Driving around in Italy without being killed

There are many horror stories about driving in Italy. Yet when it comes to do it on ones own, the way Italians drive proves to be more efficient than in most parts of the world.

When in Italy…one of the things most people are happy to avoid is to rent and drive a car. It’s understandable, as everyone who just stood by and watched some Italian traffic rush by might tell.

There will be blood, it seems.

The whole thing seems to be a huge mess, no system can be spotted, people just seem to drive like they want. There will be blood, it seems.

But actually, it’s the exact opposite.

When driving through Tuscany, I rented a car in Florence. A beautiful city, but just the imagination of me having to drive on my own and not watching the whole thing from the sideline made my stomach ache.

Driving in Italy 101

The first and most important thing when entering a car in Italy is to relax, as you’ll have plenty more focus to put on the road, as there is no need to use the turn signals. Instead, you’ll indicate to your fellow drivers on where you’re heading by just keeping your lane. Want to switch lanes? Use the mirror, if you’d crash into a car, wait, then move over. Same for roundabouts, just keep and switch your lane as needed and when you need to exit, just stay on the very right side of your lane. Easy as pie.

How is that supposed to work on a larger scale?
The answer is quite easy: Everybody behaves the same: It’s a large scale gentleman’s agreement! Everyone knows about it, everyone lives to it. Of course there’s lots of honking on the streets, but it has nothing to do with what’s happening on the road (except tourist don’t follow besaid gentlemen’s agreement).

It’s a large scale gentleman’s agreement!

Italians are honking like there’s no tomorrow because…have you ever seen someone from Italy talk without using gestures? That’s why. In a car they can’t wave their arms (a lot), that’s why they honk. Nothing personal.

If you want to be extra-sure, try honking a bit, it raises some extra attention and gives you the edge when driving in narrow streets and areas where you can’t see through corners right away.


The only time you really need to be afraid of damaging your car is when you park it in a narrow lane. Narrow lanes are the worst, as drivers really just care about getting through. If your mirror tends to be in the way, your problem. The same goes for the rest of the car.

It’s nothing special to get some scratches overnight, and car rental company’s are generally very accommodating when you return the car.

Bottom line

Travelling through Italy by car is a great experience that nobody should miss. Being able to take any road you want makes you explore the country way more intense and if you’re not on a tight schedule, you’re way more flexible than solely using trains and planes, buses and trams.

Once you start living – or rather driving – by the above rule, the country really can be enjoyed on the road, give it a try!