you need to know about traffic violations, ticketing and fines in Italy:
1) Local authorities around the world generate a significant
proportion of their revenue from fines levied for infractions of
various non-penal laws, notably driving regulations. This happens
nowhere more than in Italy where many individuals and firms pay
less income, sales and other taxes than they should so that local
government seeks other sources of revenue.
The Florentine (issue no. 95 February 12, 2009)
Too much of a bad thing
Traffic fines line city coffers
Every 40 seconds, a motorist in Florence receives a traffic violation according to figures recently released by city officials. Traffic police issue approximately 90 tickets every minute, 1,253 tickets a day.
The fines on these tickets average out to about 140 euro per year, per motorist, and they bring about 52 million to city hall each year, making it one of Italy's most heaviest fined cities. Local officials note that the amount of money that enters the municipal budget through traffic fines has tripled in the last 10 years.
Centre-right councilors in Florence argue that the city issues much too many traffic violations. ‘A city that counts some 365,000 residents, should not be issuing traffic tickets that amount to
52 million euro. Milan in comparison issues 81 million euro in traffic fines, but it is considerably bigger than Florence.'
Of the 859,959 traffic violations that issued by traffic police in 2008, 457,613 were issued to motorists who entered the limited traffic zones without the required permit; 250,415 were given to drivers who parked in no-parking zones; 22,904 were issued for speeding; and 7,700 were given for having run a red light.
The number of drivers found drunk has increased slightly as well. In 2008, police issued 303 drunk-driving violations, compared to 289 the previous year.
2) A few years back, very reliable, inexpensive road-side speed
monitoring camera systems (Autovelox) were put on the market. These photograph
the driver and the car license plate, and record the speed and
location of the car. They are therefore effectively
machines that print money for local government. Where previously
traffic police had to be in place and to be paid to catch traffic
offenders, this can now be done automatically with, in Italy (and
almost 100% acceptance by the courts should the evidence be
challenged. You can view the locations of these machines on
motorways (only) throughout Italy here.
There are far more of them on local roads, the number depending on
the lust for money of the municipality that owns the road.
3) Most Italian cities are not adapted to huge volumes of
vehicular traffic and efforts have been made one way or another to
reduce this volume. In Florence and Pisa (and many
other towns) there are a number of zones
covering the historical and hotel district where cars with
special permits only may enter. The cars rented out by car rental
agencies do not have these permits. You must therefore take the
necessary steps to obtain an exemption each day you drive to your
hotel within a restricted zone. (See "Limited Traffic Zones" below).
4) In Italy, the authorities have up to one year after they
have obtained the offender's details to issue a
traffic ticket to an offender in a foreign country (unlike in
Germany, for example, where there is a three month limit). Italian
bureaucracy being what it is, the ticket usually does take
a year or more to arrive.
The first notice will be a "friendly" letter that
arrives unregistered. The second notice will be registered.
The recipient of the ticket has 60 days to pay
or appeal. You
must appeal by writing in Italian to the Prefetto (Prefect) or Giudice di Pace
(Justice of the Peace) of the appropriate Provincia.
But don't plead ignorance - that won't work. You must present evidence that it was not
you in the car or that you were driving to or from your hotel. If you don't
pay or your appeal is dismissed, the amount is doubled. Contacting the office of a Prefetto can
sometimes be done via email and or even via a web site form - you can see the form
for Pisa here.
"Codice della Strada" might be the appropriate subject
header to choose in this case. To write to or fax the Pretetto or
Justice of the Peace, here are the details for Pisa only:
- Prefect of Pisa, Piazza G. Mazzini, I-56127 Pisa, Italy or send a fax to this number 0039 050 549666.
- Justice of the Peace of Pisa, via Palestro 39, I-56127 Pisa, Italy.
5) Car rental agencies are obliged to and always do provide the
traffic authorities with the name and address of the individual
who rented the offending car. They charge the credit card of the
renter a significant amount of money for doing this - sums ranging
from 16 up to 50 euros have been mentioned.
Many tourists who see this charge against their cards assume that it is payment of the fine itself, but in
fact it is only the administrative charge from the car rental
company. Note that this fee might be listed in two parts -
the charge and the sales tax (IVA, 20%). Don't mistake the IVA for
the admin fee and the admin fee for the fine. The reason the
rental agencies now have the right to collect this fee is because such a high charge for identifying motorists
made it uneconomic for the municipalities to pursue them when it was
the municipalities that had to pay the fee.
