of Italy, know that you can drive motorcycles (over 150cc), campers, buses, etc.
Good To Know: Large trucks (over 7.5 tons, oversized, or with dangerous merchandise) are prohibited from driving on Sundays from 7:00 – 22:00 (standard timing but varies). They can also be prohibited from driving on Saturdays and Sundays surrounding holidays or during busy periods on the Autostrade. The official calendar is published annually. It’s worth looking at because Italian toll roads are much easier to drive on without large trucks!
Speed Limits on Italian Toll Roads
The speed limit on the Autostrada is 130 km/hr in most places, but there are sections that are 110 km/hr, so you should always look for speed limit signs. Speed limits also may be lower in curvy sections or areas with road construction.
IMPORTANT: In in case of bad weather, the speed limit is reduced by 20 km/hr, so the speed becomes 110 km/hr.
Fun Fact: There can technically be sections of Autostrada with a 150 km/hr speed limit, if the sections meet specific safety criteria (for example, 3 lanes + emergency lane in each direction, automatically draining asphalt, monitored by the Safety Tutor). You won’t see any sections with the 150 km/hr limit yet, as there aren’t any that satisfy all necessary safety requirements.
The autovelox is a machine on the side of the road (usually grey, usually on the right) that measures your speed as you pass (at that instant) and takes a photo of your back license plate if you’re speeding.
You’ll see a sign warning you of an autovelox speed camera before you get to it. You’ll also see brake lights as the cars in front of you slow down to avoid getting a multa (fine).
The warning sign will mention controllo elettronico della velocità. When you see that sign, be on the lookout for the machine. The law requires as least 1 km notice for these.
Good To Know: The police can also use a handheld speed gun BUT they are not required to give 1 km notice. So, there could be a warning sign and 20 meters later the police measuring your speed.
The Safety Tutor
You may have heard about or seen the signs for the Safety Tutor (aka Sistema Tutor or just Tutor). The Safety Tutor measures your speed between two points on a section of Autostrada, so you can’t avoid a fine just by slamming on your brakes when you see the sign for it.
There are over 1400 kilometers of Safety Tutor in Italy, and the introduction of the Tutor has dramatically reduced traffic accidents and fatalities on the Autostrada.
Here’s how the Tutor works:
- When you’re driving on the Autostrada, you’ll get between 250 meters and 4 kilometers notice that a Tutor is coming up.
- You pass under the Tutor Point A and its camera takes a photo of your license plate and sends it to a database.
- You pass under the Tutor Point B (it could be 10-15 kilometers later), and its camera takes a photo of your license plate.
- Your total time on the section from Point A to Point B is totaled and your average speed calculated. You receive a 5% leeway on your speed.
- If you are speeding, you’ll receive a fine. If you’ve rented a car, the car rental agency will receive the fine and pass it along to you (with an added administrative fee).
The Police (Polizia dello Stato) have a video that shows how the Tutor works. It’s in Italian, but you can get a quick visual.
Good To Know: If it’s raining on the Autostrada, the speed limit is reduced by 20 km/hr (for example, from 130 km/hr to 110 km/hr), and the Tutor automatically adjusts to the lower speed.
Should You Use Italian Toll Roads
If you’ll be covering any long distances while you’re in Italy, you’ll probably want to take advantage of the Italian Autostrade.
Alternatives to using Italy’s toll roads:
- Use normal (non-toll) roads
- Use public transport (planes, trains, taxis) or a private driver
Advantages of Using the Autostrada
- Faster than taking normal roads
- Gets you door-to-door quickly (compared to public transport)
- Easy to social distance
- Usually less curvy than normal roads
- Gas stations open on Autostrada when closed elsewhere
Disadvantages of Using the Autostrada
- Cost of gas, tolls and parking (compared to public transport)
- Assertive drivers
- Large trucks
- Not as scenic as normal roads
- Can get stuck in traffic without nearby exit
- We use the Autostrada if we need to travel a long distance efficiently.
Good To Know: We sometimes skip the Autostrada if the distance isn’t great and we have a set appointment. For example, if we’re in Florence and need to catch a flight at the Florence airport, we’ll take normal roads just in case there’s traffic on the Autostrada that we could get stuck in (and miss our flight).
How to Use the Autostrada, Step-by-Step
1. Follow the green signs to the Autostrada.
2. Before you’re officially on the Autostrada, you’ll need to pass through an entrance toll booth. Pay attention to where you enter. As a visitor, you will need to enter in a lane with a BIGLIETTO sign and take a ticket.
