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Friday, 10 August 2007

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Driving in Palermo (Part 3)

This week we have another instalment of the essential driving companion for roads in Sicily (you will find Part One and Part Two here and here). Read carefully - this could save your life!

Rule #8. What's a Stop Sign Between Friends?
This is a very important rule for you budding students of the art of true driving, so listen carefully and pay attention. Road signs in Sicily are better considered as "advisory". When in doubt, it is better to be polite and nice to your fellow drivers and let them pass regardless of what the road sign says. In fact, upon approaching an intersection where your opposing driver has a stop sign and needs to give way to you, rather than passing him by, allowing him to drive off when the road is safe and clear, isn't it far better to suddenly hit the brakes and stop for him? Not only will your confused opposing driver be appreciative and thankful, but you will also receive the thanks from the five other drivers behind you, who will no doubt be rushing to thank you personally, right after swapping their details with all the other cars they have just crashed into. This method is far more effective when used on the busier roads.

Rule 9#. Roundabout...what the!!!!
There are probably 5,000 roundabouts within the confines of greater Palermo, in fact you will most likely find them on every second or third road corner, but the amazing thing is that very few Palermitans have actually seen one, far less have driven one. This can be the only explanation upon witnessing a Palermo driver who approaches a roundabout as if it was something that landed from out of space. At first sight they immediately slam the brakes on, fearing that the roundabout was suddenly placed on the middle of the road where there was none before. Then as they enter the roundabout you see intense confusion and concentration on their face. "What the @$#% is happening here", you can see them mouth. "Do I drive faster, slower, how do I get out of here?". Often the best method as a student of Sicilian driving is to actually stop while in the roundabout. This is best because it gives you time to think about the way out and to just generally, take a break. When you feel a little more confident you can exit the roundabout, but please do so at either a very slow, snail-like pace, or driving like a man possessed (either extreme will suffice). Make sure you repeat this behaviour during every encounter with a roundabout.

Rule #10. Responsive Emergency Services.
The sound of the Italian language is often regarded by many as being like a song with its dulcet sweet tones and melodious rhythm. It is considered to be the language of love, of passion, of art and of everything beautiful. So to, the sound of the water and of the wind on the Sicilian island of Salina was famously recorded on a tape recorder by Massimo Troisi in the touching movie, Il Postino (The Postman), because it was the most beautiful and peaceful sound he had ever experienced. Beautiful and peaceful sounds are not to be found in the main cities of Palermo. But you will find noise. The only sound that has any rhythm or melody is the ambulance siren. There is an ambulance in full siren mode, passing every hour on any given road in Palermo. It is so frequent and regular (and indeed predictable) than whenever there is a car accident, no one feels the need to call an ambulance for the injured parties, as everyone knows that there is one "right around the corner". "Just as night follows day, and ambulance will pass this road in the next few minutes" - Old Sicilian Proverb

In fact many Sicilian families with very elderly grandparents living with them, often prefer to live as close to the main roads as possible in case their nonna or nonno needs emergency assistance. This is the practical side to Sicilians.

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