I've smiled with amusement reading the comments on driving in Italy.
All in all, the Italian drivers are very good and the accident rate is
far less than one might see on commuter routes in America.
However, one must know certain things about driving in Italy. Italians
treat most driving laws as merely suggestions - not absolute laws.
Renting a Car in Italy - First of all, sign up for all the insurance offered
- get zero deductibles, too. Don't depend on Visa,AMEX or you car insurance
carrier to cover you if you have an accident. If you use someone like
Autoeurope (I use them sometimes), then your actual rental car will come
from someone else, such as Europcar - then you will have to deal with
both if you didn't take the insurance offered and had an accident. Automatic
transmissions are only on rental cars for Americans. The rental car companies
know most Americans don't know how to drive manual transmissions, and
they will charge you dearly for the upgrade.
Speed limits - simply a suggested limit - it is considered polite when
one overtakes a policeman on the Autostrade to slow down to 140km/hr or
so before passing them.
Stop signs - again only a suggested place to stop - very seldom does one
Stop lights - Now most Italians do stop here, but only if there is traffic.
Tailgating - When following another car, any distance over 2 meters between
cars is considered too much. I often believe the first thing taught in
Italian driving schools is how to tailgate properly - both on the Autostrade
and the country roads. Most American drivers in Italy feel tailgating
is some form of road rage, but that is simply not the case. Everyone in
Italy drives that way. On the small back roads, the car tailgating you
is not asking you to pull over and let him pass, he has simply been taught
to drive this way - just relax, he's not going to hit you.
Driving Lanes on the Autostrades - I've read here that many Americans
feel one should not drive in the inside lane if one is traveling at less
than 160km/hr (100mph). The truth is - In most cases, 160km/hr is not
a sufficient speed to stay in the inside lane. Even at that speed, the
faster cars will often be overtaking you. Changing lanes and passing on
the right side of a car is simply not done in Italy on the Autostrades
- no, no, no - don't do it.
Flashing Headlights - When a car overtakes you and flashes his lights,
it again is not considered road rage, he is politely asking you to change
lanes so that he might pass. This will only happen on the Autostrades.
Italian Truck Drivers - these guys are really great drivers, but be aware
that when they want to change lanes to pass, they will only turn their
turn indicators on for one millisecond, before they pull out into your
lane. If you see their left turn indicator on - they ARE going to change
lanes. On Autostrades with 3 lanes (Milan - Bologna), trucks are not allowed
in the inside lane ever. 99% of the big trucks do not drive on Sunday,
so for guys, it's a great testastarone day to just see how fast that Alfa
Italians are some of the very best drivers I've ever encountered. Driving
here is really a pleasure.