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Driving In Rome - A Survival Guide

Updated on March 22, 2010


Feel like a spin through trastevere? Round the Colosseum, and back down the Lungo Tevere. Sounds fantastic doesn't it? Think again. Forget stopping for a brief photo, unless you plan on boarding the plane on a wheelchair.

If you insist...

What you're going to need.

  • A basic knowledge of Italian swear words. Ao, ma Vaffanculo! Learn the basics. Bear in mind that Italians will ignore most obvious traffic signals. Order of passage is decided by the size of your car (Don't bother renting a jeep, I'll explain later), the amount of people IN said car and how aggressive you are. Simply inching forward without looking at people is not enough. You will crash. Wielding your arsenal of bitter sounding swear words will work. Stare them down, be the wolf. Use in conjunction with:
  • A basic understanding of body language and hand-gestures. If Rome were to suddenly become mute. it would be business as usual. Roman (and Italian in general) hand signals make the official hand signal language look amateurish. You must learn to support your plethora of swear words (feel free to improvise, its largely expected) with hand gestures. The finger is considered banal. The so called, gesto del ombrello, or umbrella, is very popular. To execute, place you right hands palm on your left elbow (on the bicep side) and flex.

  • Balls. Do not back down, do not stare,simply drive. Ask yourself, "whats the quickest point from A to B", and do it. Disregard lanes, they're irrelevant.

  • Eyes like a Fly. The above point is of course not to be taken literally. Your aim is to appear that way. The truth is, any given lane is divided by 4. Two cars, two motorini (mopeds), failure to adapt will result in honking.
  • Plenty of I.D. I'll speak from experience. You will need you drivers license. Insurance. Your rental car papers (and package containing il ilbretto di circolazione). This will guarantee you will not end up in jail. Rome is civilized after all. But if you will take my advice, bring a truck-load of important looking I.D. Being an intensely bureaucratic capital, the more paper the better. The more paper they have to sift through, the more time to enjoy the coffee, the happier the police will be.

  • Luck. Sometimes collisions cannot be avoided, If you have a history of, "why me?", brave the sporadic and packed public transport.

Good luck!

Some personal ideas and advice.

  • Parking. If you find parking in Trastevere on a Saturday night. You're doing better than I am. Parking de-liniated by blue lines is supposedly "guaranteed paid parking" the idea being that if you can't find parking you can also grab a blue-liner. In theory at least. The reality is such that blue liners have become yellow liners. (Disabled spots). If you park in a disabled spot and leave a note, apparently, ITS FINE.
  • Rent a small car. You won't be moving otherwise. Believeme!
  • Tripla Fila. Doppia Fila is the term used to describe when a person parks next to a parked person. Rome is unique in its TRIPLA fila culture. Once again, its fine. Two people will never get out, but its fine. Let them honk.
  • Remember. Rome follows different cultural rules. If someone scams you, you're the idiot. Smile, and return the favor.


I wish you the best of luck in Rome. If the prospect of driving here appeals to you, you're in for a hell of a ride, and truck-load of fun.

See you soon on the streets, I've got a swear-word lined up, solo per te.


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    • Entourage_007 profile image

      Stuart 7 years ago from Santa Barbara, CA

      Wow, last time I drove in rome it was crazy. Everyone was flipping each other off and the traffic was horrible. Not a very pleasant experience.

    • Misha profile image

      Misha 10 years ago from DC Area

      LOL great hub! I did not drive in Rome, but I drove in similar places. Except for mopeds - this is an Italian thing, I did not see that enormous amount of mopeds in any other place I've been. They are everywhere going in all directions! And no American driver can survive there, granted. Don't even try - despite of the good advice in this hub :D

    • manoharv2001 profile image

      Manoharan 10 years ago from Bangalore - 560097, Karnataka, India

      great hub

    • thooghun profile image

      James D. Preston 10 years ago from Rome, Italy

      I could write another equally dramatic hub about the Tiber :)

      Thank you for the comments Jackilyn and Compu, very much appreciated!

    • Jackilyn profile image

      Jackilyn 10 years ago

      if I went to rome I think i would do a cruise, that way you could stop and look at the different sceneries. Would you take a boat there is a site and it has cruises' leaving at least evry month.

    • compu-smart profile image

      Compu-Smart 10 years ago from London UK

      I won't ask how near that guy actually was to you when he asked for directions!

      Marks advice and walking sounds good too..

      Its not just the scenery of rome you mention. It would have to be the whole new enviiroment from the smell in the air as you get off the plane to a new country and all the other tottaly new things, smells, tastes and just the whole ambience of another country. Playing with toy money, well, it never looks real!!

      I will deffinetly hopefully be vising!:)

    • Jackilyn profile image

      Jackilyn 10 years ago

      My parents went when I was a kid but they didn't take me.=/ Maybe one day .....

