Driving in Italy is different than driving anywhere else in the world. Sure, Italy has all the traffic laws you’d expect; red means stop, green means go, you drive on the right-hand side of the road. That is pretty much where the similarities end!
Don’t worry though, after you’ve been on the road for a little bit you quickly see there is a defined method and flow to the perceived madness; despite how different it is to your home country.
Please keep in mind, these are just observations of the way of the road in Italy…these rules should not be followed by anyone…except for maybe Italians!
Create your own lane
This is the most important rule for you to master while driving in Italy. Essentially, if there is space on the road for a car, that space must be filled. Marked lanes are merely suggestions–it doesn’t matter if it says left turn only, straight only, double line, etc–if there is room, then go!
Create your own parking space
Parking is incredibly scarce in Italy, especially in bigger cities. You’ll rarely see an SUV or big truck in the city center. In order to cope with this problem, just create your own space!
The catch is, you gotta put on your hazard lights, and you really shouldn’t take any longer than a couple minutes wherever you’re going. Just keep your ears open for somebody laying on the horn if you blocked them in.
Create your own space–for parking
Parallel parking is hard, especially at night on a narrow street. And lets face it, theres no bigger spot than one thats the precise size of your car, so don’t be afraid to ram into the car behind or in front of you as you park. If you don’t believe me, look at any car bumper in Rome and you’ll see them completely scuffed up due to this common practice.
Stop in the middle of the street
If you see someone in the street you know, you’re obligated to stop and talk to them. It doesn’t matter if the road is only as wide as one car, with a lineup behind you…stop to chat and ignore the crescendo of honks coming from behind.
Invite them out for dinner! Be prepared with our guide, “Italian Food Rules Explained“
Honk for every occasion
Honking is very appropriate in Italy. It can mean anything from “Get the hell out of my way!” to “ciao bella” to “the light is green!” Have fun with it, the horn is an extension of your voice in Italy.
Overtake other cars–at any point in the street
It doesn’t matter where you are on the street, whether its a roundabout, square, intersection, turning left or right, in heavy traffic or no traffic at all. The main goal is to pass the guy in front of you.
Turn signals optional
Certainly everybody can relate to people not using their turn signals while driving, regardless of what country you are from. In Italy, it is taken to a whole new level. It is incredibly rare to see anybody using a turn signal, so try to blend in and forget about the blinkers.
At a roundabout in Italy, the unwritten rule is the first person in the roundabout has the right of way. Also, its not exactly shocking to see people parked on a roundabout.
Roads are smaller and narrower in Italy, and getting stuck at a red light could really add to your commute. Therefore, you have to get comfortable tailgating. In most countries, this is very rude but here it is just how people drive, so try not to take offense.
The on ramps are unique because they are much shorter than most countries. Therefore, many people use the on ramps to simply get on the highway, and utilize the shoulder to build up enough speed to merge!
Scooters own the streets
Scooter drivers seem to have their own set of rules. They weave in and out of traffic, drive on the opposite side of the road to bypass congested traffic, and jockey for position at the front of traffic lights. You’ll see them parked on sidewalks, bus areas, grass, just about everywhere. You remember how to drive them, right?
Obviously, following any of these unwritten rules will be the fastest way to get a hefty fine, or worse; you could get in an accident… so in this case do not do as the Romans do!
In order to keep your sanity, just realize that this is how you drive in Italy. They are not being jerks, or cutting you off because they think you are a bad driver. Its just how it works here! Try it out their way, who knows maybe you will like it!
Want more Italian rules? Read “Italian Food Rules Explained“