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Driving in Italy

While driving on Italian roads, you are required to carry with you at all times: a valid driver's license with Italian translation, Military Registration/Certificate of Title (proof that your car is in Italy legally), Cover Plate authorization, and Valid Italian Insurance documents/window sticker (proof of insurance). Driving under the influence of alcohol is an extremely serious offense in Italy. A blood alcohol level of 0.05 is positive proof of drunk driving. Refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test results in immediate loss of the license for 6 months (one year on base), and a possible fine of up to 1,000.00 euro. If you have had too much to drink, leave your vehicle; take a taxi or call a friend.

The following basic rules for driving in Italy will save you stress as well as injury:

  • Do not pick up hitchhikers.
  • Many intersections lack stop lights or traffic control. The vehicle on the right has the right-of-way, unless there is a stop sign.
  • Some drivers may take seemingly unnecessary and dangerous risks to gain a few feet of road; do not take the same risks and let them pass.
  • Low beams are used on main highways or darker roads. Headlights have always to be turned on when driving outside city/town borders. Overtaking cars, especially at night, should briefly flash their headlights to alert the car being passed. Flashing headlights are also used to signal 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. Respect speed limits and overtake only when road conditions and/or traffic signs allow you to.
  • While horn blowing is technically illegal in many Italian cities, it is loosely enforced. Most people blow their horns to signal approach to a blind intersection, or intent to pass.

As with other cultural differences, driving habits in Sicily may at first seem strange and even threatening. If you maintain a commitment to alertness and flexibility, you will reduce the anxiety of this adjustment.


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