Why you don't want to drive in Florence

Florence hands out a $125 ZTL fine about every 2 minutes - 450,000 in 2008. They use automatic cameras that photograph your license plate as you drive past a camera into the ZTL (zone of limited traffic, which means if your license plate isn't in the city computer, you get a ticket). The ZTL basically blankets the historic core area of Florence. Each ticket is about $125 plus fees and many have received multiple tickets in a period of a few hours. The current record holder on this site got 10 tickets for $1,250.
The link below gives more information on the ZTL's and has a map. It also explains your options if you've already gotten a ticket(s) in the mail: Driving into Florence isn't a good idea

Posted by Neil
Lake Forest Park, WA, USA
364 posts

Thanks for the heads-up on this, Kent. I have been a proponent of not paying these fines in the past. Having read every word of the web page you linked, I am now absolutely convinced this is the correct approach.

Contrary to the info on the web page, the second notice letter is not always registered.

Posted by Kent
Pacific Northwest
6809 posts

This is a quote from the webpage:
"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."

Posted by Norm
Ottawa, Canada
4555 posts

Neil...you may want to read the rest of the quote that Kent filed after your response...and why is it the "correct" response? You may also want to check Ellen's entry below. "In October 2007 we rented a car in Italy. A year later a $90 charge appeared on my Amex bill for a traffic ticket. The rental car company billed my Amex card in March 2009 for $50 as an "administrative fee" covering the cost of providing information to Italian traffic authorities."

Posted by Rosalyn
Berkeley
1011 posts

Add Vicenza to your list. We were staying near there in April. On our first visit to the city, my husband suggested we try to get closer to the historic center than the garage a couple of blocks outside the walls. I spotted the ZTL signs (thanks to all the discussion on this site) within a block of driving in, and I immediately beat a hasty retreat. I'm not sure if I intruded into the forbidden area or not, but it's getting close to a year. . . By the way, if you are going, we followed the centro signs. There is a large park just outside the historic area where the garage is located. There's very clear signage. There's also a garage near the train station. Rates are not too high.

Posted by Doug
Portlandia
3290 posts

Even though the post itself goes on a bit of a "Italy's out to soak tourists" rant at its end, it confirms that the ZTLs penalize residents of these cities as hard as anyone.

Hey, the city governments took advantage of an inexpensive technology to reduce illegal traffic in the precious historic centers of these towns. Is anyone really arguing that we'd like to see the medieval character of Florence, Pisa, Lucca, Arrezzo, choked with traffic?

Posted by Doug
Portlandia
3290 posts

Surprisingly unremarked upon in all these discussions is that Italy has posted photo radar on the Autostrade. The cameras have warning signs a half mile or so away and they're also marked on Viamichelin's maps. But I think they've had the effect of slowing traffic down from the famous excesses of the past - which is welcome when one is driving an underpowered Fiat Punto instead of a Ferrari.

Posted by Neil
Lake Forest Park, WA, USA
364 posts

Norm, to answer your question specifically...it is the correct response, for me, because my car rental contract did not provide for the agency paying fines I would incur. Other people I can't advise. I don't know what an Amex card is. Is it American Express? If so, I didn't know people still used those. With all due respect to Ellen, I don't assume she was charged $90 for a traffic ticket. These ZTL tickets are more than $90, and she was probably charged the fee for providing info to the police.

As Kent has pointed out, even some Florentine politicians believe their hand is a little too heavy as it pertains to the frequency and amount of fines not fitting the crime.

Speeding is a different subject. Everyone knows what speed limit signs look like and where you should expect them. I cannot empathize with those wishing to avoid paying speeding tickets.

Doug, regarding your contention that "the ZTLs penalize residents of these cities as hard as anyone," the article confirms nothing of the kind. It is silent on the subject of the ratio of fines issued to locals as opposed to tourists. I do note however that it states that the fines "are unreasonably high, unreasonably duplicated and, by accident or design, selectively and unfairly penalise tourists." Perhaps you can offer a different phrase that supports your theory, but I didn't see one.

