Italian drivers – straight dope message board how to get rid of fluid behind the eardrum

But after having been in Italy for 2 weeks, and having ridden in several cabs, watched a lot of traffic, and walked around and through the traffic, I was really impressed. First, driving conditions are generally terrible by US standards – no lanes are marked and there are way too many cars for the space available. But they make it work, and it seems to work based on two factors: everyone is paying really close attention to what they are doing, and every driver knows exactly how big his car is. They have to maneuver in and around other cars, they have to know how far they can go and no further, and they have to trust that the other drivers know what they are doing too. There’s no such concept as cutting off another driver. If there’s a small gap between cars, expect another car to push into it.


If someone has to turn right out of a traffic circle from the wrong lane, expect them to nudge their way into where they have to go. If someone isn’t right off the mark when a light turns green, they should expect to hear a beep or two behind them. If a pedestrian walks out in front of you, you’re going to give them just barely enough room to get out of the way before you continue on.

So many US drivers seem to be afraid of their cars, and to think that they are 3x their actual size. They also seem to think that they have a right to drive unimpeded by other traffic. I saw nothing like that in Italy, with a wide range of car sizes from tiny cars to big buses. That reminds me, special props to the tour bus drivers who have to do this in big double-decker buses every day and all day. I truly don’t know how they do it.

My base level is the UK and to be honest, the standard is the best that I’ve come across anywhere. Our test is pretty strict and even though the roads are often narrow, crowded and we drive fast and have no jaywalking laws (or at least none that are ever practically enforced), we have a very low level of road deaths.

Austria – good standards, excellent road quality and discipline but fucking tractors EVERYWHERE! Signage of limits can be a bit unclear and I’ve had one fine and one telling-off for speeding and overtaking in the wrong place, but the police were an absolute delight.

Italy? – schizophrenic. Out on the standard two-lanes and autostrada it is absolutely fine. Not substantially different from any other European country. In the big cities? mental. You’ll not see a car without at least one little bump or scrape. It is dog-eat-pancetta out there and the weak will suffer, not actually harmed in any way but certainly a harsh gesticulation is coming your way. You have to learn to not take it personally or it’ll crush you.

I would say it depends a lot of where in Italy. Here in the northeast things are quite similar to my native Holland, if a bit more aggressive. Things get more anarchic from Rome on down and Naples, whilst not as bad as it used to be, is still pretty bonkers. Even so, I agree with the OP that even in the south the system kind of works on its own terms.

Second this. How crazy the driving is depends a LOT on where in Italy you are driving. Did a big Italy trip some years ago and rented a car. Started more in the north (Milan), then Florence, then Rome. Milan was a little hectic, but not unreasonable. Kind of didn’t do much driving in Florence, but getting in and out wasn’t too bad.

The autostrade (sp ?) – the italian equivalent to the autobahn – was reasonable EXCEPT when you were in the left lane and not up to full warp factor 7 speed…and someone behind you wanted to do warp factor 8. Serious tailgating (like not being able to see the grill in the rear view mirror) at 100+ mph is nerve racking.

But when we got to Rome, a WHOLE different world. Very stressful. If you’re not used to just fitting (regardless of how many lanes are painted on the street), it really freaks you out. The other thing was that the speed limit seemed to be as fast as you can – so you’d do these spurts of like 50 mph for a block, and then slow down again.