I've written about traffic and driving techniques in other parts of the world - South America, South Africa, St. Helena and London come to mind, and each was unique and interesting in its own way. Rome traffic brings this to another level altogether. Let's start with taxis.
Taxis. We arrived in Rome thinking we'd take either a train or an Uber to our hotel. After checking with the airport tourist office, however, we discovered that taxis were less expensive than Uber and about the same as the train. Might as well take a taxi, so we made our way to the taxi area.
We knew what to expect to pay, but going out the door, we obviously looked like the tourists we were, because we were immediately surrounded by a couple dozen hawkers all shouting "White or black?", "Come this way for the best rates!", or "Taxi to the city?" We asked a somewhat less aggressive guy about the difference between a white and black taxi, and he explained that the white taxis were the standard taxis while the black were unofficial, but larger, more comfortable cars. We're thinking limo (and more money), but he said that they cost the same. That sounded good to us, so we agreed. He led us across the street and through the parking garage to the 'Special' parking area for black taxis, a good five minute walk. It turns out that black taxis are actually shared vans with four to six passengers - not quite the limo we were expecting. Oh well, a learning experience and all part of the adventure.
Cars. We've never seen so many Lilliputian sized cars, motor scooters or hybrids of the two anywhere. In the land of the Lilliputians, Danny Devito would be a giant... in Rome, a mid-sized American car is huge and a Smart Car is an average sized car. I remember back in the early 60s seeing my first Isetta and snickering at such a tiny car. Here, that Isetta would be only slightly smaller than the average, and for good reason - fuel is expensive, roads are narrow, parking spaces are tiny and pricey, and some of the streets in the old medieval towns would be impassable to most of our American cars. Another advantage to these tiny cars is that two reasonably fit young men can probably pick their car up and 'parallel park' it in its own length.
Pedestrians. Rome has a million crosswalks, and although traffic may not always stop for pedestrians, it does, for the most part, at least swerve around them. The trick is show no fear and don't hesitate. Drivers here all seem to be late for an appointment somewhere, and while it doesn't appear that they actually run over many pedestrians, they will drive within inches of your feet as they swerve around you if you hesitate in the least. The advice we got as we waited interminably at a crosswalk for traffic to stop was to surreptitiously glance at the traffic, looking for a tiny gap, then step right out, and don't make eye contact or waffle. This technique seems to work - at least so far.
Road Signs. To describe all the Italian traffic and road signs would require a blog to itself. I'm not sure what half of them mean, actually, but it's not all that essential since I have no intention of driving here. One did take us by surprise however - the Stop sign. It's in English and shaped exactly the same as in the U.S., which I didn't even notice until Marcie pointed it out to me. Its meaning is different than in the U.S. (unless you live in Boston), as here it seemingly means slow down and yield only if necessary. As a pedestrian, it is more dangerous than a crosswalk as the driver is likely to be looking to his left at the oncoming traffic and not at a pedestrian about to step off the curb, who foolishly assumed the car would actually stop at a Stop sign.
If you are reading this blog, then we survived the Rome traffic and are on our way along the Via Francigena, not lying bleeding along the roadside somewhere - at least not in Rome. See you next week.