Driving in another country is always an experience in itself! We’ve had the opportunity to drive all over Japan while living there and now we get to give it a go in Italy because this week we passed our Italian drivers test! The driving here is probably exactly what you think it might be or have seen on T.V. It’s chaotic. Just like the cities themselves. Driving in Italy is more challenging than in the United States because traffic here is less regulated and road conditions are hazardous.
First let’s talk about what we had to go through to get this little privilege card to zoom around Italy. Similar to the United States, our license didn’t come with just a snap of the fingers. We had to go through the appropriate channels first. Any person who wants to drive here in Naples must have a current U.S. driver’s license or a valid license from another country. In addition to a valid U.S. license, (as stipulated in the agreement for us while working here) eligible drivers must obtain an Italian driver’s license by attending a local traffic safety driving course and answering a 48-question road sign test. We also must pass an “Alcohol and You” quiz. Usually this information is taught in an area orientation class shortly after arrival to the area, but this year everything is virtual due to the virus. It was a little disappointing not being able to attend any cultural and informational orientations, yet, being in quarantine for two weeks did have a silver lining- it gave us a head start in filling out any necessary forms, scheduling appointments, searching for vehicles, and studying for the road test!
After passing our tests and getting our licenses, it was time to focus on getting a car. We chose not to ship our Jeep Wrangler over from the States, instead, deciding to search for a small “beater” car to get us around in the meantime. Larger vehicles are much harder to navigate through narrow Italian streets and the congested, erratic driving conditions almost guarantee that you will get a few “Naples kisses” while here. We didn’t want to risk it with our Wrangler. Once finding a vehicle, a one time registration fee of 20 euro is required at the motor vehicle registration office upon registering in the AFI (Allied Forces Italy) system. Each year, one month prior to our registration anniversary month we are required to revalidate the registration before we can receive our tax-free petroleum products. Gasoline and oil are made available to DoD personnel in Italy on a tax-free basis at a substantial discount over the local market prices using an official NATO Forces Fuel Card. The basis for tax-free gasoline is the active duty personnel’s need to commute from home to work as an official duty. The ration amount and fuel type depend on the primary registered vehicle’s engine size, engine base horsepower, and fuel requirement. Vehicle insurance for the Naples area is expensive. USAA and GEICO are the only two available options for insurance coverage. The cost depends on the vehicle’s make, model and year, and age of the driver. Third-party liability insurance is mandatory in Italy for all automobiles, trucks, and two-wheeled vehicles, including mopeds.
Rules of the Road:
- Drive on the right side of the road.
- According to the host nation law, we are not authorized to wear open toes (flip flops/sandals) when operating a vehicle!
- Drunk driving is an extremely serious offense in Italy. Here, a blood alcohol level of 0.05 is positive proof of drunk driving.
- Majority of the cars in Italy are manual.
- Many intersections have no stop lights or traffic control. The vehicle on the right has the right-of-way, unless there is a stop sign.
- Low beams are required by law on main highways or darker roads. Headlights should always be turned on in tunnels.
- Right turns during red lights are ALWAYS illegal!
- Flashing headlights are also used to signal the approach to stopped traffic at crossroads or to signal slower vehicles to move right and permit a faster vehicle to pass. When a car behind you flashes its lights, move to the right lane as soon as it is safe to do so.
- Although some drivers may take what seem like unnecessary and dangerous chances to gain only a few feet of road space, Italian law requires you to allow overtaking traffic to pass you.
- While horn blowing is technically illegal in many Italian cities, it is loosely enforced. Many people blow their horn to signal they are approaching an intersection or intend to pass.
- Drivers commonly use their hazard lights to signal danger, especially in slow or stopped traffic.
- Use of cell phones while driving is not permitted unless the driver is using a speaker phone or earpiece.
- If you get a traffic ticket most tickets can be paid on the spot. This is legal in Italy (and in many other European countries). If you elect to pay, the police officer will give you a receipt and it’s taken care of.
- Useful words to know: destra (right), sinistra (left), dritto (straight), uscita (exit), pedaggio (toll).
- Never ever leave any valuables in your vehicle or leave your vehicle unlocked.
- Italy uses the metric system for all road signs (kilometers and meters).
- In the south, the majority of the roads are still based in marble. So when it rains they are slick, and when it’s hot, oil stays on the marble.
Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!