Let me start this one with an OMG! or a “holy guacamole Batman!” And people think driving in Los Angeles is tough! On Saturday, I drove into the center of Florence for the first time. As you may know, I’ve already managed to dent a car during my first day driving in Italy, so I was honestly surprised that we made it into Florence without incident! But the more I drive, the more I’m learning a few things…
First, I’m learning that traffic lanes are apparently nothing more than a suggestion. When on the autostrada, or freeway, most people seem to drive in the middle of two lanes. It kind of makes you feel like the highway is your own and also makes it that much easier to pass a car….
When passing a car, you must only pass on the left. This is a tough one for me… especially after learning the best and quickest traffic lanes on the 101 and the 405! Here, passing on the left is a huge no-no which means that if you get stuck behind someone that you can’t pass, you end up riding their tale and flashing your lights in order to get them to move over! (This is a tip from my Italian husband.)
Back to the lanes… when in the city, lanes do not exist. Period. Oh, they are there, but no one uses them. Every straightaway is like you are maneuvering in a video game. Cars are everywhere, weaving in and out, (without using lane change signals, of course!). And then there are the scooters, which are like a thousand little ants weaving in and out of the already-weaving cars! It seems that the lanes are simply just not wide enough for most of today’s cars, and apparently no one bothered to repaint to make them wider. So in an effort to remedy the problem, motorists have simply ignored that the lines even exist!
And many of the streets are so narrow…. I now understand the necessity to have side mirrors that fold in!
Then there are the signs… so many signs. I find it physically impossible to read a third of them in the amount of time you usually have going around a round-about. Thus, I sometimes feel like a “look kids, it’s Big Ben!” moment is just around the corner for me.
Next up are the prohibited streets. There are signs that inform you that you may or may not enter a particular street at a particular time… if you know where to look! Some of these signs are easy to miss and you can easily find yourself in a “do not enter” street. Even Buccia has taken us into forbidden zones within Lucca! Oops!
If you manage to make it through all of these obstacles, you may still find a ticket mailed to your home if you fail to notice an autovelox, an automated camera that captures you if you speed. Most Italians know the precise location of these grey boxes and they slam on the breaks just seconds before passing one. So beware… you might get a ticket or you might rear end the car in front of you who is slamming on the breaks!
Another issue: don’t get attached to a particular driving route. For some reason “they” change streets and routes with some frequency. What I mean by this is that one day you might find the street you always take to have a new sign indicating that it’s now a one way street or that it’s closed to cars or that it’s permit only, etc. So, you just keep driving until you find another route… this is truly a comical interpretation of “all roads lead to Rome.”
Also, I’ve often turned onto a street to see all the parked cars on both sides of the street facing me. I have a moment of panic thinking that I might be going the wrong way on a one-way street… but nope… cars park whatever way they want: forward, backward, even sideways! I like this one a lot because in LA if you were to park your car the opposite way on a street, you would surely get a ticket. Here, not a chance! Love that!
And then of course, there are all the new rules for me to learn: blue spaces are OK to park in, but you have to pay a meter box first; there’s no right turn on red; and you cannot make u-turns like you would in California; and much more! So… I’m learning!
Now I do have to get my Italian driver’s license within one year and it looks like I’m going to need that full year to prepare! Also, I think I have to take the written and the driving portions in Italian. Yikes! So please wish me luck… I’m going to need it!