Saturday, February 4, 2012

Finalmente Finito

Guido with his fellow students. Titsiana in red is a teacher.
I (Guido) finally have my Italian/European driving license “Patente di Guida”. This odyssey has gone on for nearly a year and it has been, at times, frustrating. After the initial theory exam in Cosenza that I failed, I worked hard on computer simulations of the exam hoping that repetition would carry me.  It did not.  There are nearly 1500 potential computer-generated questions possible and I kept running up against new questions and/or new Italian words that stumped me. I had a 1996 textbook that helped only a little.  There are references to things on the exam that didn’t exist in 1996 – e.g., mobile phones. I failed the second exam in October.

Finally in November, “my” scuola guida called to say the long-ordered book had arrived and I was then studying a 2011 text with great photos and explanations.  What a difference that made.  Yes, they still use language that is generally not used every day – like calling trucks autocarrie or autotreni where in life, they use the word camion.  Last week’s strikes were by camionisti – truck drivers.

Three days before Christmas I headed back to Cosenza with my teenage collegues to try the exam again.  We took the train in the morning because of snow on the mountain pass (returned in a Pullman later).  There were a couple new people giving the exam that questioned giving a test to a foreigner who barely spoke the language, but it happened.  I passed the bloody thing on the third try. Nicolo, a quiet intelligent boy, was there on his third attempt too, so even native Italians have trouble with these tests.

This past week was spent practicing for the actual driving on the streets of Scalea (never on the highway for some reason) with the school owner, Massimo. The first two times was just the two of us and went ok after I requested he speak slower.  Next, I got a real life test with two noisy young women in the back seat of the tiny Panda and the radio blaring.  It struck me that I have been driving 3 years longer than the teacher has been alive!!  Once we were passed twice on a narrow street and I asked can I drive like an Italian now? – “dopo patente”. After you get a patente you can drive like an Italian again. The Fiat Pandas and 500’s that are used by driving schools are perfect for the tight streets where you have to make u-turns or 3-point turns. Also for parallel parking.

I got thru the 5 drive-arounds. Friday afternoon, l’engenere  from Cosenza arrived to give the final inspection and by dark I was holding my patente.  This is good for just 5 years because I am over 50, but renewing only means getting an eye exam.

I cannot say that hanging-out with 18 year-olds is relaxing. Between the rapid non-stop talking (that I usually cannot understand) and the second-hand smoke, it was tiring.  Nicolo and the two girls Flavia and Debora were with me in December.  We finished together Friday. They have been kind to me and fun.  I wonder if they call me Nonno Americano when I am gone?!

Ragazzi with owner/teacher Massimo

Nicolo, Debora, Flavia
Some for what-it’s-worth advice to anyone planning to move to Italy: Do anything, anything you can do to retain your Driver’s License from your native country (don’t let it expire). Even if you speak good Italian, you will find the experience here a challenge at worst and annoying at best—and according to the laws here, if you are a resident, you should try and get this done within a year—or so... I forgot to mention that all the fees, bollo stamps and other things cost about €450.
With that, I’m off in our comfy French car ready to drive like an Italian again.  When I get stopped at another random police blockade, I’ll proudly present the new patente instead of the worn out card from Oregon.  Ciao a presto


  1. CONGRATULATIONS! AUGARI! MABRUK! The last one is Arabic in case you were wondering.

  2. Congratulations!
    I agree, those tests are HARD and teens are annoying. :-)

  3. Doug, What happens when you get stopped? How do the police treat you? Why random blocks? Is that common? Have you been issued a ticket and if so how does it effect your insurance like it does here?

  4. Thanks folks. Rosie, there really are no traffic cops here, but there are national (Carabinieri), Locale, Provincial and even Guardia Financia police. They all do random stops and check your documents for a patente, insurance card posted on the window, and the document showing the vehicle has had recent safety inspection. They also can do breathalyzer tests at these stops to see if you are drunk. They don't need "cause" to stop you like the US. You can get in trouble if you cause an accident and have rates increase. Most traffic violations are speeding and those tickets arise from road cameras. I've never seen anyone stopped for speeding etc I saw a woman doing about 80 pass a Carabinieri in a 40 km/h zone and the police didn't mind. Interesting

  5. Congratulations! From what I have been reading you have accomplished one of the hardest things that there is to do in Italy...

  6. Hi Gil, Thanks The hardest thing for us here is the language. Going thru this driving business introduced me to new words and ideas, so it was great in that way. On the return bus trip from Cosenza with the teens in December, the boys were carrying on behind me and doing it in dialect, whilst the girls ahead of me were speaking Italian. It must be some macho thing the boys do to carry-on their family traditions? All of a sudden, the loudest of the kids switched to Italian and asked me why I moved here, how do I like it, ecc, ecc. I was able to answer with all my standard answers about loving the beautiful country (sea and mountains), and the friendly people of Calabria. The kids' noise bothered me at times, but like all Italian kids, they are very polite to adults. What I'm trying to say is that much here is a challenge, but it all is fun and rewarding. That much time with American teens might not have been so fun!

    I joked to someone about how we should have retired in Costa Rica as Spanish is so much easier than Italian. BUT Costa Rica is a long way from Prague, Paris, London, Copenhagen, Croatia, Greece and all the stuff we want to see and experience. We can still hop on a plane to Costa Rica if in the mood eh? Or Milwaukie, Portland, Jacksonville............doug

  7. congratulations! That's a tough test.
    I hope you enjoy driving like an italian!

    in boca al lupo

  8. Congratulations, what a relief it must be for you.

  9. Thanks Lindy Lou. So far we are dodging the need to drive in snow this storm. Are you low enough to avoid it too? Stay warm! Doug

  10. So proud of you Daddy-O!!!!



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