With the Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix set to garner the world’s attention in Melbourne later this month, the seductive notion of fast cars and scenic backdrops is capturing the imagination of Australians across the country, none more so than the Criniti’s family! From cruising the cobblestoned streets hills of Tuscany to the breathtaking coastal highways winding from Portofino to Positano, the passion for scenic driving runs deep through Italiano culture. An enticing and romantic experience that triggers memories of scenes from old-world Hollywood films; glamour, love and style… But what steps do you need to take before you can embark your own bellísima Italian road trip?
How To Drive Like an Italian: 4 Italy driving tips
So you’re all ready to go. You have booked your flights, accommodation and wheels for the family, friends or partner joining you on a magical journey of unforgettable sights as you cruise through Italy. But what’s it really like to drive in Italy? Is it as nerve-wracking as it’s made out to be? Do you need the skills of a Grand Prix driver to survive? Not if you follow our Italian driving tips! In addition to roadster habits, you also need to think about unusual, narrow parking spaces with different rules, the traffic and automatic fines. It can be intimidating, but if you follow these 4 tips you’ll be cruising Italian roads like a local in no time…
Let’s start with the basics:
Italians drive on the right side of the road, just like Americans. While driving in Italy, some useful words to know include destra (right), sinistra (left), dritto (straight),uscita (exit) and pedaggio (toll). An inverted red and white triangle means that you do not have the right of way at the intersection. And Zona trafficolimitato and zona pedonale indicate pedestrian streets that are not open to cars. Grab an espresso and take some time to familiarise yourself with the basics before hitting the road.
Heading in the right direction:
Knowing the route you want is useful, but not nearly so useful as knowing what picturesque towns and villages are on that route. In Italy, signs often won’t indicate north, south, east, or west; instead, they’ll use a city sign. So if you want to drive north from Rome, for example, you might look for a sign for ͞Firenze͟ or ͞Milano.͟ As you might expect, this can be incredibly confusing for anyone not intimately familiar with Italian geography. We recommend having a good map or (because it’s 2018), make it easier on yourself with a car GPS or Google Maps app. FUN FACT: Sometimes the next big town down the road will not appear on the signs at all due to past conflicts. If two neighbouring towns or cities are historical rivals, with several hundreds years of mutual enmity seething between them, they will sometimes refuse to acknowledge each other’s existence on road signs.
Book in advance:
You will get a better price, and more options, if you book before your trip. It’s often easiest to book online, although you can also book by phone. Also, don’t drive a stick shift? You might be surprised to know that most Italians do so the majority of cars in Italy are stick shift (aka manual), not automatic. That means automatics often have a limited availability, and usually cost more which is another good reason to book in advance.
You need an International Driving Permit:
Contrary to what you might hear, if your driver’s license is from Australia (or other countries outside the EU) you also need to carry an International Driving Permit. You’ll need to show your IDP if you get stopped by the police for any reason including if you’re in an accident. The IDP doesn’t require a test and is basically a translation of your driver’s license. Once you arrive in Italy you will be ineligible to obtain it, so it is important that you do so before departing on your trip. We recommend that you apply for an IDP at least one month before you need it.
Also remember to…
With the narrow streets, adopt the habit of folding in your side mirrors when you park, so that they’re still there when you return to your car. If there’s a mirror on the road, use it as it is there for a reason. Winding roads with little visibility and narrow streets in historic city centres often have mirrors in strategic places to help you see around corners, so get into the habit of looking for them. Learn About the Autostrada. The Autostrada is the major highway that runs between large cities, like Milan, Bologna, and Florence.
There are virtually no exits. It is possible to get on, but it is almost impossible to get off in between those large cities. Keep your eye out at all times for scooters (aka motorinos or Vespas). They weave in and out of traffic, will come very close to your car, and sometimes seem to come out of nowhere. And lastly, drive with confidence.