Driving like an Italian

On Patreon (Simona’s lessons on ‘How to be Italian’) I recently posted about 10 of the worst habits Italians have while driving – no matter what the means of transportation – in the hot Summer (in Winter we tend to drive a little better; we owe this to the fact that in the Summertime we are impatient to drive to the beach – or to the hills/mountains – to cool down while on holidays; in the Winter we don’t feel any urge to speed up on our way to the office).

For the full post you just have to pledge $1 a month (with a monthly tier of $1 you have 2 gorgeous posts; with a $5 tier a month you also get a secret ‘family recipe’ and with $10 a month you get an unmissable podcast on an italianissimo subject!).

Here is the first part… enjoy our worst habits while driving!

10 top worst habits you want to be aware of when planning to rent a car for your Italian stay (I bet a few of these still hunt you if you’ve been crazy enough to rent a car in our declining nation).

Before I start, please consider the following 3 assumptions:

Assumption #1 – the world of driving is in Italy a parallel dimension; it’s a non-place where the kindest and most compassionate of mothers turns into a merciless Valkyrie (and that is considered normal); it’s a fighting ring where we prove (to the world) we are the Alpha male (even when you are female); it’s a no man’s land where I am right and you are wrong; it’s a punching bag where I can knock my boss out; it’s a psychoanalyst’s couch where I get rid of all my frustration. Basically it’s a place where Italians get very creative and reinterpret – reshaping the traffic rules – their inner world, finally being able to express themselves;

Assumption #2 – nobody takes traffic rules too seriously. We believe that traffic rules and signs are meant to give you some sort of compass to drive you out of a meaningless world. They are just looked upon as hints, suggestions, clues; they are not actually rules one can be expected to comply with and, most of all, they can always be ignored if they stand in your way (you are smarter than traffic rules, I mean smarter than any rule, aren’t you?);

Assumption #3 – driving in Naples, Trapani (Sicily) or Rome is for those who have a strong heart. Traffic rules are so fully reinvented there (like in Naples  a red traffic light, as well as all other colors, means ‘GO’; if you stop at a red light everyone honks at you yelling the most colorful and, luckily, incomprehensible curses). I cannot figure out while any foreigner (or any Italian for that matter) may want to have a driving experience in one of those cities. If you did drive there you certainly have my utmost esteem. However, I will not talk about the worst driving habits in the abovementioned places (where respecting the traffic rules is an exception). I will just make an overview on the most common bad habits we all display in our everyday life in ‘every day Italy’ where, basically, people tend to comply to the rules and break them no more than 2/3/5 times a day (!).

I’ll just go random, not in order of importance:

Worst habit (WH)#1: While driving a car never let a pedestrian cross the street on the zebra crossing (you’ll feel like a loser). When you see a pedestrian approaching the crosswalk, speed up! Of course, if  you are driving your boss around (or your new girlfriend or boyfriend) – and you want to impress them – you may stop the car a few meters before the zebra crossing and wave at the incredulous pedestrian (the pedestrian will thank you and you will make his or her day). Usually when you are a pedestrian waiting at the crosswalk, you do not expect any car to stop to let you cross the street. You just stand there waiting for a free space between cars in which you can walk as fast as you can to reach the other side of the street. If some pious man or woman lets you cross, you thank them (I personally thank them nodding my head or actually saying ‘grazie’). When you are a pedestrian you hate the Italian habit of not letting pedestrians cross the street. You miss the high civilization levels you find in France, Germany, Belgium (just to mention a few states where pedestrians have the priority and cars act consequently) and talk as bad as you can about Italians behind the wheel. However, when it’s your turn behind the wheel you become the most merciless driver. Why is that so? Because we just can’t be bothered;

WH#2: while driving our bike we think we are in a parallel universe inside the parallel universe of driving, i.e. traffic rules and signs do not apply to us at all. A bike driver has a pass to do anything, and when I mean anything I mean: driving on the pedestrian-only sidewalk and ringing the bell at pedestrians (why on earth do they stand in your way?); driving the wrong way; driving at night with no lights on (bike drivers think they have supernatural powers that prevent them from getting run over by cars or motorcycles which, of course, happens more frequently here than in any other civilized country); weaving in and out of traffic carrying heavy and bulky bags; drive children in the front and in the back seat with no helmets on (a habit I would prosecute severely)


  1. OK, Simona– this explains a lot!! When we traveled to Rome a couple times we were taken back by the traffic in the city! We thought Seville had crazy traffic until we came to Rome! But our drives through the countryside and coming down from the Alps were so beautiful!! What a fun post!! xox

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