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10 tickets from Florence in ONE DAY (worth E1000)

Hi,
I have just received 10 tickets from Florence. Each one is for 95 Euro. For being in a restricted area.
I have no recollection for breaking the rules so many times.
And I really do not wish to end up parting with a huge chunk of money.
The car was rented through an international network.
What should I do?
If this was one ticket, I would have paid for it, but 10 of them?????

Posted by
345 posts

Oh, Andy. I am so sorry to hear that. Florence is notorious for that. Yes, that's one of the unexpected surprises of camera enforcement. The net is 100% effective (meaning getting caught is not random, it's guaranteed), but the frustrating part is the double jeopardy. Every time you pass a camera it catches you. A camera makes no distinction of whether or not you just got photographed one block back.

Visit this page for more info on traffic tickets in Florence:

http://www.bella-toscana.com/traffic_violations_italy.htm

That's just a start. I don't know how you ask to reduce the fine from ten separate incidents to one.

PS This is a useful page, although I don't necessarily agree with the conclusion. The draconian traffic fines/enforcement are only used in cities where absolutely necessary to preserve the historic centers from congestion (hard to imagine it being worse) and the corrosive effects of traffic exhaust on buildings and art.

Posted by
10 posts

Linda, I cannot find that topic. Search yields no results. Can you provide a link, please?

Kent, well, I kind of educated myself about what I may have done wrong. The question is: realistically, what happens if I ignore this? Cause something tells me I may be receiving dozens more speeding tickets soon. I really am not prepared to part with thousands of dollars worth of fines unless it is absolutely inevitable.

Posted by
345 posts

Hi Andy, the search function is terrible. Here's a couple of threads with recent activity. Sadly, people didn't report back on how their tix were resolved. That's why I recommended you PM some people who posted on these threads. [edited. See Kent's email for the links]

More FAQ than you ever wanted to know about traffic tix from Italy: http://slowtalk.com/groupee/forums/a/tpc/f/559601885/m/6461031724

By the way, the first website I gave you has some advice about how to resolve tickets, and consequences of ignoring them depending on your nationality.

Posted by
1 posts

I too have just received two tickets from my July visit to Florence! At first, not realizing whether this was a scam or not, I contacted the rental agency. Their canned response was that they cannot be of assistance. I also wrote to the Consulate in Florence but have not yet received a response.

We were just following the GPS directions (rented from the car agency) to get from Florence back to our villa in Inpruneta!

I haven't yet checked my contract to see whether the rental agency has the right to charge my credit card for all fines. I've been reading the various threads and am learning a great deal. Wish I had read them before we traveled there!

Posted by
204 posts

The thing to do is to not use a car in Firenze. Trains are a much, much better choice.

Posted by
3551 posts

Such a terrible memory for you. I would contact Florence board of tourism as a start. Hopefully you can negotiate and pay one ticket and they would waive the others. If you did not pay any they would prob flag your passport and your next visit may be a prob to Italy. good luck

Posted by
10 posts

i hated the trip anyways. it was the biggest disappointment in my tourist experience, ever. i just don't want to end up paying these obscure fines.

Posted by
4555 posts

Andy....the "out" may be proving that you were in a hotel in that area. If you can show that the cameras were in locations you were passing by to-from your hotel, you might be able to get rid of at least some of them. See Linda's first suggested website for more info. I believe there is a Florence will provide the info on where and when your photos were taken....you can cross-reference that with your hotel address at maps.google.ca and see what you come up with.

Posted by
365 posts

JS from W Ck, there is NO evidence to support a theory that non-payment means one's passport is flagged. I know you said "would probably" and I assume you are just guessing. But think about it in US terms...if you were an Italian tourist who received a parking ticket on your rental car in, say, San Francisco and didn't pay, do you think the SF PD would forward this information to the US State Department or whichever of the myriad of federal government offices concerns itself with such topics? Do you think the federal government cares whether or not tourists pay their local government tickets to the extent that they would set up a hugely expensive tracking network to "catch" those attempting to re-enter the country to go to Disneyland or Vegas?

I mean, IF the US government was interested in such a program, which they are not, they COULD pull it off. The Italians? Seriously. This would require the Polizia di Stato to have some kind of working relationship with the country's local police which is, to put it mildly, a bit of a stretch.

Posted by
365 posts

Sam? From Benicia? Aren't you the potty-mouthed dude sending those naughty PMs to those other nice people on this forum? If not, there's some other guy named "Sam from Benicia" that is totally trashing your good name.