Some things in the article don't bear up to scrutiny, math-wise. The first paragraph in the box should read "90 tickets every hour" instead of "90 tickets every minute" if one is to believe the setup for this calculation which is a violation every 40 seconds. Also, 1,253 tickets per day does not get you to the 860,000 tickets per year claimed. I do note the 40:1 ratio of parking/speeding tickets. Italians are not characteristically a slow-driving people. Dare I suggest that the parking garage-searching, lap map-consulting, semi-hysterical wife-listening, low-hanging foreign fruit is being targeted?

Discuss.

Posted by Doug
Portlandia
3290 posts

Neil - my point was made by the first part of Kent's post that you quoted - Florentine politicians say the traffic fines are too heavy handed.

The quote you selected about hitting tourists hard was from what I labeled a "rant" from the conclusion of the blog post.

Nobody has yet said that the fines fall harder on tourists than residents. The cameras simply record license plate numbers and the municipalities send fines to the owners of records. What must occur, not surprisingly, is that collections of the fines are turned over to an agency that has figured out how to go after the rental car agencies. As this article, and others recently posted here have said, collection of local traffic fines are becoming enforceable by international convention.

And, finally, I will observe, that Italy does a good job of posting warning signs in its ZTLs and on the Autostrade - albeit in Italian and with unfamiliar symbols to Americans (crossed hammers mean working days to Europeans, not vague Communism to us). If Portland posted parking and traffic signs in clear Italian, I'd be more critical of traffic policing in Italy.

Posted by Neil
Lake Forest Park, WA, USA
364 posts

These discussions we've had on this topic usually start with, "I've received this letter from an Italian collection agency stating I have received a driving citation. Should I pay it?" The useful information in the article pertaining to this question are the following: "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."

Moral issues and schoolmarm finger-wagging set aside for the moment, I believe these quotes are factual. Unless one's car rental contract specifically states your credit card can be charged for the actual fine, there is no repercussion for nonpayment. Allusions to one's credit rating being affected pertain only to not paying your credit card bill, nothing else. EU residents have more considerable challenges, but the article confirms what I believe which is that unless those attempting to collect these fines enlist the services of a "true collection agency" operating in the US or Canada, North American residents need not fear any repercussions for nonpayment.

My point is that unless your credit card company is forced to pay the fine for you, there is no reason to pay these fines either from fear you would have to pay it eventually with additional penalties or fear about unpleasantness in Italian Customs on future visits. But if you feel paying is the right thing to do, by all means go right ahead. In any event the effectiveness of collection letters sent by EMO to North American residents are based on their official looking-ness rather than any real gravitas to back up the threat.

Posted by Norm
Ottawa, Canada
4555 posts

Unfortunately, Neil makes certain assummptions about Ellen's post that are incorrect. If he had checked the entire quote, he would have seen she was charged a further fee by the rental company for "processing." As well, to suggest that one's credit rating can only be affected by non-payment of credit card bills is nonsense. Any outstanding debt not paid can affect one's credit rating. I have a mortgage and a car payment, bills for hydro, water, electricity and the like, none of which I pay by credit card....but if I don't pay them, my credit rating can be affected. And why does he dismiss AMEX? Of course people still use them...I use my AMEX constantly for business expenses and, yes, I call it an AMEX card. Neil also makes the indefensible point that, if it's not illegal or enforceable in your home country, then you're not responsible for your actions while abroad. When we travel to other countries, we assume the obligation to honour their laws. I hear countless stories of Americans and Canadians facing penalties, including death, for crimes in other countries that wouldn't face the same serious punishment here...and they seem truly amazed that consular officials can't simply spirit them out of the country to the safety of home. If we want visitors to obey our laws then we, in turn, must do the same.
This touches on the "moral finger wagging" that Neil tries, unsuccessfully, to separate out from this discussion. Our laws are a reflection of our moral stand on life. We outlaw certain things and accept others based upon the moral code of conduct we freely choose as a western democratic society. The issue of obeying a law and morality cannot be separated....one is a reflection of the other.

