By on October 30, 2010

Ur-Turn is your weekly opportunity to contribute to TTAC. Every Saturday we select a different piece submitted to our contact form, and publish it as a showcase for the diverse perspectives of TTAC’s readers. In the spirit of Halloween, today’s contribution from Bobby Wayland takes on the scariest scenario a driver can face: motoring in Italy.

I recently arrived in Italy, stationed in Naples for a two year tour. When the topic of driving in Italy arose, most passed on stock advice they’d heard third hand from those who’d actually done it: the Italians are crazy drivers; get a beater and forget about exploring Europe in anything zippier or more comfortable than a Fiat Punto. Possibly good advice, and buttressed by simple observation of many Italian (especially Neapolitan) cars – they’re nearly all dinged, dented, scraped or deformed in some fashion. There’s even a term for it employed in used car advertisements; “just a few Naples kisses,” they read, to describe a bruised VW Polo as if the fist-clenching scrape of another car against your own is somehow comparable to pleasant lip to lip contact. The phrase is actually a reference to the palms-turned-upward, eyes aloft, “who, me?” gesture that accompanies most Neapolitan smooches, a cheerful way of dismissing the frustration and inconvenience of 430€ of body work by swaddling it in “isn’t that adorable?” Since lots of Neapolitan cars would only be worth 430€ if they were transporting 615€ of socially inadvisable narcotics, they go unrepaired and their owners grow further unconcerned about a little bit of contact driving.

Despite that, the Italians are not crazy drivers. They certainly do not adhere to American standards of driving. They don’t abide by lane markers, stop signs, or yield signs; their traffic circles burden vehicles in the rotary with the obligation to yield to entering traffic, they drive at inconsistent speeds and they all overpaid for the unused plastic stalks sprouting off the left side of their steering columns. Yet, they’re perfectly rational. Italians are remarkably existential drivers, drivers concerned solely with getting to their destination in a manner of their choosing, and not bothered by much else.

Americans are bogged down to a greater extent than they realize by discipline and a genuine respect for the law. Italians suffer no such bonds. Take, for example, the case of a missed exit. To Americans, errors of navigation are a personal defect and a mistake paid for with wasted time. To an Italian – “Hey! My exit is just 50 meters back that way! Why should I drive ten minutes out of my way just to get back to that road – that one right over there?” And that guy driving the Alfa 147 TSpark backwards at you in the right hand lane has a point. He’s not stupid; he won’t pull this maneuver in fast-moving traffic of a density unlikely to avoid him; he’ll do it as you pass him at 80 kilometers per hour in the middle lane, hands at the ten and two, gaping over your right shoulder as if he’d done something awful, like purchase a BMW 1-Series.

Or perhaps you’re offended at the general lack of courtesy, such as the time you waited sixteen minutes trying to make a left hand turn in heavy traffic, indignant that nobody, not even that Tuscan soccer mom driving in that absurd Fiat Multipla, took sympathy to your plight and parted the seas. Except, as they see it, they want to be home sipping wine just like you, but unlike you, they’re not going to delay it by as much as eight seconds by letting you pass. Rude? It might be, save for the fact that they expect you to cut them off just as much as you hope they’ll let you in. This, in fact, is a central tenet to Italian driving: do unto others as you expect others to do unto you. Given that Italians simply want to get where they’re going, it’s easy to guess what they’re going to do: cut you off, speed around you if you dawdle, and invariably fail to yield.

Italians are also quite rational when it comes to getting the most from their highways. Specifically, they realized that lane markers are a fairly arbitrary and inefficient division of the road. The average Italian car is a bit more than five and a half feet wide. The lanes are at least eight feet wide, if not ten. That’s more than two extra feet of roadway, totally wasted! Why, you could… put half a car in that space! And they do. Americans are initially unsure of what to do when the rusty Citroen – the French still make cars? – in the slow lane impinges on their lane, paralyzed with confusion and fear. It’s as if a stranger at a movie theater wanted to share the armrest – absolutely out of the question! This is an instance where adherence to the law is a bad idea, especially if the Italian in question is invading your lane because his lane is becoming overcrowded. He’s switched to collision avoidance mode and probably noticed that the lane to your left is remarkably free of cars – and he expects you to inch over accordingly.

