Driving in Italy: Italian Road Signs

!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)? ‘http’:’https’;if(!d.getElementById(id))js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+’://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js’;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}(document, ‘script’, ‘twitter-wjs’);

Now you have your car rented, know the fuel type, and have mapped out a route to take you on a road trip through Italy. All you need to do now is to understand all the signs on roads in Italy.

Yes, they are numerous.

To have some fun and laughs, I consulted Wikipedia’s page about Italian road signs. It was my 15th year and I immediately felt transported back. I could see how many times I would have failed my driver’s license test if I had to know all the signs. Although it’s an intimidating collection of squares and circles, I will be covering the most important road signs that you need to know if driving in Italy. You can find the entire list on Wikipedia.

Although it is overwhelming, the page does a great job breaking down Italy’s road signs in different shapes. And shapes have meanings before any printed information is placed on them. The circles signify something that is prohibited or requires a specific instruction. Rectangles and Squares indicate information. Triangles indicate danger.

Some colors have meanings, too. The Autostrada has green highway signs, which indicate toll roads. Blue highway signs indicate that there are no toll roads. Brown signs direct you to historic or tourist attractions.

Let’s now get into the details.

Check out my other articles: Driving through Italy 101, and Italian Driving Laws. Rules of the Road

It’s important to know the signs of the road in Italy

Stop

Italian stop signs are similar to those in the United States, and other countries. They even have English words for “STOP” It’s easy, right? It’s kind of. It’s kind of like the yellow flashing lights or yield signs that Italians use to approach stop signs. They may slow down or not stop completely if there is no one nearby. Also, do not assume that everyone will stop at the stop sign.


Flanker, creative commons photo

Begin & End of Restricted Area

It communicates the beginning and end of a road rule in Italy by using the same sign twice. Once to indicate that a rule is starting and another time to indicate that it is ending. The signs in this photo indicate that you are leaving Oropa (the sign that you saw when you entered the town) and that the 30kmph limit is ending. The color of the slash can change, but remember that you will be looking for the sign’s mate if you have seen it before.


Creative Commons photo by Cesare

Speed Limit

Speed limit signs – Maximum speed – are black circles with a red border and the speed limit in the middle.

Minimum Speed

A circular sign in blue with the minimum speed in the middle indicates the speed limit.


Flanker, creative commons photo

Do not enter

The signs indicating that vehicles are not allowed to pass them are marked with red circles and a horizontal bar in the middle. It could be that traffic is coming in one direction, but it’s also a pedestrian zone.

Traffic Zone with Limited Traffic

ZTL zones are becoming more common in Italy. ZTL stands for Zone Traffico Limitato, which means there are no vehicles allowed. These signs consist of white circles with a border in red. Sometimes they are empty, other times they have Zona Traffico Limitato written on them. Only one type of vehicle is allowed in the circle. No buses, big delivery trucks, motorcycles, or cars. Driving in a ZTL is a serious offense. You’ll be fined if you do not belong there. There are cameras located in most major cities. This AutoEurope page contains maps showing ZTL zones in some of Italy’s most important cities.

Parking and Stopping are not permitted

Parking signs must be blue circles with a red border around the perimeter and a red slash in the middle. Signs that prohibit parking (or no stopping) are blue circles with a red border. There are also two red slashes in the middle, like a red “X” symbol.


Flanker creates creative commons photos

There is no passing

Passing zone signs must be white circles with a red border, and at the center there are two cars. The one to the right is black and the one to the left, which is in the passing lane, is red. The red color indicates that the car is not allowed to do anything. Similar signs may be found with a truck on the left and a car on the right. This is a sign that trucks cannot pass but cars can.


Flanker, creative commons photo

One way

Italian one-way signs used the words “SENSO UNICO” but the new version has no words. You may still see some old ones. One-way signs are squares or rectangles in blue with a white outline indicating which direction traffic is supposed to be going. There are also circular signs in blue with similar white arrows. These indicate that you need to drive straight, left, or in the direction indicated by the arrow. It’s the same result – you will turn in the direction indicated by the arrow. This is not a problem, but be aware that squares and rectangles are true one-way signs.

Right of Way

Right-of-way signs are yellow diamonds with a border of white. I know it may seem confusing but the concept these signs communicate is important. Imagine you are driving on a road other than a highway when you come across a right-of-way sign. This means that any cars coming onto your street from side streets or intersecting roads would have to yield to them – they have to wait for their turn. You will see the same right-of-way sign, but this time with a black slash in the middle (remember the section on “end zone” above). This means that you will have to wait as cars from the side streets have the right-of-way.


Flanker, creative commons photo

Yield

This sign, which is an inverted triangle white with a red border, also tells you you are the one who must wait for other cars.


Flanker, creative commons photo

Parking area

A blue square marked with a white “P” in the middle indicates parking areas, including garages and parking lots. These are important to be aware of as parking garages can sometimes be difficult to spot, especially if they are underground. Parking in historic cities can also be difficult.


Flanker, creative commons photo

City Center

If you are driving into a town from the countryside, look out for the circular white sign with the black concentric circles within it. The sign almost looks like a bullseye with a white dot in the middle. It is possible to park in this area of a city or town, but it can be difficult to find parking. Once you have driven there, you will be able to take the highway exit to find parking lots or garages that are close to the center.


Rupertsciamenna, creative commons image

Italian Road Signs in Wild

There are so many signs! There are so many signs!


Creative Commons Photo by Luca Fascia

This sign has a brown indicator of a point-of-interest – in this instance a national park. It also contains the word “uscita,” meaning “exit.”


