Road signs, Italy, Italy (Photo Public Domain)

There are hundreds of road signs blocking your view on Italian roads and—more importantly—telling you how to get where you're going

In a stroke of good fortune, most of Europe has become pretty standardized when it comes to signage, so you should have little trouble driving from one country to the next and figuring out what the speed limit is and where you can't park.

Below is a chart showing all the most important common signs you'll see in Italy. I'm leaving out most of the ones that will be patently obvious once you are in Italy (though including the most important, like the universal red octagon that says "STOP" in white).

Note that some Italian road signs are honored more in the breach than the observance. Speed limits, for example. Or "No parking" (as at left). Both "Stop" and "Yield" seem to be optional (as are red lights for that matter). "No passing" is truly a futile suggestion in a nation where people routinely pass at high speeds...on tight blind curves..inside tunnels.

Also, when confronted with a "Senso Unico ("One Way") sign, most Italians seem to be satisfied merely to point the car in the correct direction, at which point it's perfectly acceptable to throw it into reverse and fly the wrong way up the street if that's the way they need to go.

Have fun!

A quick primer on classes of Italian roads

Highway begins/Highway ends. Note that autostrade (what Americans would call an interstate or "divided highway" and Brits a "dual carriageway" and label M-something) are almost always on green signs. 

Note that most Autostrade (and some smaller, state roads) also have an "E##" designation—like E35 and E45 in the picture here. This means this stretch of road is part of the grand European Road network, indicated by white letters on a green background. These trans-national routes comprise a system linking together strings of national highways and other roadways into a singular long-distance path. In this case, the E35 from Amsterdam to Rome (passing through Germany and Switzerland along the way) uses Italy's A1, (among many other roads). Even more impressively, the E45—which, among many other roads in Italy, follows part of the A14 between Ancona/Pescara and Ravenna—actually starts in Alta amidst the fjords of the far northern coast of Norway and runs through Sweden, Denmark, Germay, Austria, and Italy all the way to Gela on the southern coast of Sicily.
 
Smaller highways are on blue signs—including strade statali (state highways, abbreviated "SS" before the route number), strade regionali (regional highways, or SR), and strade provinciale (provincial roads, or SP). As in America, the blue highways are slower, but usually more interesting. Then there are strade comunale, communal or municipal roads, usually indicated by black letters on a white background (or white letters on a brown background, though this sign is usually reserved for directions to a point of interest). These are your county highways and county roads. You will almost never actually see (or know) a route number. Just a black-and-shite sign pointing you toward the next town or village. 

If you see confusing signsMilano is at the second roundabout exit and green, but also at the third roundabout exit and blue—that just means you can take the A1 highway to Milan, or the state road SP233 and still get there, albeit more slowly. (Same goes for getting to Varese.)

This sign means you are entering the region of Piemonte and simultaneously exiting the region of Lombardia. (Similar signs are at provincial and municial/city boundaries,)
Indicating the direction to take for the center of town. Sometimes this symbol is accompanied by the Italian word for center, centro, (or by centro storico/ historic center). Just follow the bullseye, and you'll find your way to the heart of the city every time.

Italy "Warning" road signs

Give way or Yield "Give way" or "Yield" (sometimes above a small sign warning of a stop sign ahead). This is a good direction to follow at all times, regardless of sineage, since the local drivers have a much better idea of what they're doing and where they're goiung than you do.
Give way to oncoming traffic "Give way to oncoming traffic"—They have the right of way. Whichever direction of travel has the red arrow has to yield. In practice, it's always wise to yield to any car that is (a) bigger, (b) driving faster, and (c) being driven by an Italian.
"Priority over oncoming traffic"— In this case, you have the right of way over oncoming traffic (a necessary sign on a continent where roads often narrow to significantly less than two full lanes...or, come to think of it, even one full lane).
Two way traffic ahead "Two way traffic ahead"
"Curvy or slippery road ahead"
Intersection with a smaller road ahead Intersection with a smaller road ahead
Road narrows Road narrows ahead on both sides
Road narrows ahead on one side (in this case, the right) Road narrows ahead on one side (in this case, the right)
Roundabout ahead Roundabout ahead
Unprotected quayside or riverbank (one of my favorite European road signs)
Speed bump ahead "Speed bump ahead" (though I adore the British name for these traffic-slowers: "Sleeping policemen")
rough road ahead Not two speed bumps, but rather "rough road ahead"
Likelihood of traffic ahead
Stop sign Stop (this one's pretty universal)
Level crossing without barriers Level crossing without barriers (I know that you know this means "trains," but the fact that it warns of a railroad crossing at grade with no barriers makes it significant since you have to look for the train yourself)
Level crossing with barriers (train crossing ahead, but there will be bars down if a train is coming)
Get ready to stop and pay a toll ahead.
Pedestrian area (meaning that there are likely to be pedestrains, not that the area is restricted to pedestrains only). 
A Zona Traffico Limitato (ZTL) is an area in which traffic is limited, usually to all non-residents, at least at some tiems of day. Most Italian city centers are now this way, and you need to know how to deal with it. » more