In any case, I'm happy to answer all your questions. What do I suggest Andy should do? See next question. Should he just ignore the tickets and hope for the best? Yes. Are you making an assumption, or are you actually qualified to comment constructively to help the poor guy out? It's the latter, I have read everything available on the web on this subject, along with every post in this forum, and have come to the conclusion that North American residents need not fear repercussions from nonpayment. Andy will probably receive an additional letter after the first one, then they will give up. Of course, everyone has their own comfort level as it pertains to nonpayment of fines. I would always pay a parking ticket or traffic ticket of any kind here in the US should I receive one because there is no escape. But these Italian ZTL tickets? Nah.

(Edit 3/31/09: Evidently "Sam from Benicia"'s post has been removed, perhaps all his posts on this forum have been removed because he was a naughty provocateur of the troll persuasion. Accordingly, my post here has confusing context. We now return to your regular programming...)

Posted by
4555 posts

So Neil....we ignore laws when we think we can get away with it?

Posted by
10 posts

No doubt, there are many laws that are only being observed out of fear of negative consequences.
Paying outrageous taxes is one good example. Paying unreasonable traffic fines is another.

I understand that many laws DO make sense and help make our lives better and easier. But to say that ALL laws are presumptively reasonable is - to the very least - irresponsible. When the government is feeding me with unreasonable rules, the only thing that makes me obey are the consequences for not following them.

I don't necessarily think that EVERYTHING that the government does is good for me or is a smart thing to do.

Posted by
4555 posts

Andy...two points to make. Firstly, the Italians don't think the fines are unreasonable....and while in Italy, you are governed by their laws....not our laws and not your own personal beliefs. Secondly, if you can't motivate a majority of people to agree with you that a particular law is unsound or unfair, then the law stands....that's a democracy, and you live with the results. You don't get to pick and choose which laws you'll obey, and which ones you won't.

Posted by
365 posts

Andy, I agree.

Norm, to answer your question: "laws"...no. "Bad laws"...yes.

I can state with conviction that all laws are not intrinsically just. The overwhelming majority are. But sometimes The Man stubs his toe.

Of course it deserves to be mentioned lest someone accuse me of improper thinking that the country in which I was born and raised was created because some folks were sick and tired of The Man's stupid laws. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go don my "These Colors Don't Run" t-shirt. :}

Posted by
4555 posts

Actually, Neil, the country in which you were born and raised was created because the people didn't have a say in the laws that governed them. Once they did succeed in winning independence, the laws passed came from representatives of the people they elected...and continue to elect today. It's a democracy now, Neil...and you live with the results.

Posted by
10344 posts

"I can state with conviction that all laws are not intrinsically just."I think almost everyone is going to agree that not all laws are just (an obvious example being the state laws that used to mandate racial segregation)--but has Norm made the argument that all laws are just, or based his argument on the truth of that proposition? I don't know, he can tell us, I'm just asking. I quickly skimmed some of his posts and I'm not aware he has based his position on the truth of the proposition that all laws are just. If he has made that argument, then that argument can be rebutted or refuted; but if he has not, then this is refuting an argument that hasn't been made.

Posted by
10 posts

after re-reading his post, I still think that he implied that laws are observed for some other reason than plain fear of negative consequences.
I think he implied that this other reason is the belief in efficiency, reasonableness and fairness of these laws.

Posted by
365 posts

Kent, I was responding to what I felt was the point Norm was promoting which was that we don't get to pick and choose which laws we must obey. This is spillover from the same topic in the "To the Boot" thread. I won't argue that Norm states all laws are just. I'm assuming he knows of laws that are unjust but he chooses to obey them anyway and would recommend others do likewise. I got no beef with this. There are lots of fine people who think this way. If I've mischaracterized Norm's view on this, I'm sure he'll point out my error.

I would submit that the "founding fathers" rebuttal is shaky, because it implies that all you have to do to change bad laws is vote out the people who make them. If only it were that easy. Because it's not, people fight back when they can, in subtle ways.

If the Italian authorities were serious about collecting this money, they'd pick up the pace a little and get these collection letters out sooner than the 8 months or so it's taking. And they'd get real collection agencies on the case. With this lazy approach they get what they seem to be happy with...payment by some.

With the reputation Italy has for intractable bureaucracy, I assume it's even harder for their citizens to get bad laws changed than here in the US.

