Much has been written about car culture in Italy, little of it flattering, and there’s not much that Italians can say in their defense. Actually, they would see nothing to defend. Cars are simply driven faster, and Italians have their own code of conduct on the road.
The pace of Italian life is so relaxed that such an obsession with speed seems illogical. The streets are the only place in the country where people seem to be in a hurry. Put another way, Italians will drive very fast to get somewhere where they can walk very slowly. The same people who casually show up 20 minutes late for dinner will tailgate, pass in the face of oncoming traffic, and lean on the horn the second the light turns green. Motorcyclists routinely use the sidewalk to bypass traffic. On the highway: havoc.
Almost every Monday morning on the news, there is a body count from the weekend on the autostrada. Thousands die every year, and this is likely to continue. There has even been talk in Parliament about raising the highway speed limit from 130 to 160 kilometers per hour (78 to 96 mph). Drunk driving is certainly punishable, but only after a driver is pulled over, which is much less common than in the United States. That said, carabinieri (police) have the right to flag you over to the side of the road for no reason other than to check your driver’s license and registration.
ITALY: Car Map Photo Gallery