IMPORTANT: Do NOT drive into a yellow TELEPASS (only) lane (unless, of course, you have a Telepass – but if you’re a tourist, you won’t). You need to see the word BIGLIETTO.
If the ticket isn’t sticking out of the machine when you drive up, push the red button, and take the ticket that comes out. The barrier will rise once you’ve taken a ticket and you can drive through.
3. Choose your direction of travel. This happens quickly! The directions are the next major cities in either direction on that Autostrada (for example Bologna and Roma if you’re entering in Florence), and you need to know which one you want to head towards (Google Maps and GPS will tell you). Merge onto your chosen onramp along with others who’ve just passed through the entrance toll booth.
4. Drive on the Autostrada. If necessary, stop for gas and food at service stations on the Autostrada.
5. Exit the Autostrada by passing through an exit toll booth. Choose the appropriate lane to pay by cash (WHITE) or credit/debit card (BLUE). Insert your ticket into the machine, pay, and the barrier will rise, and you can drive through.
IMPORTANT: Do NOT use the YELLOW TELEPASS lane (unless, of course, you have a Telepass, but if you’re a visitor you won’t).
IMPORTANT: When you take your ticket (step 2), put it somewhere accessible (you’ll need it when you exit the Autostrada), but don’t just leave it on the dash or somewhere it could get lost or fly out the window. If you lose your ticket, you’ll be charged from the furthest entrance, which could be very expensive.
How To Pay the Autostrada Toll
Check out our Guide to Paying Tolls on the Autostrada in Italy!
In my years of helping people visit Italy, paying Autostrada tolls produces some of the most anxiety.
Here is my advice:
- Read the information below so you feel prepared.
- Don’t rush or worry about people behind you when you drive up to pay your toll. If you get flustered, you’re more likely to make a mistake. And, you’re just paying a toll. People behind you will be fine if you take an extra 30 seconds.
- If you need help, press the HELP (SERVE AIUTO?) button on the machine. It may take a moment, but an operator will come on to help you.
Here’s how it works:
When you exit the Autostrada, you’ll drive until you see a line of toll booths ahead of you (where you’ll pay your toll). You’ll need to choose the appropriate lane, and if you’re a visitor to Italy, that’s a WHITE (cash) lane or BLUE (credit / debit card) lane.
White Signs – CASH
If you want to pay your toll with cash, follow the white paint on the ground to the lanes with white signs overhead with an icon of a hand and cash.
Put your ticket into the appropriate slot (marked on the machine), and make sure you put it in the correct side up and correct direction (see the arrows on the ticket).
Next, insert the amount due, using coins or banknotes.
The barrier will go up and you can drive through.
Blue Signs – CARTE
I recommend using the blue CARTE lanes whenever possible as the lines are much shorter, especially during busy seasons. BLUE signs above the lane (and blue paint on the ground leading to the lane) with an icon of credit cards or ‘VIA CARD’ are for paying with a credit (Visa, Mastercard, America Express) or debit card (Fast Pay, Maestro, V Pay).
Put your ticket into the appropriate slot (marked on the machine), and make sure you put it in the correct side up and correct direction (see the arrows on the ticket).
Next, insert your credit card or debit card. Sometimes you put it in the same slot you just put your ticket in.
When the light flashes green, you can remove your card.
The barrier will go up and you can drive through.
Good To Know: You don’t need to use a PIN to pay with a credit or debit card at the toll booth exit.
Good To Know: A VIA CARD is a type of pre-paid card that Italians use (or connect to their bank accounts). As a visitor, you can use your credit or debit card in the VIA CARD lane.
Yellow Signs – TELEPASS
YELLOW signs above the lane (and yellow paint on the ground leading to the lane) with a ‘T’ or ‘TELEPASS’ are for TELEPASS users. A TELEPASS is a small device kept on the windshield that automatically debits a toll. Users of a TELEPASS just drive through the lane without stopping.
Important: As a tourist or visitor, you won’t use a TELEPASS, so DO NOT ENTER these lanes. At the Autostrada entrance, the barrier is often up, so pay attention. At the Autostrada exit where you pay your toll, the barrier will come down and you’ll block traffic.
What To Do if You’re Not Able to Pay the Toll
If you’re having problems paying, the best thing to do is push the HELP (‘SERVE AIUTO?‘) button and wait for help from the operator. Usually, the operator will ask where you entered (for example, Firenze Sud or Milano Ovest) and then print out a small ‘receipt’ for you. You’ll need to follow the instructions on it to pay the toll within 15 days. There are multiple ways to pay, but as a visitor, the easiest way is to pay using a credit card on the website on the printout.
