Posted by: debrakolkka | October 20, 2010

Trouble at the Alt Stazione

approach with caution

I always approach the toll booths at autostradas with trepidation.  They terrify me. I am never sure which booth to go to and there are usually cars going in all directions.

All my worst nightmares happened at the Siena exit recently.  I entered the Alt Stazione with the ticket and money clutched in my hand, put the window down and was congratulating myself on the closeness to the ticket slot – I could reach easily without having to scramble out of the window – so far so good.

When it came time to put the money in the slot, the machine would not accept the 10 euro note.  No matter which way I pointed it, it would not go in.  By this time there was a long line of cars behind me.

Then the note floated silently to the road and under the car. Being close to the toll booth was now  not quite so useful.  I could only open the car door a little way, barely enough to squeeze myself out and scratch for the money under the car and force myself back in.

At this point a voice came over the intercom telling me to insert the money into the slot.  What a novel idea!!!  I shouted to the air that the machine would not accept the money.  The request was repeated in english – very helpful!!!  I foolishly thought the man sitting comfortably in his little office might have roused himself and made his way the whole 10 metres to help me, but this was not to be.

Just as I was about to throw something large and heavy, preferably with long spikes,  in his direction, the money disappeared into the slot, the boom gate opened , a cheery voice said Arriverderci and I was on my rattled way to Siena.  I think it is time for us to get a Telepass.


  1. What a nightmare! But, you made it into a funny episode with your descriptions. It wouldn’t be a laughing matter if that happened to me! What happens if the motorist is deaf? That automatic thing will be confusing. I would probably go to the attendant rather than the auto machine even if it means a long wait. Sharing your experiences certainly help us to know what to expect when travelling by car in Italy. Thanks Deb.

    • There was no attendant – only automatic booths. I always go to an attendant if there is one.

  2. Ha ha – I remember the same… on the autostrada north of Rome.
    ” Aspettare “… I will never forget that word…

  3. for that reason I always go to the little booth with the usually little Italian man in it !!!! couldn’t handle that amount of stress on top of the stress of Italian drivers and the Autostrada… but you make it a lovely story Deb 🙂

    • Sometimes there are only automatic booths. I always try for one with an attendant, but it is not always possible.

  4. Uughh! Hate it when that happens, you drive off with all types of insane thoughts towards the ticket man/woman. Arriverderci my foot !!

  5. Oh I feel for you Deb, I had problems finding the ‘biglietti’ (however its spelt) lane!

    I am waiting for the traffic fine to arrive for driving in a ‘Residents Only’ street that the GPS took me on when arriving in Rome last May. The car rental company took a processing fee from my credit card back in May to give the police my address here but I am still waiting for the paperwork from them.

  6. Eeek Deb! Are there toll booths everywhere? Should we get a pass?

    • There are toll booths everywhere. A Telepass is probably not an option for a short trip. I will give you lots of instructions before you come.

  7. Wow. Just, wow. Sometimes living in Italy makes me feel like I’m in a movie- when I am faced with a ridiculous situation I have to look around and make sure it’s not some sort of candid camera set up. Congrats on handling the ordeal with grace, and not with pointy objects!

    • I didn’t feel full of grace at the time.

  8. I feel your pain! On the very first night of our last trip as we exited for Lucca on the way from the airport we mistakenly got in the credit card lane and it wouldn’t take our card (some weird thing with US credit cards). I kept saying “aiuto” and no one came to our rescue-finally a receipt came out, the gate lifted up, a flash went off and we realized we had gotten a ticket! I did pay the toll a few days later and so we averted the fine. Love your story!

  9. Oh Deb this brings back memories!!
    We travelled south from Florence once on the autostrade and had a similar experience. I made the mistake of going to the wrong booth (first time driving in Italy) As soon as I stopped I realised my mistake but there was no going back – literally. Big spikes came up in the road so that you couldn’t reverse!! This was the first week in August so major queues of traffic behind me, boiling hot, me standing in the road saying “mi dispiace”, it was a nightmare. Every single car was hooting their horn (or so it sounded) but out of the shimmering heat came a wonderful English speaking Italian who advised me to reverse down the bank (thus avoiding the spikes) even though it was quite a steep bank, (but it was only a hire car!!) wait for a gap in the traffic and make my way to the manned booth.
    It took me several days of holiday to get over the experience but I didn’t do ot on the way back. I pray to god every time now that there’s a manned booth – I live in fear of repeating the nightmare.

    All the little winding roads that a free are so much nicer aren’t they?!

    • As much as I hate the Alt Stazione, I prefer the autostrada to those tiny, winding roads.

  10. […] got my Italian drivers’ licence and drove to Siena by myself for the first time, almost incident free. looking through the buildings to the Campo in […]

  11. […] photos there late last year. It isn’t all that far from Bagni di Lucca and now that I can drive I can go even more often. There are so many reasons to visit this gorgeous […]

  12. Re: 22 October above. I received the paperwork this week and paid the fine for driving in the “Resident’s Only” street in Rome last May. Cost: EUR102,20. Plus the search fee from the rental firm.

    Judging by the other comments about paying for the Autostrada mine are pretty mundane. Although they were “hairy” at the time.

    It is almost time to go back. There is so much that is beautifully old to see.

    • I’m going back on 30th January. We have just had the assessor to our house. It could be unliveable for up to 12 months. I had thought I might need to stick around, but I not going to now.

  13. […] have had enough of struggling with the Alt Stazione. Click here to see one of the reasons why. In my quest to get a telepass I started asking friends how to go […]

  14. I LOVE these stories…I panic too! I had a huge panic last year following my husband on the road toward France out of Milan. He has a Telepass. I don’t. So without thinking, I followed him into the Telepass lane, but when I realized I’d made a mistake it was too late to get out. Long story short, I went through and had to make a declaration/statement at the other end swearing that I’d gotten on in Milan, signing, paying the maximum etc. The woman that handled that was very nice too. Thank God.

    • You must have had to get a licence here as well. It was one of the most horrible experiences in my life. I’m glad that is over.

  15. Follow the blu signs and pay by credit card, no commission even on foreign credit cards

    • I now have a Telepass, so I don’t have to worry about this ever again. Thanks for the tip anyway.

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