When in Rome… …drive sensibly
Call me a conspiracy theorist but how come I never saw a single car with learner plates? Or any sign of an Italian Tufty, dispensing cautionary advice about how to cross the road?
IT was about the time that we had been overtaken on a steep hill approaching a bend in the road with absolutely no idea whether a 20-tonne juggernaut was coming around the corner at 100mph that it dawned on me that just possibly, the Italians have a slightly different approach to driving than we do.
suppose that if it hadn’t been quite so terrifying, this cavalier, devil-may-care attitude could have been rather entertaining. I should have been suspicious when I went to collect the hire care from Antonio, who looked on in amazement as I tried to find the seatbelt and appeared genuinely bewildered that someone might want to minimise their prospects of being flung through the front windscreen. On reflection, I suppose pootling around in a Fiat Punto at a steady 30mph, stopping at red lights and cheerily allowing other drivers to advance in front of you was rather like waving a red flag in front of a particularly irate bull. Much as I was determined to embrace all aspects of Sicilian culture during my holiday, I could not bring myself to adopt their insane approach to motoring. The only rule seemed to be that there were no rules. Call me a conspiracy theorist but how come I never saw a single car with learner plates? Or any sign of an Italian Tufty, dispensing cautionary advice about how to cross the road? (My advice: don’t even try.) If there are driving schools in Italy – and I’m not entirely convinced there are – I’m rather perplexed by what it is they teach, although parking at jaunty angles when there’s clearly not enough space must be on the agenda. “Now then, when I tap the dashboard, I’d like you to push your foot down on the accelerator as hard as you can and try and hit that pedestrian.” Or: “We’re approaching a hill with no visibility and a sharp bend up ahead. Try and overtake as many cars as you can and if you can’t, get as close as you possibly can to that car in front.” Oddly, by the end of the week, I have to confess that I had become prone to sounding the horn at random and wholly inappropriate moments, on the basis that if everyone else was doing it, why not me? I never thought I’d say this but it was something of a relief to come back home and rediscover the pleasure of driving about without being surrounded by people who clearly learned everything they know by watching the Wacky Races rather than the traditional method of having lessons with an instructor.