Not paying fines to a faceless government agency when we can get away with it is a pretty basic human trait. A lot of folks may not admit to it publicly because they think they might be accused of some kind of moral slackitude. I am not conflicted in this regard. It's reality. In the specific case, Florentine children are not going to bed hungry at night because some people don't pay their traffic fines.

Posted by
4555 posts

Neil...surely you jest! "it implies that all you have to do to change bad laws is vote out the people who make them. If only it were that easy." That's exactly what it means! That's the basic rule of democracy! Every couple of years, you get a chance to exercise that right! Why is it not that easy? I've seen massive changes in the way the United States organizes its society over the past half century, mainly by people who organized themselves to vote out those who were passing bad laws, and voting in those who would do a better job. It might not be perfect, but it's better than anything else out there. I get the feeling your cynicism in this regard is either a feeling of powerlessness, or simply an excuse to sit back and complain without accepting the challenge to try to change things.

Posted by
31271 posts

andy,

Sorry to hear about the ZTL tickets and also that you found your travels in Italy a "disappointment". The ZTL fines are one reason I prefer to use public transport most of the time, except for "strategic rentals" to see specific sites. Unfortunately there seems to be a growing list of cities in Italy that are using these, and I'm sure the "fiscal benefits" have been well noticed.

I somehow doubt that Italian authorities will establish ties with their counterparts here to enforce collection. However, depending on how serious they are about collections, it would be very easy for them to "flag" Passport or D.L. information and detain those that return to their jurisdiction. Hard to say whether that will happen or not?

Judy You might it interesting to read some of the discussions at ec.europa.eu/consumers/redress/eccnetwork/carrental_report2005.pdf, especially Section 8 (d) towards the end which states "You will pay the following charges - (d) All fines and court costs for parking, traffic or other offences (including any costs which arise if the vehicle
is clamped). You must pay the appropriate authority any fines and costs if and when the authority
demands this payment. If you do not, you will be responsible to pay our reasonable administration
charges which arise when we deal with these matters.

While these contracts may differ between countries, there seems to be some intent to synchronize these throughout the E.U. Virtually ALL of the rental contracts I've used over the last 40 years or so have stated that the renter agrees to pay all fines or traffic charges. By signing the contract, the renter is agreeing to this clause.

There doesn't seem to be any clear answers yet regarding what penalties may result for those who ignore the ZTL fines, but I suspect that authorities will eventually become more aggressive with regards to "revenue recovery".

Cheers!

Posted by
345 posts

I don't mean to be harsh or critical of anyone who has made a human mistake when I assert that people who say "..these fines are unreasonable" are--as Rick would say-- "trying to find America in Europe."

I remember in the early 70's I first heard the Coliseum in Rome was showing signs of deterioration from the corrosive effects of auto emissions. I thought it was a tragedy. Of course Florence's irreplacable art, monuments of history, and crowded historic center must be equally affected so extraordinary measures to control traffic are not all unreasonable. It's Italy-not Peoria.

I must say that I am truly astonished that nearly 40 years later anyone would think they should rent a car and try to drive in Florence! Holy Cow. I really don't understand. Really. I don't.

Even more astonishingly, the only concern that I read about is "whether or not I have to pay the ticket." Doesn't anyone else think it is very, very important not to drive in Florence, whether you can get away with it or not. No one?

I feel terrible for Andy, he made a mistake. Goodness sakes, I've made worse mistakes in life and I have not had to pay so dearly. (And I thank all you nice people in advance for not making me disclose what they are :> ) But, I have to say I am astonished that people think that it is reasonable to bring American attitudes about driving (always) and public transportatin (for other people to use-not me) to Florence.

Even so, it's also very reasonable for people to ask for leniency when they make mistakes, but it's kind of hard for Andy to ask for an appeal for 9 out of 10 Italian tickets from North America. It's not unfair for him to explore his options and the consequences of not paying--he's in a bad place. I have empathy. I wish you luck Andy.

Posted by
365 posts

A lot of good stuff here.

Ken, I'm not sure what the "administrative charges" are in the phrase you referenced, but if this was meant to say in plain English that the car rental agency would pay your fines if you refuse to, I would think this would happen promptly if the first letter gets no response. If anybody has an alternative viewpoint I'm glad to hear it, but it seems pretty obvious that this would be the case. I assume that most car rental agreements call for renters to take care of their own fines and won't charge their credit cards and turn these funds over to the authorities or this whole topic wouldn't even be discussed.

