Driving in Italy – Some Thoughts

These posts seem to be spaced out more and more, and I apologize. I have been focused on writing My Love Affair with Sicily and have not posted anything here lately. Mi dispiace. I am sorry. By the way, I was hoping for an early spring release, but we’ll see. I am doing some rewriting now after a phone call with my editor.

The latest story that I have been writing about comes near the end of the book and I am in Palermo. Even though I was not the driver I cannot think of Palermo without remembering the nightmare driving situation there.

Driving and Parking in Sicily
Driving and Parking in Sicily

Actually this is not something that only occurs in Palermo or other cities in Sicily, although I can personally attest to the craziness in Messina while I was driving there at night. And the parking is another story. It seems that it is OK to park in a crosswalk, to double park, and to park at the edge of an intersection. When in Italy, do as the Italian do…

Parking in Catania
Parking in Catania

I found this video about driving in Rome and had a good laugh; yes it is much easier to laugh while watching a YouTube video than actually being in the aggravating situation.  What is amazing to me though, is the reactions of the Italians.

Their viewpoint is that this is normal and that everyone sort of knows how to drive without traffic lights or signs or police officers.  In fact these are the comments on my blog and  videos on YouTube.

Maybe so, because truly I did not see too many cars involved in accidents but I did see plenty with dents and scratches; in fact most of them had some type of minor damage.

Traffic in Rome
Traffic in Rome

And then there was the bus driver in Taormina driving up to Castelmola. I was able to record his reactions as I sat in the first seat behind him.

Again, it’s funny when you are not the one driving.  As my Italian friends say with a shrug, “Boh.”

26 Responses

  1. Helen Swindlehurst

    Another enjoyable blog. We drive down regularly from the UK. Love it. We just prepare for the unpredictable. The autostrada near Genoa can be a bit hairy. Would never drive in Rome, Naples or Milan but we manage the rest of the country. Mind you we’ve not been to Sicily!

  2. TuiSnider

    Oh, Palermo & Napoli are the worst! I never drove in Italy, but simply crossing the street when I lived in Naples took a certain mindset. Reading the word “boh” at the end of your post makes me homesick!

  3. Lora @savoringitaly

    Ciao Margie-This is a great post! I couldn’t believe when we returned to my father’s hometown in Sicily that last year that so many streets still didn’t have stop lights. And if there was a stop sign, it was just regarded as a yield sign (or just jump into traffic and go with the flow). I always let my husband drive when we are anywhere in Italy. So nice to have found your blog through Rick and am looking forward to your new book!

    • margieinitaly

      Thank you Lora. I too, am glad to have discovered your blog. Where in Sicily is your father’s hometown? I love those little streets but driving on them is definitely a challenge!

  4. igolftuscany

    Funny 🙂 and so true! Although driving from Rome downwards is quite different from the North of Italy, they are a bit more tidy and precise up there!

  5. The GypsyNesters

    We have driven all over Italy (not Sicily though) and it is usually quite crazy. I read a great description of traffic at stop lights in Rome one time, said it was like a game of Tetris. Perfect!

  6. surprisebjg

    Very good point! I thought just in Turkey they had traffic problem like this it really makes me very tired, nervous and annoying. I wonder some day it will be better maybe who knows keep being optimist.

  7. philipstrange

    I was astonished at the traffic in Catania, not so much the amount but the apparent total disorganisation, but it works and people get where they want to go! Your first picture is exactly as I remember it.

  8. John

    Chaotic as it may seem, those drivers are drivers. Come to my North Shore of Long Island in NY and here you will witness the living dead driving, they do not know what a signal light lever is nor any other traffic signals. The authorities are climbing all over each other to pass lower speeding limits to minimize traffic damages. I can get to point A to C faster by jogging than driving. This is not a major metropolitan city but a small NYC suburb and I do burn more fuel idling under a red light than I do driving to the next one. Retardation @ the MAX. Yes, I have driven in Rome, Paris, Barcelona and wherever I rather drive faster among drivers who know how to drive than Zombies late to their funerals. Sorry, it is one subject I am obstinate about. At least once a week I do roll down my passenger window to yell out “Where did you get your license at a Sears & Roebuck discount?” Funny and sad but true.

    • margieinitaly

      Thanks so much John for stopping by and commenting. You are so right; at least here these Italian drivers know what they are doing. As I said I rarely saw an accident, far less than in the States. It is just drivers like me and other travelers who are not used to it. I have not been in Long Island driving but from what you say, I think I’m glad I don’t have to deal with it. Thanks for sharing a perspective from the other end of things. You made me smile!

  9. imarancher

    Recently I read a piece on the ten worse cities for driving and I believe that some place in Sicily was at the top of the list! No, not Los Angeles & not NYC they did not make the cut. Apparently we are spoiled! When I was in Miami I was part of the suicide squad that asked no quarter and gave no quarter. That was how it was. Like Jim Croche said, 95 was the route we were on, it was not the speed limit sign (but we pretended it was!). I have noted with amazement that most people driving in NYC do not die within the first year so I suppose that driving in Sicily is beyond my driving ability. As they say, “Boh!”

    On Mon, Jan 13, 2014 at 6:45 PM, margieinitaly

    • margieinitaly

      Thanks so much Bonnie – Yes Miami is truly crazy today as well. Just visited there not long ago. I do think NYC is tame compared with Italy as far as driving goes!

  10. timelessitaly

    Driving through Naples is the scariest thing….It is truly a madhouse, bordering insanity. It has reduced me to bad words and tears….Great post as usual, Margie. Love the videos.

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