The last weekend of July and the first of August is when most Itlians set off for their holidays.

According to Losservatorio di Telefono Blu, in August there will be between 23-25 million Italian holidaymakers out of their city of residence for a minimum period of 10 days. Of these, 77 percent have chosen Italian beach resorts and islands for their summer vacation (Sicily is the most popular destination this year) while 23 per cent will go abroad, mostly towards European and Mediterranean destinations.

Despite ever-rising petrol costs, travelling by car remains the most popular mode of transport, with some 65 per cent of Italians travelling on roads, 25 per cent by train and 10 per cent by plane to reach their holiday destinations.

Peak travelling times are 4-7 August (exit from major cities), and 25-28 August and 1-4 September (re-entry into major cities).

In order to cope with this exodus, the government has put in place a piano straordinario, comprising 29 helicopters, 1,600 traffic police, as well as additional firemen, emergency centres and civil defence volunteers.

In Rome an increased number of speed cameras have been put in place especially along the Via Pontina, Via del Mare and Cristoforo Colombo in the Lazio region. Nation-wide, the most critical roads that will be kept under surveillance are the roads in Liguria in the northwest, in Friuli Venezia Giulia, in the north east and the A22 norht to the Brennero and the motorway south Salerno-Reggio Calabria.

Alternative routes towards holiday destinations are available on www.poliziadistato.it.

It is not fun for all, though, with some 22,4 million Italians staying at home, mainly the elderly.