Driving in Italy
|Title:||Driving in Italy|
|Category:||Transportation in Italy|
|Author:||Daniele Pintaudi||Updated:||Jan 30, 2019||Views:||5,800|
|Tags:||drive in italy driving in italy is it difficult to drive in italy what to know to drive in italy|
Driving in Italy is not something to be taken lightly. If you have never done it before, it will quickly become your favorite story when you get home. Italians are extremely aggressive drivers. I'm not talking about drive-by shootings and road rage here, I am talking about a different kind of aggression. The best way I can put it is to have you think of it as a game. Every driver on the road is your opponent in the game, and each one has a goal. To get where they are going as quickly as possible. In this game, the rules of the road are not very important. A red stop light is considered to be a mere suggestion. Your objective is to get to your destination as quickly as possible without crashing. Now, imagine a million people playing this game at the same time. Over time, you become quite expert at weaving through traffic, cutting people off, and taking every little advantage you can. But if someone suddenly shows up in the middle of the game, having never seen it, they would certainly be overwhelmed. When you step in your car in Italy, be prepared to be overwhelmed.
If you are driving at home and a car weaves through traffic and cuts you off, you may get angry and honk. You will probably comment on what a crazy driver that was. Now imagine every car on the road was doing the same thing at the same time. Either you wear yourself out yelling and honking, or you get used to it and do it yourself. This is driving in Italy.
An Organic Phenomenon
If you think you get the picture by now, you don't. If you sit back in a city like Rome and watch the traffic, it can be hypnotizing. As you begin to watch it, you will see utter chaos. But after watching long enough, you will begin to see an order come out of the chaos. It is almost like looking at a stereogram picture where at first you just see a bunch of visual noise, but if you relax and stare long enough, a picture is revealed through the noise. Before you know it, you will know exactly when someone it going to cut someone off, or when someone is going to make an illegal turn, or when people will create a new lane by squeezing between you and the car next to you. it all becomes organic in nature. In fact, it is only when a driver attempts to drive by the rules that real chaos is introduced to the streets.
Italians are Excellent drivers
For one thing, it is extremely difficult to get a license to drive in Italy. The training is far more complex than most of the world, and the testing is far more rigorous. It is extremely rare that you will find an inattentive driver. To the contrary, Italian drivers are generally extremely attentive. Most Italians are one with their car, such that they can judge the proximity of the far right corner of their bumper to your car in a turn so that they confidently come within just a few inches of your car. They have a sense of their own acceleration and the speed of a car they are passing, compared to the distance and speed of oncoming traffic so fine-tuned, that they can pass you and squeeze between you and the oncoming car with only feet to spare... all with absolute confidence. You will be certain they are about to crash, while they are just going about their regular driving. In fact, Italy has a very low accident rate compared to much of the world.
You are the crazy driver
As odd as it may seem, while you are marveling at how crazy they drive, it all works because everyone there can drive this way. So from their perspective, it is normal. When a tourist is introduced to Italian roads and attempts to drive by the rules in an organized manner, they are upsetting the whole system. When they pass you, they expect you to react in a certain way. When they are slow, they expect you to pass them in a certain way. At the end of the day, if you are not driving like they do, they see you as the crazy driver that puts them in danger.
Mopeds and Vespas
In Italy, you qualify to get your driver license at the age of 18. At 16, you can ride a motorcycle with an engine that is less than 125cc. But when you are just 14 years old, you can ride anything that is 50cc or lower. Because of this, you will see thousands of people between 14 and 18 riding mopeds and Vespas. Additionally, in the cities traffic is intense, and parking is extremely difficult. As a result, many people opt for 2 wheels. Their riding is usually even crazier than the cars, and the kids often travel in packs. I liken them to swarms of bees. These riders will squeeze through every little space their bike can fit through, so while you are driving in the city, you will find them swarming around your car, in front of you, behind you... often way too close for comfort. If you are not used to it, it can be very unsettling. However, you need to realize that it all fits into the organic nature of driving in Italy.
City versus Country, North versus South
Political correctness aside, Italian culture between north and south is very different. The further north you go, the more orderly people tend to be. In the south, people are much less structured. In the north, people tend to be more reserved and are more likely to follow the rules. In the south, people tend to be far more animated, and less inhibited by the rules. The effect this has on traffic is that in the more southern areas you find more crazy driving, while in the north it tends to be far more structured.
In the larger cities, there are many more cars, and the lifestyle has a faster pace. In the country and smaller towns and cities, people tend to enjoy the moment more. As a result, driving in the country and towns is much more relaxed, and easier than in the cities. The North/South difference factors in here, as well. Rome is much more chaotic than Milan, and the chaos of driving in Naples make Roman drivers look like fine, law-abiding citizens.
There is Hope
You can drive in Italy. Millions of tourists do. But in order to keep from going crazy (or having an accident), there are some rules to keep in mind:
1. Avoid driving in big cities.
For one thing, Italian public transportation is excellent, so you can get around much better without a car. Additionally, many of the attractions you will want to see are located in historic areas that are closed to all traffic except taxis, so you wouldn't be able to get there with a car anyway. Also, consider that the cities are full of winding and one-way streets that are very difficult to navigate. These are usually ancient cities that were not built with cars in mind, so a sense of direction and location is extremely difficult to achieve. Parking is usually a nightmare. Even if you get where you want to go, trying to park your car is usually an event. The locals will know where they can park illegally without getting in trouble, but you don't. So you may very well think you parked legally, only to find a ticket on your car when you return. Consider this: My place is less than an hour from Rome, I have 20+ years of experience driving in Rome. I can drive like an Italian with confidence and can get around Rome with no problem. Still, when I go to the tourist areas, I take the train and use the subway system. I do this because it is faster, cheaper, and more convenient for me. It saves me time getting around the city and I don't have to worry about parking,
2. Be extremely attentive
Never take your attention off the road. Always know what is happening ahead of you, behind you, and to your sides. Do not try to navigate and drive at the same time.
3. Get the smallest car you can fit in
As I said before, many roads were not built for cars. Believe me, you will really appreciate this tip. You will also appreciate it when it comes to parking. SUV's are unpopular in Italy for a reason :-)
4. Be one with the monster
As I said, Italian traffic has an organic nature to it. If you can get your mind to see that, you will be way ahead of the game. Do this, and before you know it you will almost feel the traffic around you and anticipate everything.