The impressive “autostrada”, or toll highways along the Italian Riviera are truly an engineering marvel – with seemingly hundreds of bridges and both short and long tunnels drilled right through the rocky mountain sides. As a result, you have a road that is amazingly level even though it passes through large mountains and deep river gorges. Complicated round abouts and entry points are located next to entrances to the autostrada. Entry requires you pick up a ticket from a machine – and when you exit the autostrada you pay a toll based on the distance covered. The most we paid for several hours was around 30 euro – once we paid 10 euro for about 30 minutes. The prices vary dramatically. A telepass service is offered which apparently ties into a meter in your car – if you have a telepass – you don’t have to stop at the toll collector machines.
Driving this highway is very challenging and extremely stressful; one needs to keep alert at all times. It is two lanes in each direction; these lanes are tightly confined between the guard rail in the middle and the guardrails right next to the white line at the edge of the highway. Driving here seems like being on a race track. At times the highway is windy – there is always a median divider with no median shoulder – and the right side of the highway is either a tunnel, fencing or road guard rails leaving little or no shoulder.
There is no room for mistakes on this road – especially with the large trucks that also drive here. Cars move extremely quickly and if you aren’t driving fast enough to pass someone you often find a car right behind you within seconds. We experienced cars behind us honking in frustration despite the fact we were following another car in the fast lane who was behind a bus.
There is a slight differential in pressure when you drive through these tunnels and with so many of these located along this part of Italy – you might notice this pressure difference in your ears as you enter and exit the tunnels.
The autostradas in this part of Italy are very well maintained. One can only imagine how long a drive would have taken before this highway was completed – with narrow roads winding up and down the mountains.
For more information about these highways visit: www.autostrade.it/en
“Movement” – Exploring Europe