December 8, 2023 | Rome, Italy

Ndò sta er parcheggio?

By |2018-03-21T18:50:30+01:00July 31st, 2012|Lifestyle Archive|
But do you give it a glass of water?

f all went well (stay tuned), by the time you read this I will have already obtained my Italian learner’s permit. That’s the privilege you get after passing the written part of the country’s driving exam. As I mentioned in my last column, passing earns you a foglio rosa, which allows you drive so long as someone with a full-fledged license is in the car with you.

If it sounds like being 16 again, guess what? It is. You’re a proud… “car practitioner” with a big “P” pasted to your windshield.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let’s talk about the exam, a tedious, computerized test that forces you to consider all aspects of driving in Italian-language terms.

You’re probably thinking, “What’s she complaining about? She’s been living in Italy for nine years now. This should be a piece of cake for her.” You’re half-right.

If only the test were phrased in simple, everyday Italian, or even in romanaccio, the Rome dialect. To the question, “Ndò sta er parcheggio?” I’d be in business. “Where’s the parking lot?” No problem.

But no, the Italian DMV long ago decided it would be more fun to adopt road techno, using words and phrasings even Italians might struggle to understand. Until several years ago, foreigners were actually allowed to take the written exam in English. But I missed that train.

That means memorizing engine components in Italian so that you can take a motor apart (maybe your bored or a mechanic seems to easy). Does it end with carburetors? Not on your life.

Question: If you find someone who’s been in a car wreck and is hemorrhaging, do you give them a glass of water?

Oh, and what’s the speed limit for tractor on state road?

Here’s another favorite: What foods affect people’s competence to drive?

Then come the road signs. You have to identify hundreds, which aside from the ones for parking tend to look alike (beware the cow-crossing sign).

Each time I have to haul my 34-year-old body to driving school (at night), I cringe. Only when I get there do things perk up. I’m suddenly with Bianca, Ludovico, Valentina, Valentino, Martina, Chiara and Luca, each one 17.

These kids are dying to get a license so they can finally drive a parent-purchased macchinetta. They see a car as the only refuge from mom and dad. It’s also a great place to make out (the only place for some).

You can be sure they’ve memorized all 1,500 test question variations. And it shows. Whenever Andrea, our driving instructor, spits out a pop quiz, Ludovico and Valentina are the first ones to spew out the answers. This is while I’m still trying to understand the question.

But I’m not the only foreigner in the class. There are two other Americans, a Russian, and a man from Trinidad. That poor guy looks more lost than me and I worry about him.

I wonder if he knows to be careful of cows especially after eating a big portion of spaghetti all’amatriciana? The stakes are high. He could end up with a hemorrhaging cow, and being faced with the toughest and most daunting of all driving decisions: should I give it a glass of water?

About the Author:

Nicole Arriaga wrote features and a column ("Bella Figura") between 2004 and 2012.