Sunday 21st September 1924
The world’s first inter-urban highway, the Milan-Varese Austostrada, was officially opened by Kind Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, Engineer Piero Puricelli , Count of Lomnago conceived the idea of the highway as “street for cars alone”, ie reserved for fast traffic (no wagons, coaches, bicycles or pedestrians) and paying a toll to cover the Construction and management costs. The idea was futuristic, because the cars in circulation at that time were few. In 1923, a total of 84,687 cars travelled on the Italian roads, of which fifty-seven cars , 25,000 trucks and 2,685 buses. The new road was on a single lane for driving direction and a single roadway (11 to 14 meters wide, 8 or 10 floors), more than enough to accommodate the passage of the few tens of cars circulating each day. The route was mostly straight (the longest stretch was 18 km), the curves did not have a radius below 400 meters, the slopes were not more than 3%. High-strength concrete, used for highway pavement, consisted of 18 to 20 cm thick plates.
By the end of the 1930s, over 400 kilometers of multi- and dual-single-lane motorways were constructed throughout Italy, linking cities and rural towns.
Italy’s autostrade have a standard speed limit of 130 km/h (81 mph) for cars. Limits for other vehicles (or during foul weather and/or low visibility) are lower. Legal provisions allow operators to set the limit to 150 km/h (93 mph) on their concessions on a voluntary basis if the following conditions are met: three lanes in each direction and a working SICVE, or Safety Tutor, speed-camera system that measure the average speed. In 2016, no road was utilizing this possibility.
The first speed limit, to 120 km/h (75 mph), was enacted in November 1973 as a result of the 1973 oil crisis. In October 1977, a graduated system was introduced: cars of above 1,300 cc (79 cu in) had a 140 km/h (87 mph) speed limit, cars of 900-1299 cc had a limit of 130 km/h (81 mph), those of 600-899 cc could drive at 110 km/h (68 mph), and those of 599 cc (36.6 cu in) or less had a maximum speed of 90 km/h (56 mph). In July 1988 a blanket speed limit of 110 km/h (68 mph) was imposed on all cars above 600 cc (the lower limit was kept for smaller cars) by the short lived PSDI government. In September 1989 this was increased to 130 km/h (81 mph) for cars above 1,100 cc (67 cu in) and 110 km/h (68 mph) for smaller ones.