You can’t help it. Being una brava inglese, when I got my scooter I went straight off to the Motorizzazione (the Italian DVLA) to convert my UK driving licence.
Of course, their offices are out of town and nothing can be done online or via the post, so there’s nothing for it but to jump into your car or hop onto your scooter and nip down there in person. Hang on. But if I don’t have the right licence yet? Welcome to the labyrinthine logic of Italian bureaucracy.
It took me eight months and five grovelling visits to their sprawling offices to get a sticker smaller than a postage stamp declaring that my licence is recognised by the Italian state.
It’s not so much about checking your right to have an Italian licence but testing your will to survive against the unscalable granite rock face that is an Italian public office.
Never mind that on the front of my licence it says in 10 European languages (including Italian) what it is, as well as the words “European model” and some very clear pictures inside explaining what vehicles I can and cannot drive.
An Italian friend pointed out that I could have paid a little extra and gone to the Ufficio Sbriga Pratiche, which loosely translated means the “Office for Hurrying Along Applications for Documents”. This is Italy’s answer to the unemployment problem. Why simplify the existing channels when you can open another office that charges extra to do exactly the same thing but quicker?
The reason this subject came up was because this Italian friend has had her licence stolen and was recently involved in a car accident. It was the other driver’s fault and she was fine although her car, a trendy Smart, did a 360-degree spin across two lanes of traffic and sustained a few thousand euros worth of damage.
She wants to get as much money as possible from the other driver’s insurance company and so she went to her doctor who not only gave her a certificate saying that she had suffered a whiplash injury undoubtedly caused by the accident (which she undoubtedly had not) but he also explained when to say “ouch” if she’s examined by an independent doctor as part of the insurance claims proceedings.
When she expressed a hint of a shadow of hesitation about going through with it, her doctor simply asked her, “Do you want to get a holiday out of this or not?” Her final word on the matter? “Tutti fanno così. Perché non io?” “Everyone does it. Why shouldn’t I?”
You hear this a lot in Italy, it’s the universal excuse for every wrongdoing. In fact, furbizia (cunning) is valued more highly than anything else, including the Pope, espresso and La Mamma.
For example, a recent investigation by a satirical TV news programme revealed that, surprise, surprise, the vast majority of people who park in disabled parking spaces and have disabled stickers are not actually disabled at all. The defence is that everyone else does it, why should I be the only one to miss out?
A few months ago the head of the traffic police in Rome was found to have parked illegally using an out-of-date disabled parking sticker (that had been reported lost by an 86-year-old woman) while out one evening. He lost his job because of it but not without first making a hell of a racket about the injustice he was suffering.
While it sometimes seems that not only Naples but the whole country is buried under a mountain of trash, cronyism and a hard-core addiction to law-bending, there may be light at the end of the tunnel.
With elections looming Walter Veltroni, the leader of the centre-Left Partito Democratico, has promised not to allow any MPs with criminal convictions or who are currently under criminal investigation to run in his party.
This is an inestimably huge step forward in terms of setting an example in a country where the sense of the individual is acutely developed but where these is an embarrassing void where a sense of civic pride should be.
Italians may be great at finding creative solutions to problems, such as the Neapolitan who designed a T-shirt with a seat belt drawn across it to avoid belting up, but using an old lady’s disabled parking permit is just plain irresponsible.
care of the Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/4205232/Expat-life-in-Italy-Law-breaking-is-a-way-of-life-and-a-necessity.html