Europe Italy Mazara del Vallo Sicily Travel

5 Rules of Driving in Sicily

I openly declare that I was a back seat driver.

I was also a pedestrian, a keen observer, a commentator, photographer and note-scribbler. The idea of taking up the wheel behind a hire car in Sicily filled me with fear. Fortunately, our travel plans altered the last minute and we were no longer required us to drive in Sicily. But the experience of being driven around qualified me to make a few observations from the road.

Rules of Driving in Sicily

1. Ensure your hand never leaves your horn. It is invaluable when you drive behind a gigantic truck and you toot before you overtake on a narrow stretch of road. Or when you pass Marco on his Vespa with his cute girlfriend riding in the back and you want to catch their attention.

2. At red traffic lights, cars may stop. Vespas may not. Bicycles will definitely not stop. If you’re a pedestrian, best if say your prayers – preferably in Italian – and count your blessings.

3. Senso Unico means a one-way street. It doesn’t specify which way.

4. If you spot a tiny space on the other side of the road big enough for a scooter, it is acceptable to hold up traffic in both directions and use it to make a three point turn. The tooting melody that follows will be music to your ears.

5. In Sicily, there are no set rules. Anything goes. Pretend you’re a local and make them up as you go along.

Photo taken in Sicily, through the narrow lanes of the Kasbah in Mazara del Vallo


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About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of popular online magazine Gourmantic and Cocktails & Bars, a website dedicated to cocktail culture and the discerning drinker. She is named in Australian Bartender Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential List since 2013, is a member of The Academy responsible for judging the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the inaugural Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions.


  • This is so true!  Another thing, if there is a lane specified only for buses, cars will use it if traffic is heavy enough.  (I complained to my Palermitani cousins that the problem with the streets was that there needed to be a lane for buses only.)  They were laughing so hard they could barely explain to me there is a bus only lane, but cars use it, too.

    • food lover kathy: This is brilliant! I find it amazing and entertaining at the same time while travelling. Not sure I’d get used to it if I lived there.

  • I hate the roads in Sicily, I would have to cross the road only whenthere are no cars passing as pedestrians have no right of way like in Asia. And I can’t stand when the narrow roads have to be accessible by cars because I don’tthink they should, someone could get hurt.

    • I wouldn’t want to drive but in general, Sicilian drivers seemed a little less manic than in say, Rome, where you said your prayers every time you got into a car!

  • It is a misconception that driving in Sicily is chaos and there are no rules – the rules are just different.

    We are talking about congested traffic, mostly slow-moving, in narrow roads and streets. Textbook rules regulating priority make no sense, as nobody would get past intersections from a low-priority road. The key is to be VERY attentive to others’ reactions and be assertive.

    Thus, when there is a little gap, push in, and the next car will slow or stop (as long as it is not a luxury car, truck or bus, but they will then hit their horn to warn about this intention) just enough to let you in. When turning left, just push into the first direction (yes, stopping it) and wait until there is a similar gap from the other direction and repeat. It works, just observe others doing it first. Don’t worry about cars other than in the direct vicinity tooting horns: this is just a way to ease frustration about stopped traffic.

    Similarly for pedestrians, cars will let you through anywhere, not only on marked crossing, if you observe a few rules: don’t step out in front of large or expensive vehicles and within braking distance, be very obvious and steady in your behaviour (step off the kerb and keep going). Again, traffic will slow just enough to let you through.

    Faster roads are a bit more disconcerting, as the pushing in happens much more quickly and people don’t use indicators, but the principle is the same.

    Old towns require special attention, as the roads are narrow and often there is no footpath. Thus, it is impossible to see crossing traffic until one’s car is a third of the way into the intersection. Thus, if crossing drivers see a car nose appearing, they hit the horn to tell the driver to stop: logical if you think about it. If you are far enough in to block their way, other cars will stop without rancour.

    When mastering the local rules, you will in fact find Sicilian drivers quite courteous. From memory, similar rules are applied in other parts of Italy too, especially in the south.