How to drive through a roundabout in Italy


I admit that roundabouts in Italy have always scared me. Until...

Only 3 years ago, during one of our Italian holidays, my husband and I braved the Italian roads by accepting my father’s invitation to drive his car. We took off towards the hills of Tuscany, with the desire to see what you don’t normally see. That desire to discover places where no typical tourist ventures was the fuel behind this decision.

Naturally, I ‘offered’ the driver’s seat to my husband (and he is not Italian, mind you) because, well, it takes me more than a couple of days to readjust to the Italian road rules. Also men are pretty good at roads, I thought. Or perhaps they are better at blaming the chatty and distracting wife if anything is to happen to the car.

Anyway, off we went with “la bestia” (the beast), the name my husband gave to my dad’s car. I think deep down he was trying to give himself ‘beastly’ courage.

It was at a six lane roundabout (la rotonda or la rotatoria) in Bologna that I, now in the driver’s seat, thought my life was about to end. Not because of the speed we were doing, but because of the inability to move forward. Do I jump in? do I wait? who do I wait for? where do I look?

Wait! Is that guy really reversing in the middle of the roundabout?!?!?!

Enter husband’s hysterical laughter.

Nothing was working: come on, go now... now! ... now!…

Then, it dawned on me. I started pretending that I lived there, just there see? at that corner - in that house facing the roundabout - I drive this road every day - and this is where I have my coffee every morning - I know this suburb so well - I’ve lived here all my life...And with that mantra, my confidence grew to the point where I felt like owned the joint.

Next thing, I jumped in la rotonda, muscled my way through and conquered it.

Up to the year 2000 or thereabouts, people ON the roundabout had to give way to those entering. Yep! You had to stop in the middle of it to let other crazy riders in. A bit like when you open an operating washing machine to stuff just one more item it! This is the road sign for it and come to think of it it does look like a washing machine in action:


After the year 2000, however, that rule has been complemented by the opposite rule, whereby people entering roundabouts have to give way to those on la rotonda. And by ‘complimented’ I mean that they both have to 'peacefully' live together. This is the sign for the second option:

Today people do either, depending on whether they heard about the new rule, whether they ‘see’ the road signs, whether they care or whether they are in a rush that day. Sometimes it feels like the road rules are there to pass your driver’s licence exam. After that, it’s all about creativity.

My friends, in the end I stick with my insight:

The secret to driving in Italy is to pretend you lived there all your life - Tweet that!

It’s pretty wild, I know, but honestly I would not change it. I always say that Italians are not crazy drivers, they are creative drivers ... and I miss it.



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