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OPINION: Italy's taxis are often a nightmare, but will things ever change?

Silvia Marchetti
Silvia Marchetti - [email protected]
OPINION: Italy's taxis are often a nightmare, but will things ever change?
A taxi sign in front of Rome's Colosseum. Visitors used to jumping in a cab in other cities worldwide may have a different experience in Italy. Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP

You may have heard that taxis are best avoided in Italy, and many Italians would agree, as Silvia Marchetti explains.


If there’s one thing about Italy foreigners don’t much like, it's taxis. Their experience is often a bad one, just as it is for many Italians.

Honestly, I hate when I need to call a cab, particularly in Rome. I try to walk or take the subway as much as possible.

Sometimes when you call for a taxi in Italy it’s like watching paint dry. You have to wait hours, hanging on the phone trying to get through to an operator, or you’re left sitting in the middle of the street and the taxi never shows up.

Many taxi drivers are rude, at least as far as my personal experience goes. I remember once I had to attend a press conference, the taxi driver was yelling the whole time because there was too much traffic, and then to cut the trip short he said “I’ll drop you off here so you can walk. I don’t wanna go there. It takes too much time”. I insisted on being taken to the venue, so he stopped the car and told me to “get lost”, opening my door.

As many of Italy's international residents might have already learned, there’s a sort of etiquette when dealing with taxi drivers. Never ask them why they chose a particular route, as they’re very touchy; never give advice on which streets have less traffic; and never, ever question the cost of the ride even if the fare meter’s total seems way over the top. They can get really mad.

READ ALSO: 'I've given up': How hard is it to get a taxi in Italian cities?

There’s this route all taxi drivers take in Rome to get to the historical centre: they go through Villa Borghese which in my view lengthens the ride (raising the fare) but all claim it’s faster as it avoids traffic. It gets me so frustrated, but in time and after many arguments I now keep my mouth shut and avoid quarreling.

Many taxi drivers prefer cash so there’s no receipt, and if a customer asks to pay with a credit or debit card, they reply that they either don’t have the mobile payment machine or it just broke.

They’re always on the run, or apparently sleeping. Once, at the train station back from a long trip, I had to line up for a taxi, and when I finally got one he took my suitcase and threw it in the back seat, breaking my glass bottle of perfume.

It often happens that taxi drivers also refuse to take you because the destination is not that far, so it’s not convenient for them, particularly if it’s during rush hour and they get stuck in traffic.


Taxis have their own queues, too; customers can’t just grab any cab parked in a piazza or outside subways. The first taxi in line gets the client.

You can’t jump on the second or third because those are waiting in line. I have been told several times to get out and get the taxi in front.

READ ALSO: Why can’t I get an Uber in Italy?

I’m not saying all taxi drivers are rude or disrespectful, but most of them really don’t seem to want to work too much. Many can’t be bothered earning €10 more for some 15 kilometres. This is really bad, and it’s not just big cities like Rome and Milan with this problem.

I’ve had similar unpleasant experiences even in small rural towns, where taxis are even harder to find and drivers ask for whatever fee they want.

On the other hand, some taxi drivers can be very friendly. In Naples one of them turned into my tour guide: he showed me the city and took me to the nearby Phleagrean Fields, spinning mythological tales of mermaids and sea monsters.


The problem is that taxi drivers in Italy consider themselves untouchable. They’re part of a ‘protected category’, a sort of caste.

Licenses are very expensive to buy, up to €245.000, and in most cases they are passed down from father to son, as legacy, so it’s hard to get one if you don’t have conoscenze (connections).

I don’t think the recent announcement from the government about allowing more taxi licenses to be issued will make any difference because these could still be inherited or bought through friends.

The only solution could be deregulation, allowing more competition, through city hall tenders. There should be specific exams - including on interacting with customers - and the bar should be set high. Other services like Uber should be incentivised as well. But as usual for Italy's taxi passengers, we may have a long wait.




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Roger Sparks 2024/04/06 10:29
My experience has been almost opposite in Florence. They are invariably polite, happy to help with luggage, friendly and kind. I'd had very few even slightly bad experiences in the last 2 years, with the exception of availability at times. I usually pay with appTaxi, leave a small tip, and always get a smile and thank you! I also use AppTaxi to summon from home, and normally wait less than 5-6 minutes. I am very happy with the service.
Philip 2024/04/05 19:09
A native Roman recommended InTaxi. I’ve been using it for months, sometime for last minute rides but mostly by making reservations a day in advance. I’ve found the drivers to be friendly and all have taken cards without grumbling. Perhaps I’ve just been lucky? Tbf, I don’t grab the random white cabs from the street taxi ranks so that may also skew my experience.
Sean Perry 2024/02/24 08:46
I agree with the premise that Italian taxi drivers are often a nightmare, but disagree about arguing with them. I argue every time I feel I am in the right. I once took a taxi from the airport in Rome and told the taxi driver I needed to pay with a card. On arrival he said the POS didn’t work. I responded saying I didn’t have cash. He offered to take me to a cashpoint - I refused. After a furious row he eventually drove off without my fare - quite bizarre behavior. On another occasion I got out of a cab at the airport’s after he insisted on a fixed fare to my apartment, which is outside of the Aurelian walls. A standoff ensued with other taxis telling him I was in the right. He finally agreed, I got back in, then after leaving the airport he tried again to insist he was right. I won. I now always take a picture when I get in of their licence number. I note the starting fare (often inflated), and insist on my route - their route is inevitably slower. On the whole, they are a nice bunch, let down by some absolute morons and thrives who should have their licences rescinded. Oh, and if they start using their mobile when driving feel free to tell them to stop. It’s your safety at stake.

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