Note that in some cities (such as Florence, Bologna and Rome), the
traffic authorities request the renter's information via an electronic system
where the reason for the request is not specified. You will be
charged for this information transfer. It is likely but by no
means inevitable that a fine will follow. There is always an
additional 20% sales tax (IVA) added to the fine and there can be hefty late fees as
It is possible that some car rental agreements might allow the rental company to pay the
fine and charge your card for the fine, but this is usually not
the case -
see the example below - and indeed might never be the case.
Example: the Europcar contract General Conditions number 3
states: " The client undertakes:
c) to directly arrange to pay any fines raised against the hired vehicle during the period of the rental and to refund the Lessor any costs incurred in this respect, in addition to any payments made by the Lessor and the administrative charges quantified in the information sheets available at rental offices."
This suggests fairly clearly that at least in this case
the car rental company will not charge your card for the fine, only
for the administrative charges. READ YOUR CONTRACT if you receive a
fine - there seems to be no clear cut rule here. If you are sure
the car rental company will not pay and you live outside of the EU,
there's not much the Italian municipalities can do about an unpaid
Before the introduction of Autovelox machines, traffic police had a
certain amount of discretion and rarely if ever fined a tourist
for driving in a restricted zone to his hotel. In certain
neighbouring countries that depend heavily on tourism - I won't
name them on this web site - the police are SPECIFICALLY
INSTRUCTED not to fine tourists for trifling infractions when the
tourists' intentions are good. Unfortunately, to date, the local
authorities in major tourist destinations in Italy have not seen
the wisdom of this approach or at least have not thought of a way
to implement it in a practical manner. Indeed, the apparition of EMO
(see below) suggests that they regard fining tourists for driving
to their hotels as a legitimate method to augment their coffers.
Personally, I think they have not correctly assessed the costs and
benefits, but I have never yet heard of a local authority anywhere
in the world that gave up a good source of revenue except under
intense public pressure.
entering limited traffic zones (only)
are unreasonably duplicated for infractions within a few minutes of one another
as confused tourists attempt to locate their hotel or find
their way out of the ZTL. The thousands of bills for large amounts of money being sent out
months after the infraction to tourists in their home
countries are undoubtedly a source
of bad feeling and even a deterrent to return visits. The long delay before the
citation arrives renders the already onerous cancellation
and/or appeal procedure unreasonably difficult. HOWEVER,
with the introduction of new
signs at the entry points
(Florence - see below), it
has become less credible that tourists don't realise they
are entering a limited traffic zone.
Don't go running to on-line forums to complain about a
"scam". These fines, while unpleasant to receive,
are exactly the same as traffic fines the world over.
read this entire page carefully.
The consensus and official policy is that a car hire company will not pay your
fine. BE SURE TO CONFIRM THIS BY SPEAKING TO A PROPERLY
AT THE COMPANY YOU USED.
If you are unable or unwilling to apply any of the procedures
described on this page to have your fine cancelled, consider
(carefully) not responding and not paying. Your
action or lack of action might take account of whether or
not you live in the EU and how much you fear a negative
credit rating in the USA. We have seen
no evidence to date that true debt collection agencies are being
used to collect these fines.
There is unlikely to be any communication between municipal
traffic authorities and the national immigration service.
Next time you visit Italy, you can't be arrested at an
airport for not paying a traffic fine. Come
back to Italy soon - we like having you here.
What to do about it if you are ticketed and fined?
First - be aware that handling fees, bank transfer fees and late
fees rapidly add up to much, much more than the fine itself. In
addition, for some traffic fines, if you challenge and lose, you
have to pay double the original sum. If you are
still in Italy, take a speeding or parking ticket to any post
office and pay it. The amount varies (35 euros for parking in
the wrong place at the wrong time, 150 euros for speeding - that kind of
thing) but will surely cost less than any challenge you
might mount. If you are en route to or from your hotel in a
restricted traffic zone (ZTL) and are stopped by a traffic officer,
try to explain that you are in transit to your hotel. If a ticket is
nevertheless issued, discuss it with your hotel and ask them to send
your number plate details to the relevant authority to have the fine
cancelled. If you were photographed doing the same thing and receive the
ticket months later, there is one procedure you can try:
contact the hotel at which you stayed, provide them with the details
identifying your ticket and the infringement, and ask them to fax
the relevant authority (with a copy to you) explaining that on the
specified day you stayed in their hotel and hence were permitted to
pass through the ZTL. See "Limited Traffic Zones" below.