Posted by Neil
Lake Forest Park, WA, USA
364 posts

To answer your question, Kent, my opinion is that it certainly does matter. Look...the Italian authorities in these historic cities did not create the relics housed in their fine museums. They did not even build the museums. They took no part in constructing the historic buildings and parks. They maintain them, which costs money. These items ended up residing where they live, and they get to reap the benefit of millions of tourists who wish to drop a fair amount of cash in their laps for the privilege of viewing them. Sure, the official intent of ZTL laws is to "protect" the downtown areas. Does this mean these laws cannot be abused? I submit that they can. Some Florentine politicians agree. I'm sure many locals agree. I can understand how there are people who believe everything the government says you should do, you should do. I'm not one of them if it seems unfair or doesn't pass the test of reason I've constructed in my mind or if the penalty is not great enough.

Norm, you can sputter all you want about slacking morals. It's not a coercive argument, but I hear ya buddy.

Posted by Norm
Ottawa, Canada
4555 posts

Neil...I don't splutter...and I said nothing about slacking morals. Perhaps, once again, you may want to actually read through what I and others actually said, rather than making wild assumptions about what you THINK we said. My argument is actually very simple....trying to separate the moral argument from the legal argument is just an excuse to justify not obeying a law that you may not happen to like. Despite your claim that "there are people who believe everything the government says you should do, you should do. I'm not one of them," you're locked in your society's values just like the rest of us....you don't get to pick and choose which laws you obey, and which you won't.

Posted by Norm
Ottawa, Canada
4555 posts

Kent....interesting figures. If we can assume they are correct, and since the overwhelming majority of traffic in Florence is Florentine, or at least Italian, then we can probably assume that the overwhelming majority of ZTL tickets go to locals or Italians. Not exactly an argument that tourists are being especially targeted...and how can an inanimate object target someone or something specific anyway?

Posted by Neil
Lake Forest Park, WA, USA
364 posts

Norm, I don't disagree with you. However, I think one cannot discount out of hand the degree to which governments, local and otherwise, entertain various degrees of corruption. The theory of "government by the people" is valid if you accept the notion that if folks don't like what their legislators do, they can vote them out. This is a quaint notion. Perhaps even more so in Italy. In the specific case, it seems the Italians are unable or unwilling to stem the amount of unwanted ZTL traffic, but instead of addressing the official problem they choose to ignore it because they have grown accustomed, dare I say addicted to the revenue it brings. Despite the hue and cry from residents and tourists, they don't change the system. Besides, tourists aren't voters so why care about them? Call me cynical, but whenever money is involved you cannot tell what behind-the-scenes machinations take place. Government often creates nonsensical, unfair, intractable laws and the only recourse for Joe Public is to ignore or avoid them when possible. Here in Washington we have a similar problem with the state controlling a monopoly on the sale and distribution of alcohol. Everyone agrees the laws are archaic and ridiculous, but state government is addicted to the money. It doesn't mean the law makes sense, it simply means governments sometimes use the power of law in terrible ways. Populist uprising in these situations runs up against well-financed special interest groups who stand to lose MONEY. It's a laughingly lopsided contest.

But if you want to promote the idea that all laws are good or they wouldn't exist, I won't disabuse you of that idea. You're welcome to it.

The bottom line for the ZTL issue is that overwhelming evidence exists that US (and probably Canada) residents who don't pay ZTL fines will suffer no repercussions. This is simply a fact uttered without any "right" or "wrong" sentiment attached.

Posted by Linda
Petaluma, Northern California
345 posts

All interesting points and discussions.

But, I'd like to emphasize the most important take-away of this article is that we should not indiscriminately apply North American cultural values about driving to driving in Italy.

So many people drive to their hotel because they have "fear of public transit" and because that's what they would do here. They complain the "The rental agency never told me about the ZTLs!" (Why should they?) They decide the ticket isn't fair because it took too long to arrive! The fine is disproportionate to the crime-- therefore it's all a scam!

No, it's not a scam, it's a different system and a different culture and different values about your personal right to drive anywhere you want whenever you want.

