Italian Driving

beautiful old fiat 500 car
the iconic Fiat 500

Just about the scariest thing you’ll ever encounter in Italy; way scarier than the economic crisis, or the stultifying lack of political change, is an Italian behind the wheel. That’s not to say that all Italians are crazy drivers, but Italians on the road function much like life in Italy itself; despite any regulation everyone swerves this way and that, bending to their whim, avoiding obstruction. The fact that law exists, is seen as a mere hindrance, the object is to beat the law and fool the system at every opportunity.

In a country where the second sport, after soccer, is Formula 1, it isn’t surprising they drive like its Le Mans. Curves are wide swoops covering every inch of available road space. On city streets lane markings (if they even exist) are mere suggestions, with many a driver straddling two lanes preventing anyone from passing. A road can quickly narrow from three lanes to one, without either a sign or a signal painted on the road to alert unsuspecting motorist.

Even worse than an Italian behind the wheel, is an Italian on a scooter. City driving is particularly unnerving with scooters swarming in every direction, passing in front on the left in the midst of a turn, and surrounding the car on all sides, jockeying to get in front. Thankfully country roads can be enjoyable with long sweeping stretches full of beautiful scenery barring for the occasional pedal heavy Italian behind you. Don’t worry, he’ll soon pass you, probably just before the next curve.

In efforts to control the speeding (and earn much needed income) Italy is now blanketed with speed cameras, ready to snap a picture of your plates as you speed past. Surprisingly many of them have signs posted (Autovelox, Controllo di Velocita) so you can smile as they take your picture. For many this is part of the game; drive as fast as you want, just remember to brake for the camera, then full speed ahead. Italians take pride in beating the system.

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