Driving in Italy
It’s about 4PM and I’m back on the entrance ramp to the Tange. It’s a typical entrance ramp that you would see in the US, except that traffic is getting heavy, and I am only moving about 15 mph onto the highway. The difference is that I am the center car three abreast as we enter traffic. I’m almost rubbing rear view mirrors with the cars on either side, and I’m thinking to myself, I really enjoy driving in Italy.
Driving in Italy is very different than it is back in the states. It is very selfish… driving is all about me. That’s right, there is no concept of courtesy toward other drivers. I mention that I am getting back on the highway, well that is because I already got on once, at one of the scariest entrance ramps that I have ever seen. The entrance ramp that I use to enter the Tangenziale every day coming home from work is only about 20 meters long, is on a blind bend to the right, and abruptly ends in a stone wall. So, after I enter the highway, pass under the overpass that is the reason for the stone wall, if traffic is heavy, I will get back off the highway, pass through the gas station on/off ramp and parking lot, and then back onto the highway (on the ramp where I was three abreast.) Now in the US, that is certainly illegal. It is probably also illegal in Italy, but it isn’t enforced.
For that matter, very few of the traffic laws are enforced in Italy. Unless of course, you get into an accident, then the Caribanarie will start writing tickets. But until you crash you don’t have anything to worry about.
Here are some of my highlights thus far while driving in Italy. Of course, like New Jersey, the Italians love the traffic circle. The key to the traffic circle is to not stop. Sometimes you are forced, but momentum through the traffic circle is your friend. Don’t worry if the car entering the circle has the right of way, all you have to do is get the front third of your car out front, and you are good to go. People expect you to cut them off, so they are always prepared to stop. Also, say traffic is light on the circle, and you want to proceed ¾ of the way around…. If you think that you can make it to the left by cutting across the circle in the wrong direction… go for it.
That takes me to my next topic, the lines on the road. They are mere suggestions. You can drive on either side of the road, you can pass across double yellow lines, you can drive the wrong way down a one-way street. And, if you are riding a scooter, then you can basically do anything that you think won’t result in death or dismemberment. Here’s an example. I’m sitting at a light on a 4-lane (two lanes in each direction) road with a jersey barrier down the middle. There are 4 cars abreast waiting for the light and some scooters in the gaps. I’m the 3rd car in line, against the jersey barrier, in the left lane. The light turn green and the two cars in front go left, the guy infront of me turns left, and then me and the guy to my right also turn left. So now we have 5 cars barreling up a two lane road with oncoming traffic. The guy that was directly infront of me wants to pass everyone, so he accelerates and we end up with 3 cars abreast ahead of me (on the two lane road), and then me with a guy to my right, and it all just gets sorted out.
You can really do whatever you want. Red lights are optional. Seriously, sometimes they just shut them off because no one uses the red light anyway. Personally, at some intersections I don’t even look at what color the light is, I just look to make sure I’m not going to get hit by a cement mixer as I cross traffic.
Really the only law that is enforced are the automatic traffic cameras that control speed on the highway, those send you tickets automatically, so you can’t really speed on the highway.
I’ll keep you posted. I have already hit my side mirror on two occasions, once into a ceramic drain pipe, and the second time into a parked car. I may just start driving around with my mirrors folded in. You really need to see it to believe it, so I suggest that you all come out for a visit, and we’ll go for a drive.
Until next time…. Ciao. Joe