Tips on driving in Italy

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Tips on driving in Italy
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This subject always comes up, so heres our point of view:

First, a little bit about the Italian’s philosophy of driving: it’s the art of safely going from point A to point B in the shortest amount of time. It’s an important task that deserves the driver’s total attention: Italians don’t eat, drink, put on makeup or read while driving, nor do they generally turn to talk to their passenger. They pay attention to their surroundings (front and back) all the time and expect everyone else to be doing the same. What might look like anarchistic traffic chaos is the result of an instinctive, mutual understanding between prudent drivers.

Just keep in mind that people are trying to safely go from point A to point B in the shortest amount of time, so even if you have the right of way they won’t wait around for you unless you’re showing swiftness.

Basic rules 

  • In the autostrada, the left lane is for passing, period. If you are not actively passing, stay out of the left lane; lane discipline is absolute. After passing, always return to the most rightermost lane that makes sense for your speed.
  • If you’re being flashed from behind, you’re in somebody’s way; immediately move to the right.
  • Always use your blinkers. Other drivers make their decisions based on your intentions, and if you don’t signal you’re asking for an accident.
  • Never, never pass on the right. This practice has been proven to increase accidents and is forbidden (and not done) anywhere in Europe.
  • Unless you’re driving on a major road, you must always yield to traffic coming from the right. There are no stops signs at these intersections; people self-manage by yielding.
  • Important: there is no right turn on red.
  • Unless otherwise posted, default speed limits are 130 km/h (81 mph) on motorways, 110 km/h (68 mph) on main roads outside urban areas, 90 km/h (56 mph) on secondary and local roads, and 50 km/h (31 mph) in urban areas. Actual travel speeds may be different; go with the flow.
  • Always drive on the righter most edge of the road. It’s safer and on two lane roads wide enough for three, people will pass splitting lanes even if there’s incoming traffic.
  • Recent changes in the law require that lights be turned on while driving on major roads outside of urban areas.
  • Cellphones may be used by the driver only with hands free equipment or a headset.

Italians recently discovered from the French that traffic lights are an incredibly inefficient way to manage traffic, and have been steadily replacing them with roundabouts. They’re pretty easy to navigate: you yield to cars already in the roundabout and insert yourself as soon as there’s enough space for a car. Traffic congestion in Biella has virtually disappeared since the elimination of most lights, and pollution has decreased, to the delight of everyone!

Traffic signs
Italy has (finally) fully adopted international road signs. Here are some signs that are different from the non-standard ones found in North America:

Triangular red signs: ALERT!
General alert (pay extra attention)
Roundabout: yield to traffic already in the roundabout
Yield to traffic
Stop and yield (Note: hardly anyone does a full stop unless required by safety). There are no multi-way stops in Italy.

Round red signs: FORBIDDEN
Do not enter (road closed to traffic)
Do not enter (wrong way)
Speed limit (in km/h)

In caso di nebbia

Speed limit in case of fog (in km/h)
End of speed limit; default limit applies afterwards (see text above)
No parking
No stopping
No horse and carriages allowed! (OK, you won’t see many of these)

Blue signs: ADVISORY

- or -

One way street
Direction of allowable travel (posted at intersections where you can’t go in all directions)
Other signs:
Right of way (no need to give right of way to cars from the right)

Additional information on road signs is available by clicking here.

Should you need to park on Biella’s streets, be aware that blue spaces are pay spaces, and require that you buy a ticket from a nearby dispensing machine. For more information on parking in Italy, click here.

Mike found this on the website of the
British Columbia Automobile Association. he didn’t write it, but hopefully you will find it true.

"Driving in Italy is a most peculiar art form of what, and what not to obey. Surprisingly ... the rules of the road are more predictable than driving on Canadian highways. Italian drivers always seem to be in a hurry [by North American standards]. Having said that, Italians, especially when driving on the autostrada, are among the best drivers anywhere. They are in total control of their automobiles at all times and actually use all their mirrors and signals constantly."

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