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TRAVEL

Price of petrol in Italy spikes at more than €2 a litre

Driving in Italy just got more expensive: the price of petrol at Italian pumps has climbed to its highest level in months, topping €2 a litre in several parts of the country.

Price of petrol in Italy spikes at more than €2 a litre
It's even more expensive than usual to fill the tank in Italy. Photo: Giulio Napolitano/AFP

With the US seeking to block Iran's oil exports and fighting raging in Libya, the rising cost of crude is being passed on to consumers, according to the Italian government's Fuel Observatory, which monitors petrol prices.

Two of Italy's biggest fuel companies, Eni and IP, raised their recommended prices for unleaded petrol and diesel by 1 euro cent on Wednesday. And service stations along Italian motorways have been spotted charging as much as €2.020/litre for petrol outside Milan, €2.051/litre near Florence and a whopping €2.071/litre outside Naples, the observatory said.

Nationwide, the average prices at attended pumps are €1.750/litre for petrol and €1.643/litre for diesel (or at self-service pumps, €1.618/litre and €1.508/litre respectively). That puts petrol at its most expensive since October 2018, when it hit a two-year high of €1.658/litre.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Italy's new petrol pump labels


Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

That's bad news for drivers in Italy, who are expected to take to the roads in their thousands from Thursday for the long Liberation Day weekend.

If you're looking to save a few cents, avoid refuelling on the motorway, where prices are typically highest, and fill the tank yourself: fuel from self-service pumps is generally at least a cent cheaper per litre.

The biggest money-saver, though, are so-called pompe bianche ('white pumps'): independent petrol stations that pump unbranded fuel, which is on average five euro cents cheaper per litre than its branded equivalent at big-name stations. There are an estimated 7,000 across Italy; find your nearest one via this map.

READ ALSO: 

Even when geopolitics aren't pushing the price up, fuel is almost always more expensive in Italy than most other European countries thanks to a hefty excise tax that makes up nearly half of what consumers pay at the pumps: the equivalent of €728.40 per 1,000 litres of petrol.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini promised during last year's election campaign to reduce the fuel tax, though so far no reforms have been tabled. 

Useful vocabulary

la benzina (senza piombo) – (unleaded) petrol

il gasolio or il diesel – diesel

il GPL – LPG, liquid petroleum gas

il benzinaio or la stazione di servizio – petrol/service station

fare il pieno – to fill up (the petrol tank)

 

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DRIVING

What are Italy’s rules on switching to winter tyres?

Italian road rules require a switch to winter tyres by mid-November. We take a look at how the requirements (and penalties) apply for the cold season.

What are Italy's rules on switching to winter tyres?

Though we may not have seen much in the way of adverse weather conditions so far – temperatures were far above season average throughout October – the winter cold appears to be just around the corner and so is the requirement for motorists to switch to winter tyres.

The window to make the change opened on October 15th, and the requirement and penalties for not following it will come into force on November 15th. 

By that date, all road vehicles will have to be equipped with winter tyres or, alternatively, have snow chains “on board”. 

READ ALSO: ‘Expect the unexpected’: What you need to know about driving in Italy

But, in typically Italian fashion, there’s far more to the rule than that. So, with less than two weeks to go until the winter tyres deadline, here’s what you should know about the requirements.

What areas do the rules apply to?

The Italian Highway Code along with a 2013 ministerial decree state that all road vehicles circulating on Italian soil must have winter tyres or snow chains on board from November 15th to April 15th.

However, the Code also gives local authorities (provinces, individual comuni and private highway operators) the power to modify national directives (including time limits) and/or bring in additional requirements according to the features of their own territory. 

Winter tire

All road vehicles circulating on Italian soil must have winter tires or snow chains on board from November 15th to April 15th. Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP

The result is a very fragmented legislative landscape, with rules often varying from region to region.

READ ALSO: Explained: Who needs to exchange their driving licence for an Italian one?

For instance, in Sardinia, only drivers travelling on Strada Statale 131 (‘Statale Carlo Felice‘), which connects Cagliari to Porto Torres, are required to have winter tyres on or keep snow chains on board.

Additionally, due to the region’s particularly favourable climate all year round, the requirement starts on December 1st, i.e. 15 days after other Italian regions, and ends on March 15th, that is one month before elsewhere in the country.

To keep track of all the rules applying to your region or province of residence, refer to the following website from Pneumatici Sotto Controllo.

You can also consult the following interactive map provided by Italian motorway company Autostrade per l’Italia. 

What types of tyres do I need?

Most winter tyres are marked with ‘M+S’ (or sometimes ‘M/S’), meaning ‘mud plus snow’.

Some winter tyres might carry the ‘3PMFS’ mark or a symbol consisting of a snowflake encircled by a three-peak mountain range. These tyres are largely recognised as the best tyres for winter conditions.

Both of the above categories are accepted under Italian law.

In terms of costs, the price of a single winter tyre goes from 50 to 200 euros, whereas fitting costs an average of 50 euros.

Tires in a garage.

The price of a single winter tire goes from 50 to 200 euros, whereas fitting costs an average of 50 euros. Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP

It’s worth noting that, by law, motorists are allowed to install just two winter tyres provided that such tyres belong to the same car axle.

But the Italian Transport Ministry advises drivers to install winter tyres on all four wheels to avoid potential grip and braking issues. 

Snow chains

Motorists can keep snow chains (catene da neve) on board as an alternative to the installation of winter tyres. 

However, your chosen set of snow chains must be compatible with your vehicle’s tyres.

Here’s a useful guide on what types of snow chains you’ll need based on the size of your car’s wheels.

Woman fitting her car with snow chains

Snow chains can be used as an alternative to winter tires but they have to be compatible with your vehicle’s wheels. Photo by Pascal POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP

The asking price for a mid-range set of snow chains is generally somewhere between 70 and 90 euros.

Fines 

The Highway Code sets out hefty fines for those who don’t follow the rules.

In city centres and residential areas penalties can go from 41 to 168 euros, while fines can be as high as 335 euros on highways. 

As specified by Article 192 of the Code, law enforcement officers can also choose to issue a temporary ‘vehicle detention’ (fermo del veicolo). In this case, motorists will only be able to resume their journey once their vehicle is equipped with winter tyres or snow chains.

Motorcycles

The above winter season rules do not apply to motorcycles.

However, the 2013 ministerial decree states that motorcycles are not allowed on the roads in the event of snow or icy conditions.

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