SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

DRIVING

EXPLAINED: The traffic signs you need to know about when driving in Italy

When you start driving on Italy's roads, you'll need to get to grips with a host of new signs and symbols. Here are some of the most common ones you should know about.

EXPLAINED: The traffic signs you need to know about when driving in Italy
Learn the meaning of Italian traffic signs to avoid fines and brushes with the law. Photo: Karli Drinkwater

If you’re a visitor to Italy or are new to the country, you might be confused by the various traffic signs and what all the different symbols mean.

People who get their Italian driving licence have studied all these in-depth, but if you’re driving on holiday or you haven’t the need to sit the Italian driving test, you can easily get into trouble if you don’t understand the country’s particular rules of the road.

Here, we decode some of the most common traffic road signs you’ll come across.

Parking

Not knowing where you can park and for how long can land you with numerous types of fines.

Generally, if you’re not using a dedicated car park, you’ll need to take care and watch out for the colour of lines you see on the road and the signs you see on the street.

Blue lines mean you have to pay to leave your car there, usually via a parking metre.

Take care with yellow lines, as they are reserved for certain users, such as residents, workers or for going to the pharmacy. 

READ ALSO: How visitors to Italy can avoid driving penalties

If you see parking spots indicated by white lines, anyone can use those and they are usually free – but always check the roadside for any signs or instructions in case.

As you may expect, parking spaces are indicated with the letter ‘P’ (for parcheggio in Italian). In Italy, this is usually displayed on a blue background.

On the photo below, there are a few symbols you need to understand.

Starting from the left, this icon denotes a parking metre and means you’ll have to pay for a parking ticket to leave your car in that zone.

This is valid on workdays – demonstrated by the crossed pick-axes, while the cross means the rules also apply on ‘giorni festivi‘, which covers national holidays, as well as Sundays.

The dates and times below the symbols show when these rules are valid – here, it means from April, 25th to September, 30th, from 8am – 8pm, therefore.

Italian traffic sign showing when and how you can park. Photo: Karli Drinkwater
 
There is much more information in the following parking sign, including the changing tariffs for the days of the week and the weeks of the year.
 
We see the parking metre symbol again, with 8-20 written underneath – meaning you need to pay for a parking ticket between 8am-8pm.
 
 
Below that, there are different sections of the year where the rules on parking change.
 
The first part concerns ‘prefestivo di Pasqua‘, which means the day before Easter marks the start of this tariff, and it runs until May, 31st.
 
On holidays (festivi) or the day before a holiday (prefestivi), the tariff is 80 cents an hour or €4 for the whole day.
 
Feriali‘ means workdays (not to be confused with the similar sounding word, ‘ferie‘, meaning holidays), so from Monday to Friday in this period, parking is free (gratuito).
 
The next one down is valid from June, 1st to June, 30th and from September, 1st to September, 15th. The holiday and eves of holidays are the same tariff, but this time, workdays are also paid parking – 50 cents an hour or €2.50 for the day.
 
Below that are the rates for peak season, defined here as July, 1st to August, 31st. The cross and pick-axes can be seen again, meaning that this applies to all days and there are no free parking days in this timeframe.
 
Finally, this sign indicates some extra instructions for camper vans – in this case, the tariff is 50 percent higher.

In the following parking sign, it’s indicated that only 30 minutes of a stop are allowed and the man pushing goods means that parking for this reason is only allowed for loading and unloading.
Photo: Karli Drinkwater

In the following sign, the red circle with a line through a blue circle indicates that parking is prohibited.

In the absence of any other symbols, the parking ban is valid 24 hours a day on roads outside of urban areas.

On urban roads, without any other instructions, the ban is in force from 8am to 8pm. Supplementary signs with figures, symbols or short inscriptions may limit the scope of this.

In this case, we can see a parking symbol next to an icon denoting the police. This indicates an exception to the rule for police vehicles.

The image below that showing a car being towed indicates that parking constitutes a serious obstruction or danger and that any vehicle parked there may be removed and transported to the municipal depot.

Photo: Karli Drinkwater

This parking ban sign is 24 hours a day, indicated by the numbers below the ‘no parking’ symbol.

Again, we can see that any vehicle found parked there may be removed.

Photo: Karli Drinkwater

In this example of a parking sign, you are allowed to park your car for 15 minutes, indicated by the 15′.

