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Driving in Italy (un esercizio di terrore)

(an occasional exercise in terror)

sunny 30 °C

Twelve months without setting foot on pedal seemed excessive, not to mention slightly cowardly, so we set about to hire a car in Otranto for five days to tour the (widespread) sites.

The charming and ever-patient Ivana duly signed me up for the only rental car in town ... a 3 day wait was required for the Fiat Punto ... henceforth nicknamed the Drop Punto. Nightmares and cold sweats followed as I waited for the fateful day. Would I remember to drive on the right hand side? Do you use your right foot for the accelerator in left hand drives? What were those roundabout rules again? Was the reputation of Italian drivers deserved?

Once Ivana had explained (via Google Translate) that the petrol gauge had an alarming tendency to swing from full to empty for no apparent reason, she handed over the keys and we were off! One amusing online site had suggested the best way to confuse local drivers was to use your indicators, as they are essentially redundant tools for the average driver. Disregarding this advice, I indicated at every opportunity, and snail-like returned to the apartment to pick up the three excited passengers.

The Drop Punto and Crew


Without going into laborious detail about the ensuing four days, we would make the following observations : Italians are generally highly skilled drivers. They drive too fast, and recklessly, but they are totally focused on what they are doing, and know exactly what is going on around them. For this reason, you never feel unsafe when they charge up behind you, tailgate, then overtake at the first (half) opportunity. Likewise, their ability to navigate the ridiculously narrow streets is unparalleled.

Our problems stemmed from the road signage. Suffice to say it varied from inadequate to downright confusing. We would enter a small town with a fairly clear idea of the place/s we were trying to get to on the other side, but despite four sets of attentive eyes, we were regularly beaten by obfuscation and one-way signs cleverly placed by the local authorities to frazzle hapless tourists. In the end we opted for the autostrada, where the entertainment derived from counting how many seconds it took the spec in the rear view mirror to become a large Mercedes travelling in excess of 180 kms/hour.

The Drop Punto was returned intact, and the passengers were happy for the experience, but equally happy to return to our transport staple of buses, trains, and ferries. For those interested, the price per litre at the moment is around $2.25

Some photos of our car travels.


Posted by happellfamily12 09:14 Archived in Italy Tagged cars driving navigation

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