I disagree with this website's rant that the fines unfairly target tourists. I think that ZTLS are only used in places that are so over-congested that they are vital and necessary to protect historic structures and art from corrosive auto emissions. Most importantly they preserve the quality of life for tourists and residents alike. I can't imagine how Florence could be more congested than it already is, so if anything it appears traffic enforcement isn't effective enough. Ouch.

The lesson to be learned is don't drive in Florence--even if you think you can get away with it--because Florence doesn't need your traffic. Respect the place that you love so much you will travel across half the world to visit by using transit to get to the center. It's important and necessary and we all thank you for it.

And if even if you don't agree with the website, I think it opens your eyes that you are not in Kansas anymore. By the way, most people on this board get that, but I'm always amazed by people who don't do their homework before they rent a car. Driving in another country is serious business.

Posted by Connie
Everett, WA
827 posts

I have to agree with Kent. The stories I have heard about people getting multiple tickets because they were lost seem excessive. I believe in the golden rule...and I hope we in the US never treat visitors who are lost as some people have been treated in Italy. There is something to be said for the "human" touch i.e. someone reviewing these tapes and deciding the appropriate fine instead of just heaping the tickets on because it is legal. I also agree with the article on whether this is best for tourism. This may all be legal and therefore there is little we can do when we get a ticket. However, Italy may find they won the battle but lost the war.

Posted by Neil
Lake Forest Park, WA, USA
364 posts

Linda, sometimes the best reply is no reply at all. Very masterfully done, and I applaud your avant-garde approach. (golf clap)

Posted by Linda
Petaluma, Northern California
345 posts

Given this critical acclaim I will have to rank this as one of my most useful and popular posts-- which once again demonstrates that Less is More.

Hmm. Now if only I could get that point across in those "My Europe Itinerary, please comment" threads...

Posted by Debra
Los Angeles, CA, USA
1001 posts

The subject is a bit misleading ;) because this is all useful information for those of us who might/will be driving there in the future! I did not realize some of the smaller cities also had ZTLs. I have been reading many guidebooks as sort of cursory initial research (Rough Guide, Fodor's, Eyewitness, etc.) and none of them mention ZTLs for example, in San Gimignano, Lucca, Arrezo, etc. (I'm reading about Tuscany, so those are the cities on the list that I would've noticed). What the guidebooks DO provide is information regarding parking lots (generally, but not always, outside the cities' walls). my concern is, is it safe to assume that if you're parking in a lot outside the city walls that you will avoid the ZTL? That's my biggest problem with the ZTL, that in some of these cases, it's hard to even do the research. I think if you drive in a city like Florence or Pisa that is very well connected with public transport, you kind of get what you ask for. But some of these cities are very commonly visited by those simply staying in an agriturismo for a week, staying away from the big cities (on purpose), and really have to have a car to get around. And I have no problem with the ZTLs, I think they serve a purpose beyond bringing in money, but it would be nice if they made it easier to find maps of the zones and if the guidebooks advised of lots and specifically informed us which ones are "safe" to access. I'd rather have to walk a mile uphill in a hilltown in Tuscany and at least know that I won't be hit with hundreds of dollars in tickets when I get home from a trip.

Posted by Connie
Everett, WA
827 posts

When I researched this, I found several attempts online to post where these zones are. When you are not familiar with the area, it is like trying to read greek. The map of Florence that Kent posted is about the best attempt I've seen. Your best defense is to study what the sign looks like and always be watching for them when you are in a city. We literally went on "sign alert" whenever we were anywhere near a downtown area.

Posted by Robyn
Junction City, OR, US
252 posts

When I planned my trip to Italy, this is exactly why I decided to take public transportation and my own two feet everywhere I went. I did not want to have to worry about traffic zones, traffic laws I didn't know, signs I didn't understand, etc. I did not have the freedom to go where I wanted, when I wanted, and I spent a fair amount of time in train stations waiting for trains. However, I lost 8 pounds in 15 days from walking so much, despite eating half the gelato in Italy, and I saw a LOT of buildings, people, scenery, and got a LOT of wonderful photos of said objects from walking and not having to pay attention to all that stuff. I am also thoroughly convinced that if I had driven anywhere in Italy, and if I were lucky enough to find a parking spot, I would still be there trying to get OUT of the parking spot! Wow; I was amazed at the parking abilities of people over there! :)

Posted by Francis
Eugene, Oregon, USA
445 posts

Here is something that I have recently found to be fascinating. You'll need a broadband connection.

