How to Avoid Fines while Staying in Italy

If you are coming to Italy this summer, and have booked into a hotel in the central area of an Italian city, such as Florence or Pisa, and you are coming by car, either your own or rent a car, then watch out!

As is evidenced by the many, many comments on my Speeding and other Traffic Fines in Italy post, it is easy to fall foul of the, by now, infamous Zona Traffico Limitato, ZTL or Restricted Traffic Zones which exist in many Italian cities. The net result is often a registered/recorded delivery letter announcing a fine, which is often difficult to contest and to settle.

An increasing problem is that many drivers are not just receiving one fine, but two or three or more – effectively they are fined every time they pass a traffic camera.  And these fines can add up – someone has written to me saying that they have been fined a total of €700!

Advise Your Hotel

An Italian ZTL Restricted Traffic Zone Sign

An Italian ZTL Restricted Traffic Zone Sign

Well, in order to help people avoid this awkward, but increasingly common, and expensive, little problem, what you need to do is to advise the hotel, bed and breakfast or apartment where you are staying that you have come by car, provide the establishment with the car licence plate/registration number and ask someone, politely, to inform the local traffic police of your stay.

Insisting on having a copy some form of documentary proof, in Italian showing details of your car, which demonstrates that the hotel in the town in which you are staying has indeed told the local police about your car is essential.

Technically, Italian hotels (hotels, not bed and breakfasts and apartment owners necessarily) are obliged to pass information on your car to the police, and Italian local traffic laws often make provisions which allow for registered vehicles to be exempted from the payment of fines relating to entry into these honey trap limited traffic zones.  This means that when (not ‘if’!) your car is photographed by the street cameras while in a ZTL, it will be seen to be on the right list, and you will not be sent, a year or so later, a fine.  However, even if the hotel does tell the police, a fine may still be issued, which is why having a copy of the documents mentioned above could prove useful.

Note that Italy’s traffic cops can issue fines without stopping you.  All they have to do is see your car in the wrong area, so it’s not just the cameras that can catch you out.

Many foreign hotel guests do not know about these nasty ZTLs and thus do not tell the hotels about their cars.  Now you know, so you should not make the same mistake.

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If you have requested that your hotel notify the local traffic authorities of the existence of your car, and you still receive a fine, you can then write back, in English, enclosing a copy of the document your hotel should have provided you with, and point out that your vehicle had been registered with the police in the area.  This should cause the fine to be cancelled.

Do not Drive into the Center of Italian Towns

Many Italian towns and cities now operate restricted traffic zones and have installed traffic monitoring cameras.  Keep an eye out for a sign which looks like the one above – go past it and you enter the fine zone.

However, it is not always possible to come to a grinding halt once you have spotted one of these signs, especially with a local Italian stallion glued to your tail and honking his horn because you have slowed down.  It’s better to avoid this situation altogether.  How?  Look out for signs which indicate parking areas -these are usually a large white “P” on a blue background.  Yes, you might have to pay to park, but the parking fee will be less than the cost of a fine which seems to average between €70 to €80.

Be Aware of Towns and Cities in Italy with ZTL areas

There is a very handy Italian blog called, appropriately enough, ZTL in Italia, and this blog has a list of towns and cities which have these restricted traffic zones – use it to help you understand where you need to be careful.

Up to date road maps might show ZTL areas, although I have not found any as of yet – I will look and update this post when I have established that such maps do exist.

In some circumstances it is possible to drive into ZTL areas – if you are in the company of a person with a registered disability – although you may well be fined, you can appeal.  Please see the next section.

Invalids Can Annul Fines

You may also like to note that if one of your traveling companions has a registered disability, then this too can be grounds for annulling these pesky fines.  Although I’m not sure, someone with a certifiable medical condition which means they cannot walk too far, may also be able to use this as a defense against this fines.  However, it would be a good idea to have such a medical certificate officially translated into Italian.

Use the Local Tourist Information Office

If you want to be doubly sure, then pop into a local tourist information office and ask about ZTLs.  You should find someone who speaks English.  ‘Multa‘ in Italian = Fine, in English.

Note too, that more and more Italian towns and cities are gearing themselves up for sending fines to foreign drivers, so, wherever you stay in Italy, you should ask about these restricted traffic areas – ZTL.  Better safe than fined!

Hope that helps, and you stop being fined and, as a result, I stop receiving so many comments!

 

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Comments

  1. Michael says

    Alex thank you so much for setting up this site. I have written to the Pisa tourist board suggesting they cancel outstanding fines (on behalf of the many comments made) are these available or have you had overload? salute michael

  2. says

    Great post, many first time visitors to Italy would be totally dumb founded by the Zona Traffico Limitato signs. This is the kind of advice that is very helpful but not that easy to come across.

    • says

      Hi Caroline,

      Just in case you have not noticed, I have replied to both of your questions via email.

      Hope the replies are useful.

      Thanks for dropping in.

      Best regards,

      Alex

  3. bill whitson says

    having a run in with \infoemo-en@nivi.it who it appears collect fines for parking offences , mine was in Sienna , ZTL zone but they have got the car wrong but the registration number correct , challenging this , but waiting on them , takes a while to get an answer
    Does anyone know if they can proceed with charge if info wrong , we also did not get ticket on car, is this a requirement ?

    • says

      Hi Bill,

      To answer your question re the ticket – if you were caught on camera, then the ticket will arrive via the post. Parking offences, though, usually result in tickets–if you are caught by a real life human being.