Read more ‘What if’ scenarios in the FAQs below.
Navigating the Italian Autostrada
Apps to Use for Driving on the Autostrada in Italy
While there is a dedicated Autostrada app (MyWay), basic navigation apps like Google Maps and Waze are the most popular.
Maps for Using the Autostrada
If you’re going to be doing a lot of driving in Italy, I recommend having a paper map with you (in addition to a GPS or Google Maps on your phone).
My favorites are regional maps (for example, Puglia) by TCI – Touring Club Italiano (green and yellow). They’re easy to find here in Italy, less so outside of Italy. You can find them on Amazon.com if you like to prep for your trip with a real map. They’re thin plastic so they won’t rip or get ruined if you spill on them or get them wet. TCI also makes road atlases for larger areas like Italia Nord (Northern Italy), Italia Centro (Central Italy) and Italia Sud (Southern Italy). You can see the selection of TCI maps and atlases on the TCI website (but they don’t ship internationally).
Getting Gas on the Autostrada
You can see the Gas Stations on each Autostrada by looking on the official Autostrada site under Aree Servizi (Service Stations – Rest Areas). Choose the Autostrada (for example, A1 Milan-Naples), then look at the list of stations with details, or see it in map view:
The great thing about getting gas on the Autostrada, is that you can also stop and use the toilet, get something to eat, and often there’s a market too. There’s even an Eataly Autogrill on the A1 near Modena.
Good To Know: Although convenient, gas/petrol on the Autostrada is more expensive than at gas stations in towns and on non-toll roads.
Read more about Italian Gas Stations and Getting Gas in Italy!
Eating on the Autostrada
It’s easy to get something to eat while you’re traveling on the Autostrada – you don’t need to exit. Service (gas) stations typically include a building with a restaurant or café, toilets, and a little market.
The most common restaurant is the Autogrill, but you’ll see other chains like Chef Express, Sarni, and Fini. Autogrill is the general term you’ll hear.
Sometimes you’ll find a café with sandwiches, pastries, and coffee. Other Autogrills have full ‘restaurants’ with pasta, risotto, salad bars, grilled meats, and more.
If you don’t feel like stopping to eat, you can grab snacks in the market and be on your way.
Good To Know: Like gas on the Autostrada, food at the Autogrill is expensive.
Good To Know: There’s free public wi-fi at Autostrada service stations.
How to Calculate Tolls on the Autostrada
There are numerous online calculators that help you figure out the tolls you’ll pay for your route, but the best resource is the official Autostrada Italia Toll Calculator.
Just enter your beginning and ending stations and you’ll see the price according to your car class:
Good To Know: Don’t know the names of the exit and entry points? You can find your Autostrada entry and exit points by plugging your route into route finder on the Autostrada Italia route calculator on the same page.
Helpful Tips for Avoiding Traffic on the Autostrada
Avoid Bollini Neri and Rossi
These are ‘black’ and ‘red’ days when traffic is expected to be horrendous. The easiest thing to do is Google ‘2023 calendario bollini neri e rossi’ (using the year you’re searching for), and look at the calendar that comes up. Anywhere you see a red or black symbol means traffic will be critical (black) or intense and possibly critical (red). Avoid driving on the Autostrada on those days! Bollini neri and rossi are really common in August, when most Italians take off for beaches, mountains, or their hometowns. So, you’ll be sitting still in traffic in the scorching heat.
Try to Drive on the Autostrada Without Large Trucks
- Avoid commuting hours (morning and evening)
- Avoid beginning and ends of weekends during the summer
- Avoid driving at the beginning or end of a holiday weekend (ponte)
- Check the Autostrada Italia official page for traffic
- Use Google Maps traffic mode
Road Work on the Autostrada
Possible things that can happen when there’s construction on the Autostrada:
- The number of lanes is reduced from three to two (or even one!)
- Your lane is moved across the divider to travel against oncoming Autostrada traffic in the adjacent lane
- The speed limit is reduced
- If it causes the closure of your planned exit (uscita), you will need to travel quite a ways to the next one – it could be 20 kilometers to the next exit. The exits on Italian Autostrade are very spread out.
You’ll want to know ahead of time so you can look at alternate routes.
