Parking a Car in Italy: Sidewalks & Crosswalks


There are lots of reasons why I may never drive a car in Italy. For one thing, I’m not one of those people who “loves driving” even in the U.S., so I have no problem letting the husband – who does love driving – take the wheel when we travel. And don’t get me started on how crazy I think Italian drivers are. But even on a more basic level, I’m not sure I’d ever be able to park a car in Italy.

The streets of Milan are, like many big cities in Italy, always rife with examples of – shall we say – creative parking. Many of the sidewalks are extra wide, and fully 1/2 to 2/3 of that space is taken up by parked cars. Yes, parked cars on the sidewalk. And not half on the sidewalk, half on the street, either – they drive up onto the sidewalk at the “driveways” which are positioned periodically along the sidewalk, and then slot their little cars into their spaces. Word to the wise – if you’re walking down a sidewalk around the time folks are leaving for work or around the time they’re returning home, don’t have your head buried in a book or you might just end up doing a face-plant into a Fiat Panda.



Even narrower sidewalks are fair game, but this time it’s the scooters that claim that ground. Some of the sidewalks in central Milan look downright empty when the scooters and motorcycles are gone, and as you can see in this picture there’s still ample room for pedestrians alongside the parked motorbikes.

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But then there are older (read: smaller) sidewalks which clearly weren’t built with a dual purpose in mind – they were intended as sidewalks, where people would walk, and that was all. Of course, these days that original purpose is out the window, as people squeeze their Vespas into place anyway. I took these pictures of the tiny path left on this particular sidewalk, but didn’t dare actually try to manoeuvre in to walk through – it was virtually blocked by scooters on all sides, and I really didn’t want to be the domino that made them all go falling down. Thanks, but I’ll take the long way ’round.

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Perhaps my favorite example of “creative parking,” however, was this one that I spotted one morning outside our apartment building. What you have to understand about this street is that, as you can see, it comes to a T with another street – so your only options here are to turn left or right. There is no going straight here. So, this driver – clearly an out-of-the-box thinker – figured that the space in the middle of the street was going to remain unused. Unless, of course, he parked his car there.

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Incidentally, two people were standing nearby when I took those last two pictures, and although I was smiling to myself at the crazy parking job, they just looked at me like I’d taken a picture of a lamp post. Like, there couldn’t be anything at all interesting or photograph-worthy in what I’d just snapped. And there obviously wasn’t to them – but to me, it was worth a good giggle.

Anyway, I’m pretty confident in declaring here and now that until I can look at the middle of a crosswalk and see it as a viable parking space, I will never be capable of driving in Italy.


6 thoughts on “Parking a Car in Italy: Sidewalks & Crosswalks

  • Jess

    On a trip from Rome to Naples, I noticed many cars constantly taking up two lanes on the highway. They would drive with 1/3 of the car into the lane next to their own, and their blinker is on for long stretches of time. Is this normal?

  • Jessica Post author

    In my experience, when it comes to Italian drivers, everything (and nothing) is normal. 😉

    Having said that, what you saw might have been a car passing another car – often, instead of just turning on a blinker to change lanes and then turning it off, drivers will leave the blinker on while they pass the car in the right lane. This indicates that they’re just passing a car, and fully intend to get back into the right lane once they’re done, rather than just coasting along in the left lane (as Americans tend to do).

  • Qt

    You have to know, Jessica that in Italy the rules prescribe that you “should” “always” occupy the rightmost free lane, so this keeping the blinking on remind others that you are just passing a car.
    (Technically you should not do it that way but you have to blink before and while changing, stop blinking, pass the car, blink the right one, change back to the right lane and stop blinking)
    But if you will come to Italy and watch us italians driving you’ll start thinking that blinkers are optionals as they are often left unused.
    Ciao!

  • Jessica Post author

    It’s actually the same in the U.S., Qt, that drivers are supposed to only use the left lanes for passing. American drivers just choose to ignore that rule about 99% of the time.

  • Alex

    Ah, car parking in Italy! One of my favourite subjects.

    Italians will park anywhere and everywhere.

    Next to our house a narrowish street has been adopted as a temporary turning space for buses. I’ve now lost count of the number of times some twerp has abandoned his car in such as position as to make it impossible for buses to pass.

    This is despite there being a bloody great sign saying that parking is not allowed.

    As for blinkers or indicators as us Brits call the things – Qt is right – in Milan not many really bother with the things. This means pedestrians often have to make an educated guess as to which way a car is going to go. Guess wrongly though, and SPLAT!

    Brakes are also fitted as optional extras here in Italy.

    Cheers,

    Alex

  • luxury limousine

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