Subject: Driving in Italy
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 there. 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 will go. Italians are some of the very best drivers I've ever encountered. Driving here is really a pleasure. Bill Sutherland Montefollonico, Italy