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→Legal situation: Corrected link to Nomadwiki
The law is pretty clear, and while it is not at all unusual in Europe that hitchhiking right on the motorway is illegal, Italy explicitly includes service areas into the law as well. Be aware that drivers picking you up may also be fined; for hitchhikers, the fine appears to be 21 euros, for drivers up to 137 euros.
Of course it is still possible to hitch the width and length of Italy on freeways without being fined all the time. On-ramps and exits of petrol stations have big signs saying ''no autostop''; if you stay before those, you should be fine; even if police have a problem, they will mostly just ask you to move further away from the sign. The ban on hitchhiking is not generally enforced in highway gas stations, but all the more when you're in a place where it actually is potentially dangerous to stand. It can happen that they ask you to leave a gas station and continue by train (see [[Italy#
Public transport|public transportation section]] for advice on how to travel for free by train). Generally it is smart to lower your thumb and try to look like a straying botanist or something whenever you see coppers approaching near the motorway.
According to [http://www.laleggepertutti.it/94376_autostop-chiedere-un-passaggio-e-illegale this legal article (Italian)], this does not apply to ''tangenziale'', bypasses, unless they are ''autostrade'' or other high-velocity roads. All in all, it's less likely that you will encounter problems if you're not Italian -- and, if you speak Italian, don't reveal this to police (or the armed forces, ''carabinieri'').