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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.


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.


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.



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.