Google now has a feature called "Street View." It is amazing! They drove 360 degree cameras all over the world, recording the images you would see at street level and on many of the streets in Florence. You can get a sense of what it is to drive in Florence just by rapidly clicking on the forward arrows.

I'm addicted to it like a video game and can see exactly what the roads are like and how a route will appear. Florence is well covered.

Its amazing stuff...

Posted by Clinton
Yaounde
2 posts

Here is my problem with this system: I received more than $600 in penalties WITHOUT KNOWING that I had done anything wrong. IF the goal is to reduce traffic in the city center (something I support wholeheartedly), the system should be set up to keep people out. Instead, the system is set up to hand out multiple fines. I have found many many posters on different sites who (like me) received REPEAT fines for the SAME infractions. This means the current system is FAILING if your goal is to reduce traffic (because many of us ended up driving through) but SUCCEEDING if your goal is to raise fines. As a tourist, my goal is to respect local customs/rules and avoid shelling out big bucks unnecessarily. Despite my best intentions, this system helped me do neither. I broke the local customs (unwittingly) and am being pressed to shell out more than $600. I hope Florence will take the time to review this system to help it achieve the goal of sustainable, tourist-friendly tourism.

Posted by Debra
Los Angeles, CA, USA
1001 posts

Just to play devil's advocate for a moment, Clinton... you got $600 in fines, that probably means if you go back to Florence you wouldn't drive, right? So, you will bring one less car into the center of Florence and thus reduce traffic. Of course, if you had read the warnings and become familiarized with the iron hammer that is the ZTL before you went, you probably would never have brought the car into the city in the first place. That'd be the ultimate way to reduce traffic - make the ZTL so evil and scary that all tourists are afraid to drive in and don't even bring the cars in to start with. They're reaching that point quickly, it seems. (I'm being a bit tongue-in-cheek here)
That said, I agree that these multiple infractions are ridiculous and extraneous. Surely, there could be some computer system implemented so that people could - at very least - only receive one infraction per day. If the camera picks up the same license plate multiple times, it could just cancel the extras out or something.
That also said, the ZTL is being mentioned in more and more guidebooks now. I've just been reading a whole bunch and it's in all of them in some way or another, so it's not just Rick fighting the good fight anymore, and tourists who do any modicum of research should be finding out about this beforehand. Perhaps guidebooks need to go one step further and suggest people return their cars at FLR airport and bus/taxi into the city to avoid all chance of a ZTL violation (that's what I'm planning on doing this fall). If, after heeding (or ignoring) these warnings, people still insist upon driving into Florence (which I still don't understand why anyone would even want to do), you have to take the law as it currently stands, and as it currently stands at least in Florence (and from what I've read on other boards, Pisa too), it is VERY strict.

Posted by Claire
bergamo
401 posts

All these moral arguments aside you are forgetting something fundamental. Florence is famous for its traffic, the A1 outside Florence is constantly backed up, for hours at a time. Now take Florence itself, packed with tourists, residents, delivery trucks, etc. Can you imagine how awful it would be if there were no deterrents to keep people from driving in the center? The smog would be unbearable and the traffic would be bumper to bumper. Florence is an ancient city, it was built long before things like parking lots and traffic flow had to be taken into consideration. It is pointless to compare these fines to what happens in North America. North America is huge and new, with all the space you need for parking lots and driving in city centers. If the "injustice" of ZTLs make you so mad, then don't go to Florence. Honestly, people want Italy to be one way: old, quaint, pretty cobblestone streets, beautiful scenic views. But yet they want to be able to access all this by parking as close as possible and with the minimum inconvenience to themselves. You can't have it both ways. I used to live in the historic center of a town and when there were traffic blocks on the "No Smog Sundays" if we went out with the car we couldn't get back to our building with our car until after 7 when the traffic block ended, or we would get a fine. That's just how it was, and I'm a tax paying resident of the town!