The symbol to the left of the number represents a parking disc, which you must display in the window of your car at your time of arrival.

If the time on the disc shows that you have been parked longer than 15 minutes, you could incur a fine.

Photo: Karli Drinkwater

You may come across so-called ‘pink parking’ (parcheggio rosa)while driving in Italy.

Be aware that these are reserved for pregnant women and parents with children under two-years-old, so don’t park there unless that applies to you.

Since Italy’s Highway Code was updated, you’ll also need a permit to prove you’re eligible for these priority parking spaces.

Find out more about Italy’s pink parking here.

Italys pink parking permit allows pregnant women and parents with children under two years old to park in priority spots. Photo: Karli Drinkwater

ZTLs

Beware of the ZTL – this is one sign you’ll need to learn before driving anywhere in Italy, as there are a lot of them and infringing the rules can sting.

They catch out the best of us; they can be easy to miss as you may not even know what they are.

If you see a round road sign, a red circle containing the letters ‘ZTL’, don’t drive down that street unless you have a special permit.

If you’re just visiting Italy, it’s unlikely you will.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Can I buy a car in Italy if I’m not a resident?

ZTL stands for Zona Traffico Limitato (Restricted Traffic Zone) and you’re most likely to find them around congested areas and inner cities. The government introduced them to reduce pollution and so the only vehicles allowed to enter a ZTL are residents or businesses in the area.

If you unwittingly sail past one, the camera will take a shot of your registration number and you’ll get a fine of between €83 and €332, plus administrative costs, according to article 7 of the Highway Code.

In this road sign, we see that the ZTL applies 24 hours a day (0-24), but the extra information below shows there are some exceptions – under ‘eccetto‘.

You can drive down that ZTL without a permit if you’re on a scooter or motorbike, are disabled, a taxi or in this example, travelling to the two streets specified for services only.

READ ALSO: Reader question: What are the longer-term alternatives to car hire in Italy?

You would need electronic access to reach these streets in any case, which is something you’d receive with a permit.

Generally, if you’re just visiting Italy, don’t drive down a ZTL.

The red cross over the blue circle below that means no parking or stopping. In the absence of additional information, the ban is permanent and 24 hours a day. Your vehicle will be removed if it’s found stopped in any area where this sign is displayed.

Photo: Karli Drinkwater

The following sign indicates that the ZTL has ended and you can drive beyond that point without needing a permit.

Photo: Karli Drinkwater

Residential areas

Take care when driving through residential areas, as the rules may differ compared to driving in a town centre.

The top traffic sign of a house and tree with children playing indicates the start of a street or residential area where special rules apply, which are shown on another sign. We can see them right below.

Driving through this area is restricted to a max speed of 30km/h, followed by a sign prohibiting the transit of goods transport vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of more than 3.5 tonnes – unless it’s for loading and unloading goods.

That is unlikely to apply to you but the sign below might. It informs you that, if parking, you must park in the provided spaces.

Photo: Karli Drinkwater

Pedestrian areas

You can’t drive down areas that are meant for pedestrians only, which is displayed with a round, blue sign containing a figure of a person walking.

It might also be accompanied by the description ‘area pedonale‘, meaning pedestrian area. Here, there are no times specified, so assume that it applies 24 hours a day.

There are exceptions in this sign, though. Cyclists may use that route, shown by the cycle symbol and the description ‘velocipiedi‘ (any form of pedalled vehicle with two or more wheels), as may authorised vehicles (veicoli autorizzati).

That could mean street sweepers or residents, for example. If you’re in doubt, it’s unlikely you can drive down that area.

Photo: Karli Drinkwater
 
See full details of Italy’s highway code here and visit our travel section for the latest updates.

Member comments

  1. Noticed a typo – a parking meter is always ‘meter’ whether UK or US English, it’s only when referring to the measurement that it is ‘metre’ in UK English

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

TRAVEL NEWS

The busiest Italian roads to avoid over Ferragosto weekend

Traffic authorities have warned of busy roads as people in Italy set off for the long summer holiday weekend. Here’s what you need to know.

The busiest Italian roads to avoid over Ferragosto weekend

Italy’s autostrade, or motorways, rarely see much in the way of heavy traffic during the cold season. But that all changes in summer, especially in August, when hundreds of thousands of Italians take to the road to reach their chosen holiday destinations. 

The Ferragosto weekend is generally the worst time of year to travel on Italian roads, and the latest road traffic forecasts show this year is no exception.