Norm, I envy your political system up there in the Great White North. Just vote them out, you say? That's some intoxicating altruism you got going there. Maybe you haven't been reading much news of goings-on down south of you in the last, say, 50 years, but we have some, um, shortcomings in the political integrity department. Oops, I fear my cynicism is showing again.

Now, I will say this...a forewarned and forearmed driver can map a route to the parking garage at the train station in Florence. In and out without a ZTL fine. There's no need for this "it's just CRAZY to drive in Florence" nonsense. People should not drive in Florence if they're not willing to do the work to plan their route in advance. Many if not all of the people complaining about ZTL tickets didn't know the extent to which these zones are a nearly complete dragnet around the city center. But now they know, or should.

The question proposed is this: should Andy pay $1,350 (give or take) in ZTL fines if the penalty for not paying is no penalty at all? If your answer is "yes" then I invite you to ask a thousand strangers, "Would you pay $1,350 in traffic fines if nothing happened to you if you didn't pay?" It's pretty simple, really. I'm just talking about reality here, not a moralistic construct that resides in the brain.

Posted by
10 posts

Norm. Please don't read into my words something I never said...

I do not slag the people of Italy based upon my experience with ZTLs in Florence. I hated the trip even before I knew ZTLs even existed. I learned about ZTLs several months after I came back from Italy. Tickets did not change my feelings towards the trip. They were more like: "Oh, the trip sucked, now they will want me to double its cost?" (something tells me Florence tickets may not be the only tickets I will be receiving, as I stated in my first post).

As for appealing the tickets. This site, as well as all the others, recommend this: if you leave an option for yourself not to pay the fines, do not contact the authorities. I will not be able to prove I was going to/from my hotel. Ignorance is said to not be a valid excuse. Unreasonableness of fines is not one either. So, what do you think I should do? Hire an Italian lawyer to fight those tickets? Fly to Italy with an interpreter? I mean we Canadians can be naive and all too righteous, but you really cannot be serious with all of this preaching. Or are you?

And yes, I am determined not to pay the tickets, unless I hear from someone who has had a first-hand experience in how non-payment resulted in some burdensome consequences.

The reason I joined this site was to seek someone with this first-hand experience. So far no one has had it. So I will be cautiously watching the developments...

And thanks to everyone who posts in this thread (including you, Norm).

Posted by
4555 posts

Should Andy fight those tickets? Yes he should. Should he even get down on bended knee and plead for a break? Yes he should. But, in the end, should he pay them? Yes. Once again, Neil, you try to divorce "reality" from "a moralistic construct that resides in the brain." But that's impossible. The laws of ANY country are based on that moralistic construct....how else are they formed? As for American politics, I seem to remember that the Republicans were tossed out in the 1976 presidential elections because of the "moralistic construct" of the Nixon-Ford administration.....the Democrats suffered defeat in 2000 in part because of the "moralistic construct" of President Clinton...and I seem to remember a pretty overwhelming vote last November when the people passed judgment on the Bush administration's "moralistic construct." P.S. I love Wales!

Posted by
365 posts

Norm, I suppose the answer to Andy's question depends on the context. He states, "What should I do?" which can be interpreted in a couple of ways, the first being, "Is this a legitimate practice or some kind of scam?" and the second being, "What happens if I don't pay 'cause I'd rather not part with a huge chunk of money." Since Andy has made reference to these "obscure fines" and has expressed the money as the driving topic, I assume it's the latter question he was asking. So my answer is "don't pay it" if it's simply a matter of finances. Andy's already pushed aside the moral issue, it's not relevant anymore. In fact, even one who thinks the fines SHOULD be paid because it's the "right" thing to do cannot argue with facts on his side that there would be problems if one doesn't pay. So you see, your appeals to moral uprightness are admirable but unfortunately are not pertinent to the question. Andy states he knows what he did wrong, this is different than others in the past who have asked a similar question who are simply trying to ensure this is not a scam before they pay. I was just trying to help Andy figure out what would happen if he doesn't pay this stack of fines, I'm pretty sure a primer on right vs. wrong is not useful information to him.

I submit that there are innumerable reasons for the creation of laws not based on "moralistic construct." Mainly, because of money and powerful special interest groups who create or maintain them. For example, we like to get lots of handguns into the hands of the populace down here in order to enjoy a lot of handgun violence. Many if not most people here think this is not a good thing. Not moral, even. But there's no chance at all any kind of real handgun control will happen. Not even close.