The Italians drive like minnows – they flit this way and back again, and without communicating to each other, generally avoid serious collision. Once you’ve adapted, driving becomes new again – and it’s a refreshing experience.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

26 Comments on “Ur-Turn: Driving In Italy...”


  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    I’ll have to come back and read the piece later, but my perspective:  living for the last 10 years a short drive from Italy, I can tell you that I worry more about things that could happen when I am outside the vehicle than when I am in it, 1) someone breaking into my car, and 2) somebody picking my pocket…

    EDIT: One thing that is a down-side to the italian-style of driving: They have an exceptionally high number of bicyclists killed by autos each year.

  • avatar
    obbop

    “Americans are bogged down to a greater extent than they realize by discipline and a genuine respect for the law. Italians suffer no such bonds.”
     
    Well, discounting the rural hicks who have fewer residents in their entire state than one California city.
    Granny and a couple other kinfolk trekked from Nebraska to the San Francisco Bay area to visit and play tourist for a bit.
    A teen-aged cousin remained behind to babysit me as granny, the other podunk kin and Mom and Dad piled into granny’s car and off they went on the 400 mile or so drive to visit Disneyland.
    A couple days later they returned with Dad still clenching his teeth and showing the accumulated fear as a passenger of his Moms’ (my granny) Nebraska-style driving ability.
    Passing the Disneyland exit on the multi-lane freeway (whatever number it bore at that time) granny, in the far right lane, came to a screeching stop and BACKED UP to reach the missed exit as cars swerved and braked and pounded on their horns as disaster was narrowly averted in the admittedly not-as-crowded freeways of the mid-1960s Los Angeles areas freeway system.
    Achieving the off-ramp without any impact with others granny sedately motored on, wending her way through city streets until the Magic Kingdom was attained.
    Granny and kin eventually safely returned to the wilds of Nebraska but never repeated the trip to California.
    Mom and Dad also never invited her again.
     

  • avatar

    +1. My first experience of motoring in Italy, as a passenger, picked up by my great uncle from Fiumicino and headed south toward the coast in a Fiat Punto. I was still in diapers last time he saw me, so although I wasn’t putting my life in the hands of a stranger, my knowledge of his driving abilities were nil. We barely drove a quarter mile when I became worried that was hugging the curb along the right lane… was his eyesight bad? I soon realized that this was common (and courteous) practice to allow motorinos to pass in the same lane.

    It was also an eye-opening experience as a pedestrian in Rome. Standing at the tasta near the forum (the Vittorio Emanuele monument), you watch the tourists gather at an non-signalized crossing. The tourists were waiting for a gap, as the “minnows” cornered five abreast with no lane markings to aid them. After a few weeks of living there, I knew the drill. I walk through the crowd and confidently step off the curb, barely glancing at traffic through the corner of my eye. The first few minnows nudge around you, then they slow as you cross each lane. The tourists, dumfounded, exchange looks of horror and disbelief, but when they see that I made it across unscathed, they all flock behind me like ducklings. Fun.

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    My experience from driving in Italy: There are no traffic rules, just recommendations :)
    Speaking of Italian driving: See the movie when “Team Polizei” gets a police escort through a Italian town :O
     

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    How about a salvage yard ecoboost 6 and turn it up to 11?

  • avatar
    oldowl

    There is a traffic circle outside Florence that is like unto all the circles of Dante’s Inferno collapsed into one terrifying round and round. Cars whizzing in, cutting across, weaving, dodging, blaring, swooping, and every other not linear mode of travel.
    Then, cruising down an Autostrada toward Rome, my wife driving, we  passed a truck, speeding up to make the pass a quick one. We were going about 75 mph. Up behind us, seemingly out of nowhere (though the road was straight) came a car honking furiously at us as it tailgated. We pulled in front of the truck and the car, with a young guy at the wheel, cut in front and braked, nearly causing a three vehicle collision. What fun.
    Promise to myself: never drive in Italy again.

