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Italian in Italy


Cars and Driving

Driving is the preferred mode of transportation in Italy. The excellently maintained Autostrada traverses Italy north - spreading south and east-west to link the entire country. Drivers pay high tolls and steep gas prices but the roads are well marked and replete with first-class rest stops with restrooms (some with showers), restaurants, mini-supermarkets and shops selling sundries. National police have begun to crack down on speeders in recent years, and failure to wear a seatbelt can also result in a fine. Unlike an American highway where the fastest car will try to pass the slower car, in Italy it is the responsibility of the slower car to move over to allow the faster car to pass. While lanes are clearly marked in Italy, it is not unusual to find two vehicles occupying what is essentially one lane if one vehicle is passing the other. Extreme care should be taken at all times on the road. Speed limits should be observed on secondary roads where hidden camera systems are also in place. There are many traffic regulations within a city's historic center, so extreme vigilence is encouraged. Some parking areas are reserved only for residents and all other cars will be ticketed. Again, ticketing can mean that a traffic policeman on a raised platform will whistle and write down the license plate number. Weeks later a ticket will appear in the owner's mail (or be posted on the renter's credit card).

Parking is always a concern. Cities generally have ample paid parking lots and garages downtown. On Sundays and after 8:00 p.m. during the week, parking is free in the lots but not in the garages. White lines in a parking lot mean that parking is free; the paid lots are marked with blue lines. Yellow lines indicate parking spaces for emergency vehicles and handicapped parking. Parking tickets are sold at machines in the lots. One must often look around for a machine, since they can be scarce and may even be located one lot away. Day passes, for sale at the tabacchi, can be used in the meters as phone cards are used in telephones, or they may be scratched off like a lottery ticket and placed in the driver's side windshield. In residential neighborhoods, drivers park on the streets, sidewalks, even in yards - anywhere except where a sign prohibits parking.


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