And I've never been to Wales, but I'm told it's a very nice country if not the best in the world.

Posted by
4555 posts

Neil....it's very simple....if "most" opposed handguns vociferously enough, the law would change. Our gun laws have become progressively tighter over the years for that very reason. And as for assuming Andy doesn't want to pay, consider his initial question where he asks what should he do. You may also consider this as an appeal for help to see if he can reduce the fines. As Andy said at the conclusion to his initial question, "If this was one ticket, I would have paid for it, but 10 of them?????"

Posted by
10 posts

To spare the discussion as to potential interpretations of why I was asking the question, Neil was right.

Moral side of the story is the LAST thing on my mind.

The one ticket that I would have paid, I would pay it not because I feel bad about the city of Florence taking too much of a damage from drivers, but because of the practical reasons. Simple fear - value analysis. If only 100E was at stake, I would have preferred peace of mind and paid it. Since it is more, I am willing to take a chance. What I needed to know is the extent of the risk.

Also, my trip to Italy convinced me that Italians do not really care about any of their legacy. They live like there is no tomorrow.

What killed me was Vatican museums (I know it is technically a separate state) where priceless works are placed in galleries with open windows (in the summer) and have powerful lamps directed right at them.

They are happy as long as people are willing to pay to see their ruins.

When they are gone, they will come up with something else.

If they REALLY wanted drivers out of streets of Florence, all they had to do was to set up pass-controlled swing gates.

Answering your implied question, yes, I think that the mere street signs are not sufficient, and the amount of tickets they give out only proves it.

So, yeah, the question was only about the extent of the risk of ignoring the tickets, because, Norm, you can't be serious about appealing those tickets, from Canada, in Italian, with the only claim being unreasonableness of the procedure, do you?

Posted by
4555 posts

Andy...sorry to hear that you believe the only laws that should apply to you are the ones you like. And sorry to hear you unfairly, and unjustly, slag the people of Florence and Italy based upon your experiences with the ZTLs in Florence. As for appealing the tickets.....have you even tried? I guess you don't need to though, since you're determined you won't pay them in the first place.

Posted by
10 posts

PS And yes, if I feel a law is patently unfair to me or is unreasonable, and I can get away with not being bound by it, I will. Behaving otherwise is flock-like. I don't have to eat everything the government treats me with. This is called freedom and individual responsibility. By the way, it is an implied human right to disobey unreasonable or oppressive laws. Tomorrow the government will pass the bill that for the purpose of fostering diversity, your first-born must be given out to a family of another race. Are you going to line up with your baby simply because "it's the law?". Anyway, I feel that this is getting me too far off-topic, but it is just that sometimes this holier-than-thou attitude really stupefies me.

Posted by
345 posts

I've often heard many Americans insist that Florence "should" have gates restricting access to ZTLs because that's the system we use here in the US for restricted properties e.g. commercial lots, military bases etc. And they assert the lack therof is "unfair." Again, that's applying American assumptions about equal access to the public right-of-way and "the way things should be" to Italy.

A LOT of towns have ZTLs--not just Florence--and even very, very small towns have small ZTLs. They just don't have cameras yet (so if you make a mistake you will probably get away with it). So, the point it's a way of life. Maybe it's a nuisance, but it's not an obscure trap. Italians know they can't just drive into the middle of any town they like. They live like this every day, everywhere they go, all their lives. So, they don't need gates to visually signal a ZTL-- just a sign. Given their different assumptions about driving, our assumptions are probably as puzzling to them as theirs are to us.

This is not very useful to those they have already come and gone and learned the hard way. My intention is to help people to leave their ingrained and unexamined attitudes about driving at home so they will have a better trip.

Posted by
365 posts

Andy, for the record, the advice I have given you IS based on first-hand experience. Just in case you think I am falling in on one side of a theoretical argument, I'm not.

In the event that I receive mail from Italy that offers a compelling reason to pay, I will let everyone know. Until then, I wait.

Posted by
31271 posts

Neil,

The words "Administrative Charges" were copied from the contract document. I suspect they're using those as a non-specific legal "catch all". For example, if one of their staff members has to spend time researching who rented a particular vehicle on a day when a traffic citation was issued, they could charge for staff time and pass that onto the renter? There are all kinds of ways these charges could be applied.

Cheers!

Posted by
365 posts

Yes, Ken...it seems clear that most if not all rental contracts allow rental agencies to bill administrative charges to a customer's credit card without prior authorization. If they were able to charge the actual fines to the cards also, I assume they would without further prompting from the police. Since they don't, I think they can't.

