I started my driving lessons in the UK at 17 and remember running indoors after the first and telling my mother all excitedly I had overtaken a parked car, she burst out laughing whilst I tried to explain that actually this had required signalling, looking in my rear mirror and changing lane but she couldn’t hear me so great was her mirth.

I never got to take my test in Britain but after the birth of Thomas in 1988 heavily reliant on my working husband to take me everywhere I took lessons in Italy followed by my test.

I passed and started to use my husband’s car which he wasn’t too pleased about, especially when I reversed it into our neighbour’s garden fence.

Eventually he found a bargain that was to be all mine, a bright orange Citroen Dyane.

Citoren Dyane 2CV

This isn’t my car as I don’t have a photo of it but I can remember the number plate TO N1**** which led to her being called Toni.

She had a convertible roof, four seats and was all mine there was just one small problem…. the gear stick came out of the dashboard

citroen Dyane dashboard

See that bobble there next to the steering wheel – that is the gear stick! I couldn’t for the life of me get my head around it and was often heard screeching it in and out.

At the time I was working in Riva del Garda for a coach company, my job was tourist guide to Brits on the Lake who had booked coach trips to Verona, Venice or the Dolomites wine route. I left Folgaria early in the morning, drove down to the lake, went out all day on the coach and then dropped all the guests off at their hotels.

Then I would fire Toni up and start my journey back home. One particular hot, evening a colleague asked me for a lift to Mori and I was only too happy to be able to assist.

We jumped into Toni and drove from Riva towards Torbole to take the main road leading up to Mori but there was an enormous traffic jam, lucky for us I knew a short cut. It was a narrow, winding, uphill road but a lot quieter and with a bit of luck we’d cut out the jam so off I went, roof down and smiling at my cleverness.

As I got to the bottom of my shortcut I changed down a gear and off I went. About half way up I awkwardly clunked her into third gear and soon after she started to struggle so I took hold of the gear stick and pulled it back towards second gear only to discover it had come right out of the gear box in my hand!

My passenger was horrified, I was too and hastily jammed my gear stick back into it’s place whilst slamming the car breaks on.

A lot of other locals had had the same idea to use this shortcut so I started to create another jam all of my own as I fiddled with my gear stick.

I did get it in and I did make the top of the road with a lot of sweaty angry Italians behind me probably muttering things like ‘woman driver’.

Strangely enough that guide never asked for any more lifts home and it wasn’t long before I moved onto my second car, a vintage black Mini Cooper with a white roof with a hole in the passenger footwell but that’s another story.

Disclosure: Why this pop back into the past? Because I’m entering a competition held by Carcraft to hopefully win an iPhone 5 with this tale. Let’s hope they choose me as the winner as I’m desperate for a new phone.

Recent research by Sainsbury’s Finance has revealed that the average cost of motoring in the UK has broken though the £3000 barrier. Ever higher fuel prices, and the squeeze on incomes caused by the harsh economic climate, are forcing more and more drivers to look carefully at their driving habits to see where they can save money.

Here we have come up with five top tips to help you minimise the cost of motoring.

1. Drive economically

The manner in which you drive has a big impact on how economical your car is. Put the pedal to the metal and you’ll be counting the cost at the petrol pump. By driving at 50mph, you’ll stand to save around 20% to 30% of the fuel that it would take to cover the same ground at 70mph.

To ensure that your car is as economical as possible, check tyre pressures frequently, remove roof bars when they are not in use, and empty the boot of heavy items that are not needed.

It is also worth remembering that a well maintained car saves you money in the long run, as it is less likely to be prone to serious breakdown and will retain its fuel efficiency for longer.

2. Drive less

According to government statistics, of all trips made in 2010, 20% were of less than one mile in length and 95% were less than 25 miles. To save money and benefit from a healthier lifestyle, consider leaving the car at home and walking, cycling or taking public transport instead.

3. Source the cheapest fuel

Paying a penny less per litre on a tankful of fuel might seem like a trivial saving but, according to research by Sainsbury’s Finance, the price of fuel has risen by 22.9% in a year, which equates to a rise of over £320 a year for the average motorist.

In the current climate even the smallest of savings will be welcome. Shop around for the cheapest fuel in your area, or take advantage of smart phone apps that allow you to compare pump prices.

4. Road tax and insurance

Before you buy a car, make sure that you know what its tax and insurance bands are. You can check the current road tax rate for the vehicle using the DirectGov vehicle tax calculator. Insurance group information is also widely available online.

5. Choose the right fuel type

Selecting the most cost effective fuel type when buying a new or used car used to be fairly straight forward. Despite the higher initial purchase cost of a diesel car, a good saving could be made in the long term, particularly for those doing high annual mileages.

The situation today is not so clear. Diesel is now considerably dearer at the pump, and petrol cars – especially those with smaller engines – have become more frugal. For those who don’t drive very far, going for a small petrol car could be a better option, so it’s well worth doing the sums.

Cutting costs doesn’t have to mean cutting corners. Shop around for a car insurance policy that gives you all the cover you need, and you could save money in the long run.