Italian Drivers? – We Love ‘Em !

The weather here has been, changeable, I think the word is. The temperature has ranged from 20 degrees last weekend to -1 degree this morning. We have had sunshine, showers, snow, hail, clouds and blue skies.

I have been to Ancona airport twice this week, once on Monday to drop off and once on Wednesday to pick up. It’s a three-hour round trip, but I don’t mind because it gives me the opportunity to think up lots of writing ideas during the phase of the journey when I’m alone in the car, or to listen to a CD or radio programme of my choice, although most Italian radio is hard to follow. A ‘listening book’ is always a good option.

Anyway, on my way back on the Monday, I had to negotiate a massive hailstorm, it was so bad that even the Italian drivers slowed down and put on their hazard warning lights. For those of you who are not au fait with Italian drivers, they always drive very fast on all types of roads and road surfaces and in all kinds of weather conditions. They overtake on bends; they drive in the centre or the wrong side of the road, so that it is common to meet a car hurtling towards you on your side of the road just after you go round a corner or even on the straight!  They are always on their mobile phones, they have children sitting on their laps on the front seats, flash their lights when they are ‘coming though’ and not intending to stop. They drive only a metre’s length behind your boot on the motorway, tailgating until you move over, which, by the way, you are expected to do immediately even if you are half way through passing a lorry! They also have a colossal number of hand gestures, which are often self-explanatory! Mind you, I have learnt a few of those myself…..

carparking

Then there is PARKING…well….I’m not sure I have the vocabulary at my command to express my true feelings about Italian parking! I have no idea why they bother with parking bays, because they are completely ignored. Double parking is totally accepted, especially while the guilty person enjoys his cup of coffee and croissant, reads the paper and leisurely passes the time of day with the patron of the bar! Parking on the pavement, parking right in front of the supermarket door, parking across two bays, parking in the middle of the road, parking very close so that you have to squeeze yourself flat to get back into your car which, by the way, you had left parked with ample space for others each side.

Fiat Panda 4x4Having mentioned the high speeds at which the Italians drive I should also point out the other end of the scale which involves drivers who go extremely slowly, less than 20k an hour. These drivers are often elderly and do not have mobile phones but, they are always deep in conversation with their passenger, engaging with them eye to eye and not watching the road. They are usually driving an ancient Fiat Punto 4×4 with thin wheels. We have wondered if these little cars are given out by the Government for retired people over 85 and speculate what the criteria might be to qualify.

Feel free to share your Italian driving and parking experiences with me!

12 thoughts on “Italian Drivers? – We Love ‘Em !

  1. Ha ha!! Yes, Ninette, I am reminded of Jeremy Clarkson once discussing with an Italian the fact that while Italians have fabulously fast cars and drive flamboyantly fast, theynever seem to arrive on time! To this the Italian gent replied…”To an Itailan driving fast is an act of freedom. But to arrive on time is an act of slavery”.

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  2. This gave me a good old chuckle…. Not a day goes by when I am out on the road in Italy where I think to myself… HOW are these people given a license…. The other day I witnessed, at the roundabout in Petritoli something quite spectacular, so, we are taught to give way to the left and to go anti clock wise around a roundabout in Italy…. Well this chap decided he wasn’t doing that and instead went clockwise around and nearly caused a 3 car pile up- There were lots of hand gestures and a few choice words said by us all who encountered this idiot and he just looked as if we were the idiots and what were we all complaining about.Every day without fail I see a new thing on the road that makes me think ‘you have to be kidding me’. I for one would love to know what skills are required when taking an Italian driving test…. I think Lucas could probably pass now. It is a scary place on the Italian roads, especially with their lack of indication, sudden braking, in the middle of a road with cars traveling behind them and their ability to just ‘swerve’ into a driveway, shop or opening in the road, giving no warning what so ever. Another thing that gets me as a Mother is the children who aren’t in seats with seat belts and are able to travel on the dash board, moving from front to back, even on the motorways… how is this possible when many Italian parents are so worried about the health of their children and ‘febbre’ etc that kids cant play outside unless it more than 20 degrees and must be in hat, scarf and gloves for all of Autumn and Winter, no matter the temp…. SO this is a worry to them, their children getting a cold, but safety in a car on these roads….. not a second thought??? BALMEY…. Can’t help but love it though… Viva Italia!

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  3. OK – at last someone has the coglioni to complain about this national scandal! – that’s why of course I only ever drive my truck and never go more than 20km from Petritoli – when we go any further afield Nin drives and i huddle in the back with a blanket over my head! Italy kills more than twice the number of road users than Germany each year and Germany has 20m more people and no speed limits!!! anybody who has ever driven from Bologna south on the A14 at night will know exactly what I mean. I am saving up for the 007 Aston Martin with the machine guns front and rear!!!
    Having said that you gotta sneakingly admire the absolute faith of 2 kids on a moped – both on mobile phones and no helmets – passing us on the INSIDE of a blind left hand bend on the Amalfi coast road during high summer …

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  4. In all fairness my experience of driving here, in Trentino, for nearly fifty years is not nearly so dramatic. Here people are much more law-abiding. But they are with refuse collection, public health, and education too. Examples of the North-South divide?

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    • Ha…not sure I want to get into the North-South divide debate…but have to admit it does seem a little more hectic south of Bologna and definitely the Amalfi coast is terrifying! We of course in Le Marche are in the Centre!

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  5. Ah well, having just spent three weeks driving around India, Italians now for me are tame on the roads!
    Think I experienced near death situations everyday, at the hands of the driver who unexpectedly had to take 7 up in a 4 up jeep (LD in the kids seat with one other in the ‘boot’) for 7 hours, the big coach driver who thought he was an F1 driver and needed to win the mountaineous crossing to Udaipur or every rickshaw/tuk tuk driver in every village/city! The roads are mainly equivalent or worse than ‘strade bianche’, just about two lanes, potholes, sometimes unmadeup and overtaking two cars at a time on blind bends, at brows of hills is the norm. For those who have driven in this magical country the horn is their equivalent of the brake. So …. cows in the road, apply non stop horn procedure and continue at breakneck speed towards incoming object whether animal, lorry or human. At last minute, with nerves of steel (drivers), one has to give way. Fortunately it was always the other, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this.
    Indians live their lives touching bells, symbols, praying and generally applying every good luck possibility to their day……..perhaps that’s why I never saw one accident during all those miles.
    A few hourly ‘Hail Marys’ might come in useful over here!
    Ciao e namaste.

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    • Thanks for your comments Lesley. I know that India was a great experience for you, I hope to go there myself one day so I’ll make sure I’m totally prepared to cope with the driving. ‘the horn is their equivalent of the brake..’ doesn’t inspire me with confidence! What does ‘namaste’ mean? ‘Good luck’?

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