When coming to Italy, many tourists struggle to understand the meaning of Italian road signs.
Every year, a significant number of foreigners decide to road trip through the Boot in order to visit as many cities as they can. It may seem bizarre, but every country has its own distinctive traits when it comes to road signs.
Beware that Italians have their own way of interpreting road signs and that not everyone respects the road code. Let’s start with the basic.
How to read Italian Road Signs?
THE SHAPES Italian Road signs with a circle shape mean either that something is forbidden or that something is compulsory. Rectangular or squared road signs are informational signs. Triangle road signs are warnings (Triangular road signs have a white background, but if it is yellow, this means that the warning is temporary).
THE COLOURS Just keep these three colors in mind: Green for Highways (Autostrada),which are toll roads; Blue for non-toll roads; Brown signs usually suggest historic or tourist attractions.
THE MUST KNOW ROAD SIGNS
- STOP: This is one of the most straightforward road signs you will find. It’s a red octagon and with a giant “STOP” written in the middle of it. When you find this sign, you must stop to yield. Bear in mind that not every Italian will completely stop: in most cases, when no one is coming their way, they will just slow down.
- MAXIMUM SPEED: A white circle with a red border, and the speed limit is written in black. Remember that the number refers to KILOMETRES per hour, not miles. Keep also in mind that there are cameras which register a car’s speed, automatically issuing a ticket, especially on highways.
- DO NOT ENTER: a red circle with an horizontal white bar in the middle. This sign means that no vehicles are allowed past it.
- LIMITED TRAFFIC ZONE (Zona Traffico Limitato or ZTL): a simple white circle with a red border. This sign is usually placed in city centers, and it means that you cannot enter that area unless you have a special authorization. If you find this sign with the image of a vehicle (car, motorcycle, bus) inside the circle it indicates it cannot enter the ZTL.
- NO PARKING: Blue circles with a red border and a red slash through the middle.
- NO STOPPING: (which also means no parking) blue with a red border and two red slashes through the middle like a red X.
- NO PASSING: White circles with a red border and two cars in the center of the circle. The one on the right is black, the one on the left is red. The red color is passing is forbidden. You may also see other signs that have a car and a big truck in red. This means that cars can pass, but trucks can’t.
- ONE WAY: One-way signs are blue rectangles or squares with a white arrow telling you which way you are supposed to go. Remember that you may find circular blue signs with white arrows that indicate that you have to drive in the direction the arrow is pointing to.
- RIGHT OF WAY/ END OF RIGHT OF WAY: Yellow diamonds (a square on one corner, really) with a white border. When you’re driving along a big highway with minor intersecting roads and you see this sign, it means that any cars turning onto your street from any intersecting side streets would have to yield to you – you have the right of way . When you later see this same sign with a black slash through the middle it means that now you’ll have to do the waiting.
- YIELD: an inverted white triangle with a red border. This sign means that you have to give other cars the right of way. This sign is creatively interpreted by Italians, be very careful.
- PARKING AREA: Parking areas are indicated by a blue square with a white P in the middle. They sometimes come with specific restrictions:
The crossed hammers mean that the restrictions apply only during the workweek (Monday-Friday). If you see a Christian cross, that means that the restrictions apply only to public holidays or Sundays. You may also find the inscription “1 ora” means that you can park for just one hour . The inscription “Disco Orario” means that when you park, you need to have a card called “Disco Orario” placed in your front window with the dial turned to the hour you parked your car. You can buy them at any Bar or Tabacchi for 1-2 euros
- CITY CENTER: a white circular sign with black concentric circles inside it.
- DEAD END: a blue square with a shape inside that looks like a “T”. This indicates a no through road.
- MINIMUM SPEED LIMIT SIGN/END OF MINIMUM SPEED: A blue circle with a white border and the limit in white. When you enter this zone your speed must not go below the number indicated in the circle. If it has a black slash through the middle it indicates the end of that minimum speed limit.
- ROUNDABOUT: a blue circle with three white arrows forming a circle.
- WILD ANIMALS/CATTLE: a white triangle featuring a deer or a cow with a red border. This means that you may find animals on the road.
- TRAFFIC HAS PRIORITY: a blue square with two arrows, the white one on the right stands for the traffic which has priority, the red one on the left stands for the oncoming vehicles which have to give priority.
- GIVE PRIORITY: a white circle with a red border and two arrows. The red one on the right means that you have to give priority to those coming the opposite way, marked by the black arrow on the left.
Driving in Toll Roads is not easy sometimes. Here for you one of our article with some general tips you may find useful.
Book your car before your trip, especially if you are accustomed to an automatic car and you want to choose one of those for your road trip, since the vast majority of cars in Italy are manual. You need an international driving permit if you are from outside the EU. Generally it is valid for a year, but if you look on the bright side, you have an excuse to visit Italy again. Italians drive on the right side of the road. Vocabulary-wise, some useful words to know include destra (right), sinistra (left), dritto (straight), uscita (exit) and pedaggio (toll).
If you are planning on coming to Italy and doing a road trip, you can’t miss the beautiful city of Siena (Tuscany) home of the “Palio”, the medieval horse race which, every year, amazes tourists from all over the world.
The Hotel Borgo Grondaie, just 1,5 km from the city center, is the perfect choice if you want to visit Siena and its surroundings. Moreover the free private parking is useful if you are planning to come by car.
See you soon in Tuscany!
Edited by Borgo Grondaie