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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.

Vehicles on the A7 highway in Central Eastern France
Motorists travelling over the Ferragosto weekend had better prepare to encounter heavy traffic. Photo by Jean-Philippe KSIAZEK / AFP

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.

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DRIVING LICENCES

EXPLAINED: What’s in the Italian driving licence theory test?

The theory quiz is by far the most daunting part of Italy's driving test. We take a look at what the questions are about and what you’ll be asked to do on the day of the exam.

EXPLAINED: What's in the Italian driving licence theory test?

There are all sorts of reasons why people who’ve relocated to Italy may want to get an Italian driving licence, not least because of the potential lack of a reciprocal agreement (an arrangement allowing foreign nationals to exchange their licence with an Italian one) between Rome and their country of origin. 

As things stand, people from the UK, the US, Canada, Australia and South Africa are not allowed to swap their ‘original’ licence for an Italian one. 

READ ALSO: Explained: Who needs to exchange their driving licence for an Italian one? 

And, while the Italian Highway Code states that non-EU nationals can freely drive in Italy on a foreign licence for up to one year from the moment they become Italian residents, drivers will be required to get an Italian licence at the end of that grace period. 

Unfortunately though, the Italian driving test isn’t exactly a piece of cake and that’s largely because the theory exam, which candidates must pass in order to progress to the practical test, requires quite a bit of technical knowledge and cannot be taken in English. 

READ ALSO: Do you have to take Italy’s driving test in Italian?

So, for those who are considering getting an Italian licence and might, one day, be faced with the dreaded quiz, here’s what the theory test is about. 

For starters, once they have put in a request to take the theory exam, candidates have six months and a total of two attempts to pass it. 

Foreign nationals are generally advised to take the test through a driving school (autoscuola) as they will not only help you with all the relevant paperwork but will also provide you with the adequate training regarding the exam questions. 

That said, residents can also choose to take the test privately, which means that they’ll deal with their local licensing office (Ufficio di Motorizzazione Civile, which is roughly equivalent to the UK’s DVLA or the US DMV) directly and book their exam independently. 

Regardless of which path you choose to go down, the structure and procedures of the test are the same for all candidates. 

READ ALSO: Why is it taking so long to book a driving test in Italy?

The theory exam consists of 30 questions of the true or false type and each candidate is given 20 minutes (that’s a little over half a minute for each question) to answer them. 

Italian police officers setting up a roadblock

The Italian theory test consists of 30 questions ranging from road signage to civil liability. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Only three mistakes are allowed, with any number of errors equal to or above four resulting in a failed attempt. 

The questions presented to candidates are randomly selected, which means that some sections of the Italian Driver’s Manual (Manuale di Teoria) might not figure in the test at all. 

That said, you should know that the exam questions generally refer to the following macro-subjects: 

  • Road signage
  • Driver’s duties
  • Speed limits and restrictions to circulation
  • Safe following distance
  • General rules on vehicles’ circulation
  • Right of way
  • Braking, stopping and pulling over
  • Rules on overtaking
  • Use of indicator lights and horns
  • Personal safety equipment
  • Driving licences, circulation documents and penalty system
  • Road accidents and proper response
  • Driving under the influence and first aid
  • Rules on civil liability and insurance
  • Pollution and respecting the environment
  • Basic knowledge of car parts and vehicle maintenance

So, what actually happens on the day of the exam?

Barring some rare exceptions, the theory exam will take place at your local licensing office. 

Prior to the test, examiners will ask you to produce a valid identity document and the copy of a medical certificate testifying to good mental and physical health. After these formalities, you’ll be asked to take a seat at your designated station. 

Please note that you won’t be allowed to take any electronic device nor any notepad to your station. 

Cars queueing before road stop

Candidates only have two shots at passing the Italian theory test. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Once at your station, you’ll find a pc with a touch screen, which is where you’ll be taking the exam. 

By law, all candidates are shown a brief video tutorial prior to the test. After that, it’s game on.

Candidates cannot ask their examiners any question during the course of the exam – this includes questions about words or expressions that one might not know. 

It’ll be possible for you to move freely from one question to the other (i.e. you don’t have to answer a question to progress to the next one) and change your answers. That said, you’d best keep an eye on the remaining time (this is usually shown in the bottom-right corner of the web page).

READ ALSO: Some of the best learner sites for taking your Italian driving test

Once you have reviewed all of your answers and submitted the test, you will be automatically logged out of the exam page.

What happens after I take the test?

Results will be made available online the day following the exam. 

If you pass, you’ll get the ‘pink slip’ (or foglio rosa) and you’ll have 12 months and a total of three attempts to take the practical test.

If you fail, you’ll have to wait a month before you can have another go. Should you fail your second attempt, you’ll have to re-enrol and submit a new request to take the theory exam (this means paying all the relevant fees again).

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