Posted by
4555 posts

Andy....I apologize, but it was you who made the wild comments about Italy while discussing the ZTLs. OK....I'm sorry that you had to unfairly slag Florentines and Italians in general for whatever reason.
You might consider the tickets unfair, and we might not find something like that in Canada. But you were in ITALY, not CANADA. When you travel abroad, you live by their rules, not ours. We expect foreigners to live by our laws here....that's the way it works. Don't get caught stealing in Saudi Arabia, because they may cut your hand off....and there won't be a darn thing that you, or the Canadian government, can do about it.
I don't know what steps you might take to try to appeal the tickets....maybe contact the Italian embassy in Ottawa? I'm sure they'll have someone who can speak English. But, hey, you're determined not to pay them in the first place, so maybe don't waste their time.
And I think you need to do a little review of the definition of a democratic society. I was astonished by your comment that "if I feel a law is patently unfair to me or is unreasonable, and I can get away with not being bound by it, I will. Behaving otherwise is flock-like......This is called freedom and individual responsibility." Actually, it's a great definition of individual irresponsibility. A democratic society doesn't mean everyone gets to go off and do what they like. It means you have a say in what laws are passed to govern society at large. In exchange for the protections that society gives you, you agree to live by the rules. And if you don't like them, you mobilize a majority to change them. While it is an "implied human right to disobey unreasonable or oppressive laws", I hardly think ZTL tickets apply under either category.....Nelson Mandela you ain't ;)

Posted by
1003 posts

I'm absolutely all for having traffic and parking restrictions in these small historic towns, and I absolutely believe that if you choose to drive in a place, you must learn and obey the laws. What I think is unfortunate is that they make it so hard to learn and obey them. God love LA, but they clearly warn you when you are approaching a stoplight that is photo-enforced, and streets with parking restrictions are clearly marked every few meters. It sounds like in Italy, especially Tuscany, it's nearly impossible to prevent yourself from violating some of these laws. If you don't memorize the ZTL maps in advance, there's not a damn thing you can do if you approach the area, and in another thread, someone reported parking in a completely unmarked parking space and got over 300 euros in tickets. That really is starting to reach ridiculous levels.

I'm saving every extra dollar I have to be able to go to Tuscany this fall, and I would like to rent a car for a week to explore some of the farther-reaching towns. It really would be devastating to me (well, to my finances) to then get home and have exhausted basically all of my savings on a dream trip and receive hundreds of euros in tickets, especially after really trying hard to learn and obey the local rules. They shouldn't bend over backwards to cater to the tourists, but making it a little bit easier would be nice. Now it almost seems like they're making it difficult on purpose so they can slam the tourists for gobs of money.

Posted by
15 posts

There's a lengthy page of info on this subject here: http://www.bella-toscana.com/traffic_violations_italy.htm If you stayed in a hotel inside the limited traffic zone, you have a very good chance to have the fines cancelled by sending in the relevant documentation. In some cities, these fines have indeed become scandalous because for technical reasons people are being fined multiple times for what is essentially a single infraction.

Posted by
345 posts

Debra, you won't get slammed for gobs of money if you do your research and if you refrain from driving into congested cities that are well served by public transit. More than just studying signage, keep in mind that American assumptions about driving don't apply.

Furthermore, ZTLs are not obscure or difficult to learn about. No worries. I'm not saying Italy is perfect, but as a practical matter you'll be very unhappy if you expect them to run their country the way we think they should.

Finally, remember renting a car has financial risks and anyone can make mistakes. You should always budget for this.

I'll cut it short here and direct you 1. to Kent's site about "Driving in Florence" that is in the "To the Boot" section. It's a start. Two other resources are 2. "Italy: Instructions for Use." Available on amazon.com and 3. visit slowtrav.com "Before you go: Driving in Italy."
Please visit other links provided previously in this thread.

A last word, driving in Tuscany is entirely different than driving in Florence. Don't confuse the two. The first is a reasonable choice, the latter is not advised.