How can you find out where these are?:
If you’re planning a long road trip, you can rely on Google Maps to give you the best route based on real-time traffic. If there’s construction and traffic is slow, Google Maps may re-route you to another road. Google will not necessarily give you a heads up that there’s construction ahead.
Sometimes construction on a section of Italian road can last for years (no joke), which means that a road ‘under construction’ may not have anyone working on it, but may have fewer lanes available.
The most frustrating part of road construction can be the closure of an exit, especially when it’s been a long day and you just want to get back to your agriturismo after an amazing dinner in town.
Exit closures should always be noted in advance at the exit, both upon entering and exiting. You may see the notice on the Autostrada’s official digital signs, or on a small sign that’s been set up with the closure info displayed.
The sign will tell you:
What’s closing: USCITA (exit) or ENTRATA (entrance) of the Autostrada
The time period of the closure: Date(s) and time period(s)
In which direction: Will give you the city the traffic is traveling from
Motive for the closure: Usually road work
For Example: L’uscita di Florence Sud è chiusa dalle ore 22:00 alle 06:00 dal giorno 10/09/22 al giorno 12/09/22 provenendo da Rome per lavori. The Florence south exit will be closed from 10:00pm to 6:00am from September 10th to 12th, coming from the direction of Rome, for road work.
So, it will be closed from 10:00pm on September 10th to 6:00am on September 11th, and from 10:00pm on September 11th to 6:00am on September 12th.
If that’s your typical exit, you’ll need to take the exit before or after and use smaller roads.
Note that the closure can also affect the entrance to the Autostrada.
The official Autostrade Italia website has a handy page that shows current road work. You can filter by specific Autostrada (for example, A4 Milan-Brescia) or by region (Marche).
You can also look at real time traffic on the site.
Rai Isoradio (103.3)
Tune your car’s radio to 103.3 for traffic updates. If you hear music, be patient, the traffic report will be on soon. There are also updates in English.
Traveling with Kids on the Autostrada
The Italian Autostrade can come in handy when you’re traveling with children:
- They help you get to your route quickly and directly.
- They have one-stop-shop service areas (with restaurants, mini markets, bathrooms, gas stations, and more) that you can access without exiting.
- They are often kid-friendly with diaper changing areas and small play areas.
The only thing I’ve found challenging about traveling with kids on the Autostrada is knowing that you may need to wait awhile for a service area.
Helpful Tip: If you’re on a budget, purchase snacks at grocery stores before you get on the Autostrada so your kids won’t ask for the pricey snacks in the Autogrill market (which you have to pass through after you’ve used the indoor toilet).
Safety Info: It’s not safe (or allowed) to pull over in the emergency pull outs to let your child go to the bathroom. The safest and least stressful thing to do is stop in at a service area before your child asks to use the toilet.
What to Do if You Have Car Trouble on the Autostrada
There are frequent emergency pullouts on the right side of the Autostrada and there is also an emergency lane.
Remember to use your emergency vest and safety triangle (included with your rental car). Move yourself and all passengers off of the road (for example, to the other side of the guardrail).
At the emergency pullouts, there are emergency phones (in the short columns with ‘SOS’ on them), and you can call and speak to an operator to get help.
You can also call the ACI – Italy’s Automobile Club for assistance at 803.116 (free).
If you can make it to a service station, you can also get help there.
Good To Know: It’s important not to pull over if you don’t have an emergency – remember that cars and trucks are traveling at 130 km/hr on the Autostrada.
Vocabulary for Italian Toll Roads (Autostrade)
|camion||semi truck, lorry|
|carta di credito||credit card|
|ho perso il biglietto||I lost the ticket|
|limite di velocità||speed limit|
|sono entrata a…||I entered at … Autostrada entrance|
List of Autostrade in Italy
|NUMBER||ROUTE||OTHER MAIN CITIES ON ROUTE|
|A1||Milan-Naples||Modena, Bologna, Florence, Arezzo, Rome|
|A4||Turin-Trieste||Milan, Brescia, Verona, Venice|
|A12||Genoa-Rosignano, Civitavecchia-Rome||Lucca, Pisa, Livorno|
|A25||Torano di Borgorose-Pescara|
Good To Know: There are other Autostrade that are either ring roads or short sections (for example, GRA / A90, which goes around Rome).
Fun Fact: The A9 is the oldest toll road in Italy. It was built in 1924.
I hope this has helped clear up any doubts you were having and that you feel confident about driving on Italy’s toll roads!
What happens if I accidentally enter the Telepass lane when I’m entering the Autostrada?
