Sunday, October 12, 2014

Driving in Florence: Right of Way

Right of Way, moku hanga woodblock print;
18"x20", e.v. of 10 on various Japanese papers.

During one of my longer sojourns in Italy (lasting 8 years), I became officially an Italian resident and that meant that I had to get an Italian driver's license.
But in Italy, that is more complicated than it is in the US where one used to be able to just show up and take the test.
For despite my maturity and long history of safe, cautious driving--I had to go to back to driving school.

  It's a month-long class, twice a week, and the instructors will accompany you to the exam and then again later during the actual driving test. The school will also facilitate the medical exam and subsequent documentation needed to obtain an license.  There is a written, multiple choice exam; followed by a driving test and I'd learned that most people go to a driving school to prepare and aide them with the test. The teachers are usually chain smokers and the school is full of an odd collection of people who you'd hate to see actually driving. And not surprisingly,  the things you learn in Italian driving school bear little resemblance to the daily habits of real Florentine drivers. Getting to school,  I'd be one of four cars abreast, crammed into one lane, but then sit in class listening to how many cars are supposed to be in each lane (One).

 I had an acquaintance, another artist and an American, who thought that if he just got the book, read it and studied--he'd be able to pass both the written and oral exams.
He was wrong.
When he got to the exam they asked him where he had taken his driving classes. When he replied he had studied at home alone from the book, they would scowl, ask him an odd or unusual question-- and fail him. After two tries he ended up enrolling in a driving school--and had no trouble passing both the written and practical exams.

So when it was my turn, I just signed up for a class at a driving school in my neighborhood. I'd learned enough Italian by then to be nearly fluent so I elected to take the written exam (the one used for Italians), rather than the oral exam for foreigners where I knew I'd be at risk of anti-American bias....besides, I'd also gone to medical multiple-choice questions-- even badly written--were a breeze for me.

In my class there were 3 Filipino nuns, the aide who rode my son's school bus to elementary school, a handful of nervous 20-year olds who had already taken, and failed,  the exam a couple of times, and 2-3 middle aged folks who had never gotten a license out of fear of test-taking, or just of driving.

I spent time learning how many axles are allowed on trucks while driving on secondary roads both in and outside the city limits, how potent a motor was allowed on mopeds and motorcycles, at what age one can drive a car, a tractor, a bus, or an "APE"--those odd, three-wheeled, small motored carts that putter all over town.
Meanwhile, the really important questions  (whether or not you can park illegally in front of the coffee bar, next to the three police cars that are parked on the sidewalk, or whether I have to wait till they leave or why there is ALWAYS a car parked under the sign that says "NO Parking anytime-tow away zone"?) were not discussed.

So this print is based on the driving exam one has to take in Italy.  It comes directly from the handbook of signs and rules that they give you when you sign up for the class. There are about a dozen of these diagrams illustrating the right-of-way, some obvious, others less so.

This one was the question they'd ask foreigners who said they'd studied at home:
"Who has the right of way when four cars arrive simultaneously at an intersection--and how do you proceed?"
What do you think?


  1. D It's a Ferrari, faster and shouldn't be held up. After that...easy R, N .B.

  2. All this sounds good. I am sure you’ll get the driving license in Italy too. I just shifted to Australia and I also need the Australian Driver’s license. So I would join a good Port Macquarie Driving School for professional training so that I could pass the test in my first attempt.