Italian man, 80, owes €4,000 in fines after dodging motorway tolls

<span>Photograph: Chris Helgren/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Chris Helgren/Reuters

An 80-year-old Italian man nicknamed “Nonno Sprint” (Granddad Sprint) risks going on trial after he brazenly dodged paying €4,000 (£3,514) worth of motorway tolls using a technique more frequently reserved for metro fare hoppers.

In his Fiat Punto, the man, whose real name is Mario, “travelled far and wide” on Italy’s motorways for two years without paying a single euro, arguing that the charges were too pricey and not worth it for the poor service, according to Corriere della Sera.

He managed to avoid paying by driving close to the vehicle in front, in the lane reserved for customers of the prepaid Telepass, and zipping through the toll gate before the barrier descended. Mario, who lives in a retirement home in Fiuggi, Lazio, used the same tactic at motorway exits.

He was eventually caught after workers for the motorway company Autostrade were able to identify the Fiat Punto and trace it to Mario after piecing together footage from surveillance cameras at each of the gates he drove through.

Autostrade ascertained Mario had ventured to places including Rome and Naples on his travels. He risks going to trial on fraud charges unless he pays the €4,000 he owes, but is refusing to do so.

“I’m not paying,” he reportedly told his lawyer. “The motorway is a public service, they can’t charge a toll. Not to mention that the rates are too high for the service offered.”

According to Corriere della Sera, Mario told his lawyer he would go driving at night due to boredom in the retirement home. “The other residents would go to bed at a certain hour, and what was I going to do? I couldn’t manage to stay inside for an entire day.”

Travelling has always been his passion. “It opens up my heart,” he reportedly said. “I like going to new places, and so long as I can, I will continue to do so.”