      How wrong did they get the car? Wrong make, model or what? Sounds as though the fine may end up being annulled. You can bet your bottom dollar that if an Italian found him/herself in the same situation they would get themselves off–so you should too!

      Let us know the outcome, if you have a spare moment.

      By the way, Italian consumer protection authorities are investigating other Italian authorities with regard to the fixing of traffic light and other automatic fine producing cameras. If Sienna is one of the authorities under investigation, then this may be worth pointing out – and you could send a letter to the EC if you are resident in Europe.

      Best of luck and thanks for commenting,

      Alex

  4. Bill Whitson says

    Alex , thanks for reply
    More info
    the parking was in the ZTL Zone , no ticket just a letter 15 months after being in Italy
    Car stated as Fiat , it was an alfa romeo,( bet alfa would be happy) Reg No OK
    Their user number and password dont allow access to their site , sent following E Mail
    Waiting on Matteo coming back to me

    Bill
    For The Attention Of Matteo Capitani

    Thank you for the reply to my e Mail, I am still having problems with the User Name and Password , I am trying to check the Dossier by entering the website but I am not able to get in to the dossier because the user name and password is not being accepted , this happened previously when I tried to make a payment of the fine
    Can you please , either tell me another way to check the dossier or give me another User name and password.to allow me access and I can then check if indeed all your details are correct, I would like to see the photograph showing the vehicle passing through the electronic gate and be able to check if it is the vehicle I hired

    *I still have an issue with the situation regarding the number plate and the make of the car not being correct . In the UK all information on the legal notice must be correct, if they are not correct then the charge cannot proceed ,can you please let me know if the situation in Italy is different , I also have photographic evidence that the information is incorrect *

    I have checked on the internet and the address first given as where the violation took place , is in fact where I parked , but as far as I’m aware this was not in an area that was monitored by a video control device , when I was in this area parking I was being passed continually by other cars, vans and buses making their way past me and also lots of other cars looking for a parking space ,to me it appeared to be a normal street with no restrictions and definitely not, a no thoroughfare street (White circle with a red border ) , I would also have thought that a ticket of some sort should have been applied to my windscreen informing me of the violation ,I also note that you do not mention the actual address in your correspondence. Is where I parked the same place as you say in your letter ????

    If all this information is correct , then I will have no problem paying the fine , as long as I can gain access to the web site, that being the case can you supply me with an address to send a cheque to

    Thank you / La Ringrazio Molto

    Bill Whitson

    • says

      Bill,

      Fines generated electronically do not have to be physically served on a driver.

      On this site, in Italian – run by an Italian consumers rights association, it does state that inaccurate details on the type of vehicle CAN render a fine invalid – see the section Vizi Del Verbale (in Italian):
      http://www.aduc.it/dyn/sosonline/schedapratica/sche_mostra.php?Scheda=40773

      The photo will be the clincher I feel – but it is still odd that they got the make of the car wrong – registration numbers are tied to cars here generally, and the right make and model of car should be in the system.

      Thanks for the copy of the letter.

      Best,

      Alex

  5. Dave Wallace says

    Just received two tickets dated same day in Firenza one minute apart on same street but name changed as usual in Italy. I was looking for an address to find out what “The vehicle circulated in limited traffic area without authorization” actually means. Reading through other peoples comments and driving with the general traffic flow just blows me away to think this is a very cheesy way to collect income. No photo attached once I opened dossier to prove we were there. Google earth maps/satelite shows street locations in question. We were so lost trying to find a place to park. Kind of a bummer to end a great holiday with this. Not sure if renting and driving around Italy so great. GPS unit with upgraded roading did not warn us of the zoning issue. Eventually found parking approx 2 km away just to walk to the Ponte Del Vecchio bridge. Got charged 10 euro for a gellato and decided to get the H out of that city. Fine cost is 106.05 euro each, ouch. Rental company should let people be aware of this issue or sell drivers a permit to cover this tax grab.

    • Mario says

      I just got 2 tickets from Firenze, same deal as yours. Each ticket is 106.05. I live in Canada. What happen if I ignore it?

  6. frank says

    i live in another eu country but not in italy, i didnt know about ztl areas and i got 12 fines , i rented a car being in italy for first time , but noone told me about this tax , wich i didnt mind to pay i was cautious looking for permit parking , even asking in shops of bologna center if i was allowed to patk there , my questions is how can i appeal living abroad of italy?

  7. RV Toledano says

    Alex, you run a great site, which I found while looking for Codice Fiscale. I just recently received a citation for ZTL in Florence, I have been there before, but with all the senso unico and new traffic patterns, it was hard to find the public parking lot, when the Polizia Stradale gave me instructions, I must have driven through a ZTL to reach the parking, and got foto’d. I hope it’s a decent defense, what are your thoughts. Also the question of purchasing a vehicle to leave in Italy, which has been asked before, could you give me your opinion, as I hope to travel to Italy for the next few years and intend to use a car for at least 3 months each year.
    Thanks again for a great site,
    RV

  8. Andrei says

    Had no idea the the hotels are obliged to give to the police info about your car. If i would of heard this directly there i would of thought it is a joke and laughed.

  9. says

    Very interesting post, and great site!
    I heard a lot of cities are requiring a “tax” if you want to drive in the centro storico (historical center) part of town. This is to eliminate the pollution from too many vehicles. Once you pay the tax, you get a sticker that you put on the windshield to let them know the tax is paid.

    It’s a shame it’s coming to this.

    Larry Aiello

  10. says

    I happy to hear that this little post is proving useful.

    Hopefully more people will find it and will be able to take steps to avoid these fines.

    All the best to one and all,

    Alex

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