Driving in Italy

Driving in Italy

A Story by Willbutler
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A short piece I wrote a while back when still living in Rome on the perils of driving and being a pedestrian in Rome.

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British people like to laugh at the way that a lot of Western European countries go about driving, and handling roads in general. British drivers are very polite and well mannered, everyone stays in their lanes and horns are only ever pressed if there has been a serious traffic violation, usually involving several fatalities, or if someone is driving a BMW. In Europe though you would be hard-pressed do go for ten seconds without hearing a car horn, or seeing some smart car weaving through the traffic lanes as though they weren't there. I put this on the fact that Europeans are more passionate than us 'stiff-upper-lipped' British lot, with a more laid back attitude to personal safety, and as the world knows no-one is more passionate than the Italians.

I read something recently that said that the classic Nintendo 64 game Mario Kart was not actually a light-hearted game but was in fact a real world simulator for driving in Italy. I laughed but then when you actually look at it it makes perfect sense, everyone is constantly pushing to be first, the lines painted on the roads are more 'guidelines' than strict lanes and there is an amazing amount of bushy moustaches flying around.

In all seriousness, I don't drive in Rome, there's no point, it's expensive and dangerous and the chances of you voiding your insurance within 24 hours are two-to-one. I have, however, been in many cars and on the back of scooters and motorbikes with Italians, and I can safely say it is one of the more exhilarating things I've done in my life. The complete disregard for personal and material safety is almost comical, and scrapes and bumps when jostling for pole position at the lights are so common that I have been told by a friend that the insurance companies for drivers in Rome will refuse to let you claim on any superficial damage to your vehicle.

As an example of this, I was on a scooter with one of my mustachioed friends, weaving through traffic like a grain of sand filtering through pebbles, when we went for a gap between two cars that was slightly too narrow for the bike. The grating, grinding screech of the paintwork being torn off the cars either side of us was like something out of a comedy film, the bike moving laughably slowly between the cars as the paint peeled off in ribbons. I was terrified of the wrath of the two drivers on either side, until I looked in through their windows to see the man on our left having an animated conversation on his telephone, and the lady on our right getting a little steamy with whoever was in their passenger seat. Both were completely oblivious to our defacing of their vehicles, and my friend up front seemed to care even less as we popped out of the gap and I finally was able to exhale again.

The driving madness does not diminish once you are off the vehicle either, I believe crossing roads in Italy is one of the most perilous things I have ever done, and I've slept in a game reserve with lions for two weeks. In France, I am told, no one pays attention to the red lights, and pedestrian crossings are almost totally ignored. In England, the opposite is the case, red lights have more power than a deity over drivers and pedestrian crossings are given more respect than you would your own mother. Both of these situations are pretty safe in my eyes, as you know what to expect. In France you can expect to never be able to cross a road when a car is visible and in England you know that you are king of the road when you are on your own two legs. In Italy however there is a lethal situation where some drivers will pay attention to crossings, and some will just blow through like there is nothing there. This leads to some scary moments where you will bravely begin to cross a road only to find yourself scuttling back across because you misjudged the character of the person driving his fiat 500 at 70 mph in a residential zone.

And then there are the scooters. I have been clipped, bumped, knocked and full on floored around 6 times in the space of my two year here, and I do like to think of myself as being pretty switched on when it comes to what's going on around me. Scooters and their drivers, however seem to defy physics, being able to exist outside of space and time and simply appear from behind vans when is most inconvenient.

Basically it is the combination of some drivers sticking to the rules and some drivers blatantly disregarding them, regardless of vehicle, which means that you will never know what is going to happen and as such when crossing a road always say a little prayer, perhaps a couple of Hail Marys and be prepared for imminent death and at least that way you can be pleasantly surprised if you make it to the other side.

© 2017 Willbutler


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Featured Review

This is well-written and quite amusing. I never lived in Italy, but visited there countless times while in the US Navy. I don't believe an Italian could drive at all if the car's horn was broken and the driver's window wouldn't roll down. You brought back many memories and I smiled throughout.

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

This was a fun read. Though I've never experienced European driving, your descriptions tickle a few memories of some time I spent in L.A. and the British Virgin Islands.

Posted 3 Years Ago


This is well-written and quite amusing. I never lived in Italy, but visited there countless times while in the US Navy. I don't believe an Italian could drive at all if the car's horn was broken and the driver's window wouldn't roll down. You brought back many memories and I smiled throughout.

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on January 5, 2017
Last Updated on January 5, 2017
Tags: Driving, travel, italy, rome, nonfiction, opinion, humor, comedy, scooter, motorbike, car, crash, moped, madness, mario, moustache

Author

Willbutler
Willbutler

London, London, United Kingdom



About
I am a British person from Britain, but I never let that get in the way. I recently moved to Rome but was shocked to find out that nobody there speaks English and so I have moved back to London. Writi.. more..

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