    • 0 avatar
      Matthew Sullivan

      Hah! 

      I’ve not had the pleasure if visiting Italy,  but your “Dante” description perfectly describes the traffic circle around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      My first trip out on the Autostrada to Rome from Naples was in my 1200cc (40HP optimistically) Beetle. Jumped into the left lane to pass slow(er) traffic. In the mirror I could see blinking highbeams a mile or two back as I held my foot to the floor cussing and praying for another 10HP to push my way past the “bow wake” of a white van. A few seconds later the blinking head lights were RIGHT ON my back bumper.
      I later learned that blinking high beams means they are likely running triple digits, left blinker forever blinking in the left lane means they are running hard and fast, and that a 40HP Beetle never, ever needs to leave the middle lane and the right lane is even a better place to be despite the speed controlled heavy trucks and tourist buses.
      Triple digit sedans and 40HP cars should never mix on the highway. I was passed one day in the middle lane by a German plated VW sedan running at least 125 mph causing the Beetle to wobble all over the place. I soon rebuilt the steering… Good little cars for 60 mph and the far right lane.

      I tried triple digit speeds here in the southern USA one afternoon in my convertible and the left-blinker/high beams flash just irritated people and some of them refused to give up the left lane. People around here aren’t used to closing speeds double their cruising speed. They don’t know how to react. Was happy to see that my ’97 VW Cabrio was just as happy at 120 mph as my ’84 VW Rabbit convertible.

  • avatar

    Wildly exaggerate, this article.
    Don’t be disappointed when you come to Italy and drive there. Fast driving is almost impossible. Outside of big cities, there is farmer-market speed prevailing, thanks to the majority of underpowered engines driven by over-aged drivers. Within big cities you can expect the usual European city traffic jams with fed-up drivers. No difference between Paris and Rome, I’d say. Thanks to the climate, you have to expect much more two-wheel traffic than elsewhere, of course.
    But Italian traffic laws are very rigid now. If you are exceeding the speed limit for too much a margin, police will be able to confiscate your vehicle, for example. So, be careful in tourist regions or on the Italian Highways, especially if you drive a car with a foreign number plate. Italy and Italian police lives on tourists. And they are really making money.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    I just got back a few weeks ago.  Been in Germany the past year.  Made it to Naples in my travels.  First time in Italy.  The difference between Germans and then Swiss, and finally Italians was quite stark.  But I have to say I actually enjoyed it in some way.  The Germans (you know), uh, follow the rules.  Always.  Its nice.  But its also frustrating sometimes.  But you know what to expect.  Being in Italy, at least once south of Florence, was kinda fun.  Reminded me more of home in Chicago.  Some honkin, cuttin off, driving a bit crazy.  It was refreshing compared with Germany.  Even Rome seemed to go well.
     
    But Naples….my god.  Every car was beat up in some way.  Even knowing I needed to pull in front of traffic to make turns I still was afraid to do it.  And the roads….terrible!  Potholes, trash, crazy drivers, everything.  I thought Naples was worse than anything I experienced in Poland.  Who woulda thought?  That was about my limit.  Rome was fine.  Naples I started to get a bit wary.  Driving a German rental, and the way they go over dings with a magnifying glass, I was actually worried about damaging the car.  But all ended up fine.
     
    Biggest laugher is that it literally gets better/worse the further north/south you drive.  Milan? Might as well have been Germany or Switzerland.  Naples? Afghanistan.
     
    But my advice?  If you can drive in US city traffic, you’ll get the hang pretty quickly.  I wasn’t as aggressive as a lot of Italians, but pretty quickly learned I just do what I gotta do, if there’s a gap, take it, if you gotta turn, do it.  After that, its not bad at all.  Don’t be afraid to drive there.  You’ll miss too much of a truly beautiful country.
     
