The Italians are such notoriously bad drivers that it seems almost unsporting to write a post criticising their motoring habits. The death rate from road accidents in Italy was 11.7 per 100 000 of the population, compared to 5.81 in the UK, 9.49 in France and 8.03 in Germany. Nevertheless, Italians appear to enjoy driving, and one of the things which I do like about their attitude is the fact that, although they will honk their horns incessantly if they have to wait too long at traffic lights, they will often sit patiently as another driver attempts an obviously crazy manoeuvre on a narrow country road. And crazy driving is not the preserve of a small minority. It is ingrained in the national mentality and supported by everything from the police to the road markings. Rather than criticising, therefore, I have instead compiled a list of advice for those who would like to drive like the locals and enjoy a quintessentially Italian experience:
Don't expect lane markings to be present, especially on big roundabouts and motorways. You can change lanes by cutting someone up any time you want, so why would you need them?
Don't ever stop at a zebra crossing, unless it's because you intend to park on it.
Do use the hard shoulder on the motorway to get past traffic jams. There is no reason why the people at the front of the queue shouldn't let you in ahead of them when you get to the front.
Do not be surprised if the sliproad joins the motorway in the fast lane. This is entirely sensible – why would anyone want live life anywhere other than in the fast lane?
Don't use your indicators. The flashing may distract others from the glint of your bling-bling designer sunglasses, which you must wear at all times when driving. (This rule applies especially when changing lanes on the motorway at 130 km/h.)
Do double park your car. Or, for the ultimate experience, park on the pavement where someone can block you in and enjoy reversing 100 metres down the block to get out, forcing pedestrians to flatten themselves against walls as you do so.
Do honk your horn repeatedly when the queue at the motorway toll booths doesn't move fast enough. If Italians didn't enjoy waiting impatiently for other people to pay, they would all have bought Telepasses by now.
You will sometimes have the opportunity to turn right at a junction when the pedestrian crossing on your exit street is green. In theory, you should give way to any pedestrians on the crossing, but in practice this only applies if the person crossing is a nun.
Disclaimer: I have never actually driven a car in Italy. Take this advice at your peril!