Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Driving in Italy, Baby You Can Drive My Car, Part II

I have been receiving a lot of messages lately about driving in Florence and Italy in general so I thought it might be time to revisit a post I wrote a little over a year ago on the subject.

"Should we rent a car?" "Can we park in the street?" "Is it better to rent a car then to take the trains and buses?"

No, no and not even close.  Let me take a moment to explain  a little bit about Italian drivers and driving in tiny towns that were once meant for horse and carriage.

First let's start with the Italians themselves. A relaxed, laid back culture enjoying La Bella Vita or La Dolce Vita, in Il Bel Paese. They're never in too much of a rush, they always have a smile on their face (insomma)  and they really know how to eat. All true, yes. Well then that must mean they are relaxed, courteous drivers to, right? Wrong! Totally and completely wrong. Its like something takes over when they get in a car or behind the wheel of a motor vehicle of any kind. It's like they all begin to channel Mario Andretti or Valentino Rossi. It's incredible. Its scary enough just trying to cross the street let alone drive a car amongst them! I know you think your cool and that you can keep up with them, but trust me please, you don't want to try. Remember that they all know where they are going, you don't, they're going to get mad at you and start honking and make you even more nervous. And you don't want to know what they're saying about you, trust me, I sit in the passenger seat in an Italian vehicle, you don't want to know. Ok, so fine you don't care, they can say whatever they want. But that's not the only reason you don't want to drive here....
Seriously something to keep in mind! Trust me, its all true!

Aside from the Italian's being just plain crazy drivers who conventionally forget what they learned at autoscuola,  you are dealing with tiny one way streets that are difficult to navigate, in tiny old cities with thousands of residents who need a place to park their cars. Most cities issue permits to residents only which allows them to park on the street and without that permit you will get parking tickets or even wheel locks if it happens to be street sweeper night.  The city of Florence for example and I'm sure others as well, also have limited traffic zones with cameras set up at each entrance to the historical city center and if you do not have permission to enter these areas, again you will be ticketed. And do not think that the rental companies will issue these permits, they will not, there is a reason why their offices are all located OUTSIDE these limited traffic zones.

I found this video on YouTube and its perfect! I cannot tell you how many times I've seen this kind of thing! This is exactly what you're in for! And who know how many tickets they got for entering the city center! Good thing these guys have a sense of humor about it!

Please believe me when I say this for your own good and for your SANITY! Don't drive in Italy. You'll thank me for it I promise.  The trains and buses are awesome. Check out Trenitalia for a time schedule for all of Italy, you can even purchase tickets online. If your visiting Tuscany check out Sita bus for routes within the region that are simple, quick and run frequently.

You will enjoy your trip so much more if you don't drive! Don't forget to check out the other post about driving on this blog.

Have a story to share about driving in Italy? Let others know about it in the comments section below!

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