ZTL for Dummies?

After years of enduring all sorts of variations on "Why haven't you been to Italy yet?" comments, I am finally going to cross the Brenner Pass this coming Saturday. My wife and I are driving, and staying in a small town deep within the Alps. We may visit some nearby cities such as Bolzano or Trento. So... in passing over the past several years, I've read threads about the dreaded ZTL fines, but never really paid particular attention to them. What do I need to know? Are the zones well marked? If not, of what do I need to be aware?

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7976 posts

Standard 'do not enter' symbol with 'ZTL' for emphasis. Chest to head high of a standing person. Hours in effect also posted. Usually the nature of the street will change (gets older, more narrow, etc) as well. They're all at an intersection so you have a divert avenue. Nothing to it, if you can read.

Posted by David
Missoula
100 posts

Tom, One thing to note is that the ZTL time limits vary from city to city. They are usually posted at the first entry point sign. What we would do is take a photo of the sign, so we could reference something later to know what the times were. If you miss the signs, which as Ed notes are pretty easy to see, you can also look out for the cameras, which typically are directly over the street. Cheers!

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7976 posts

Not only do the times vary between cities, different ZTLs in the same city can have different times. Alternatively, the cameras are mounted on the post that holds the sign.

Posted by Rosalyn
Berkeley
1007 posts

Sorry to disagree with Ed, but ztl's are not always at intersections with a way to avoid. In May, while trying to find our way through a town in Tuscany, we turned onto a narrow 1-way street. If I'm remembering correctly, it was in response to the directions given by our gps. At the end, far enough away so that I couldn't see it until I got close, there was a ztl sign. Faced with backing out going in the wrong direction or risking the fine, I made the quick decision to go ahead. Maybe I'll get one of those year-later letters. We also encountered a sign in Vicenza that was mounted much higher than Ed states, perhaps 8 or 10 feet up on a pole. That time there was a side street to turn onto. I'd advise you just to be extremely vigilant any time you near the historic center of any towns. Also, where parking is available outside historic walls, use it; and walk or ride a bus in.

Posted by Larry
Elk Grove, CA, USA
6719 posts

Here's a LINK to an article on the Slow Travel site about the ZTLs. It has pictures that give you some idea what you are looking for. Note that if you drive in Florence, most of the historic area is in ZTL zones.

Posted by Sasha
Bainbridge Island
1590 posts

Just do not rely on GPS for where to go. We encountered no ZTLs in Trento. Bolzano, do not know as we went by train. The first language there is German so you should be able to navigate just fine. If you are concerned park at the train station and walk.

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1508 posts

We've been driving in Italy for almost three weeks now and I can honestly say that it has been more stressful (for a variety of reasons) than any other place I've ever driven. When you are stressed, you miss signs. I think the simplest solution is to go nowhere near the old center with your car. As you approach anywhere near walking distance, look for the white-on-blue "P" Parking signs, then park & walk, even if that means you are a 10-15-minute walk from the center.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9131 posts

"Just do not rely on GPS for where to go." No problem there. After my TomTom insisted that I drive through cornfields to get to Burg Eltz, the last straw was when it directed me to drive off a loading dock into the Rhine. It has sat stored away in a box ever since, and I haven't missed it one bit.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2176 posts

Tom, we don't need to be on extremes. GPS do contain map errors sometimes, but on 99,9% of occasions they are helpful IMO. They ended one of the things I hated most about travelling: having to ask for directions for strangers.

Posted by sergio
trento, italy
5 posts

To the person who says there is no ZTL in Trento and Bolzano, it's not true! In both cities there are these areas and they are well marked. Only good thing, so far, there are no cameras, so if are in by mistake and no traffic warden has stopped you, no risk that you will receive a ticket once at home. Sergio
(Trento)

Posted by Beatrix
Calgary
1974 posts

As Sergio said ZTLs or something like that (streets with limited car traffic allowed) exist in almost every European town or city. Even the signage is quite similar as they always include the red circle + maybe some additional comments. The difference lies in the way those restrictions are enforced and the cost to those who fail to adhere to the restrictions.

Posted by Susan
Atlanta, Ga, USA
1463 posts

I agree with the advice Randy has given. That is exactly what we do when driving in Italy-never have had a problem. Ten years ago we drove through the center of Siena because the hotel did not tell us which porto to use and we did not have a decent map. That was a scary experience and before the ZTL postings.

Posted by mimi
Vancouver, BC, Canada
175 posts

Oh Sergio - I am SO hoping you are right about no cameras in Trento!! I've been expecting a hefty ticket in the mail after we caught ourselves in a forbidden zone in the centro. I was hunting for a street sign and lost my navigator skills for a moment et voila! we were in a pedestrian only ZTL in the middle of lunch rush hour. Not fun. Altho' we 'deserved' to be fined I am so hoping Sergio isn't leading us down the garden path b/c we weren't stopped by a warden. Of course, I wouldn't have noticed as I was hanging my head in shame - I had a print out from Slowtrav on the dangers of being
a stupid tourist in centros and here we were...

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2176 posts

Beatrix, there are not ZTL-equivalents outside Italy but in Spain (in very limited areas like old quarters, without camera enforcement) and just a few private rural roads in Austria and Germany. I'm half Italian, a citizen, and I'm part of a group that supports lobbying for the revocation of ZTL ordinances or even legal challenges to small cities trying to enact them, in the name of freedom of mobility using a legal vehicle.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9131 posts

Much ado about nothing, it turns out. Thanks for the explanations. I only encountered one ZTL on the entire trip, in Trento, and it was easily avoidable... I think....

Posted by Beatrix
Calgary
1974 posts

Andre, ZTL means zone of restricted traffic and that's something you find in A LOT of places. I grew up in Germany and still visit there regularly. I cannot think of a single town (other than tiny hamlets) that doesn't have a pedestrian zone. Those streets do allow vehicular traffic as well but that's very restrictive, e.g. for deliveries at night and in the early mornings. Same for the Netherlands. I used to visit frequently in Winterswijk and Enschede (I worked at the Euregio office at Glanerbrug for a summer) and there are those zones as well. Same for France where I lived for a year and drove as well. And the restrictions to enter the centre of London are pretty strict as well ... The general signage is pictographic and similar in all countries, the exceptions to the do-not-enter rule are the ones that are a bit more difficult to decipher. Thus, you are better off if you err on the side of caution. The big difference is really in the enforcement of the rules. And in this regard Italy is absolutely ruthless in the methods employed and it is certainly debatable whether that's really in the best interest of the country. We drove throughout Italy with a rental car and had never any issues with ZTLs. We found well marked parking lots well outside any ZTLs in places like Siena, Volterra, Pisa, Sorrento and then walked in ... Generally speaking we found driving in Italy the most stressful of anywhere in Europe we've ever been. But not because of the ZTLs but rather because of the sometimes extremely narrow streets (especially in Campania) and the way Italians drive ;-)