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
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.
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.
Stop reading, start speaking
Stop translating in your head and start speaking Italian for real with the only audio course that prompt you to speak.
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!