Image by CiuPix :: Perepe QuaQuaQuaQua Perepe via Flickr
We have E-ZPass, and the Italians have Telepass, plus unmanned booths where you can pay your highway toll with a credit card.
We have Lodi, N.J., and they have Lodi, Italy, north of Milan. They have really low rail fares, but pricey tolls on the autostrada, and filling the tank of the Alfa Romeo 159 turbo-diesel sedan I drove would cost more than $100.
But they have full- and self-service, and if you pump your own fuel, you save money on each liter. And their tractor-trailer drivers are sweethearts, compared with ours.
Exxon is still called Esso there, and many Esso stations have On The Run convenience stores, as we do here. Each service area along a highway seems to have a service station run by a different oil company, as opposed to the uniformity on our toll roads.
I paid 1.24.9 euros to 1.30.9 euros per liter for diesel or 4.75 euros to 4.97 euros per gallon (3.8 liters equal 1 gallon). That's $6.08 to $6.37 per gallon (at $1 equals 78 euro cents).
Yet, Italy seems to have an inordinate number of gas- and diesel-guzzling Porsche, BMW, Mercedes and Land Rover SUVs being driven at insane highway speeds and tailgating slower drivers, despite a speed limit of 130 kilometers an hour (78 mph).
We have mostly junk food at service areas and they have good and bad food at service areas, but their highway Autogrill restaurants charge high prices, especially for such regional products as ham, cheese, rice, chocolate and wine sold in adjacent stores.
If you stop for an espresso (1 euro), you have to walk through the entire store to reach an exit. Usually, you pay the cashier first, then give the receipt to the espresso-machine jockey to get your coffee.
On Sept. 13, I stopped at an Autogrill on the A-1 autostrada to eat three cheese sandwiches I made from my hotel's free breakfast buffet, and stared incredulously at lighted signs above the grill that offered a meal consisting of two slices of pizza, french fries and a large soft drink for about $15.
A couple at the next table ordered a big lunch, including a small cup of fruit for $5.50, a Sorrento salad for $7 and a chicken entree for $15.25 (at $1 equals 78 euro cents). They left their receipt behind.
The prices in the duty-free food store at Milan's Malpensa airport are even higher -- more than $10 for a pound of Ferrarini dried pasta from Bologna.
I bought an Italian leather bag for my wife at the airport, and got an immediate credit on my charge card for the tax I paid. Now that I am home, I wonder whether I could have gotten credit for all the tax I paid on restaurant meals.