    My biggest bummer would be living there.  I like my cars.  And I like them PERFECT.  It just wouldn’t happen in most of Italy.  Would be a shame.

    I now understand why Italians love scooters though.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Driving in Chicago – you are so correct! I almost never drive in Chicago – although I have - living in Cincinnati where people are too polite and traffic doesn’t move and no one knows how to merge, it is a different world, for sure!

      Experiencing drivers in Okinawa 40 years ago when the US still owned the island, I saw all sorts of three-wheeled Isuzu trucks, little three-wheeled Mazdas (what’s a “Mazda”?) and such where the locals would drive on the sidewalks and anything else that happened to be paved, you really had to be on your toes if you were a pedestrian! And that was when the top speed limit on the whole island was only 30 mph! Quite humorous seeing American servicemen with their GTO’s, ‘Vettes, Chargers, SS-anythings putt along in 1st and 2nd gear all day! Yeah, gas was 12 cents per liter, too!

    • 0 avatar
      tuckerdawg

      I have to agree, although I haven’t driven anywhere in Italy this sounds vaguely reminiscent of driving on long island which has its own twists on rules of the road.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      The Neapolitan’s I knew – who could afford it – often had two cars. One sat out next to the curb and lived a hard life of city driving. The other car was parked in the “garden” (courtyard) fenced in and pampered. This car was for out of town trips, trips down the coast, and trips to formal dinners. when a guy needed to show off a little. The curb car was the car you parked downtown when you went shopping for something or was driven to the weekly village market when you might be hauling home “stuff” like meat or veggies or building materials. This was the life of a Fiat 127 hatchback. You maintain it enough to keep it running, working lights most of the time, and round wheels. That’s it. Nothing to steal out of the car when parked along the curb.

  • avatar
    Trend-Shifter

    Except that the cars are not dented, sounds like he is describing the driving experience in southern China.  Actually I would bet that Italy is very mild compared to China.
     
    That said, driving is reasonably organized in Beijing.  That may be due to strict government regulations or Bertel Schmitt.      

  • avatar
    jjwen

    Back in 2006 a friend and I went to Italy for 2 weeks for a mutual Italian friend’s wedding.  Being that I like to drive, I took the opportunity to hire 67 Alfa Rome Duetto Spider for my friend (I’m American, he’s English) and I to tour around in.  He wasn’t willing to foot any of the rental bill, so I got to drive the entire time, and I’m glad I did.
    It was definitely a car full of quirks and it didn’t help that I’m not the best at driving stick, but it completely made the trip for me.  The car had loads of character and I’d never driven something that old before in my life.  No AC, no radio, broken speedo, very weak handbrake, lap belts only, it would sometimes stall (not fun when it stalled at a traffic light on a steep hill with Vespas and traffic pressed right behind… especially with the aforementioned useless handbrake), candle like headlights, etc.  Even with all those issues, I would never trade that experience to driving some bland rental.  The car was beautiful and – though it didn’t have lots of power – drove with confidence and sounded great.
    When we picked up the car, I was secretly worried that I’d kill us both, but once I got the hang of it, i really fell in love with the different handling characteristics of that 40 year old Alfa.  Plus, most Italians seemed genuinely happy to see that car being driven around.  I think they were probably a fair bit more courteous to me and my admittedly – at times – sloppy driving, because we were in an old Alfa.  I never had a driver or scooter act rudely towards me.
    We went all over the upper part of Italy… Lake Garda, Pisa, Elba Island, Lucca, Verona, Florence, Genoa.  Throughout the trip, I really only saw mostly boring sedans and small, inexpensive cars like Fiats.  I can only recall seeing one Lamborghini at a service station.
    Fantastic experience.  Nothing like driving in the States, but damn, it was all great to visit those towns while also enjoying the driving experience.  I’d really recommend the small hire company we used (sprintage.it).  They were very friendly and personable.  As a bonus, we were in Pisa when Italy won the Football World Cup.  I’m no football fan, but it was tremendous to be there when it happened.

