Back in the States, whenever I saw a fast, flashy car, I’d think, “What a waste around here. They need to go to Montana or the Autobahn.” Now, I’ve never driven the former, but I couldn’t have guessed how accurate I was about the latter.
Rick Steves described German drivers as frustrated race car drivers. Again, accurate. Especially when there are more than two lanes on one side, unless you are willing to go much faster than 140km/h (yes, 87mph), stay the heck out of the left lane! You might be able to pass someone in that lane, but follow “the rules of the road” and *get out immediately* when you are done. Really. We estimated that most of the cars in that lane are easily going 100+. What was most fun was watching these cars fly passed the cop car in the right lane. Yeah, the cops didn’t pursue.
Thankfully for us, we had a bit of European driving practice in relatively calm Switzerland last week. Don’t get me wrong. When we first arrived in Bern, we thought the Swiss were fast, and they are compared to US drivers. But they have nothing on Autobahn drivers.
We didn’t drive in Italy, and truth be told, I wouldn’t want to. It’s not just that we probably couldn’t get insurance coverage in Italy. Italian drivers are just crazy. Now, it may not seem like it, but I say this with the utmost respect and reverence for the average Italian driver.
We spent most of our time in Italy on foot or public transport, so we had the opportunity to observe driving in Italy without the stress of really participating. We learned some really interesting things. Like stop lights and/or signs are merely suggestions. Perhaps because of that, we found many intersections with no such lights or signs (Piazza Venezia comes to mind).
And talk about tight spaces. Our apartment in Rome was on a backstreet near the Piazza Nuvona. Now, looking at the narrow street with its random cafe tables fronting tiny restaurants and wandering crowds, you’d think it’d be small for a scooter…
And it is, but somehow, cars and delivery trucks and emergency vehicles manage to navigate just fine, sometimes with the help of a passing stranger.
The symbiotic relationship between drivers and pedestrians is also an interesting phenomenon. Romans have no fear of stepping out into the chaotic streets, and the drivers operate accordingly. They don’t necessarily slow down (as I witnessed from the front seat of a city van), but no one was hurt. Close but no accidents. Another observation: Italian drivers don’t seem to get upset about any of it. In all of that chaos, we don’t remember hearing any car horns in Rome. The bus drivers’ expressions don’t change when a jaywalker darts out front. Amazing.
So Germans seem to be the fastest. But I believe Italians are the most versatile and, arguably, the best anywhere. Well, from the places I’ve seen thus far. What have you.