Earlier this year after returning to Italy I started the process to get my Italian driver’s license, la patente. In 2009 the option of taking the written driving test in English was eliminated so I had to learn the Italian laws and improve my Italian language skills at the same time.
I did the book work on my own, without attending a driving school, or “autoscuola”. This was a better process for me as I needed to concentrate more on the translation and vocabulary than how to drive – I’ve been driving for almost 35 years. I had obtained the books from an autoscuola here in Potenza.
The first step is to begin the paperwork process at the Motorizzazione Civile in Potenza. You have to go to the office and obtain the forms, fill it out and purchase a “marca da bollo”, (a tax stamp) from a tabaccheria and pay three different fees (71.72€) via the ufficio postale. A medical exam is also required and this means a fee for the doctor (20€) and another fee paid (18.30€) via the ufficio postale. I was able to have the doctor in Trivigno do this for me - a simple and quick process.
With the fees paid, the “Certificato Medico”, a set of photos of myself, the marca da bollo and the completed form I returned to the Motorizzazione Civile to make an appointment for the theory/written exam. Not so fast, you submit the paperwork and then must return ten days later to make the appointment to take the exam. I did that and was scheduled for three weeks later.
Taking the theory exam consists of forty “vero o falso” questions on a computer program. It isn’t hard enough that I’m taking this in Italian but the tests are notorious for having trick questions. During the test I was the only non-Italian and of course the oldest. You can miss four and pass; on my first attempt I missed five – aargh! I took consolation that I was not the only one as the failure rate is rather high. After a week of doing anything but dealing with the patente issue I made another appointment for the theory exam which requires you to wait another thirty days.
The books provided by the autoscuola show you the actual questions, they have not changed for a couple years, but you never know which of the thousands of possible will show up randomly. The subjects not only include how to drive and the laws but also first aid, vehicle mechanics as well as civil and criminal law issues. I concentrated on the vocabulary and familiarizing myself with the questions that would be “vero”.
On my second attempt I passed the theory exam, that was May 6th. Whew!
To take the practical driving test you must wait another thirty days. In Italy you can’t take the practical test without paying an autoscuola. No way around it – “punto”! You must use the autoscuola vehicle that is equipped with a passenger-side clutch and brake and do at least six hours of driving with the instructor. We asked several friends for recommendations for an autoscuola and met with an owner and since I felt comfortable with comprehending his Italian and the price was right I signed-up.
For 300€ I met the instructor four times to drive in the city, on the superstrada and at night. Once he was comfortable that I knew how to drive a manual shift and could park, after the first half hour, we spent most of the time just driving and him asking me questions about America.
For the practical test the examiner comes to the autoscuola. This happened on Saturday morning where I joined several young students to wait our turn. The examiner arrived late and went off with the autoscuola owner for a caffe’. After about another half hour we started. The student drives, the school instructor sits in the passenger seat and the examiner sits in the back seat. Several students took their test, which consisted of about fifteen minutes, before it was my turn. Once I got in the vehicle the examiner started asking me questions about the US while the instructor was telling me what to do. We drove to the end of the street, made a turn, parked and then went back – all in about five minutes. I was as concerned with trying to understand the examiner’s questions about America as I was trying to drive. I don’t think he could see anything I was doing as a driver from his location in the rear.
With that formality finished we all went into the autoscuola office where I signed some forms about my completion and was given “la mia patente”!
So, after 410€ and four months I am again a legal driver in Italy!
Valerie is also happy that she is no longer my chauffer.