Sunday, November 14, 2010

Baby You Can Drive My Car

So you have this great idea that you are going to come to Italy and stay in a wonderful Villa out in the Tuscan countryside (insert the sound of chirping birds here) rent a car and take day trips into the city, or vice-verse. You’ll get there in about an hour, and simply find a place to park and wonder around the city for the day. Sounds lovely…….
Yeah, let me know how that works out for ya. Now I know what you thinking, "whats the problem? I drive all the time. I live in a city, I know how it is. People drive crazy around here too." Um, no, so not the same thing. Let’s just put it this way, if you really want to enjoy your vacation and save your marriage you'll throw that car rental idea right out the window.
You see this is one of those Italian phenomena’s that always fascinated me. As a culture the Italians are generally pretty laid back, in the sense that they are never really in too much of a hurry to do, well, anything. (including your paperwork, but that’s a story for a different day) They invented the idea of fashionably late. An Italians idea of being on time is at least 20 minutes late. (in fact I’ve actually learned to tell hubby over here that the thing starts at least 30 before it actually does) The attitude here is “con calma” which basically just mean without urgency, and everything is no problem, (said in my best Italian accent) They will hang out in the cafĂ© sipping their espresso for a while chatting to the barkeep and then go out and have a little stroll with their friends and even though the sign on their store front says that they will be back at 3:30, you should really just add an “ish” to that, because it will be more like 3:30ish, maybe even 4:00, or ya know whenever they get there……
……….and then there is this transformation that occurs as soon as they get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. It’s amazing! I’ve never seen anything like it! Its like they all suddenly turn into speed daemons. They come at you from all directions like bats out of hell! Cars, scooters, even bicycles! Scooters weaving in and out of the cars and busses, bus drivers who think they are driving ferrari’s, and that’s in the city. And then just wait until you get on the Autostrada! Mamma mia. 95 mph coming at you from behind, flashing their lights honking their horns for you to MOVE OUT OF THEIR WAY!!!
I remember being in Naples once when I was still a student, before I realized what was happening to me, and I took a taxi from the train station. I remember being stopped at a red light and there was a cop in front of us and the cabbie was honking his horn at the cop to go through the red light! Well, there was nobody coming from the opposite direction, I mean really. Road signs, stoplights, street indicators, they’re more like suggestions around here. And if you actually do follow the road rules, you will be honked at and tailgated until eternity, oh and AS SOON AS the light turns green if your foot is not already on the gas they will be honking at you to move! Oh yeah, hands are flying words are cursing. It gets pretty nasty out there.
Also please remember that you are on vacation, they are not. There will be traffic, parking is not easy to find and parking garages are very expensive and there are also cameras set up throughout the city that will automatically ticket any vehicles that pass though the limited traffic zone without a permit. Not to mention that most of the streets are one way and it can be incredibly difficult to maneuver your way down these tiny little streets.
So if you want to have a nice relaxing and enjoyable vacation, please take this advice and do not drive in Italy. Public transportation is really pretty good around here, as long as, of course, you don’t actually expect your train to be on time. But chill out man, its cool, remember your on vacation. Check out trenitalia for timetables.
And here’s a little something to make you laugh. Take a look at this little video made by a few Italians themselves and this should really explain everything.
Do you have a story about driving in Italy?  Tell me about it in the comments section below.


  1. Looking forward to more delightful "dishing" about your life in Florence. What a great idea!

  2. Thanks Nancy! I hope you will come visit sometime soon!


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