    • 0 avatar
      pgcooldad

      I’m jealous :(

      I’ve been through that area back when I was 16 on a 6 game friendly soccer tour. My fondest memory was when all 16 players started jumping up and down in unison at the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Needless to say, our coaches and chaperones were not so happy.

      I can only imagine driving through there in a vintage Spider. After nearly 30 years gone by, I can still vividly remember the winding roads, mountains and beautiful scenery. We were in Bagni di Lucca and every city we went to was more picturesque than the other. We did win a couple of games but for me it felt more like a job to do while there.

      We slept in an old monasteries’ infirmary. Sixteen beds in a row with 15 and 16 year olds. I don’t think I got one good nights sleep with all the pranks going on. Have you ever got a spoonful of Ben-Gay shoved in your mouth … not fun! Anyway, I often awoke and looked around wondering who had been there, travelers, locals or wounded soldiers?

      In one of our trips to an evening game at a nearby city, we woke up early for a morning run. Well lets just say that a run in Tuscany is nothing like a run in Michigan, there were mountains and hills everywhere. As we are standing outside our host’s house we choose a flat run which looked like several miles, than up a mountain. Ok, it could have been a hill, but it looked like a mountain to us. There were several residences at the mountain and we asked if it was ok to climb up it, to which they replied, “Don’t worry, they know you are here”. After what seemed an eternity to get ¾ of the way up this mountain, we were met with a low laying fence. Not wanting to be unwelcomed visitors, we set a path parallel to it with our sights on how to get to the top. As we came upon the house on the other side, an elderly gentleman and his wife emerge with jugs of water in their weary hands. “Come, come” he said in broken English. We jumped the fence and welcomed the cool fresh water they brought us. As they handed us the jugs he said while pointing from the direction we came, “That’s were the Americans came from”. He went on to explain how the American WWII soldiers had the Nazis on the run out of Italy, mountain by mountain, city by city and we reminded him of the day the soldiers showed up to free his family. We didn’t get to leave until he hugged every one of us. Later that evening he was at the stadium cheering us on. We lost that game but I always felt I gained something on that mountain climb. I may never be part of a historical event but that morning I felt it. I would say that has been the most memorable run of my life and the last ¼ mile up and return trip was not so bad after all.

      Sometimes a jog up a mountain can be as enjoyable as a spin behind the wheel … but in Italy, either one can make you feel like you are part of history.
       

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      I did the Lago di Garda run. Pisa, Aviano, Vicenza, Venezia, Florence. Up the western coast. Wonderful time. Very courteous people and the driving that far north was quite sane.
      In Naples more than a few times I was “brought home for dinner”. Ehat wonderful food. I also reaped the rewards of the WWII soldiers when I was thanked in their place for what the WWII vets had done. I was confused at first and tried to explain a couple of times that I was obviously not there for WWII but realized that for some of those old folks thanking me was as close as they could ever come to thanking the real heroes. So I’ve tried to thank a few WWII vets here in the states with the thanks of the Southern Italians I received in the WWII vets’ place.
      We Americans need to travel more. Forget all the worries the evening news plants in our minds. Forget all the terrible vacation stories we hear some folks relate about their trip to Mexico or their trip to CA. Remember some folks get upset if EVERYTHING doesn’t go just right (see weddings for examples). Be flexible. Use the ‘net to study up a little on geography, tourist traps and so forth. Follow no the tourists but the seasoned travelers or the locals. And don’t be naive (read well seasoned traveler forums like ex-pat forums). I started out riding tourist buses. Then I graduated to traveling by train and then by car. By car is easily the most satisfying b/c you can get away from the tourist zones.

      Life with the Internet, cellphones and GPS is MUCH MUCH MUCH easier than how we did it in the old days (travel books, paper maps, a SIP phone booth card, and a wing and a prayer).

  • avatar
    mrCharlie

    This sounds very much like driving in Rhode Island, especially in the more Italian neighborhoods.

