Looking at blogs and things on the web, I’ve noticed many people outside Italy don’t really get Italian driving at all. They all think Italian drivers are mad. However, there are very clear and distinct rules on the road, here. In general, it’s very easy.
When driving one must assume that the car in front, behind or to the side of you could, at any moment, choose to do anything they like. They could pull in front of you. Stop for no reason. Accelerate, slow down, turn right, left or do a u-turn. All without signalling, of course. They will, probably just move to where they want to go.
What is important is that, whatever the time of day or night you are ready, with your hand poised, to blast your horn with as much vigour as possible, preferably keeping the horn pressed for a minimum of 1 minute, so that they realise you’re there.
Of course, this won’t make them change anything they’re doing, but it gives you a better feeling about it all. Of course, when youre driving, any idea of following any road signs, traffic light signals, lane markings, etc. is entirely your choice.
Especially, one should completely ignore lane markings as these are for guidance only. The most preferable thing is to drive along using part of two lanes so as to make sure that no-one can actually pass you.
When turning right, (bearing in mind that we’re all driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road), one should move as far over to the left as is possible, thereby ensuring that you hold up traffic behind you. Inevitably, the quick thinking people will immediately pass those cars on the right, whilst holding their hand down on the horn. Even better, of course, is to signal left when you are actually going to turn right. This ensures the correct amount of confusion for any foreign drivers.
If someone is following very close behind it is imperative that you stop. Once stopped, you should of course signal that you are going to stop. This allows a queue to form behind you and allows everyone in the queue to use their horn. This is more fun if it is about 3 o’clock or 6 o’clock in the morning as you know that everyone in the vicinity will be able to know that there is some idiot who stopped, sorry, who was driving too close.
Which neatly leads on to double parking. Double parking is de rigueur. You MUST be able to double park. Although parking on the pavement is the first thing Italians learn when learning to drive, double parking is second. This is even better when traffic is heavy and where there may or may not be enough room for someone to pass when you have parked. In fact, if you can do it just before a truck comes along, you can ensure an immediate traffic jam AND make sure that everybody knows as the truck drivers have specially loud and tuneful horns.
Trams. Please note that it is required to hold up trams. You have no choice but to go where they go in some cases, but by using the turning right trick, you can, with little effort, ensure that they will always be late! And you should ALWAYS try to beat them at traffic lights.
So finally to motorbikes, mopeds, etc. They have right of way. Sorry, I meant they THINK they have right of way. All the above rules apply but there are some extra ones as well. Do not wait at lights. If you can see it’s more or less clear, do what you want. If there is a slower vehicle than you, you should always get past, especially if you can use the other side of the road to do so. Even better if they are slower because the traffic is heavy. Please, don’t worry about oncoming traffic. You have, after all, complete right of way and the other vehicles should move over accordingly. What is important at traffic lights is to get in front of all four-wheeled vehicles. It doesn’t matter if you are on a moped that is slower than your average snail. Then, when the lights turn green move into the road so that the four wheeled vehicles have to be behind you. This ensures that, at the next set of lights, you will be able to overtake a few more cars AND you can slow the traffic down to your speed, which is all to the good. Also, if you can, get in as much weaving practice as you can. Watch for any opening. The signalling rules particularly apply. In fact, I am convinced that two wheeled vehicles sold here come without any signalling equipment as standard. They must have had to put them on for the foreign markets.
And yes, on a serious note, here, I think I see an accident about once a month involving a bike of some sort. But what really amazes me is that I don’t see them daily. Of course, from what I understand, the Italians have the worst record for motorway accidents, which is not a major surprise. But, actually, if you are aware and assume the worst of every other road user, it’s not that bad. What is quite funny is that here, in Milan, from the beginning of time, it seems, the rule at piazzas (very big roundabouts) was to give way to vehicles coming from the right. But only in Milan. Of course, they started to introduce the give way road markings at entrances to roundabouts, which means giving way to vehicles from the left. This has many Milanese very confused. Now there are two rules. Where there are markings, give way to the left. Where there aren’t, give way to the right. If you don’t know, just stop if there’s a vehicle in your vicinity – or not, depending on how lucky you feel. Very arbitrary really.