READ ALSO: The worst dates to travel on Italy’s roads this August

The official road traffic calendar released by the Italian State Police (Polizia di Stato) offers a good overview of which days are likely to see the worst congestion. 

The calendar is colour-coded, with a ‘yellow’ spot indicating heavy traffic, ‘red’ indicating heavy traffic with ‘possible critical conditions’, and ‘black’ indicating ‘critical’ traffic.

Italy's August traffic calendar warning.

Italy’s August traffic calendar warning. Source: Polizia di Stato

As the table shows, Friday, Saturday and Sunday are all expected to be marked by very intense or critical traffic, with congestion worst on Saturday morning.

The situation should improve on Monday, August 15th, the day of Ferragosto, though traffic on most Italian roads is expected to still be fairly heavy throughout the day.

READ ALSO: Ferragosto: Why the long August holidays are untouchable for Italians

Naturally, the best way to avoid getting stuck in traffic over the weekend (and consequently rediscovering your appreciation for Italian swear words) would be to travel outside of the above-mentioned days, that is either before or after them.

Should that not be possible, here’s a breakdown of the roads that are more likely to register nightmarish levels of traffic this weekend, according to Italian media reports. This might help you plan alternative routes or reschedule your departure times accordingly.

Motorways (Autostrade)

  • Motorway junctions RA13 and RA14 near Trieste, Friuli Venezia-Giulia
  • Motorway A14, connecting Bologna (Emilia-Romagna) to Taranto (Puglia)
  • Motorway A1, connecting Milan to Naples
  • Motorway A2, commonly known as the ‘Mediterranean Motorway’ (Autostrada del Mediterraneo), connecting Salerno (Campania) to Reggio Calabria (Calabria)
  • Motorway A30, connecting Caserta to Salerno (Campania)
  • Motorways A19 (Palermo-Catania) and A29 (Palermo-Mazara del Vallo) in Sicily

State Roads (Statali)

  • State Road 16, known as ‘Statale Adriatica’, going from Padua, Veneto to Otranto, Puglia
  • State Road 309, known as ‘Strada Romea’, connecting Venice to Ravenna, Emilia-Romagna
  • State Road 36, stretching from Sesto San Giovanni, Lombardy to Italy’s border with Switzerland (Passo dello Spluga)
  • State Road 18, commonly known as ‘Tirrenia Inferiore’ connecting Naples to Reggio Calabria
  • State Road 106, commonly known as ‘Statale Jonica’, stretching from Reggio Calabria to Taranto (Puglia)
  • State Road 148, known as ‘Statale Pontina’, stretching from Rome to Terracina and
  • State Road 7, known as ‘Statale Appia’, going from Rome to Brindisi (Puglia)
  • State Road 1, known as ‘Via Aurelia’, connecting Rome to Ventimiglia, Liguria
  • State Roads 675 (from Terni, Umbria to Monte Romano, Latium) and 3-bis (from Terni to Ravenna, Emilia-Romagna)
  • State Road 131, known as ‘Statale Carlo Felice’, connecting Cagliari to Porto Torres (Sardinia)

Unsurprisingly, the roads that tend to be busier over the Ferragosto weekend are those leading to popular tourist destinations, especially those located near the seaside.

READ ALSO: MAP: Which parts of Italy will get the most tourism this summer?

If you were planning on using one of the above-mentioned roads to reach your holiday destination, you may want to consider drawing up an alternative route.

A view of the A4 motorway near Verona

Motorists can keep up to date with the situation on the roads (closures, maintenance works, traffic, etc.) through a number of online services. Photo by Claudio MARTINELLI / AFP

Further information

The Italian State Police offers guidance on alternative itineraries at the following online links:

The following resources will keep you up to date with the latest developments on the roads:

This online map from Italy’s motorway construction and maintenance company ANAS features live updates on road closures, maintenance work, traffic levels and even weather conditions. The service is also available through their mobile app, ‘VAI’.

Motorway company Autostrade per l’Italia offers a similar live map, showing road closures and traffic jams as well as the locations of the nearest petrol stations and service areas. 

The Italian Transport and Infrastructure Ministry’s Twitter account gives live updates on the status of the country’s major roads. 

If you want to speak directly to an operator while you’re on the road, you can do so by either contacting ANAS’s customer service at 800 841 148 or using their live chat.

SHOW COMMENTS