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These are the worst dates to travel on Italian roads this summer

Here's how to stay safe - and sane - by avoiding the "mass exodus" on Italy's roads.

These are the worst dates to travel on Italian roads this summer
Italy's heavy summer traffic means planning ahead is essential. Photo: depositphotos

Italy's autostrade, or motorways, are usually quite efficient and they see little heavy traffic, at least outside of the major cities.

But in summer that all changes, as everyone escapes the baking hot cities for the cooler air of the mountains or the coast.

Not only do motorways become much busier, but many smaller roads, particularly in coastal areas and around holiday hotspots, become completely clogged with traffic.

Some 15 million Italians will be on holiday in the coming weeks, hitting the roads along with many of the the estimated 60 million international visitors that will pass through Italian airports during summer.

A traffic jam near Bolzano in northern Italy. Photo: Depositphotos

Cars are by far the most.used-form of transportation in Italy and at this time of year, it really shows.

The Italian government is urging people to avoid travelling at peak periods this summer, as not only is travelling on certain dates guaranteed to be stressful and unpleasant, but the roads will become more dangerous.

READ ALSO: Italy to fine phone-using drivers up to €1,700 in safety crackdown

At the presentation of the official traffic forecast last week, police chief Franco Gabrielli said: “Awareness of the risks is key when you start driving in months and days characterised, unfortunately, by a high mortality rate due to accidents.”

He added that the frequency of road deaths in August normally increases by seven percent.

Italy's roads are already among the most dangerous in western Europe, with 55 deaths per million inhabitants in 2017 according to Istat.

The dates to avoid

The official forecast, produced as part of the “Viabilità Italia” summer travel plans drawn up by the government, emergency services and and state road agency ANAS, notes particularly busy dates to avoid.

The last weekend of July, which this year falls on the 2728th, is traditionally the date of the first “mass exodus” as many Italians start their summer holidays.

Saturday 27th is expected to be especially busy..

There are also traffic warnings in place forAugust 3rd and August 10th, both Saturdays, on which historically the highest traffic has been recorded:

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Unsurprisingly, there are also travel warnings during Italy's famous August holiday, Ferragosto, when the whole country more or less completely shuts down.

Ferragosto is on August 15th, a Thursday this year, though the whole the week is celebrated.

This means there are warnings on the afternoon of Saturday 10, the morning of Sunday 11 August, and the whole weekend over the 17-18th.

A busy beach in northern Sicily in August 2017. Photo: Ludovico Morin/AFP

There are also travel warnings in place in early September, as the summer holidays come to an end, with heavy traffic predicted on Saturday 7th and the afternoon of Sunday 8th.

ANAS said that roadworks are being avoided where possible, but some essential work is still going ahead, making conditions even more difficult.

The highest number of roadworks are found in Sicily, with some 15 construction sites currently on the A19 Palermo-Catania.

For more information, you can see real-time traffic information on the ANAS website and app, or call the free information hotline on 1518 (in Italian only.)

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Reader question: Why can’t I get an Uber in Italy?

If you're used to hailing a ride quickly and cheaply through apps like Uber, you'll find things aren't quite that simple in Italy. In fact, you may wonder if the service exists here at all.

Reader question: Why can’t I get an Uber in Italy?

Question: I’ve visited several Italian cities recently and I couldn’t get an Uber in any of them. I’ve heard the app is illegal here. Is that true and what should I use instead?

Does Uber exist in Italy? As with so many things in this country, the short answer is a fairly irritating one: sort of, but it depends.

Over the last decade, ride-hailing apps have become a standard way of getting around cities worldwide – or at least a handy backup transport option when travelling. So it may seem a bit strange for us to be discussing whether the most famous of these services is available in a major European country in 2022.

But you may find certain habits you’ve developed while living or travelling elsewhere just don’t translate in Italy. Taking an Uber is one of them.

Uber has been present in the country since 2013. Though it was briefly banned from operating in 2017, it’s not illegal now – though taxi drivers may try to tell you it is. It’s just very limited and, apparently, deeply unpopular.

That’s not just because Italy’s highly protected taxi industry has been vocally protesting for years against the arrival of Uber and the threat of what drivers say is unfair competition.

There’s also the fact that a lot of people in Italy just don’t seem interested in using it.

The apparent lack of enthusiasm for Uber may be surprising when you consider the lack of good or reliable public transport in many cities – not least in Rome. There’s a reason why the vast majority of the Eternal City’s residents stick to using their own cars, no matter how hard it is to find a parking spot.

READ ALSO: Rome’s traffic woes are legendary – can the new mayor really solve them?

The same goes for cities up and down the country. And you may also notice that, outside of the biggest cities and away from airports, traditional taxis are very thin on the ground in Italy generally.

Whatever the reason, ride-hailing apps and taxis remain, for the most part, the preserve of tourists and totally irrelevant to the lives of many Italians, except for when travelling or in exceptional circumstances.

So what are tourists and new arrivals supposed to do if they want to use these services in Italy?

You can get an Uber – if you’re in Rome or Milan. 

However, it will be the more luxurious Uber Black service; the cheaper Uber service many of us are used to using elsewhere is not allowed to operate in Italy due to concerns about unfair competition for taxi drivers. Uber Black means nicer cars but higher prices – if you don’t mind the extra cost, it’s perfectly safe and reliable to use.

A traditional taxi is likely to work out cheaper, but the number of reports of tourists being ripped off suggests it’s advisable to book and agree the fare in advance. You can use Free Now (formerly MyTaxi) to hail and pay for a traditional cab in more than 80 Italian towns and cities.

READ ALSO: Reader question: What are the longer-term alternatives to car hire in Italy?

Other apps including Carmel and Lyft also exist in Italy. But they suffer from the same problem as Uber: they aren’t widely used and therefore are unlikely to be available outside of the biggest cities.

Apps that are popular, by contrast, are mainly those focused on renting your own transport, such as Enjoy or Scooterino.

For longer journeys Italians often use rideshare app BlaBlaCar, while the Moovit app is popular among public transit users – especially in the surprising number of towns and cities where bus routes are not shown on Google Maps.

Things may be about to change in the near future, as Uber is set for major expansion after finalising a deal in May to integrate its app with Italy’s largest taxi dispatcher, IT Taxi.

But until then, if you want to get around quickly and relatively cheaply in Italy your best bet may be to do as the Romans do and get your own two wheels.

Do you have a burning question about life in Italy that you’d like the The Local’s writers to answer? Email us here.

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