Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Fiat - Italians love their cars and driving whether on a flat, fast motorway or a challenging, winding Tuscan back road.
But in the cities and hisoric towns the love of speed can be deadly. Italy has one of the highest road death tolls in Europe - 6.1 per 100,000 - and Rome is rated as the worst European city for traffic accidents. In 2014 the Italian government declared the national road toll "an emergency".
The SS 106 spanning the Ionian coast from Reggio Calabria to Taranto is among Europe's most dangerous roads. And this little beauty pictured below, the Stelvio Pass in the Alps, is the 10th most dangerous road in the entire world. For obvious reasons it's best to back off the throttle and take it easy.
Contributing to the road toll is the fact many Italian drivers speed and may cut you off or act aggressively. Trucks, even the 18-wheeler kind, exhibit the same behaviour. Be prepared, allow extra room for emergency manoeuvres and resist the tempatation to follow suit.
Other contributing factors:
Like any major city around the world, traffic in Rome and Naples can be terrible; with many drivers disobeying the road rules. Avoid the temptation to follow suit, as some Italian highways have automated ticketing systems which will fine even rented cars for things like speeding.
Another thing to watch for when driving in the city are zona a traffico limitato or ZTL. These are reduced traffic zones designed to ease congestion and pollution in city areas. If you are photographed driving into a ZTL, you will receive a fine.
As with most major cities, the congestion is bad during rush hour in places like Florence, and with the maze of one-way streets and restrictions it's not much better the rest of the day. Parking can be a challenge too. Drivers will fill any spare space, so if you plan to hire a rental, make sure it has insurance to cover possible dents and dings.
By the same token, if you park anywhere you're not supposed to, you risk getting towed. Travelers to Milan say to avoid above-ground transport at all costs and just take the metro.
If you are driving around in the major cities, do so with caution especially when approaching pedestrian crossings. They are everywhere and not all are marked with a flashing light. Throw in the confidence of the Italian locals who will walk out even with traffic going by and you can see how some folks end up being a part of the annual road accident stats.
The legal drink driving limit in Italy is 0.05%, so watch how many vinos you have at dinner. However, if you have less than 3 years experience, your limit is 0.00%.
Be careful while walking around town, pedestrians make up many of Italy's road fatality statistics. Pedestrians or cyclists often hit or are hit by scooters and cars.
Traffic will speed by without stopping, offering few safe chances to actually cross the road. Motorbikes, Vespas, or mopeds, which are very popular in Italy, do this as often as vehicles. Even more difficult, sidewalks can be narrow and tempt you to walk in the road.
The cultural approach taken by Italians to crossing the road is to wait for a gap in the flow of cars and start crossing. Watch the locals and follow their lead. Some nominally one-way roads let buses travel in the opposite direction, so you should still look both ways before crossing.
Car jacking often occurs in Catania, Sicily, and break-ins at gas stations and rest stops are common.
Ignore anyone who tries to flag you down to point out a flat tyre, even if it's true: he or she will try to rob you once you stop. Try to keep driving to the next rest or gas station and get assistance there.
Never leave the car unlocked, lest you are looking for someone to relieve you of your luggage and if you have valuables with you, never leave them in the car or in full view of potential thieves.
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