Creative Commons Photo by Ra Boe/Wikipedia

This sign collection is particularly fun because it is located in northern Italy, and thus in two languages. The non-toll highway leads to Courmayeur, which is the center of Aosta (or Aoste in French), and Autostrade towards Genova, Milano and Torino. It also takes you toward Monte Bianco (or Mont Blanc in French). Last is the customs sign (the circle with red borders and the word “dogana”)


Tenam2 creative commons photo

Turn left instead of going into this street.


Creative Commons Photo by Michael Turk

There is no stopping anywhere on this street. They take it seriously.


Conan takes a photo of creative commons.

Here’s one of these ZTL signs.


Simone Ramella, creative commons photo

Some signs have time limits. For example, no stopping after a certain hour. The time limit sign for this no parking sign is funny, however it’s only a 24-hour ban. It’s not clear why the no parking sign was not sufficient on its own.


Amelie – Creative Commons Photo

Now, let’s have some fun…

It’s too tempting to resist. Here are some Italian road signs with my interpretations. (Their true meanings are below. I don’t want anyone to be in trouble.

No trumpet playing


Flanker, creative commons photo

(No car horns allowed)

There are no cars on fire!

(No explosives are allowed)

There are no invisible motorcycles

(No motorcycles)

There is no soccer!

(End of the “Home Zone”; these are neighborhoods that have lower speed limits.

Be careful: You’re half a Death Star away!

(Tunnel ahead)

!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)? ‘http’:’https’;if(!d.getElementById(id))js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+’://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js’;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}(document, ‘script’, ‘twitter-wjs’);

28 Responses to “Driving In Italy: Italian Road Signs”

  • Jane DeVore:

    Is there a sign that has a blue skull and a red heart? This sign was visible in Florence and Rome. This post was so helpful that I tried to find it. Thanks.

  • V says:

    What is the marking of bus lanes in Milan, Italy? It is not listed on any of the websites I have searched. 18 months later, I received a violation notice. I also have not seen the alleged video I requested. Please advise. We are grateful.

    • Jess has the following:

      Unfortunately, the lines painted for buses and no-parking areas are not always well-marked. Not to mention that locals have sometimes painted over the lines with their own colors. You can view some examples of bus lanes. You may also be allowed to drive in certain areas, but only during specific hours. If you drive outside of those hours, you will be fined. You have two options when you have a similar problem. Pay the fine or not (and wait to see what happens). The long-term consequences of the former are not clear to me.

  • Sandra Lefevre says:

    Consider a yellow zone for pedestrians, bikes and mopeds. This is true or false?

    • Jess has the following:

      According to my understanding, yellow parking areas can be used for disabled parking.

      • Andi says:

        Yellow parking is available for residents in the area. Blue is for paid parking, while white is free.

  • Vanessa says:

    Many signs along backroads in Sicily recommended that we “Procedura con Prudenza”, which we did. The reasons given were hard to translate and included large land slips/mudslides as well as road surfaces that had been broken into steps/terraces, wild switchbacks that had cycle races on them, and no effectice barrier (nr Comiso). I wish I had taken photographs, but I was too afraid to stop. The whole thing is considered bravado by the locals.

    • Jess has the following:

      The exercise in bravado is something I agree with. They might not have been able to drive in Italy if they don’t know what it’s like!

  • judie says:

    A driving trip from Bari, Lecce, and back to Bari is in the works. Since I’m going to be riding with my husband, I would prefer to use roads used for biking trips. Are the roads small and busy? Are these roads easy to drive on?

    • Jess has the following:

      If you are referring to paved roads, my guess is that they can be used for cars. However, it may not be as frequently as highways. Some roads are gravel roads and small for cycling. They are mainly used by farm vehicles (I learned this the hard way when I made a wrong turn in Tuscany). It is a good idea to talk with locals about the best roads for your husband and you on the bike.

      • judie says:

        Jessica, my husband and Grandson are on a tour operator’s trip so I know they will be fine. I was more worried about myself..lol I want to stay on paved roads, but I don’t really want to travel on the highways all the time.

  • DriverSK says:

    Is crossroad equivalent to traffic sign for removing local speed limit in Italy

  • Louise says:

    You can get a ticket for driving within the ZTL if you park overnight in a ZTL and then enter the ZTL during permitted hours. Our Airbnb is located in the ZTL, if you haven’t noticed.

  • Kateryna says:

    Hi. Do you know if there is a way to stop on the autoroute in an emergency area to feed a baby or if it is possible?

    Thanks?

    • Jess has the following:

      It’s not something I know, but it’s probably a bad idea. You can find many AutoGrills and other places to pull over along the highway. This would make it safer.

  • Macdonald:

    Thank you Jessica for your article. It was very helpful. I am currently living and working in Italy. I am taking driving lessons, but my Italian is not perfect so it’s difficult to follow the lessons. Any tips or articles about driving in Italy and road signs would be greatly appreciated.

    • Jess has the following:

      Unfortunately, I don’t have any suggestions. However, your driving instructor might know of books that could help. Talk to other expats driving to find out if they have any suggestions.

  • Tourist says:

    What is the one that doesn’t allow autostop ????? ?

  • Ram says:

    Sign “Rallentare”, which could indicate that merging traffic is approaching, is very important. It literally means “slow down”.

    Sign “tutta la l’estesa”, which looks like speed bumps, indicates that the road is extremely uneven and patchy.

  • Related Articles