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Crash course in Italian driving


Over the last 22 years I’ve told my husband about my travel in Italy as a college student, and how we should go there someday together. In an amazing turn of events (and a decent IRS refund) we found a great deal on airline tickets, inexpensive hotels and a very low rate on a rental car.
Ah, we envisioned the serene back roads of Tuscany. The tranquil Roman ruins, the peaceful world of Michelangelo in Florence. Friends of ours were going to be there around the same time, so we decided to overlap our trips by 4 days and pick them up in Rome. It was the dream vacation.

We floated in that dream world till we got the rental car. We woke up screaming as we left the airport. What were we thinking? We were not prepared to face Italian drivers. We learned a lot from our experiences, and now recommend the following classes to prepare others for driving in Italy.

1. Speed reading. This will enable you to read the route signs in roundabouts as you passed them at 80 kph, while trying to avoid hitting other cars, scooters and fearless pedestrians.

2. Rocket Science. Also useful in roundabouts. You will learn to shoot the loop (to go back the way you came), loop the loop (go round and round to attempt reading the route signs) and how to hurdle a matchbox car into flowing traffic surrounded by even smaller scooters.

3. Sign Language. When lost (frequently) and ask for directions, the response was in sign language. If you hand someone a pen, they point with the pen. There is also the international sign language for drivers that we all understand.

4. History. It is nice to know which historical landmark you just missed and aren’t about to go back to find. This is particularly useful in Tuscany, where every city has “Il Duomo” hidden deep within the heart of the city, which can be seen from every vantage point but never found by car.

5. Engineering. Necessary to know how to stuff 4 adults with luggage into a car that was designed to hold 3 people with no luggage. 

6. Psychology. Just to remind you that you are not going insane. The streets on the map do not always exist in real life.

In a world that’s constantly changing, it’s comforting to know that there are castles on hill tops that have been there since the Middle Ages. There are picturesque vineyards, rolling hills, Italian Alps and lakes to see. Incredible people who remind you that we are all the same, deep down inside. Those can’t be just looked at in books, they must be experienced, and our little car opened our eyes to the wonders of the Italian world around us.

Would we do it again? Absolutely.

After the refresher classes.

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