Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Driving in Italy, LEGALLY NOW!

I've been afraid to say anything specific, but this afternoon I had my driving test...the practical, road test. Over the last few weeks I have taken a total of ten driving lessons. Why, some of you ask, since I've been driving in N.Y. for more than 25 years? Well, first, Italy does not have a reciprocal agreement with N. Y. State, so therefore after one year of residence here and driving on an International Licence, I had to get an Italian license as if I were a brand new driver and then take a road test...on a manual transmission. Why? Because the car in which you take your road test must be dual control and stick shift is the only kind there is around here (I heard a rumor that I could have taken it on an automatic dual control ROME! Talk about CRAZY drivers and traffic, no thanks!!!).

First I had to study for the theory test. I agree this was a good idea as some of the rules and signs here did have me mystified. The theory test consists of ten "situations"...they could be signs, intersections or situations. Each is followed by three statements which you have to mark T/F. They can all be true or all false or any combination, so there are really 30 questions. As a foreigner who "cannot read Italian well" I was eligible to take the test orally (though this is due to change around here on July 1 when it will be offered in several languages and no more oral exams allowed). I found the "who has the right-of-way" questions particularly amusing. Many of them had 5-street intersections, no stop signs, a tram passing through the middle, etc. Quite entertaining figuring out who goes first! In any case there were a couple of good online study sites that really helped (Web Patente and Scuola Guida).

Well, after passing the theory exam I started taking driving lessons. Driving a stick shift terrified me (I was frightened it would stall in an intersection and buck as I drove down the road) but it wasn't all that bad. Once I learned I could "ride the clutch" a bit (and in fact SHOULD when I was taking off in first gear on a hill) I relaxed a bit.

After ten lessons spread out over a month they made an appointment for my driving test. The actual test was soooo easy. I pulled away from the curb (on the only level piece of pavement in the whole town), put the car in second, then third, then pulled over on a straight piece of roadway. OVER. What? No 3-point turns, no parellel parking, no downshifting even? Nope.

15 minutes later I had my Italian license in hand Auguri Diane!! I drank half a bottle of champagne to celebrate, and Pio went down to pay the 650 Euros (approximately $1012. US dollars!) which was what we owed the driving school. Mammamia!
The cost breaks down to 500 Euros for the license and 15 Euros each for 10 driving lessons. The licence cost included all the paperwork, preparing me for the theory exam, accompaning me there, and use of their car for the road test, which is a must. If you don't take the license through a school you must rent a dual-control car and instructor for the test (the examiner rides in the back seat). It's probably money well-spent as they practically guarantee you that you'll pass and there's no waiting on lines (they do that for you)!


Anonymous said...

Diane, congratulations!! But what was the €650 for? The license?


Anonymous said...

Congratulations Diane!! You should be proud of yourself.

I don't mean to be rude, but what was the 650 Euro for? Your licese, driving lessons, car insurance? Whatever it is that is a chunk of change.

How long are driver's license good for in Italy. When I moved to AZ mine was good for 25 years!!


Diane said...

Thank you Jane and Linda for pointing out to me that my post wasn't complete--I added a paragraph about what the 650 Euros was for. The price varies in different parts of Italy, but I have heard that people pay from 400-1000 Euros, so my school was average. The license is good for five years, but easily renewable (back at the driving school!) with an eye exam, new photo and a few more Euros, I'm sure!

Anonymous said...

Congrats once again on the new license. But I have to ask if you have to take lessons even if you already know how to drive a stick? And if not, where does one go to take the theory exam and driving test?

Diane said...

Giovanna, I know it is possible to do it all without a driving school, or nearly so. First step is actually presenting your documents at the Motor Vehicle office and getting a "folio rosso" (driver's permit). This allows you to drive with an experienced (10+ years) driver next to you and a big P (for beginner in Italian, I think) tag in the rear window.

Then I think you need an appointment to take the theory exam and another appointment to take the road test. All of this is handled through the same office.

Only problem is that you need a dual-control car for the road test and must rent the use of one from a driving school. Some charge an outrageous fee so you might want to ask beforehand. It might be close to the same price as doing it through them from the beginning, and then they handle all the waiting on line for you! I can't see how they'd make you take more than maybe one lesson if you know how to drive already. I can ask a friend here who did it solo and see how much it cost.

Michelle | Bleeding Espresso said...

Congratulations!!!!!!! I'm molto impressed :)