Italy "Mandatory" road signs

Speed limit sign Speed limit (in this case, 50kmph). In most parts of Italy, this is considered more of a suggestion than a guideline. Still, you should stick to this.
End speed limit zone.
Minimum speed limit Minimum speed limit. Frankly, I've no idea why they bother posting these, since Italians seem to observe the maximum speed limit sign as meaning "This is as slow as you should ever be going."
Proceed straight—no turns. (Notice this sign is round)
Italian road sign for "one way only, straight ahead." (Notice that this one is round.)
One-way street. Note that, even though in Italy this seems to mean "It's OK simply to point your car the right way but then put it in reverse and back down the street," this is not a driving technique to be attempted by visitors. (The double sign below shows the older version of the Italain one-way sign, which actually says senso unico [one way]. At first glance, it does kind of look like a joke on the famous Italian disregard for road signs, but you think about it for a minute it actually can make sense.)
Turn right. (Also available in "turn left" flavors)
Obligatory right turn ahead. (Also available in "left turn")
Pass to this side
Pass on either side
Parking. Ususally, this means paid parking, so look for a common meter down at the end of the block, pop in a few coins, and leave the receipt it spits out on your dashboard.
No outlet/dead end street
Bicycles only
Pedestrians only

Italy "Prohibited" road signs


Road closed to all vehicles in both directions
Do no enter
No motorcycles allowed
No parking
No stopping
No passing (no overtaking). They mean it.
End of no-passing zone
No tooting your own horn
No pedestrians allowed
No bicycles allowed
No vehicles over the proscribed length (useful for motorhome renters)
No vehicles over the proscribed width (useful for motorhome renters—and many larger RVs are more than 2m)
No vehicles over the proscribed height (useful for motorhome renters)
End of all restricitons (which sounds to me like an excuse to party)
 
AutoEurope.com
 
Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for car travel

English (inglese) Italian  (italiano)  Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
car automobile ow-toh-MO-bee-lay
scooter/motorboke un motorino oon mo-tair-EE-no
gas station stazione di servizio stah-zee-YO-nay dee sair-VEE-tzee-yo
gas benzina ben-ZEE-nah
diesel gasolio [or] diesel gah-ZOH-lee-oh [or] DEE-zell
Fill it up, please al pieno, per favore ahl pee-YAY-noh, pair fa-VOHR-ray
Where is... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the highway l'autostrada lout-oh-STRA-dah
...the state highway la statale [written "SS"] lah sta-TAHL-eh
...the road for Rome la strada per Roma lah STRA-dah pair RO-mah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
keep going straight sempre diritto SEM-pray dee-REE-toh
to cross attraversare ah-tra-vair-SAR-ay
toll pedaggio peh-DA-jo
parking parcheggio par-KEH-jo
road map carta stradale kar-ta stra-DA-lay
where can I pay the fine? dove posso pagare la multa DOH-veh Po-so pag-GAR-ray la MOOL-tah


Typical road signs / terms » more

English (anglais) French (français) 
Stop Stop
Exit  Uscita
Staffic light Semaforo
One-way Senso unico
Dead-end Strada senza uscita
Parking prohibited No parcheggio or parcheggio proibito
Pedestrian zone Area pedonale
Limited Traffic Zone (you pay to drive in) ZTL or Zona Traffico Limitato

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
     
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
     
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
     
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
     
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
     
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
     
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah


* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).