By Caitlin Bodfish 

You might consider yourself the most law-abiding of citizens, but a combination of year-abroad freedom, scalding summer temperatures and one Negroni too many could see your Italian dream turn into a (highly expensive) disaster.

The following story was recounted to me by a friend who (understandably) wishes to remain anonymous, but urges you to avoid their tragic mistakes whilst living it up in the Italian capital.

It had been a blissful six weeks of travelling by scooter around Rome. For all those of you unfamiliar with the traffic in this beautiful yet chaotic city, let’s just say ‘disorganised’ is putting it lightly. Buses refuse to follow their timetables, leaving you stranded for an hour before turning up in a queue of three. The metro, whilst at least following a schedule, consists of a mere two lines which isn’t ideal if you’re headed anywhere not on said two lines. Cars don’t stop for pedestrians, road-rage is a norm, and it’s not surprising that in 2016 there were 3,270 deaths on the road in Italy – almost double the number in the UK.

To avoid having to use this transport system, fraught with delay and stress, to actually turn up to work on time and to generally remain sane, my co-worker decided to invest in hiring a scooter for the summer. Sharing lifts to work, we began to appreciate the city more than ever, zipping past the long queues of traffic whilst absorbing the impressive Roman architectural buildings and picturesque side-streets which any other home we have will never quite live up to.

We used our new-found freedom to explore the city after work. Famous ‘aperitivo’ spots, grand cathedrals and tranquil parks, whilst a day’s journey apart if using the transport system, became a mere twenty-minute scooter ride. It was on one of these typical evenings that everything went ever-so-slightly wrong.

I had been drinking in a local aperitivo spot for a number of hours with some friends. My co-worker had agreed to meet me there for a final drink before we went home. Arriving a little later than planned, they realised I had probably had one too many and decided to escort me back home by scooter, which would have only been around a five-minute journey. I had forgotten my helmet this time, but thought nothing of it. You can ski without a helmet, right? What could possibly go wrong?

It was only halfway home when we realised, to our horror, that the road we had chosen actually went straight past one of Rome’s police stations. On seeing the two of us – me, helmetless, obviously less than stone-cold sober – a policeman waved us down. I literally fell off the scooter in a tipsy, non-balanced way straight into his arms, which was probably an excellent start. Then, as my friend desperately tried to respond to his rapid Italian and convince him that we could literally see our home it was so close, the news went from bad to worse.

Driving a scooter without a helmet is illegal in Italy, and I would have to pay a sixty-euro fine the next day. As the scooter was rented under my co-worker’s name, she would have to pay a three-hundred euro fine to cover the cost of the scooter being immediately towed away. She would be banned from using it for sixty days – exactly the number of days we had left – and she would also lose her deposit from the scooter’s rental agency – another three hundred euros.

With all that being said, my friend was very fortunate. Although their days speeding around the centre of Rome were over and their bank accounts are still suffering, they only received a verbal warning and didn’t receive any points on their licenses, normal consequences of drink or reckless driving in Rome. What’s more, they could have ended up as one of the 3,270.

So before getting involved in any potentially expensive (and life-threatening) transport decisions abroad, have a read of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s travel advice pages, so that you don’t discover the consequences of their traffic regulations (tipsy, cold, at 2.a.m) the hard way.