Life in the Fast Lane
Italy is criss-crossed with a high-speed road network called the autostrada. They are limited-access roads conducive to high speeds, sort of like a highway system on steroids. Autostradas form the backbone of the transportation structure and connect you quickly to secondary roads. Distinctive green signs with the Autostrada logo direct you to the closest entrance points.
The race begins at the onramp where you take a ticket. Be careful to avoid the Telepass lanes which are for subscribers, and watch carefully when exiting the ticket booth as the Telepass drivers whiz through their lane without stopping. Once you choose your direction, you merge into traffic like any other highway.
There is an official speed limit of 130 kilometers per hour, though you’ll quickly notice that many drivers consider the road to be a racecourse and will soar past you. The left lane is to be used exclusively for passing. Keep right, moving over only to overtake a slower vehicle. Cars flashing their lights at you mean business; move back to the right lane quickly if you don’t want the panic of an angry high-speed tailgater. On a three-lane highway avoid staying on the central lane if the right lane is free of traffic: you will avoid the unpleasant situation where you are being passed at the same times on both sides.
Exiting the Autostrada is fairly simple but there are a few things to remember. Again, avoid the Telepass lane (those marked by a big yellow T). Paying tolls can be done with credit card or cash. There are lanes demarked for payment to an employee (usually the most efficient). There are lanes that offer automated payment by credit card (Viacard), where you insert your toll ticket then your credit card and are on your way. Finally, there are lanes solely for automated pay machines. Insert the toll ticket, look at the monetary display showing the amount owed, then insert banknotes into the slot or coins into the metal cup. Pay machines give change.
Upon exiting the Autostrada you will find a veritable wall of signs pointing you in the direction of many nearby towns, where the race continues but at slower speeds.
The Autostrade website provides information on calculated toll costs, traffic tie-ups, weather, and even speed traps.
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