> SlowTrav > Italy > Instructions for Visitors > Driving

Navigating When Driving in Italy

Pauline Kenny

Bring good maps with you. Buy the most detailed maps you can find when you are in Italy. (See the Driving - Road Maps section for more details about which maps to get and how to use them). But it is the town signs along the roads that you will use to find your way.

The maps all indicated numbered roads, but you rarely see signs with those road numbers. When you get to an intersection, you will see town signs pointing in each direction. Navigate by memorizing the names of the towns along the road you want to travel. If it is a major highway, find the names of the larger towns the highway goes to. For example, at an intersection near Perugia you may be looking for the road to Todi, but it will say direction "Roma" because that road ultimately takes you to Rome.

And, be sure to memorize the town names in Italian. You will not see signs for Florence - the Italian word is "Firenze".

I have included lots of pictures of town signs here so you can get used to them before you get to Italy. You will have to look at them quickly and make your decision. The roads are narrow and frequently busy, so you can't pull over to read the signs carefully. Cars will be right behind you, so you have to make your decision quickly. But the good thing is that there are lots of signs, so if you take a wrong turn, it will be easy to correct your mistake.

"You got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going,
because you might not get there."
- - Yogi Berra - -

Road sign in Chianti. 09/99

This is a simple road sign at a T-intersection showing that Pianella is to the right and  Vagliagli is to the left.

Town sign in Chianti. 09/99

This road sign with Steve beside it is telling you that you are leaving the town of Pievasciata and the other towns listed are ahead. Notice that they use abbreviations on these signs. "Castelnuovo B." is Castelnuovo Berardenga.

Italy, road sign.

You are driving at 100 kph along a narrow street, cars coming at you, cars on your bumper. You come to an intersection. You have to quickly look at a road sign like this to decide which way to turn.

With this example, if you are just heading to Siena, you are in luck. They have color coded the signs (but it isn't always consistent).

  • Blue is for town directions.

  • Yellow signs point to hotels.

Then they throw in lots of other signs to make it confusing. There are way better examples of confusing road signs, but we are always going too fast for a picture.

Italy, road signs.

Another good example of road signs. This sign is just outside San Casciano dei Bagni. See the small road sign for "Via Roma"? You don't see that too often. Also, just below that road sign is a hiking sign. These are now posted on long distance hiking trails all over Tuscany.

This sign is telling you that the town of Treviano, the spa, a restaurant, a pharmacy, and a post office are all to the left. This points to the modern outskirts of the town. The tourist office (i) is to the right, in the historic center of the town.

Italy, road signs.

Here is another example common in Chianti. This sign points to a farm where you can buy olive oil and wine, to a restaurant (but not with the usual yellow sign this time), to a hotel, and to a Chianti farm.

Italy, road signs.

This sign is on the main road to Gaiole in Chianti. If you go straight, it is 27 km to Siena. Turn left to go to Barbischio. Also to the left are the police, the stadium and whatever the municipio is.

The local bus stop is behind this sign.

Slow Travel Photos - Italy - Instructions - Driving: More photos

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