Traffic Law, Italian Style

Wednesday after the Questura, we went to get some well-deserved gelato, and to stop by our favorite fruit vendor, Naturamica. At the late hour of 10:30 in the morning, we found no parking spots. However, we’re Italian enough by now to know what to do: park on the sidewalk! As long as you leave your hazard lights on, even parking in the middle of the street works in Italy. Good manners apply, of course. Middle-of-the-street parking is only for short errands like popping into the bread shop or running over to greet a friend. When we parked around the corner from the gelato shop, only one other car had availed itself of sidewalk parking. Upon our return, we found the entire sidewalk lined in cars, some of which hadn’t even bothered to leave on their hazard lights.

Speaking of lights, a friend at work explained to Tony that it’s best to drive with one’s headllights on all the time, even in broad daylight. The reason is those carabinieri parked in the roundabouts. I’ve never seen a policeman chasing down a vehicle here in Italy. They prefer to park in the roundabout and comfortably scan cars as they slow down. What are they looking for? Anything suspicious, I suppose. This is probably why Giorgio was so adamant when we first arrived two years ago that we must always carry our passports at all times. I guess the carabinieri don’t like it when you have no identification. We didn’t have a car back then, so we were never in a position to be stopped by them. But I gather that they stop cars rather often, just to check things out. One of the main offenses they like to cite is burned out headlights. Hence the prescription to always drive with one’s headlights on, so the carabinieri in the roundabout will know without stopping you to test them that they both work, and that you are, by extension, a responsible driver. Of course, I wonder how much more quickly headlights burn out when they’re on all day. This may not actually be the best way to deal with the problem of the occasional popeye . . .

We did recently receive a strange charge on our credit card from Hertz Italia. Coincidentally, it happened the same week that we were billed over $200 by Hertz Ireland for a car we never rented. That one is supposedly straightened out, although we’re not too keen on ever renting a car from Hertz again. The Italian charge is for a traffic violation, supposedly committed by us while we were driving a Hertz rental vehicle (I assume back in April when we drove from Turin to Florence). They didn’t tell us what the traffic violation was, only that it was reported by a citizen. Hm. Smacks of fraud to me. It reminds me of when Tony’s cousin received a bill in the mail at his house in Utah from the Italian government, citing him for an illegal U-Turn he supposedly made when he was in Italy months before.

We think we accidentally made that very same illegal U-Turn during our first week ever in Italy two years ago, although it hasn’t caught up with us (yet). We were on the Autostrada (toll highway) and realized after three minutes or so that we were going in the wrong direction. So we exited and got on going the other way. When we came to the first toll booth, our toll came up as over €80. Horrified, we explained to the booth operator, mostly with hand-gestures, what we had done. With a bored air, she handed us a form that we needed to fill out (including writing the story of what had happened) and hand into someone somewhere (with our virtually nonexistent Italian, we understood none of her explanation very well, nor could we puzzle out barely any of the words on the form) within eight days to appeal the charge. Between locating our long-lost Italian relatives, finding a place to live, getting phones and internet so we could keep our business going, and driving around lost in the streets of Turin for hours and hours, we never managed to make it to wherever we were supposed to turn in the form, and we lost it during a subsequent move. Perhaps our bill is following us through all the addresses we’ve had in the United States since. More likely, it’s probably been sent back to Italy as undeliverable. I guess we can just live with the Hertz Italia charge and call it poetic justice.

4 thoughts on “Traffic Law, Italian Style

  • September 14, 2010 at 11:24 am
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    I'm worn out on my behalf too. And SOOOO happy to have a car now instead of a stroller.

  • September 13, 2010 at 7:54 pm
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    Your posts are delightful.

  • September 13, 2010 at 3:39 pm
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    Okay…I've been reading your blog and now I'm worn out on your behalf. The part that pushed me over the edge was you getting pushed to the bank in a stroller. Natalie

  • September 13, 2010 at 11:54 am
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    These vignettes would make lovely book chapters someday.

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