Not to pay a fine that is sent directly to you at your home outside
the EU (as opposed to having been paid by the rental car company
and then charged to your card)? If you don't
pay, the rental company might eventually pay the fine plus the late
fees and pass that on to you via your credit card company. Read
the small print of the car rental agreement you signed to see if
they give themselves the right to do that. If you no longer have
the contract, make contact with someone within the car rental
company who can speak authoritatively on whether there is any
circumstance where they would pay your fine. Make your final
decision to pay or not on the basis of that information.
Note that it won't help for you to cancel your credit card when
you return home. The date on which you signed your rental agreement and gave your credit card details
to the rental company will predate your cancellation and the car
contract will still be honoured by the credit card company which,
one way or another, will extract this money from you.
Friends - for you life became even harder in March 2007 when EU
regulations were implemented such that your local vehicle
registration authority can and will cooperate with the authorities
in other EU countries to locate you and deliver the citation. We
do not know whether they will assist in collecting the fine. We
have no information as to whether debt collection agencies have ever
been employed for this purpose.
Note that this means that the traffic authorities can and will trace
offenders who were driving their own cars. Until March 2007, you had
to be in a rental car and be traced via the rental car company.
In Britain, the DVLA is forbidden
to give details of UK drivers to foreign enforcement agencies.
the Italian and other police authorities across Europe have found a simple way to circumvent this rule. The DVLA is obliged to release information to anyone in the UK who has a reasonable cause to need it, so foreign authorities have simply hired UK companies to
pursue fines on their behalf. Probably the biggest is Euro Parking Collection
(EPC), which acts for municipalities across the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland and Scandinavia, and is running a pilot scheme with Florence.
EPC, like EMO, is more of a translation, notification and
collection service than a debt collector.
A designated collection agency called EMO
("European Municipal Outsourcing" www.emo.nivi.it
is following up many of these fines. If you were staying at a hotel
within a ZTL on the day of your infringement and EMO is handling
collection, you could ask your hotel to contact EMO confirming that.
You yourself should also provide EMO with the relevant details. If
the information provided is complete, your fine can be cancelled,
but you yourself should follow this up - don't just assume it will
EMO seems not to be a true debt collecting agency in the aggressive
sense but more an outsourced administrative mechanism. We have no
information on whether or not they can give you a bad credit rating
if you do not pay.
we have had reports that the debt
collection agency Intrum
sending out payment requests but so far this large and powerful
company seems to be used by at least one car rental agency to recover
money owed to the agency itself, such as the notorious admin fee, but
not the fines themselves.
For the USA, we have had a couple of reports that the the debt
attempts to collect unpaid Italian traffic fines. They state that
they are in alliance with TMC Group, a transnational debt
collecting agency, but seem to be without legal teeth.
Regarding fines paid by the rental car company and charged to your
card (if this ever happens), neither your card company nor the car rental companies will
assist you unless you can prove that:
- it was not you driving the
- you were staying at a hotel within the relevant ZTL on that day,
- you were nowhere near the area and that it was
therefore not your rental car.
The administrative charge made by the car hire company for
transmitting your details to the authorities is completely
legitimate cannot be challenged successfully.
Note once again that this fee might be listed in two parts -
the charge and the sales tax (IVA, 20%). Don't mistake the IVA for
the admin fee and the admin fee for the fine.
You are assumed guilty unless
proven otherwise (as with traffic offenses world-wide). Many municipalities provide access via their
web sites that enable you to see the relevant photographic and
other evidence, if they do not send it to you. If it's not you in the photo, a challenge will
succeed. If you receive a notice from Florence, you can
login here: https://ztl.comune.fi.it/tzv/Login.jsp
and view the photographic evidence.
Numero verbale: ---> number of the notification
(solo il numero senza lettere) ---> just the number without letters
Anno: ---> year
Targa: ---> number plate
Data violazione (gg/mm): ---> date of the infraction (dd/mm)
To check photographic evidence for Bologna, go to this web page:
notification that you have been fined looks like this for Bologna.
The first thing to check is that the number plate (targa) refers
to the car you were driving.
How to pay a fine:
As noted above, if you are fined while still in Italy, take the
payment form that comes with the citation to the Post Office and
pay there. The processing charge is very low - one euro or less.
Many POs close at 12.30 and don't re-open until next day. In some cases, you can
pay the traffic policeman directly and he will issue a receipt
that puts you in the clear.