Posted by Linda
Petaluma, Northern California
345 posts

Not quite so relevant for Pisa, but bringing this to the top spares us from going through this again and again... Multiple questions about Pisa ZTL tickets recently...

Posted by Bobbi
Athens, Georgia
65 posts

My husband and I took our second trip to Italy in January-February 2008. We picked up a rental car in Pisa and spent the next 9 days driving thru Tuscany and Umbria. I had read all about the ZTL's before our trip. In Siena we stayed outside the city walls but in Orvieto we stayed at the Hotel Duomo. We had to drive in to drop off our bags and then the manager parked our car offsite. I've been reading all these postings and felt rather smug and wondered how people didn't know about these ZTL's. We have just returned from Italy where we didn't rent a car - just used the train. I was checking my Capital One recent transactions and discovered a rental car charge! It was from the rental car company we used last year. Like I said we never violated the ZTL's, so I'm wondering if our hotel did not notify the authorities like I assumed they would, like everything you read says they will. Has anyone had this happen, where you didn't violate the ZTL's but have now had this charge?

Posted by Kent
Pacific Northwest
6809 posts

Bobbi, 2nd reply to your question about ZTL's and why didn't the hotel notify the authorities: Here's a quote from the webpage linked in my OP: "It is permissible to drive to a hotel within the restricted traffic zones 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." here's the website from which the quote came

Posted by Bobbi
Athens, Georgia
65 posts

Well, it will be interesting to see what we are fined for. Actually, when we got to Orvieto (if that's where the problem occured) we parked our car, walked to the hotel, checked in and then drove the car to the hotel, as instructed by the desk where we unloaded and then they parked our car. I suppose it's also a possibility that we got a speeding ticket. Like I said it will be interesting to see what the fine is for.

Posted by Derrick
Los Angeles
3 posts

A few weeks ago I received 4 notices of payment from the European Municipality Outsourcing. Three of them were for "circulated on roads reserved to other vehicles and indicated by traffic signs" and one was for "the vehicle circulated in limited traffic area without authorization"

I had my car parked at a garage next to my hotel in Florence inside the city. The garage acknowledged that they forgot to notify the authorities (how convenient that is). I have a letter and receipt from them as well as notes from the hotel pertaining to this issue.

My question is: Are all these ZTL violations? So can I fight all of them or jut one?

I'm not sure what "circulated on roads reserved to other vehicles and indicated by traffic signs" means

Your reply would be greatly appreciated.

Posted by Kent
Pacific Northwest
6809 posts

Derrick: This is the best information we have on the subject pertaining to your question

Italian website on Florence ZTL violations & whether or how to contest them

Scroll down and you'll see the part pertaining to your question. I don't think it's going to completely answer your question.

We have not had anyone report in here that they were able to successfully contest a Florence ZTL violation.

My guess is that all the violations you received were for ZTL violations, even though worded differently (but that's just a guess). My guess is based on the stats given at the top of the website: that 54% of the 860,000 total traffic violations issued by Florence in 2008 were for ZTL violations.

Good luck on this.

For others: We keep trying to get the word out here:

Not a good idea to drive into the Florence historic center for a day of sight-seeing

Not a good idea to sleep in the Florence historic center if you have a rental car

Derrick knew about the ZTL's and took diligent action to comply with the rules--but he got nailed with 4 violations anyway.

Florence handed out 458,000 ZTL violations last year. That's about one ZTL violation per minute, 24/7, 365/year. Think you can beat the system? The city fathers of Florence hope you'll try your luck.

