Thursday, November 8, 2012

Driving in Italy


We just got home from several weeks exploring Tuscany and Umbria by car, and then taking a trans-Atlantic repositioning cruise from Italy to Florida.  So, a few thoughts about driving in Italy. 

The books say that Italian drivers have slowed down since speed cameras and electronic ticketing have become common place on all major highways, in most towns, and on a few secondary roads.  That’s partly true.  There are speed cameras everywhere.  Thousands of them.  I seldom saw anyone going over 100 mph, although there were a few.  Anything below that seemed OK.  Sticking relatively close to the posted speed limits, I was not just among the slow ones, but a definite road hazard.  The real embarrassment came when our rented Mercedes got passed by Smart Cars, more than once, going up hill. The way I figure it, either the speed cameras are fake, or no one pays the tickets.  

Italians like to pack as many cars as possible into the whatever space is available.  It doesn’t matter if that space is on a four lane highway with plenty of room to spread out.  They discourage signaling lane changes or turns, but they use their signals often.  For what I have no idea.  If there are two lanes of traffic, a third lane can always be created for those who want to pass.  It makes for a thrilling form of high speed slalom racing. 

Many of the old walled cities allow only authorized vehicles on their narrow alley size streets, and it seemed to me that their were an awful lot of authorized vehicles.  So there you are strolling down a narrow alley filled with other pedestrians, quickly learning that pedestrians have no right of way, and that survival depends on how well you can melt into a wall.  Just the same, I never saw a mishap.  

What we did not see was any evidence of road rage.  As far as I could tell, the freestyle form of driving with its unwritten rules works pretty well.  We got along fine, I just resurrected my old NYC driving habits, minus the aggression, and got along fine, if a little slow for the locals.  For what it’s worth, our greatest joy was to get off the major toll roads and onto secondary highways that meandered through beautiful countryside and picturesque villages.

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