  • avatar
    martin schwoerer

    A very well-written UR-Turn, thank you!
     
    I have just one thing to add. The impression one often gets in a foreign country is that there are no rules, or that people do not obey them. Almost always, that impression is wrong — certainly they have rules, it’s just that they are different from those you know at home.
     
    The main rule in Italy is: you’re responsible for avoiding what is in front of you. You don’t have to use the rear-view mirrors and you don’t have to indicate. You can honk your horn to tell people you’re coming, and they should make way if they are polite, but it’s your fault if you hit them.
     
    I spent a week along the Adria and the Abruzze this summer driving a Ford Ka, and apart from the despicable car, it was a completely pleasant and stress-free experience.

  • avatar
    Disaster

    Went to Barbados this summer and it was the scariest driving in my life.  Imagine streets one third the width they are in the U.S., with 3 foot deep drainage ditches on one side and 4 foot high rock walls on the other.  As if this isn’t bad enough, the locals hire buses for the day and try to make back the rental cash by ferreting as many people around the island as they can before having to turn them in at night.  These wide buses fly down the streets like they are at Indy, with a “I’m the meanest mofo in the jungle” mentality, and you better get out of their way.  I was amazed that the grills of these buses weren’t decorated with small tourist rentals…and tourists.

  • avatar
    Brock_Landers

    Same applies to all southern Europe. Spain, Portugal, Greece etc. Most of the cars you see are dented and scraped. Their driving style resembles more developing third world countries than civilized europe. 

  • avatar

    I lived in Tuscany, south of Florence for over a year. Drove a Dyane which is essentially a Citroen 2CV.  I loved the car and loved driving in Italy.
    I often took a short cut through town driving the wrong way on a one way street. The local ‘vigili’ (police) spotted me and sternly wagged his finger at me. I smiled sheepishly and shrugged. He didn’t stop me, give me a ticket or even a warning. Another time I was stopped in the city of Florence doing something illigal. I was stopped by the police who issued a ticket which I could then choose to pay the fine directly to the officer on the spot.
    Many of the descriptions above are spot on. It helps to have a relaxed attitude about life and driving. I always enjoyed driving there and in fact was far more uncomfortable when I returned Stateside where I found traffic moving at a turtle crawl and driving had lost it’s joi de vivre.
    Oded Kishony

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      The first afternoon I was driving in the states again I got stopped. OH YEAH – those red lights mean something here… I was racing to beat the yellow light. Made it and made a police officer mad at the same time. No ticket. Somehow.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    I went to Italy in June, didn’t drive, we were in Puglia, Rome, Padova and Vicenza. I didn’t find it scary nor saw many dented cars. In the south cars are more in beater status than in the north, but that is expected. I was surprised at how new were the cars around, and how many Opel Kadett still survive.
     
    They go fast (when there’s no cameras around). We were on my uncle’s Phedra and he was doing 100 MPH, on the highway, with a diesel motor. My friend gave us a ride and was doing 85 mph while it was raining, this time a Yaris diesel with the fancy flappy paddles fancy tranny. A BMW passed us faster that night.
     
    When I was reading, I remembered Tehran. That is a scary place to drive, and cars have small dents everywhere. 1 month down there and I think it’s enough.

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    I did a three year tour for the Navy in Naples back in ’91. As a single guy with no one to look out for but myself – I loved Naples. The girls, the food, the history, and the driving like a maniac ALL THE TIME.

    In fact – I’d still go back today and bring my family. A better duty station might be Gaeta (50 miles or so north) where live is more sane and still offers easy access to the craziness of Naples and the Amalfi Coast. You know how some people talk about high school the rest of their lives as the best time of their life? Or college? Naples was that period for me. I’ve learned to rein in the stories a little though. GRIN! I recognize the glazed eyes of my listener more quickly than before… (can’t do that here so forgive me if go a little too long).

    Anyhow – there are only a few rules to driving in Naples.

