Driving in Italy

I just got back from a fantastic trip to Sorrento in Italy (a great part of the world you should go!).  To get around whilst we there there I hired a car at the airport.  Now I’d never driven in Italy before and didn’t think too much of it.  I should probably have taken more notice of the warning in the Lonely Planet book I’d bought that said of driving in Naples (where I flew to)  ‘There can be no greater test of courage…’.

It was obvious from the first few minutes on the road that the rules there are different, so without having a copy of the Italian Highway Code to hand I started to work out these strange new rules based on what I saw. 

1. The most obvious… they drive on the right (ready as ‘wrong’) side of the road.  Not much of a problem really as long as you remember!

2. Speed limits.  Although there is very little actual speeding, it seems there is an overwhelming sense of urgency that compels you to overtake anything and everything in front of you at all times.

3. Overtaking.  Overtaking is allowed anywhere – on straights, on the entry of a corner or on the exit of a corner.  This can also be used in conjunction with rule 4 below.

4. Any speed is acceptable on blind corners as long as you use your horn as you turn in.  It seems the horns on Italian cars are sufficiently powerful that they sweep away hidden obstacles as you approach.

5. Road markings and signs.  Where as in some countries road signs and markings are used to control and manage road vehicles, in Italy they are for decorative use only and do not have to be obeyed.  For example on motorways although lane markings are present it’s accepted that you just fit as many cars as will fit onto the road.

6. Road positioning.  As a result of rules 2, 3, 4 and 5, the racing line should be used at all times.  It is not necessary to obey rule 1 when following this rule.

7.  Parking.  Anywhere will do.  Really.

Hopefully these observations will help any new travellers to Italy that stumble across this blog.

In truth it’s not that bad.  Whilst it does come as a bit of a shock, even for a South London boy like me, you soon get used to it.  For me I just came to the realisation that you just have drive like you would on a Trackday – not a well organised trackday mind, but maybe a test day or something like that.  All you need to do is keep an eye on what’s in front of you and let whatever is behind take care of itself.

There are some amazing roads around the Amalfi coast, and I’d love to take my car down there someday for a bit of exploring.  Maybe just not during the busy summer months.


Disclaimer:  Whilst these are genuine observations and based on things I saw and experienced, DON’T ACTUALLY FOLLOW THESE RULES!

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