We were approaching the ticket booth before getting on the autostrada outside Aulla. On our right were some police with one of those big red sucker signs they use to stop particular cars. They didn’t stop any cars in front of us. Nope; they stopped us.
Seeing our French license plates, the cop addressed us in rapid fire French. We knew a little French and we knew what he wanted: the car papers and my driver’s license.
I handed him the car papers—which he opened and handed back—and my International Driving Permit, which he kept. Then he looked at my California drivers license to confirm that I had one. Upon noticing I was from the US, he said, “Ah, Americans” and started to speak to us in darn good English.
I was impressed.
He handed the International Driving Permit to his buddy, who was in the car, and told us we had to wait a few minutes while a check was done.
Were we glad we had our permits? By golly, the answer is “yes!”
I read a lot of crap on the web about how someone didn’t need their International Driving Permit and advised everyone else to save the few bucks on costs. When you think about it, it’s like saying you didn’t brush your teeth on Tuesday and your teeth were still intact on Friday, then advising everybody not to brush their teeth ever, because it’s been proven entirely ineffective by your first-hand experience.
I’d say get that permit (obtainable at your AAA Driver’s Club in the US). You never know. Who wants to spend half a day inside the Italian bureaucracy? That’s like 12 years inside a normal one.
(Which reminds me of a quote I saw on a mouse pad once, attributed to Mark Twain, I think: “Outside of a dog, a good book is a man’s best friend. Inside a dog, it’s too dark to read.”)