We recently celebrated the anniversary of the inauguration of the first highway of the world, Milan / lakes till today viable although obviously modernized.
The construction started in 1923 and was completed in record time (1 and ½ year !!!!); it was intended to connect Milan, city in large development, with the holiday resorts located on Lakes Como and Maggiore.
It was the engineer Piero Puricelli, who conceived the idea of the motorway as a way reserved for the fast traffic (no wagons, carriages, bicycles or pedestrians) and the payment of a toll to cover the costs of construction and management. Avery futuristic idea, because the cars in circulation at that time were few.
On September 21th 1924 was cut the inaugural ribbon by a Lancia Trikappa House of Savoy with the king Vittorio Emanuele III, accompanied by Puricelli, and followed by a long procession of invited motorists.
But while we feel a bit of justifiable pride for this world premiere we can claim another record.
On January 21st 1962, the National Highway Company officially opened the construction site, in the presence of the Prime Minister and with great expectations and enthusiasm, of the new Highway (A3) Salerno-Reggio Calabria. Soon this essential infrastructure became the daily nightmare of drivers and workers in the South of Italy: 443 km that instead of serving the citizens and connecting the Country with the deepest part of Italy, became the battle camp of political elections promises and Mafia business profits playground.
If you add up all the investment required from the very beginning he cost of this endless project is almost 52 million euro per kilometer of highway. An absolutely astronomical figure when you consider that that a kilometer of highway costs to Spain 14.6 million and 8 million to France.
And the ridiculous promise of seeing it ultimate has been once again postponed:
the highway will be finished by 2018, they say.
This is the incomprehensible contradiction of this country: you can be the first and the last at the same time!
Useful tips for Tourist using the Italian Highways
You probably have visions of chaotic traffic jams and crazy drivers in Italy from diverse movies such as this Italian classic Il Sorpasso (check out at 50 second mark for a classic roadside gesture):
But the truth of the matter after more than 20 years driving small road, highways and barren country roads I have to say that I feel safer riding over here than on the insane I-95 in Dade County with its endless stream of cars passing you both on the right and left sides as you try to calmly cruise along without getting into an argument with some impatient driver!
The truth of the matter is that I have rarely encountered big arguments on the autostrada (Highway) while in the city this tends to occur a bit more often due to the nature of the hyper tense attitude of the Milanese!
Here are my list of basic tips for driving in Italy and more specifically on the autostrada.
1. Keep an eye out for the color of the signage!: The color designation for the Highway is green. You will mostly encounter indications towards the major Highways by following the green signage (see photo attached) while the blue signage is used for secondary roads which are usually one lane in nature. Highways typically vary from two lanes to four lanes.
2. Follow the speed limit even if you see Ferrari’s passing you on the left at 250km an hour!: The speed limit on the Autostrada is 130km/hour and you should stick to it! Also do not hog the left most lane if you are not going at that speed. Typical secondary road speeds vary between 50km/hr and 90km/hr depending on the trait you are located on. Keep an eye out for the signage changes and stick to what is indicated at that point. In Italy police vehicles do not chase you with flashing lights blazing at you when you are on the highway. You will typically get a photo and a fine in the mail if you
are speeding and your rental car company will forward that to you for eventual payment.
3. Turn and keep you lights on when you are on the highway: This is a relatively recent requirement. Bear in mind that this is also required in broad daylight.
4. The Autostrada requires a toll when you enter so be prepared!: When you approach the toll booth have your Euros ready. You can pay with bills and coins or a combination of both. Avoid going through the Telepass door (you will notice it is in yellow…see photo attached). The Telepass is for subscribed passengers that have a special small sensor in the cars and they getted billed automatically. If you go into the Telepass lane you will be blocked and forced to drive out and take the correct lane. Not a safe option!
5. In case of an accident: stay calm and do not leave your vehicle and wander on the road: Depending on the dynamics of the incident you are involved it is best to stay in the vehicle or off the road. This applies also to fog conditions which are typical in the north of Italy during the winter.