Scorching Sicily - a road trip around the Med's biggest island

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Part 1 - Top 10 tips for surviving on Sicily's roads

Italians have a reputation for producing some of the best racing cars and racing drivers in the world, however Italian driving on public roads can sometimes seem a little eccentric. In Sicily, however this driving trait has been taken to completely new levels. My very best advice for driving in Sicily would be to not drive at all! However, if you really feel you have to then here are some tips for surviving the scary streets of Sicily...

1) First off, get the maximum possible insurance coverage when you hire your car. There will nearly always be an excess to pay in the event of damage so make sure you purchase extra insurance to cover this. Companies like offer good value policies that cover you on multiple trips for this sort of thing.

2) Stay alert. Sicilians have a unique way of driving whereby they are acutely aware of the space immediately surrounding their cars. This means that they are excellent at avoiding accidents but at the same time are almost continuously helping to cause accidents!

3) Never give way voluntarily. Sicilians do not give way and so doing so is just more likely to cause confusion and therefore an accident.

4) Use your horn almost continuously. This is common practice and is not seen as rude or aggressive, but rather a way of everyone letting each other know where they are on the road.

5) Expect the unexpected. Overtaking on blind bends, driving through red traffic lights... just some of the practices that you will experience on a regular basis.

6) Be aware of child safety. It is not uncommon to see Sicilian children sitting on laps or leaning out of windows in cars. We even witnessed a young child lying on the parcel shelf of a car as it sped down the motorway!

7) Beware of mopeds. They are everywhere.. particularly in the larger towns... and they operate on a whole new set of road rules above and beyond the car driver.

8) Be aware that the motorways are very different to most of the rest of Europe. It is not unusual for bushes in the central reservation to be growing well out into the actual road... thereby significantly narrowing the lane. Similarly, roadworks signs etc are often placed at the edge of the lanes rather than on the shoulder. Also, it's worth noting that motorway exits often have very short and bendy run-offs and therefore require rapid braking.

9) Avoid town centres. Traffic in the city centres such as Palermo and Catania is always hectic and often subject to strange local rules about rights of way etc. Similarly, parking is limited and haphazard.

10) Finally, even if you do manage to avoid any accidents, you are almost certain to witness one. Often these are pretty minor affairs with no injuries, but they invariably develop into a big scene involving a throng of witnesses, passers-by, extended families etc etc, plus an awful lot of shouting and gesticulating. All very entertaining if you find a suitable place to pull over and watch the drama unfold!

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