The barrier in the Telepass lane is usually up, but sometimes comes down if it doesn’t detect a Telepass. If it stays up and you’ve gone through, continue driving to your exit and at the exit tollbooth, enter the cash lane. Push the ‘AIUTO’ (help) button and tell the operator what happened (including where you entered the Autostrada). The operator will send a printout to the machine and you’ll need to pay your toll online using the instructions on the printout.
What happens if I accidentally enter the Telepass lane when I’m exiting the Autostrada?
You’ll need to push the red ‘AIUTO’ button and tell the operator you made a mistake and don’t have a Telepass (Ho sbagliato – non ho Telepass. oh sbah-YAH-toh – nohn oh TEH-leh-pahs.). The operator will send a printout to the machine and you’ll need to pay your toll online using the instructions on the printout.
What happens if I lose my Autostrada toll ticket?
Unfortunately, you’ll be charged from the first entrance you could have made to the exit you’re at.
How can I find out how much the toll will be for my route on an Italian toll road?
The best way to calculate your tolls in Italy is to use the official Autostrada Italia Toll Calculator.
Can I rent a Telepass while I’m visiting Italy?
Unfortunately, you can no longer rent a Telepass with your rental car.
How can I get a receipt for the toll I pay on the Italian Autostrada?
When you drive up to the toll booth, before you make your payment, press the ‘RICEVUTA’ or ‘RICHIESTA RICEVUTA’ button.
What is the Punto Blu?
The Punto Blu is an Autostrada Telepass brick-and-mortar help office. Telepass is transitioning away from Punto Blu (slowly closing them). If you’re just visiting, you shouldn’t need to use a Punto Blu or get Telepass help.
Is the Autostrada in Italy a motorway?
You’ll hear the Italian Autostrada called the Italian motorway, a toll motorway, and a toll highway, or the Italian highway. It’s a system of multi-lane toll roads that run throughout the country. The speed limit is usually 130 km/hr. If you’re coming from the US, it’s more like a paid version of a freeway, with limited entrance and exit points, not like a US highway, with frequent and ‘uncontrolled’ places to enter and exit.
Do I pay the Autostrada toll before I use a gas station?
No, you can use gas stations that are on the Autostrada. You ‘exit’ to the Autostrada service station (which usually includes a gas station, toilets, and a restaurant or café). Then, you re-enter the Autostrada. You only pay the toll when you exit the Autostrada and pass through a toll booth.
Why do some Italian drivers pass right through the toll booth without stopping?
They are using an electronic payment method that uses a device called a Telepass. The Telepass lanes are yellow (the painted lines on the pavement that lead to them) and the signs above Telepass booths are yellow with a ‘T.’
When I entered the Autostrada, the barrier in front of the ticket booth was up, so I drove through without getting a ticket. What should I do?
When you exit the Autostrada, you’ll need to press the red ‘SERVE AIUTO?’ or ‘AIUTO’ (help) button to speak to an operator. You’ll need to tell the operator which Autostrada entrance you used (for example, Firenze Sud).
The operator will print out what looks like a receipt and on it will be instructions on how to pay your toll electronically. You typically have 15 days to pay it, and it’s easy to pay with a credit card. Don’t forget to pay it. If you forget and are driving a rental car, you’ll receive the fine, possibly with a late fee and an administrative fee from the car rental agency.
Good To Know: Often, you need to do the online payment on a computer (it won’t work on a mobile phone or tablet).
I entered the Autostrada but now realize I forgot my wallet and don’t have cash or a credit card. What should I do?
If you find yourself on the Autostrada without cash or a credit card, don’t panic. When you drive up to the exit toll booth, push the ‘AIUTO’ (help) button and let the operator know you don’t have money to pay. You’ll get a printout and you’ll need to pay within 15 days. The easiest way to pay is online and the directions are on the printout.
If you’re planning on driving in Italy, check out our posts on:
Renting a Car in Italy
Italian Gas Stations and Getting Gas in Italy
Important Italian Road Signs
Driving in Italy
International Driving Permit for Italy
Renting a Car in Italy with a US Driver’s License
Italian Toll Roads – Driving on the Autostrada
Paying Tolls in Italy
Parking in Italy + Parking Sign Translations
ZTLs in Italy
Automobile Club d’Italia – Codice della Strada (Limiti di Velocità), Article 175
Quotidiano Motori – Tutor, Bollini Rossi
Polizia di Stato – Sistema Tutor
Normattiva – Autovelox