You’re in Italy, you’ve got your rental car and you’re ready to go. Seatbelt buckled, car in gear, you begin to slowly ease into the traffic when seven cars zoom past you. Two turn even though you have the right of way, others begin to swerve into your lane with nary a signal.
Welcome to driving in Italy!
On first glance Italians are the world’s worst drivers (saving Florida!) but the truth is, their actually the world’s best bad drivers. Sure, they hardly follow the rules and consider road laws mere suggestions, but they’re damn good at it.
The best way to ensure you enjoy your Italian road trip is by adopting a bit of the Italian style: in food, mood and driving. After all, when in Rome….
6 Tips to Drive Like an Italian:
Bee-eee Aggressive! And by aggressive I mean confident and assertive. Italian traffic flows quickly. Roundabouts don’t leave a lot of room for self-doubt and neither do the many one way streets, turn only lanes and hidden exit ramps. Even if you’re terrified, claim your space on the road and be bossy about it – no one will fault you.
No matter how fast you’re going on an Italian road, there will always be someone going faster. Stick to the right lanes on the highway if you want to go slow and keep your calm if cars pass you on residential streets. Remember that the left lane on the highway is for passing and that a flash of lights from the car behind you means ‘get the hell out of my way’! Also remember that there are speed cameras posted quite regularly, so perhaps leave this one to the Italians.
Assume the laws are suggestions
In a stick-shift country, roundabouts are through-traffic, stop signs are yields and yields are go! The only place an Italian will stop completely is at a red light. Here the speed limits are seen as suggestions and same goes with parking.
Speaking of which, parking is hard to find, especially free parking. It’s not unusual to see cars lining the sidewalks of Milan. When all the spaces are full, it takes some creativity to find another option. When I first came to Italy I scoffed at the cars clearly parked in a no parking area, or those that seemed to have invented a parking space – then I had to find free parking every morning before work and learned what it means to need to invent a space. Visitors would do best to follow lines and pay when necessary, but if you want to drive like a true Italian, park with abandon!
Leave room for motorcycles and scooters to pass
The biggest benefit to having a moto is that you don’t have to meekly follow the snaking trail of cars on a two-lane street. Instead, you speed past them all, weaving in and out when necessary. As a car you have no obligation to acknowledge these rude travelers, but think about it this way: it’s better to get them out of your hair. Try shifting to the right a bit to allow them to safely pass.
Change lanes whenever you want
Italian roads are small and there is a lot of traffic. No one is going to leave you three cars length worth of space to change lanes so just put your turn signal on and get over. Expect others to do the same.
One More Tip to Beat Them All:
Leave your road rage at home
It’s frustrating when people pass you on residential streets, when they don’t get over to allow you to merge onto the highway or when motorcycles whiz by, but just get over it. You’re in another country, one with a much higher population density (at least if you’re American) and a totally different mentality. Join the Italians on the road and enjoy your trip – you’re in one of the world’s most beautiful countries so stai sereno and enjoy it!