Italian Culture - in a Nutshell

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Italy; The Melting Pot

Driving in Naples
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An American Living in Italy:
Driving in Naples


    At first, I found driving in Italy to be a very frustrating experience.  The roadways are just plain insane.  Roads in town are very narrow and there are no shoulders (try not to break your side view mirrors).  It is a regular event to have to stop to because the guy in front of you has decided to stop in the middle of the street, park and roll down the window to have a little chat with a friend.  Stop lights?  Those are merely suggestions.  (However,  a few are strictly obeyed.  ...a few.)  Street signs?  Who need's 'em?  Everyone knows the names of the streets.  Smog control devices??  You wont find too many here in Italy.  This is readily apparent if you find yourself behind a truck or bus going up a hill.  Every freeway is a toll road.  The speed limit is just a technicality.  The fast lane is, ...well,  Keep right unless you plan on driving 160km/h+ (about 90 MPH+)   Above all, watch out for those crazy kids on Vespas and mopeds.  Driving is probably one of the most obvious cultural differences-- or, at least, it is one that is readily observed immediately upon arrival in Italy.  To avoid insanity you must adapt to the Italian ways of the road.


     The Italian's history has had an affect on every aspect of their development;  driving is no exception. 

     It seems to me that a somewhat fatalistic attitude is prevalent among Italians while they are behind the wheel.  It reminds me of an old Disney cartoon where Goofy (as a mild mannered family man) does a Jeckel and Hyde thing when he gets behind the wheel.  He turns into Mr. Leadfoot, a fast driving, irritable, horn blowing maniac.  What I mean is that a well mannered person, who (if you met them while walking down the street) would greet you with a tip of the hat and a friendly "Buon giorno!", may be likely to cut you off without thinking twice about it if you were to meet them while driving down the road. 


     Perhaps this is due to the impersonal nature of driving.  While driving you don't see another person approaching, you see only a car.   Perhaps Italian driving habits can also be attributed to the Italians "Us against the world" attitude.  I don't know...  Maybe everyone is always late! 

    In any event while driving in Italy be sure to pay extra attention.  Stay alert and above all look out for number one. 

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