|Subject: Re: Tolls and driving in Italy and France|
I can only speak about French autoroutes (my experience on Italian autostradi is limited), where you get a ticket from a machine when you enter, and then pay when you get off. It's not much different from most toll highways in the U.S. (example the Pennsylvania Turnpike).
Don't worry about having exact change. Use your bank debit card or credit card to pay (you insert the ticket into a machine and it tells you how much you owe, then you insert the debit/credit card). If you do want to pay cash, you just enter one of the lanes with a human being in the toll booth.
French autoroute tolls are rather high compared with those in the US, but the highways are extremely well maintained and the rest area stores/restaurants/gas stations are clean and well stocked. In addition, most of the autoroutes have their own radio stations that broadcast pop music, weather and traffic information (in French of course, though I do recall some announcements made in English for the many anglophone tourists).
The speed limit on most autoroutes (which are the equivalent of US interstates) is 130 kilometers per hour, or 83 miles per hour. If you are not willing or too scared to keep up to that speed, stay in the right lane. The left lane is for passing only (and for thrill seekers who like to cruise at 100 mph+ and tempt the gendarmes). When it rains the speed limit is 110 kmph, about 65 mph.
Bonnes routes, et bons voyages! Evan in Paris