If you are back home and the dreaded registered letter arrives, EU
residents and anyone living in a country where IBAN numbers
are used can login to their bank account and pay directly to the
bank account given in the citation. (BE
SURE that it is the IBAN of a municipality or EMO
- scammers are well aware of the possibilities here, but even the
cleverest scammer cannot know where you were driving on a certain
date eight months ago - the traffic department can know.) There will probably be some
identifying material (citation number, car license plate number)
that you should enter into the Reason for Payment or Comments
field. Intra-EU transfers are fairly inexpensive or free, especially when
using a PO bank account.
If you live in areas where IBANs are not in use (this
includes the USA), you'll need to go to your bank and make an
transfer (a "wire") or, if the citation came from EMO, go to their web
site, log in using the information provided in the letter they
send and pay by one of the
methods they offer. It's reported that they accept VISA and
How to avoid being fined in the first place:
Speeding. This is quite easy to resolve as far as the very
numerous speed cameras dotted along the motorways and country
roads go. Know what the speed limit is and keep your speed within
that limit as far as this is reasonable. Watch for the warning
sign (an actual and prominent sign on the side of the road -
below, left) and the white
stripes on the road itself, and slow down as you pass the camera
(all Italians do this).
The latter is housed in a large grey box and is easy to see
(below, right). Aside from generating revenue, this is the actual
purpose of these cameras - to slow traffic down, if not
everywhere, then at least frequently.
camera warning sign
Other common offenses are parking
in restricted parking zones contrary to the rules
in bus lanes.
Take the trouble to look for, read and understand the parking
signs. Almost all towns of any size in Tuscany have these parking
restrictions in their historical centres. Try to use the parking
areas (usually metered or with a custodian) provided near the entry points. In
many cases the latter are well thought out and convenient (at
Arezzo and Sansepolcro, for example).
(Restricted) Traffic Zones - ZTL (Zona a Traffico Limitato)
are a problem.
These zones are areas where cars with special permits only
are allowed to drive and are found in many Italian cities and
towns. The signs are present at the limits of the zones but not within
them, so that if you
miss the sign you don't get a second chance. In addition, they
sometimes apply only to certain hours on working days. Pisa is notoriously tricky - I recommend not
driving in the city centre of Pisa at all. In Florence it is crucial to be aware of the ZTL signs and
restrictions. Failure to
abide by the rules will cost 80 euros or more
you enter one of these areas.
here for the Florence ZTL map
for the Pisa ZTL map
ZTL sign to the right says:
This is the ZTL designated "A".
Traffic is limited between 8 am and 8 pm.
The prohibition applies to petrol and diesel vehicles of
Euro 0-1-2 (this refers to the exhaust system).
PA vehicles from outside the province.
Exceptions are vehicles of residents of ZTL Zone A and
others under some regulation OS.
Delivery vehicles under 3.5 tonnes may enter during the
New and much more evident signs are being
installed at the camera-equipped entries to the ZTL
in Florence. To date, these are located at via Romana-Piazza Tasso, Borgo San Frediano,
via dell'Agnolo and Corso dei Tintori. The lights
are red when the limitations are in force and the
notice is written in Italian and English.
It is permissible to drive to a hotel within the restricted
or to a parking garage, but IT IS IMPERATIVE
that the hotel or garage communicates your license plate number to the traffic
authorities. Do not assume that this will be done - ask them to make the call and then check later that it was made.
My advice is to ask your hotel about this before you arrive. If
they appear not to have experience in this sphere, then don't
drive in town at all. Use a taxi and rent a car from a location
outside the ZTL for excursions into the country. If you are
arriving by car from elsewhere, park outside the restricted zone
and walk or use a taxi to reach your hotel.
official instructions for Florence
Non-residents are prohibited from driving and parking within the ZTL at the following times:
On weekdays (Mondays through Fridays): from 7.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m.
On Saturdays: from 7.30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
in cars who need to travel within the ZTL
to reach their accommodation facilities
or a garage can obtain a temporary
access permit, although they should still
pass through the authorized ‘access points’
only, excluding the lanes reserved for public
transport and the pedestrian zones which may not be
used at any time. In order to obtain this
permit, the number plate of the car concerned should
be given to the relevant hotel (or garage) which
will undertake to forward the same to the
This permit will be issued for a maximum of two
hours for baggage transport purposes and, therefore,
only on the arrival and departure dates (a permit
may also be issued to tourists without a hotel
booking entering the ZTL to find accommodation).
For the rest of their stay, clients should park
their car outside the ZTL, in a commercial garage or
in the hotel’s own private garage.
Other peculiarities of Florence:
blue lines indicate open
(but very likely metered) parking. Do not park where there are white lines. These
areas are reserved for residents and those with special parking
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