Posted by Roe
Reston, Virginia
398 posts

In planning a trip to Northern Italy for the summer of 2010, I have been thinking of picking up a rental car at the Pisa Airport, basing at a Siena hotel just off the superstrada, using it for day trips to Volterra, the Crete Senese, and Cortona before driving via autostrada to the Venice Airport and dropping the car there. In making the day trips, we would park at the lots shown in RS' book, lots outside the city walls. But the more I read about the ZTL thing the more worried I get. Given how difficult it is to figure out exactly where the prohibited zones are, I am starting to think of going to the South of France instead...in general I always take trains when I visit Europe, but the tiny villages are very very tough to do without a car. Am I overreacting? Could it be as simple as "don't drive inside city walls" to avoid getting belated presents in the mail from Italian local governments?

Posted by Derrick
Los Angeles
3 posts

I just logged into www.emo.nivi.it to check on the violations, 2 out of 4 were on Via Senese for driving in lanes dedicated for public transportation.

The pictures they provided only shows the back of the car from the top, which is basically the rear hatchback and the license plate. This is really pissing me off.

I was in Florence for 10 days. My car was parked at a garage. I drove via Rome, and then Venice to Florence. I decided to drive the car only twice while in Florence, once to go to Sienna and the other to San Gimiano, that’s it. And while very much aware of the ZTL's and other crazy traps they have. I still got these violations. There is no way on earth I was driving in bus lanes or any other thing like that. I was extremely careful. Honestly this makes absolutely no sense.

So that’s a total so far of $600 for 4 tickets each equivalent to about $150 dollars, and Europcar the rental company charged me a total of almost $300 (about $75 per violation) for administrative fees to report the info to the police. Now that’s a rip-off. I contested this back in August 08 with American Express, and 30 days later they reversed the charges saying that Europcar did not provide them with sufficient evidence to warrant this. So I won on that part. Now about a week ago I receive a letter from Intrum Justitia (Italian collection agency) on behalf of Europcar saying that I owe the original charge plus fees and penalties, now almost $360.

If these were speeding tickets, or something similar to this, I’ll be ok with that, but to charge this insanely amount of money for this kind of stuff, that’s beyond rip-off!!!

I am a straight shooter, my mom is Italian and for the first time in my life, I feel like not paying and telling the Italian authorities to go screw themselves. Come on Italian Government… Be reasonable!!

Posted by Bobbi
Athens, Georgia
65 posts

Well yesterday I got the bill in the mail from Europcar and it had listed what the traffic violation was including the date and time. We got hit for driving into Pisa to reach the Hotel Kinzica. I assumed the hotel would contact the authorities - obviously not. The thing is, in all the stuff I saved from last year's trip I actually have the parking slip the hotel gave us with the date and time stamped less than 5 minutes after the time of the violation. So, I do have documentation to back up my claim but you wonder what your chances are of beating this sort of thing. Plus, either way I can't get reimbursed for the Europecar charge. Rather aggravating all around.

Posted by Bobbi
Athens, Georgia
65 posts

Yes, I understand that all I've gotten so far are the charges from Europcar - not the actual fine. More fun to come. I've read your other postings and links and the thing that I seem to remember the most was that if my appeal is dismissed they will double the fine. So now you have to decide whether to appeal or not. HMMM, what to do, what to do? Since I have my documentation including the parking stub from the hotel that's date and time stamped within minutes of the time that's listed on the violation I think I've got a leg to stand on, but who knows. We shall see.

Posted by Derrick
Los Angeles
3 posts

I have been communicating with the European Municipality Outsourcing (EMO) regarding the alleged four moving violations I received while in Florence. I e-mailed them my documentations, which included receipts for the parking garage, receipt from the hotel and a letter from the parking garage indicating that they had a system error and did not notify the authorities to let them know that my rental car was parked there.

I received an e-mail back from them, basically stating that the documentation I provided does not help, therefore if I want to appeal, I’ll have to do this through the Perfect of Florence, and if I lose the appeal the fines will double.

I e-mail back saying that one of the fines was for a ZTL infraction and I provided more than enough to prove that I had to enter a ZTL zone in order to go to my hotel. They replied saying that the fine issued for the ZTL cannot be cancelled because the infraction is neither on a check-in nor a check-out day. Therefore it cannot be cancelled.

The funny thing is that my brother and his family were with us in Florence and drove another rental car. I had a GPS with me so he had to follow me on those 2 trips while in Florence. He was diving immediately behind me and only received a ZTL infraction but none of the other ones “driving on restricted lane etc…” so how crazy is that!!

