A 34-year-old motorist drove against traffic on the A1 motorway for 40 kilometres, in the direction of Florence, before being brought to a halt by police in Calenzano, according to Italian news agency ANSA.

The man, from Vicenza but with American citizenship, broke through a toll booth in Rioveggio at around 1:00 pm on Tuesday.

He proceeded to drive at high speed against traffic, causing panic among other motorists on the motorway.

After cutting off every available escape route for the motorist, police set up a road block at Calenzano.

However, when the driver was ordered to stop, he tried to flee the scene by reversing.

Police responded by ramming the vehicle and shooting the car’s tyres.

On searching the car officers found an axe, sickle and knife, according to ANSA.

The man was due to appear before a court in Prato on Wednesday morning.