(mis)adventures in italy

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Today I drove from Geneva, Switzerland to Milano, Italy. It was a really beautiful drive, with a range of different views and scenery. I started off going through the city of Geneva, and saw same of the Swiss country side. Then proceeded into France, and into the mountains. Stopped to take a few pictures of the Mont Blanc, and then drove through the Mont Blanc tunnel, which was actually kind of mundane; mostly long and slow.

Then I got into Italy and was enjoying the picturesque view of small towns, with beautiful churches and castles. I decided to pull over into one of the towns to see if I could find some food and to take a few pictures. At the highway exit, after paying the toll, the federal italian police were doing controls, checking every car. By “luck” they decided to pull me over and look at my papers. I rented my car (a lovely Audi A4 TDI) in France and have a Canadian Driver’s License. Apparently a combination that the Italian police didn’t really like. Specifically they requested I had an international driver’s license instead of just my Canadian one. I later looked into this, and turns out that they were right, Canadians are required to have that to drive in Italy, but not in France (where I had actually looked up the laws ahead of time).

Anyways… I spoke my best Italian (not that great) with them and tried to explain, but unfortunately they weren’t taking any excuses. The missing international driver’s license combined with a lack of snow tires on my car (something that again, is required in Italy but not France and my car had 4 season tires) landed me a very hefty 341 euro fine. Which I had to pay right away and in cash!! Can you believe that?

So the cops escorted me to the nearest Bankotomat (an ATM) and I pulled from two different accounts the money they asked for. They put it in a little envelope, delivered me an italian novel (my very detailed fine) and drove off.

Combined with some pretty expensive tolls along the way down from Switzerland, this has made my trip into Italy very expensive. I’m also nervous that I’ll run into police again — hopefully I can show them the fine and tell them I’m leaving Italy before I get a chance to fix the situation. I’ll be back in France Sunday night.

What’s really annoying is that the international driver’s license isn’t even that special, require any extra tests nor give you any additional benefits. It’s literally just a piece of paper you pay a little extra for saying you can drive abroad. Why does it need to exist?

So, lesson learned; take the train next time. Though I really did enjoy the drive.

Oh and by the way, I never even ended up getting the food or pictures in that town :(

When I got to Milan, I (naturally) had trouble finding parking. Finally parked, then got lost trying to find the Airbnb I’m staying at. Ended up at the wrong apartment building, which just like my correct building, had a doorman named “Antonio”. It was all a bit confusing, and by that point I just wanted to drop my bags off and go have some pizza. Finally was able to reach my Airbnb host, find the right place, and get in; but the whole process took some time.

The night was finally made better by having pizza with my coworker Sara Rosso, who lives here in Milano. One funny thing was that earlier in the day, I texted her that “I had a not so fun run in with the italiano polizei”, and that line ended up in one of our work IRC (chat) channels.

PS: As I travel, I’m posting mostly photos on instagram (cross-posted to my photo blog) and a few personal updates on Facebook. But once in a while a story like this is better shared on this blog. Thanks for following along! :)

8 thoughts on “(mis)adventures in italy

    • Yeah very sketchy. I was pretty sure they were really asking me for a bribe. However, turns out it’s pretty common practice here (from what I could Google) and I did get a “receipt” (aka an italian novella) with the totals…

  1. Valerie

    Interesting, I didn’t know that International Driver’s Permits are required in some countries. I have been getting them just in case, but now I know better. Too bad about the fine! One time Alex and I were almost fined on an Italian train due to some bad tickets (ordered for us by an Italian travel agent, mind you), but we didn’t have to pay up after all because the agent’s card machine ran out of battery. Everyone in our train car was cheering for us.

    • Haha, that’s awesome that they were cheering for you.

      Someone I met told me that she got a 50 Euro fine on the train because she forgot to properly indicate the dates of travel on her railpass. That’s so frustrating!

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