As I’ve indicated in my previous post, I only drove the car twice while staying in Florence for 10 days. I was ready to pay the fines, but now after all this, I’m no longer going to pay them a single penny, let them come after me. From everything I’ve read through dozens of posts, I feel very confident that there is nothing they can do.

Posted by Neil
Lake Forest Park, WA, USA
364 posts

Tagging just a little more onto the last sentence of Derrick's post, it's not that there's nothing they can do, it's just that they choose not to do it.

I mean, along with simply dishing out attitude and officious nonsense when presented with salient facts concerning innocence, as described by Derrick.

Posted by Francis
Eugene, Oregon, USA
445 posts

Just got back from Florence and the Hill Towns. We had a motorcycle and paid no attention to the ZTLs; of which, we went through many. They don't like you parking, even with a motorcycle in the yellow line ZTL spaces though, but we got off with just a stern warning. You can't go ANYWHERE with a Motorcycle. As I learned the hard way. There are government buildings that are not on any maps and the Security gets VERY edgy if you drive though those as a short cut.. :)

Posted by Darcy
Lewiston, Idaho, USA
1202 posts

Hmmm, Francis, it will be interesting to see if you receive some tickets in the mail within the year. I certainly hope not but it could happen!

Posted by Julia
Lawrenceville, Georgia, Usa
8 posts

I have a Rental car, for use in the Tuscany area. I am returning it to Florence, But not the Airport location. I do not Intend to drive in Florence, but How will I return the car, without going through A ZTL?
Thank you...

Posted by Francis
Eugene, Oregon, USA
445 posts

No Darcy, they can't fine me for anything regarding the ZTLs. Its in their our language and in their own laws. Motorcycles and scooters are not part of the ZTL rules, these are specifically excluded. Ya gotta embrace the exceptions in Italy. The white spaces are all free and there are many spaces set up for Scooters/Motorcycles.

I love it, since you can drive a bike right up all those hills that car drivers would otherwise have to walk. And you can park anywhere so long as its not in a yellow line or a ped area.

Posted by Lisa
Seneca
60 posts

We have to pay 150 euros for driving into center of Florence. I will never ever ever drive into that town again!! We were VERY careful and used a GPS and it "just happened".... Also, we were there in July of 08 and will pay ticket this month, 15 months after the fact. You can run but you cannot hide~~

Posted by Francis
Eugene, Oregon, USA
445 posts

You mean, "Don't drive there in a rental car." There are other options.

Posted by Scott M.
Dallas, TX, USA
1166 posts

One other thing to add about the Florence ZTL is that the ZTL consists of 5 interconnected zones. Passing from one zone to the next within the ZTL will get you a fine on each occurence. So, even though you only pass into and out of the ZTL once, you probably will end up getting multiple fines for crossing through several of the 5 zones contained within it. It's a racket.

Posted by Neil
Lake Forest Park, WA, USA
364 posts

Car rental agencies charge for the task of providing driver information to the police. The actual infraction fine, a much larger amount, is the responsibility of the renter. The agencies will not pay this amount to the police and charge the credit card you used to pay for the rental. It's not unreasonable to assume that the agency will pay your fine if you do not, but they don't. If they did, I would expect to see a whole lot of people stating that their agency paid the fine after a certain amount of time went by, but so far I haven't read an account by anybody stating their credit card was charged for a Florence ZTL fine.

There are many reasons to pay the fines, but doing so simply because of fear the car rental agency will do it for you if you don't pay is not one of them.

Posted by Paul
Cedar, IA, USA
2383 posts

If I may kindly respond to Clintons point, while the logic may seem sound infraction-no immediate notice-no chance to "reform", it misses the point that the ZTLs are set up more for residents, than for tourists, and in fact, much of the purpose is to make the city centers appealing to tourists. If you are a local you certainly would learn from your mistake (yes everyone gets ticketed, not just tourists)

I can certainly say that Florence is much more pleasant this year than years ago.