So, I already alluded to this a little bit in a previous blog post, but let’s chat more in-depth about pedestrian life in Italy, shall we?
I’d like to start by defining what these words mean in Italian:
- strada (street): a place where one should drive as fast as one can, never stop for pedestrians, park wherever and whenever one desires, and behave as if one is the only driver even if the throngs of other cars and mopeds say otherwise.
- marciapiedi (sidewalk): see definition above.
Hitting the Italian streets can really be quite an adventure (not the “Indiana Jones” kind… more of the “hope I make it to the office in one piece” kind). It is true that Italy, being much older than the USA, was developed and planned way before the invention of the automobile, so some streets can be really narrow and car parking wasn’t taken into consideration when the cities were built. However, I don’t think that Italian driving etiquette really helps the situation at all.
The problems with Italian driving can be broken down into 3 main sub-categories:
Speed: Italians’ love of flashy sports cars, like Ferrari, and sports racing, like the Gran Premio, form streets that make you feel as if you took a wrong turn on the way to the pastry shop to buy your cannoli and wound up on the tracks of the Formula 1. I think that Italians get a thrill out of pretending to be Valentino Rossi as they try their best to get you to cagare sotto (crap your pants) while you attempt to cross the street. Plus, drivers know that if they didn’t succeed in running you over, then the mopeds weaving in and out of traffic will probably finish the job.
Parking: The concept of legal parking in Italy is so badly understood that I’ve seriously considered taking tons of photos and publishing a photographic coffee-table book entitled “That don’t go there!”. Cars and mopeds can be found double parked (which doesn’t sound so bad, but when its done on a narrow one-way street which completely blocks all traffic, that’s when the fun begins), parked on sidewalks (forcing you to walk into the street to go around it, where you can be sure to find some guy on a moped ready to run you over – I think it’s some sort of collaboration), parked in front of stores (so nobody can get in or out ), directly on tram rails (just in case you thought that taking public transportation would save you from them), and on the grass, flower beds, and of course strategically placed exactly on top of the cross walk (which really doesn’t make a difference anyways, as most Italian pedestrians don’t cross at the cross walk out of principal – it’s the sort of “hey, don’t you tell me what to do” mentality which is part of what makes Italy so wonderful).
Ballsy-ness: Not only will an Italian be talking on their cell phone and backing up at full speed on the sidewalk (without looking over their shoulder, of course), but the best part is that they have the balls to beep the horn at you and give you a dirty look for daring to attempt walking on the sidewalk! They will illegally zip right through a red light on their adorable Italian mopeds as you are legally crossing the street and then have the balls to yell “go f yourself” at you. But I think the best is when you are trying to cross the street in the pouring rain with 75 kilos of groceries, and they have the balls to almost run you over and splash you with a puddle just so that they can get to a red light and wait for it to turn green.
Well guys, I have to go put on my helmet and hockey gear because I’ve got to run out and buy some bread and tomatoes.
Wish me luck!