The REAL Rules You Need to Know – Driving in Italy

17 Jan

I am very fortunate that I don’t actually need to drive in Italy since I have my own dashing Italian chauffeur boyfriend. However, being a passenger has provided me with a front seat view of what drivers in Italy really need to know.  Sure, maybe that international driver’s permit will give you a sheen of legality — but these are the true moves you need to know to get you from point A to B.

1) The Wedge* – Trying to make a left hand turn onto a busy road?  Forget waiting until there is space for you to enter. What you need to do is slowly wedge your car in front of the oncoming lane on traffic.  Yield to super aggressive drivers, but otherwise keep on creeping  your nose out until you’ve essentially blocked both lanes of traffic and  have clearance to go.  People might give you “stinkeye,” but don’t feel bad – everyone does it all the time, and it’s probably the only way you’ll ever leave a driveway.

*Can also be done in reverse!

2) The Straddle – This move finds you driving for long periods of time, straddling the middle line between 2 lanes.  The purpose of this move is unclear to me, but it must be super important since everyone does it, all the time.

3) The Strategic Double Park – Why bother looking for a parking place when you can just park wherever? This move requires nerves of steel and the ability to analyze a parked car’s owner’s motives.  Are they there for the long haul or could they reappear in a moment?  This also requires an appropriately contrite or righteously indignant response depending on the demeanor and/or hotness of the person whom you’ve blocked in.

4) The Highway Reverse – Take the wrong entrance onto the highway?  No problem.  Just reverse on the shoulder and back out of it.  Italians must have learned this from Minneapolis drivers.

5) The Hands Free – How else are you going to talk on your phone and smoke at the same time?  Or convey your heartfelt feelings to your fellow drivers? Better learn to drive with your hands in the air.

6) The Robert Langdon (aka Symbologist) – So you can figure out where this:

Italian road signs

…and this:

Italy Road sign 1

Courtesy FIA Europe Bureau

…will take you.

7) The Sheep Dodge – Just because you are 15 minutes from a city boundary doesn’t mean you won’t encounter local fauna.  My advice?  Relax and take pictures!

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10 Responses to “The REAL Rules You Need to Know – Driving in Italy”

  1. Sara White January 17, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

    I love this post, because it’s just so true. I’ve observed all of these in action, and have been in the back of a taxi doing “the straddle” at 150km/hour! Another one I see a lot is “the crossblock”, where parking in the middle of a crosswalk is perfectly acceptable if a) there’s no other parking available, or b) it just seems more convenient.

    • A Life in Rome... January 17, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

      I love it! Yes, the “crossblock is clearly a fav, and I suspect often the reason is b)!

  2. Keane January 17, 2013 at 6:31 pm #

    I love this!

  3. antiquatours January 17, 2013 at 6:48 pm #

    Not really a driving rule, but the “Park and F**$” rule is a VERY important rule for people’s sex life here. If you ever come up to the Castelli on a Friday night and go near the edge of Lago Albano there are like 5 cars lined up all with towels, sheets and fog in the windows. And if you see them some out, it ain’t teenagers but people OUR age. Are they really still scared to take their girlfriend home at 35?

    • A Life in Rome... January 17, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

      They are if they are live with la mamma. Or their spouse! So funny.

      • Antiqua Tours January 18, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

        Ettore took me home to mom withing a week and a lived with them. His family is modern, I guess.

      • A Life in Rome... January 18, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

        He is not a mamone, which is why you can have a normal relationship!

  4. Josephine July 9, 2013 at 6:39 am #

    Hi … I beg to differ … a “style” is one thing (right or wrong, breaking rules etc) but I find that ACTUALLY Italians really know HOW to drive. I have seen too many expats fall apart not because of the traffic but because… a) they can’t cope with the gear stick (talking and changing gears at the same time is too much for them) and b) they need a whole avenue of road space to maneouuver the car, however small the car. They haven’t mastered the art of squeezing into small parking spaces (it takes years of practice) and their wits are usually not very sharp. Weirdly enough, New Zealand is a place where there are far too many traffic accidents statistically, huh, go figure. And “mammone” is spelled with 2 “m” s.

    • A Life in Rome... July 9, 2013 at 7:39 am #

      Hi Josephine, I don’t think we are saying that Italians are bad drivers, they are very masterful with a different and often perplexing set of rules of the road than most expats and visitors are used to. And they are certainly adept at parking in a tight spot (whether it be the street, sidewalk, pedestrian crossing, etc.) I agree that many foreigners come here and have a very difficult time driving (and parking!)

      PS maneuver is spelt with 1 “u”and without the “o” 😉

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