Link: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/italy/why-you-don-39-t-want-to-drive-in-florence

Posted by
1003 posts

Oh yes, Linda, I know all that. As soon as I started planning preliminarily, I have read extensively. I was referring to things mentioned in an old thread that was bumped today, where Carl reported receiving over 300 euros in tickets from parking in a space in Pienza that had no signage. I posted here after Kent directed the discussion from that old thread to this one, which is more recent. I would never eeeever drive in Florence, regardless of driving and parking restrictions - the two taxi rides I took in Florence were enough to convince me that my life would be in danger LOL. I agree that with all of the info out there, anyone who drives in Florence, Rome, or even Siena is asking for trouble in a lot of ways.Yes, it seems "easier" to drive in Tuscany, but these small towns still seem to have a lot of unmarked restrictions that seem to be able to catch even diligent and careful tourists. I'd never know not to park in a space that has no sign :(Save for preparing maps where you somehow mark all the places in EACH town that show where you can and can't drive AND park (a very time-consuming and daunting task), I think it'd be nearly impossible to learn all the places you can and can't drive and park beforehand in every little town. I personally find that amount of money in parking tickets for parking in an unmarked spot is reaching the point of gauging.Most other major expenses that could arise with renting a car would be covered by insurance, such as damage, medical expenses, etc. It seems nearly impossible to plan in advance to get slammed for hundreds of euros while you're there or worse, months after you get home. For a lot of us these trips are a once-in-a-lifetime thing where we save for years. To do a lot of careful planning and still get tickets of those amounts is nerve-wracking to me as someone who's planning a trip to this area.

Posted by
345 posts

I'd like to publicly say I was hard on you in my last post Debra. I speak emphatically not so much for you, but because I have seen so many distressed people like Andy show up so many travel boards for so many years, I risk being blunt if it can help someone.

Although life isn't always fair and corruption always exists I don't think you should obsess about that. For the most part, people who received terrible fines are the ones who didn't do their homework before they go. Slowtrav.com has a entire article about parking, how to interpret the signs, what the different color lines mean etc.

Yes, driving is a hellacious amount of research. I spent hours on this. My husband spent even more. And driving was still stressful at times. You are thoughtful enough that I think you will be able to manage driving in Tuscany.

Posted by
190 posts

Ok, first hand experience: If the tickets are not paid, the risk is that you will not be able to rent a car from the company you rented from before.

Additional first-hand experience: In English, I wrote (typed), stated my situation, and received a very polite letter exonerating me from the fine. (I had only one.)

Can't promise what your situation would be if you contacted the authorities sending you the notices of the fines, but now you know mine.

Posted by
10 posts

Jo, do you mind copying and pasting the letter you sent to the authorities here?
thank you

Posted by
1 posts

Jo...I have been reading all of the posts after I just received two tickets in two days from our July 08 trip to Florence. I appreciate your first hand experience. We rented our car in Florence after arriving by train, touring the city by mass transit and then leaving the city for Perugia and Assisi. We followed the route to and from the car rental place (that was drawn on the map by the man at the rental place) along a very busy street with cars and plenty of scooters. A few days later we returned the car and took a train to Rome. Somewhere along the way, in all that heavy traffic, we incurred a ticket on the way out and on the way back into the city. When I went on the www.emo.nivi.it site and viewed the pictures of our violations it showed the back of our car and a small portion of the asphalt...no other points of reference etc. but the asphalt had a piece of paper on the street that was present in both photos and in the same location next to the car although the violations were 2 days apart. I swear it looks like the exact same photo between both violations. The problem is we drove one way out and obviously the opposite side of the street back in. Go figure! Maybe I am missing something but I don't see a site where you send your appeal. I guess at this point I am waiting to see if any more violations will arrive in the next few days...frankly Andy's story of 10 tickets is scary...Andy did they all arrive on one day? I contacted the Italian Consulate in Chicago and their response came back the same day stating that:
"This parking ticket is very strange. Usually the street fines are notified by this Consulate General to residents in our territorial jurisdiction.
It's advisable you to get in touch with the U.S. Consulate General in Florence for assistance.
Sincerely
Legal Office
Consolato Generale d'Italia Chicago"
So I have e-mailed the Consulate in Florence and will await their response....thanks for all the info!

Posted by
17930 posts

I've been following this site for almost 10 years now, and there has been one common thread all that time, Italians ripping off tourists. It's pickpockets, it's cab drivers overcharging or palming big bills, it's waiters adding things not ordered onto the bill, it's phoney hotel room inspectors, it's fake leather coats, the list goes on and on, and it's far more often than not, in Italy. I have never heard of the Italian government running sting operations to try to stop it. Why should they? If money is taken from an American, they just go to the ATM and get more. We're rich. It's ok to steal from the rich. It brings more money into the Italian economy.