    • thooghun profile image

      James D. Preston 10 years ago from Rome, Italy

      I had a guy ask me where the Vatican was while we were waiting at the Vatican's closest Traffic light. You wont see much scenery while driving. If you do, its a risk!

      You should definately go though!

    • compu-smart profile image

      Compu-Smart 10 years ago from London UK

      I have never been to Rome! It looks great for driving in in such a beautiful, historical country.

      I have never been to Rome, I have only seen it on Tv and stuff and this Hub is the nearest I'm going to get there for now!


    • Mark Knowles profile image

      Mark Knowles 10 years ago

      G-Ma johnson - If there is one city in the World that is not to be missed - it is Rome.

    • thooghun profile image

      James D. Preston 10 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Thats the spirit!

      ROAR! A hero indeed, designated drivers are drawn via the shortest straw. But every-so-often you'll get someone like us who volunteers.

      Thank you!

    • JamesRay profile image

      JamesRay 10 years ago from Philadelphia

      I've always felt that driving in Rome is like navigating the Millenium Falcom through a meteor shower. It's dangerous, exhilirating, and if you do survive, you have earned the right to be called a hero. God I love Rome! Great hub.

    • thooghun profile image

      James D. Preston 10 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Dennis, thank you!

      Always very uplifting to read one of your comments ;) Thank you for taking the time to read, I'll return the favor as soon as I get home again ;)

    • Dennis Freire profile image

      Dennis Freire 10 years ago

      I bend my knee and incline my head to you, Master of HubPages. Nicely done on four levels.

      Level One: Great Idea.

      Level Two: Well written with a fun tone.

      Level Three: Well executed, the lay out, the embedded video, etc.

      Level Four: Well received by your fans (including me) and other pedestrians at HubPages.

      Thanks for the content and thanks for the example.

    • thooghun profile image

      James D. Preston 10 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Thank you, I'm honored ;) Don't believe me though, The Eternal visit is worth a visit!

    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 10 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      Sucks I guess I won't go there..Not that I am traveler anyways..Nice hub enjoy your way of explaining..G-Ma :O)

    • thooghun profile image

      James D. Preston 10 years ago from Rome, Italy

      there are more cars than people. There are almost more mopeds than cars. The funny thing is that people won't use bicycles because the amount of cars and lack of infrastructure make it obscenely dangerous.

      I cant help but agree. Thank you for your comments!

    • Mark Knowles profile image

      Mark Knowles 10 years ago

      Love it! My advice for driving in Rome is to get out and walk, but this is great.

    • thooghun profile image

      James D. Preston 10 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Cguil8m, thanks for you comment (hope I got the name right!). Taxis are not safer at all I fear. If you're going to get hurt, might as well be in control!

      On a serious note, I've heard that they are indeed quite similar!

    • cgull8m profile image

      cgull8m 10 years ago from North Carolina

      Great article, I will keep this in mind if I had to go to Italy. It sounded like New York Streets, will that experience help in Italy :), must be similar I think. Probably rent a taxi :)

    • thooghun profile image

      James D. Preston 10 years ago from Rome, Italy

      I'd agree with you, but taking public transport is almost as ricky. With driving its a violent death, but instant. The public transport might involve a long and tortuous one (pick your epidemic).

    • Stacie Naczelnik profile image

      Stacie Naczelnik 10 years ago from Seattle

      I think I'll skip the driving there. I've heard too many stories.

    • thooghun profile image

      James D. Preston 10 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Barranca, thanks you!

      You werent driving a FIAT Uno or similar where you? Dear god...

    • barranca profile image

      barranca 10 years ago

      I rented a small fiat for a month and drove all over Italy. Thoogun's hub is no exaggeration. I will never forget how Italian drivers treat a two lane highway as if it were three lanes when it comes to passing. They expect oncoming traffic to pull over to the side in order to make way for the one passing. Also, on the freeways, big Mercedes sedans would blow past me going so fast that it was all I could do to keep the little fiat on the road because of the wind. They must have been doing 120-150 mph. Another time I stopped at a red traffic light in Rome late one night and was waiting for it to change and a guy pulled up behind me and started honking and swearing because I was too dumb to go through the light. What I finally decided was that in Italy the only rule was: There are no rules.

    • profile image

      Iðunn 10 years ago

      I wouldn't call it sarcasm... more humor. I think it's adorable.

      We had someone do a write up on here once about living in London that made me laugh so hard my face hurt. He only made the one Hub and moved on but I never forgot it.

      This hub makes me smile waiting to read the next one you will write.

    • thooghun profile image

      James D. Preston 10 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Thank you! It was written with a coating of sarcasm, but its true nevertheless!

      Thanks for the comment,


    • profile image

      Iðunn 10 years ago

      hehe, this is such a fun read and I suspect practical advice. very entertaining hub :D


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