The 10 Basic Traffic Rules in Italy
Published: Thursday, February 21, 2008
Updated: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 17:05
Five minutes into my first taxi ride in Italy, from the airport to the city center, I had already decided that there was no way I would ever drive a car while I was in this country. My foot was automatically hitting the imaginary brake pedal on the floor, and it required all of my energy in order to keep the terrified look off of my face as our taxi driver weaved in and out of the rush hour traffic, narrowly missed hitting several Vespas and honked at pedestrians crossing a crosswalk. Since this frightening trip, I have quickly learned the basic traffic rules in Italy.1. Stop signs are a choice, not a requirement. If you actually stop at a stop sign, you will, in fact, get hit from behind. An acceptable way to approach a stop sign is to slow down enough to be able to check for oncoming cars while you coast through, although some times it is not even necessary to look for traffic.
2. Passing is acceptable at all times. It doesn't matter if it's a one-way street, a dirt road in the country, a two-lane highway or a busy intersection. If the car in front of you is moving at what you deem to be an unnecessarily slow speed, you have every right to pass them.
3. Speed limit signs are on the road solely to entertain the driver, as in, "Can you believe the people who would actually go 50 on this road?" while glancing at a speedometer that reads 80 m.p.h.
4. Traffic lanes are optional. Three lanes can easily become five-and-a-half depending on the widths of the vehicles and the aggressiveness of the drivers.
5. Scooters, motorcycles and Vespas can weave in and out of traffic, in either lane, at top speed. Any space into which they can fit is considered a lane for these vehicles, including the sidewalk.
6. Taxis are exempt from all traffic rules, as they drive just about any way they want and make up their own rules as they see fit. In this aspect, they fit into the category of scooters.
7. Pedestrians use crosswalks at their own risk. Just because there are horizontal white lines painted on the pavement does not mean that this is a safe zone for those not in vehicles. Looking both ways and making sure the cars have actually stopped for you before you cross is a necessary procedure to follow each time you cross the street.
8. Honking is the most effective method to solve all traffic crises. Instead of waiting patiently or finding an alternative route to your destination, you should lean on your horn until whatever traffic jam up ahead gets untangled or until the person who has double parked comes out and moves his car.
9. A parking space is any open piece of pavement that is big enough to fit your car - the sidewalk, an alleyway, a clearly labeled no-parking zone. Smart Cars obviously have an advantage in this area. Double parking is only acceptable when your destination is the gelateria to get some gelato.
10. There are really no traffic rules in Italy. As long as it doesn't result in an accident, vabbé (that's fine).