Driving in Sicily? Are You Crazy? Part 1: Before You Leave Home

First blogged November 17, 2012


It occurred to me last summer, that a primer to driving in Sicily would be a very useful thing, especially since Sicily has a real lack of convenient public transit and renting a car truly is the best way to get the most out of visiting the island.  I thought I would begin with a video by Bruno Bozzetto called Yes and No: Driving in Italy. Short of seeing people’s dogs flattened and people killed on the street, I have seen almost everything that he has put into his video.  In fact, I have actually done a couple of the “no”s and several of the “yes”s.  

I want to thank Bruno Bozzetto and his daughters Anita and Irene for giving me permission to link to his video on my blog.  He makes great videos and if you want to see more, I suggest you check out his Youtube channel!

I don’t pretend to be an expert on driving in Italy.  I have had, now, about 9 weeks of experience driving in Italy – most of which was in Sicily.  When we rent a car, I do all the driving.  It is much cheaper renting a standard shift than an automatic and my darling husband, Nick, is not comfortable with a stick shift, nor does he like driving unfamiliar roads much.  Also, it costs an extra €7 per day to have an extra driver so I play chauffeur.  At some point we will buy a car – probably some beat up old Fiat – but for now we rent.


Before You Leave Home
There are a couple of things that you need to know before you leave home.
  1. You MUST be at least 18 to drive in Italy.  No ifs ands or buts about it.  
  2. If you don’t have an EU licence, you need to get an International Driving Permit.  In Canada, you can go to your local Automobile Association (even if you don’t have a membership) with your driver’s licence and for a minimal fee (in my case it was $25) you can get your IDP.  The IDP provides a translation of your driver’s licence into numerous different languages.  It is good for one year.
  3. Rent your car through a travel agent at home.  It is cheaper renting it outside of Italy and, more importantly, you get better comprehensive insurance.  Trust me.  I don’t care how good or experienced a driver you are.  You might be the stunt driver for Roger Moore in The Spy Who Loved Me (which just happens to take place in Italy) or Jason Statham in Transporter, you still need the best comprehensive insurance possible.  
  4. When selecting the type of car, think about the smallest car you can get away with and then get one size smaller.  We had a Fiat Panda last summer.  Very nice little car – peppy, comfortable, easy to drive – but I still wished I had a smaller car.  If you can get away with a smartcar or a Fiat 500 you are better off.
  5. You will need sunglasses if you are there in the summer.  Find the coolest possible sunglasses – either designer or believable knock-offs.  In Italy you need to put on the best bella figura (literally: beautiful figure – it’s all about making a good impression).
  6. Take meditation classes before you leave.  While driving in Sicily can be fun, you are guaranteed to have some heart-stopping moments.  Anything you can do to lower your blood pressure and stress level when those moments happen will do you some good.  “Om mani padme hum”.  



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