    Don’t pass on the right. It always made my Italian friends a bit scared if I did that. They didn’t look over their right shoulder much on the Autostrada or Tangenziale. Everybody behind you is supposed to pay attention to what is going on in front of them. That doesn’t leave much excess attention for worrying about what is going on behind you. Merge left and the dude riding in your blind spot is supposed to react and they always did when I was there. They might honk a little…

    Next rule – the larger vehicle always has the right of way. A city bus taught me this in Agnano (neighborhood) one day. I was sitting by the right curb/corner at a red light waiting to turn right when a city bus came up behind me, passed me on the left and proceeded to turn right driving straight into moving traffic (which was quickly stopping). His rear wheels were going to run over my Beetle’s nose so I hung a hard right and took off down the sidewalk. Naples has HUGE curbs along some roads to keep drivers from parking on the sidewalk. I was able to drive up on the curb at the corner but when I leaped back onto the road the curb was perhaps 18″-24″. No damage to the Beetle. Try that in a modern American sedan. My buddy’s 2CV could make that leap and you’d never feel the landing. GRIN!

    Another Naples rule – as long as you don’t hit anything or cause an accident it’s legal. The Polizia don’t come to an accident unless there is blood spilled. If you did something stupid and caused an accident they are going to throw the book at you. I was military police and dealt with this often. One night we RACED to an accident near “newspaper park” (think of Inspiration Point on Happy Days, the newspaper was to block out the view of any peeping toms). Drove like a madman with the engine bouncing off the rev-limiter in 3rd an 4th gear to get there in an Opel Kaddett 1.6L. Blood and brains on the road where a drunk American ran over an Italian pedestrian. Was a complicated night. American was an ass – drunk AND sober. Should have let the Polizia have him. Hope that dude grew a conscience since then.

    Lots of little rules that make sense real quick. It’s true that you can get across town really, really fast chasing a Polizia car responding to a call or escorting a VIP. Don’t get too close or they might literally shoot at you – especially if they are escorting a VIP. Remember the Camorra (mafia)? They ambush VIPs every now and then. That’s why the Polizia are there and why they are so touchy. Never, ever chase a Carabinieri vehicle. Think State Troopers with fully automatic weapons. They are even quicker to respond. Chasing a firetruck or ambulance works if there isn’t already 9 other locals chasing that emergency vehicle.

    One way streets work two ways – sometimes. Depends on how busy the road is and how big your vehicle is. Big vehicle, more slack you get. Tiny vintage 500 – you can slip between parked cars until the road empties out a little more. Wrong ways on one way street seldom make much time. See why scooters are so desireable?

    Ur-Turn’s comment about so few bicycles? Absolutely. I was a big bicyclist when I arrived in Naples. I rode my bike ONCE down Via Domitiana (La Strada di Morte one Italian called it). Two miles out and two back and I never rode that bike again in Italy.

    Never try Naples driving habits in Rome. It doesn’t work. Somewhere just north of Naples the south becomes the north and suddenly the rules of road are enforced and people drive more sanely. I got T-boned by a taxi in Rome while I was making a U-turn breaking all the rules. In Naples people would have expected something unexpected like that. The taxi driver just hit my Autobianchi A112E. Ruined the car (which was already ruined by any standards outside of Naples). The Polizia came, saw that there was no blood, never even got out of their car, and left. Two more Polizia cars came over a period of 30 mins and left too. Eventually I just climbed through the broken driver’s window and drove off with the Taxi driver yelling and trying to hang onto my car. Like he’s going to hold back the mighty 900cc of raw Italian power. What could I do? Wait there forever hanging up Roman traffic? He had my info. Drove my bent little Italian car home catty-corner (didn’t track right anymore) and parked it. Was a long ride home. Like 165 miles at ~45 mph wandering all over the road. In retrospect I should have just parked it somewhere, pulled the American military license plates and paperwork and rode the train home. The rules said though that all American licensed vehicles had to be disposed of via the base junkyard. I tried to live by the American rules most of the time so the idea never dawned on me. I miss that car. Was a hoot to drive hard.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States
  • J Emerson, United States