Driving Through Italy: Know the etiquette and rules while avoiding fines

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Italy is known for its Lamborghinis and Ferraris, and although we didn’t see any it seemed like everyone thought they were driving one.

Speeding

Funny thing about italy. It is the exact opposite of Australia’s driving culture. Everyone and their grandmother is going 30Km/h or more over the speed limit.  We saw few police on the highway but many radar cameras and signs. Based on our experiences in NZ and AU we did our best to stay below the posted speed limit even though no one else seemed to.

A huge credit to Italian drivers: they always pulled to the right when they weren’t passing. (Something I really wish more Americans did.) We noticed  a sort of dance that exists in the way cars passed one another. On the highway you could  often see one car speeding past you and then immediately pull in to the right lane. Just as another car passed them and went directly into the right lane too. Then another car would pass and do the same, and then another. It was a sort of jump-frog of cars passing by and pulling over to the slower lane to let the person behind them go by. It was quite impressive actually.

You would also often see what I call a “slow-lane tap-in” during the “passing dance”. After a car would speed past us they would tap half of their car into the right lane for a few moments before speeding off again.

Driving through towns

You cannot drive within the city walls of any of the small historic cities like Siena, Pisa, Cortona etc. If you do, not only will you get lost or have a hell of a time turning around but you’ll get fined $100 or more for doing so. Yes, there will be cars driving into and around the city making it seem like it is a-okay, but YOU are not allowed to follow suit. A “my mistake” will get you nowhere with an officer. Finally, after 5 days, if you don’t pay up your fine could double. I really wish our rental car company would have clued us in.

A good rule of thumbs is: If you are about to drive through an archway of a huge wall, turn around.

IDP Required

Italy is one of the few countries that *require* an IDP (International drivers permit.) Not having one will cost you a $300 fine on top of whatever else you get stopped for.

ztlBeware of Traffic Zones

Watch out for ZTLs (zona a traffico limitato – reduced traffic zone.) There are cameras everywhere and you may not even get a notice of your fine for up to a year.

Parking

Make sure you bring change with you. Many parking stations don’t take credit cards or cash. Also, be sure to check online for parking info for the town you plan to visit. For example, there is parking for residents only in certain areas of town and there may not be a sign specifying it as such. Check other car’s dashboard nearby. If there are papers on the dash with the word “resident” on it, it probably isn’t a public lot. Most likely you will need to park and walk or grab a bus to the town. Also, different color spaces have different implied costs. For example, white spaces can mean free, while blue can mean you have to pay, and they may be situated right next to one another. In some cases yellow will denote its for resident, but bear in mind that not all resident spaces are yellow.

In the new world of automated, camera based, ticketing systems the days of “I didn’t know” are all but a memory. You must be far more researched that you had to be in the past to go on a driving adventure abroad. Hopefully these tips help :)

 

 

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  1. Pingback: Driving through Scotland and Ireland. | Sean Shadmand

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