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 car...in 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)!