Monday, December 05, 2011

What to expect when you are expecting …to get your licence on the Amalfi Coast.


I put down my book. I’d barely read a page. It was high summer and the cool winds were blowing hard. Distracted by the view, I got up and watched bathers hold on to dear life as the orange umbrellas fought to free themselves and wheel across the beach. My son approached and I asked how him the studying was going.


The two full days he’d spent reading a small book and doing online quizzes was not related to school or their degrees but was simply only for the written part of a driving licence test.

Sitting for your licence in Italy has nothing to do with the laws of driving in the rest of Europe.The written test, now a multiple choice on the computer, is darn difficult with very technical questions many of which you will never have any use for (unless you are going to build a road or drive a truck) alternated with bizarre ones which only the very dumbest wouldn’t know.

Based on my two kid’s real experiences, I have prepared a how to guide to getting a licence in Sorrento.


What to expect when you are expecting to learn to drive in Sorrento:

  1. Leave Positano one and a half hours earlier than the lesson, being sure to walk all the way to the first Sponda bus stop rather than Chiesa Nuova (which is twenty minutes closer) to increase your chances of actually getting on the Sita bus. Pay no attention to the crowd of harassed-looking tourists there before you. You have a purpose to the ride.
  2. After sitting in two hours of lessons, watch the bus for Positano leaving around the corner just as you get to the stop. Wait 40minutes for the next one getting home at 10pm. Repeat twice weekly for two and a half weeks then give up.
  3. Book the theory test so you can get your ‘Foglio Rosa’ and actually get behind the wheel. Three days before the test, open the book and start cramming like mad (university style), exclaiming loudly on the ridiculous things that they expect you to know before you get a licence. Start panicking when you don’t pass the online tests. Alternate reading the book right to the very end and sitting tests online until you start to pass (after approximately 50 trials).
  4. Pay for a driver to take you both to the driving school at Sorrento very early next morning. Promise faithfully to SMS home with the results. Listen to private driver wonder how lesser intelligent people can ever pass this test. Board mini bus with the rest of the driving test students and head for Naples.
  5. An hour later, arrive at the Naples Motorization Board and watch bewildered as the bus is parked directly beneath a no-parking sign. Protest with the driving instructor that you know what the sign means and that is that you can’t leave a vehicle there. Have your first real lesson in Italian driving when he shrugs and says ‘yeah but it doesn’t matter.’
  6. Enter the test room. Watch the supervisor walk amongst the contestants. Watch him talk to the girls, giving them the right answer. Watch him correcting the wrong answers for girls. Pass the test without help.
  7. Console others on the bus who have failed for the third time. Watch the driving instructor’s amazement at others who did pass due to pure luck.
  8. Book driving lessons. Arrive full of enthusiasm for first test. After an hour of road madness, return home full of fear, swearing that you will never get in the car again.


Coerced by parents into continuing lessons you go back twice a week to Sorrento:

  • You drive with scooters coming towards you in one way streets. You become very well versed with avoiding a collision with said errant scooters
  • You inch your way in traffic overtaking trucks double and triple parked in narrow alleyways. You learn to back up into tight corners so that they can get past.
  • You learn that stop signs are for stopping because your instructor yells at you not because others use them.
  • You learn to use your own reasoning when negotiating traffic where rules are ignored.
  • You learn the code for cheating in parking on the day of the test (The instructor looks back as you are reversing. When he turns his head to look forward, you turn the steering wheel in the other direction)
  • You hear all about his hernia operation.
  • You swelter in the sun waiting to catch the bus back home at midday. Once again you ignore the queue.

The practical test:

The driving test day arrives. You hear the instructor ask the examiner if he minds that he helps an older Signora with the pedals as she hasn’t gotten the hang of it quite yet. The examiner says ‘it’s fine’.

You get in the car. You rev the engine. The instructor murmurs ‘La prima’. You take off down a busy straight road totally ignored by the examiner who chats to the instructor. Two minutes later you are asked to do a U turn and go back to the school. 5 minutes have gone past. You have passed. The  short practical test was just a mere formality. Your licence is waiting for you already laminated at the desk.

My children got their licence in Sorrento without:

  • Ever having gone above thirty kilometers per hour.
  • Ever having had to stop or go through a traffic light
  • Ever having driven in a two lane carriage way. They had no idea how to overtake, change lanes, keep in the correct lane when turning or use their mirrors to check before overtaking.
  • Ever having gone in a round about.
  • Ever having driven in the rain
  • But they know how to place traffic cones correctly along the road and the regulations regarding lorries.

I don’t know whether I’ll lend them my car in Luxembourg, but when we go to Sorrento, they are going to be the only ones behind the wheel.

This post is not intentioned to be offensive nor seen as negative. Just a comic view of how things really happened in Italy.


Cathy said...

Great post Rosa - I love it!

LindyLouMac said...

Cahty as already said what I was going to say. :)

Anonymous said...

May I ask why they decided to take their license here then?

Rosa said...

Hi Dollyna, it was a question of having time to do it in their summer holidays.No other time during the year!

Lisa at Wanderlust Women said...

LOL - It's Naples. Can't you just buy a license on a corner? LOL

Anonymous said...

I see.
Put it this way: they'll be able to drive anywhere now. Roundabouts and traffic lights are nothing hard to learn. I think learning to drive around here makes you a stronger driver.

Debra Kolkka said...

I obtained my Italian drivers' licence last year. The whole process was hideous! I feel like wearing pinned to my chest like a medal.

CC said...

What a beautiful yellow building and blue sky!

Anonymous said...

Very cool story!
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