Saturday, July 07, 2007

Traveling Italy by Car

I always suggest traveling Italy by train however many will want the freedom of a rental car. There are a few rules to remember. No matter what the speed limit is, if someone wants to pass you, move to the right. On provincial roads, with only one lane most drivers will hug the right hand shoulder and faster drivers will pass in the middle of the road. Do not get mad if someone tailgates you. Slide toward the right hand side of the road.

In the cities, lanes do not mean anything. A three-lane road, at a stoplight, will fit 5 cars wide. In many cities stoplights are timing starters for the daily drag races that is the commute to and from work. Do not get caught up in this, Italians are used to driving very aggressively and expect those who engage in this activity to know the unwritten rules of the game.

Italian roads have been around for thousands of years. Many times a road was originally designed for a horse and cart. It may seem that your car will not fit but go slowly and forge ahead. Stopping in the middle of one of these roads can mean disaster. When visiting older sections of a city call a taxi.

Roundabouts yield to the vehicle arriving from the right, no matter how small that entering road may be. If you need to travel the roundabout slide toward the center and when your exit comes up, slide to the right.

It is illegal to pass on the right however scooters will do it all the time. Do not make quick moves to the right. You cannot see the scooters. If you are involved in an accident and someone is hurt you will go to jail.

On the expressway never travel in the left hand lane. Even if you are going the speed limit, traveling in the left hand lane will result in a ticket. When you see a Ferrari, Mercedes or Lancia coming up from behind, stay to the right. If a Fiat passes you aggressively do not be offended and let your road rage show. The Italians are used to driving at 120 mph in cars made to go 90.

In southern Italy do not stop to help people on the expressway. Groups target Americans to steal their money and cars. When you stop at the Autogrill make sure nothing is showing in your car. If a guy washes your window, even though you did not ask him to, give him a Euro.

During the summer months never travel on Friday evening, Saturday morning, Sunday afternoon or Monday morning. Italians love spending their off-time in the country or at the beach. The cities empty between Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. They return on Sunday afternoon. You will spend more time in traffic than actually moving. Avoid traveling around cities between 5:30-7:00 pm. I plan my trips to avoid any major metropolitan area between these times.

The Speed limit on the expressway is 130kmh or about 88 mph. The Italian police have become very efficient stopping speeders and the fines are very, very high.

Again, I suggest traveling by train or hiring a driver to run around town but if you follow these rules a rental car can be a good solution.


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