I admit it: I've been living in Italy for over 20 years, and, although I drive like a Formula1 expert, I don't have an Italian driver's license. This is not to thumb my nose at the system, the problem actually rests with the U.S.A. They don't accept Italians' licenses in America, so, the Italians don't accept ours. Both countries, however, don't have a problem allowing drivers from countries to tear up the roadways, coming from places where they don't even have cars on their roads; so go figure. But, really, I cannot see the logic. Italians make excellent drivers. In order to race all the others like a bat outta hell just to make the red light, through roundabouts and merges, and create four lanes where there is only one, all the while talking on the cell phone and dodging dozens of motor scooters, well, in my opinion takes excellent acumen and finesse. So, it's simply not true they "drive crazy". They combine skills, speed and defensive driving all in one and we should have more drivers in America like the Italians. As a side bonus, they also don't usually practice the American phenomenon of Road Rage (although the Pope came out on this recently - see article under 'notizie' in side bar).
So, why don't I have a license? Whereas an Italian who goes to get a license in America spends all of about 2.5 hours in which they: stand in line, take the 15 question multiple-choice test, and go for a quick drive around the block, well, in Italy it's totally another matter: Read this entry from a friend who naively or bravely embarked on the road to driving legally in Italy:
So, you think buying a house in Italy is difficult? Try getting an Italian drivers license. There are two ways of going about this: legally or illegally. Illegally is a no-brainer. Simply pay 800 euros or more to the right person and get your license (maybe). It turns out there are many con artists, so this is a risky proposition to undertake.
Legally, is the great adventure of all adventures. You can: (1) do it on your own (not recommended) or (2) take a class.
Doing it on your own requires a Sherlock Holmes type personality. Lacking this trait, I elected to enroll in a class. Along with three other expats, we hired an Italian driving instructor to give us a class on the rules and regulations for obtaining a driver's license. The cost was 350 euros each. We met twice per week, two hours per session for almost four months.
During this time, our instructor discussed many things, most of which put me to sleep. I discovered that the Italian love of expressing oneself extends to their road signs, of which there are approximately 200. There are signs underneath signs, combinations of signs, and signs that tell you to ignore the other signs.
There are also human signs, called policemen. If the policeman is higher than the road sign, his directions take precedence. However, if he is of short stature, without a box to stand on, you may ignore him with impunity (referred to as the 'height makes might' standard). If you think the above is complicated, try to understand the 'right of way rule' -- without a Phd in mathematics.
This rule states, that at a junction without a stop or yield sign, the person on your right has the right of way. Sounds simple enough. However, what happens if you enter a junction with seven roads all merging together? (In Italy, these really do exist). Option one, you get out of your car, make a diagram, and have a group discussion on who has the right of way. Option two, he who has the fastest machine goes first, e.g., 'the tortoise and the hare rule'.
After 4 months of class, we were still unprepared to take the test. What we should have studied was the Test Question Manual, consisting of 3000 questions. Unfortunately, this manual, finally in English, was only in production for two weeks.
The written exam is taken at the Office of Motorizazzione in Rome. The first time I went, the computers broke down. The second time, I forgot my identification and was sent home. The third time, after waiting four hours, I was led into a small room with 20 other hopefuls. There were two proctors making sure answers were not being read off our shirt sleeves. We had 30 minutes to answer 30 questions. Sound straight forward? Nope.
In order to pass, you must think like an Italian. Major tip: opt out of the written exam and request the oral exam, available to all expatriates. Once you pass the exam, (you have three chances), you then register for the driving test (cost 94 euros). You take the test. You pass!!! Do you receive your drivers license? No. It must be printed. When? That's still a mystery. But you are now legal.
Paperwork Required: (1) Passport (2) Permesso di Soggiorno (Resident's Permit) (3) Carta d'Identità (I.D. card) (4) Driving School form (5) Eye exam (6) Bollo (or tax stamp available at some Tabacco shops) for taking test 7) 3 passport size photos
My copy of the English manual is available to the highest bidder.
Submitted by Linda Penzabene and Brian Rothbart, Albano Italy