Italian Driver’s License – Part 1


Italian Driver’s License – Part 1

Monday, September 16th, 2019

I now have lived in Italy for over a year which means that my California driver’s license is officially no longer valid. I don’t ever want to own another car and since I live in Bologna, and especially since I live in the center, having a car is really unnecessary and expensive. I walk and take buses everywhere. I would however like to occasionally rent a car or drive Laura’s. So I need to get an Italian license (patente). Ah this is where the fun begins.

I have noted that the italian bureaucracy is difficult but the parts that I’ve had contact with are child’s play compared to the process of getting an italian driver’s license. Just as a way of background when I was in back in California for two weeks in August I renewed my California license that was due to expire next year so that I would be assured of being able to drive when I go back sometime next year. I was required to take a test and have an eye test, pay some reasonable sum of money and that was it. The test had something like 50 questions all of which had some relationship to the ability to drive safely. I passed the test with no errors and was out of the DMV (department of motor vehicles) in less than an hour. I didn’t need to retake a driving test.

Now let’s go down the torturous path of getting an Italian patente. First is the test. The test is 40 questions that seem to be selected at random from 7,000 (yes that’s right 3 zeros) potential questions. They cover 25 different categories including the partial list below:

  1. Definition of the parts of the street (sidewalks are considered part of the street for example)
  2. Different types of streets (city, outside the city- 3 types, freeway, autostrade about the same but with tolls, secondary road).
  3. Types of vehicles from mopeds to heavy trucks, also different types of trailers
  4. Different types of signs – a total of 10, yes 10 categories
  5. Types of license – there are 15 different types but you only need to know the details of 6, such things as age requirements types of vehicles you can drive with each
  6. Penalties for breaking the rules
  7. First aid for injured parties (you are legally required to stop and administer first aid to accident victims)

This is obviously only a partial list of the categories.

So you can see that if you start combining these things you can easily come up with 7,000 combinations. Not only that they don’t use common Italian words, oh no, that would be too easy. They must have a team of evil attorneys coming up with tortuous ways of asking questions. Why would they do that? Isn’t the object to be assured that you can know the rules of the road and can drive safely. It seems that their objective is simply to use as many tricks as possible to have you fail the test.

Two books on theory – one has 288 pages and the other has 305

I have two books of theory and neither of them cover everything. In fact between them they don’t cover everything. Fortunately there are websites that have practice tests that you can do over and over again. I probably have done practice tests at this point at least 200 times and still occasionally make errors when they ask an absolutely absurd question. Here are a couple of fun examples. The answers are true of false. (I have translated these from the Italian).

  1. On the autostrada the speed limit for an automobile pulling a horse trailer is 80 kilometers per hour

First of all why do I give a shit about the rules for pulling a horse trailer since I don’t plan to do it and why would it otherwise be important to know that?

  • 2. The traffic cone in the picture can be used at worksite along the street for 10 days.

Who cares? There is road work. There is a traffic cone. Why do I care how long it can be there? The answer is that it is only for 2 days. In practice it seems that absolutely none of the roadwork sites follow this rule. Actually you could make the same statement for a large part of the test content.

And then there is this fun first aid question:

  1. The state of shock could manifest itself with sudden pronouncing of sentences and words without meaning.

I sent Laura a text saying that question pretty much sums up how I sometimes speak Italian.

One thing that is really important to learn here is the right of way. I noticed once before when driving in Italy in a town in Puglia that there were a lot of intersections in the center of town with no signs at all. No stop signs or right of way signs. Then as a passenger in Laura’s car in Torino I noted the same things. So the basic rule is that at an intersection. If there is a car to your right at the intersection they have the right of way and you must stop and let them pass. So far so good but apparently there are lots of CRAZY intersections in the country like the one below. And of course the question is in what order do they proceed through the intersection. See if you can guess.

Ah yes there is also this crazy one that I still don’t understand although I know the correct answer.

Now one would think that given basic rule that if you are to the right of another car at the intersection and no vehicle is at your right that auto N would make a left turn as shown since the other two have a vehicle to their right. Silly me. What he does is start the turn and when he is in the middle of the intersection he has vehicle A to his right so he must stop in the middle. The since R has nobody to his right he goes through the intersection. Then A has nobody to his right so he goes through the intersection and then poor N who has been sitting in the middle of the intersection can complete his turn. This still makes no sense to me but this is, after all, Italy.

Anyway, by now I feel pretty confident that I can pass the test so the next chapter will be more about the process of taking this test and also the driving test. Can it get any weirder? Are you ready for the next absurd chapter?

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