Warning Signs in Italy

Posted on
May 27, 2014
Posted in: Random Musings

My family has trouble following directions. I’m not entirely sure if it’s a my family thing, or an Italian thing. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.


Like their total disregard for warning signs. Is it a countrywide epidemic? Or is it just that my family is nuts?

I think it might be both. Because if you find a warning sign in Europe, posted in several different languages, I can almost guarantee that the Italian translation will be infinitely more detailed, and will spell out the consequences of breaking the rules with a sort of dramatic flair.

In English or German, or any other language where the majority of the speakers can remotely follow instructions, you’ll find the message is clear and simple:

“This area is off-limits except to authorized personnel.”


“For your safety, please do not cross the yellow line.”

But in Italian, I’ve found that usually the message usually needs some sort of threat of death or dismemberment. Because they know a simple “no trespassing” sign would not be enough. Italians want a concrete reason for why they shouldn’t do something. Because just telling them “it’s against the rules” isn’t enough.

Not by a long shot.

Not far from my grandparents’ village, there are these massive geothermal pits that emit sulfuric gasses. For most people, I suspect the smell alone would be enough to dissuade them from getting too close, not to mention the fact that the gasses are poisonous.


But this is Italy, so they’ve put up a skull and crossbones and also an explicit warning that YOU COULD DIE IF YOU KEEP GOING.


Guess what my family members did when they saw this sign.

Go ahead. Guess.

Also, my aunt is wearing suede booties with 3-inch heels, because she is awesome like that.

THEY WALKED WAY TOO CLOSE TO THE DAMN SULFURIC PIT. My uncle Gino was even smoking a cigarette. (It also does not help that immediately under the warning sign is a huge placard explaining the cultural significance of the spot, noting that lots of cool old artifacts and coins have been found in the area).

Fortunately, Rand and I and my cousin Val were there, to scream at them. Honestly, they’d be lost without us.

Huh. Maybe it’s not an Italian thing. Maybe it’s not a my family thing. Maybe it’s a generational thing.

… And also an Italian thing.

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