There seem to be no set driving regulations in Italy; in fact, the concept of lanes and stop lights is completely lost in cities like Rome, Florence and Milan. Hours for stores, museums and attractions are unreliable, with long breaks taken in the middle of the day when cities completely shut down and receiving service is out of the question. Streets are not exactly pedestrian friendly, especially since most are made of cobblestones, and crossing areas are a game of chance. Despite everything, it's easy to get swept up in the chaotic bliss of Italy. The lack of organization and efficiency is shadowed by the carefree, laid back atmosphere of the country, where the Italians live by a "cosi e la vita"--such is life--standard. However, Italy is seeing some changes this year, with general improvements to accommodate tourists and locals alike.
Rick Steves on MSNBC.com highlighted many of the initiatives put in place around Italy to create a more organized, efficient and convenient system when it comes to transportation and tourist attractions. For starters, the crazy long lines and hectic crowds at the Vatican may diminish slightly thanks to the new online reservation system--which seems to be working pretty well, so far. The Vatican Museum has also extended its hours, staying open until 11 p.m. on Friday nights from April to October. The Coliseum will receive some much-needed spring cleaning, and be equipped with permanent lighting, making areas that were once hidden available to explore. A brand new modern train station is being built at Triburtina, and it will welcome high-speed rails sometime this year. As far as shopping goes--and Italy is known for its high-class designers--visitors and fashionistas alike will revel in full-day operations, meaning no more long lunch breaks where many stores would be closed in the middle of the day.
It seems that Italy is taking small steps to improve their infrastructure and provide tourists some ease when traveling through the country. But even with these changes, that same lack-of-respect-for-pedestrians and working-when-we-feel-like-it attitude is still prevalent, and, in all honesty, I wouldn't have it any other way.
It's classic Italian.
To read more from Rick Steves on the developments going on in Europe, check out this article on Spain and France.