I love foreign road markers. Usually, they are our first “signs” of being in a distant place — a parallel world — away from the geographical comfort zone. They are designed for universal understanding yet are nonetheless unique to their time and place. Italian markers and traffic signs are different from French, which are distinct from German, etc. Before the intrusion of the EU this was even more profound. This 1959 volume of Il Codice della Strada, is one of Europe’s most expansive street and roadway manuals. Despite a rather small, pocket-sized page format, it is a thick wealth of signs and their standards, a modern masterpiece of graphic detail.
The type style most frequently used on the Italian road signs is a version of Transport found throughout England, called Alfabeto Normale. A condensed version, called Alfabeto Stretto, is also used for those impossible to pronounce, elongated Italian names that otherwise would not fit on a standard sign.
Mussolini is said to have made the Italian trains run on time, but the transportation ministry must take some credit for making traffic a little less chaotic (although traffic in Italy is relative).
More about the type can be found here. Below are some of the pages in this vintage handbook issued by the Ministero dei Lavori Pubblici.
Additional Resource: Typography for the People
The eBook Typography for the People is full of directional and hand-rendered examples of signage from around the world.