Now, after years of doing nothing to stop it, the governments have decided to get in on the act. If they really wanted to stop people from driving into those zones in Florence, they would post the signs in English too, not just for American but for most tourists, because, like it or not, English is the common language. But then non-Italian would see the signs and stay out, and they would lose all those lovely fines.

I for one won't get caught, because I will never visit Italy (except maybe the Süd Tirol). There maybe some neat antiquities in Italy, but it's not worth getting ripped off.

Posted by
345 posts

Now I'm really, really, really sorry to have brought this back up to the top.

Note to self: I gotta learn to create links like Kent does...

Posted by
345 posts

I guess it's time again. I think we all have avoided bringing this back up to top, but the inquiries keep comin' in...

For OP in "To the Boot"

Posted by
2297 posts

Why does it have to be in English? The proportion of tourists in Italy with English as their mother tongue is something like 10%. Instead the signs can be understood no matter what language you speak:

This means in every European country "don't drive in here". If there is an additional sign below in the language of the country the sign is located at it would give you exceptions. However, as a tourists chances are extremely slim that those would apply to me so I simply stay out. Very easy. I can obey a sign like that in Italy, in Greece or Finland ... and I don't speak any of these languages. Just because I need to stay out of those streets with my vehicle doesn't mean I have to stay away from the entire country.

However, in one respect I agree as well: if you've never driven in Europe before Italy is not the best place to start doing so.

Posted by
17930 posts

"The proportion of tourists in Italy with English as their mother tongue is something like 10%"

Actually, it is probably more like 16%, but whether it is their "mother tongue" does not matter? English is the common language of tourism in Europe. The proportion of tourists in Italy who do not understand Italian is more like 96%. The proportion of people in Europe, overall, who understand English is more like 50%, whereas the proportion of non-Italian people in Europe who understand Italian is about 4%. Italian is a very, very insignificant language.

In most places in the world, that symbol simple means that the person is a virgin.

The important thing is that the local authorities know, or should know, that tourists will not understand that it is a non-transit zone and will get caught. The fact that they continue to fine them is not an attempt to keep people out of the zone. It is an blatant attempt to scam money out of tourists.

Posted by
345 posts

Well, ahem, Italian is not a insignificant language in Italy! Do I really need to say this?

You seem to be forgetting Italy is a real country, it is not a historic park for tourists. It's meant for Italians.

Oh, man, you're all cursing me for bringing this back up to the top...mea culpa. mea culpa..

Posted by
2297 posts

Lee,

my point is that if there is a symbol that in ALL OF EUROPE has the same meaning, is understood by all Europeans without having to know any of the languages spoken in Europe why would you demand that it should have an English explanation? If a tourist doesn't even bother to understand some of the most basic traffic signs no amount of English writing will work.

I have to take the same precautions driving here at home. Yesterday, I actually had a very difficult time driving downtown and finding a parking spot because I couldn't read the traffic signs. They were covered in snow ... but instead of simply parking on the side of the street saying "oh thats's just a scam of the city" should I get fined I drove around till I found a readible sign that did allow me to park. And in downtown Calgary it's as impossible to get out of your car to have a closer look at the signs without getting run over by the rest of the traffic as it is in Florence. Mind you, parking in Calgary is a good deal more expensive than in Florence even if you obey every single sign ....

Posted by
17930 posts

"You seem to be forgetting Italy is a real country, it is not a historic park for tourists. It's meant for Italians."

I would be ok with that as long as Italy did not promote itself for tourism, as a park for tourists, but they do. As long as they do, they should not view tourist as sheep for the shearing, and use every trick in the book to take their money. They should treat their tourist with respect, and not exploit of their lack of knowledge of the language to take their money.

Posted by
17930 posts

You can see a list of the traffic signs in Europe (at least those used in Germany) here. Just one more thing to worry about if renting a car in Europe. That's why taking the train is such a good idea.

However, someone posted a link here a while ago to a picture of one of the speed camera warnings (maybe here). It was written in Italian and did not have any universal symbol.

Posted by
10 posts

hey, why is nobody complaining about speeding tickets? because that is the risk we consciously take. we KNOW what the speed limits are, even though the signs look differently than in North America.
With speed signs Italians make them visible and actually make it possible for tourists to comply.
With limited area signs, it is a totally different story. It is the road authorities' responsibility to organize traffic in a way that could reasonably be complied with, including by those who visit the place for the first time. That is - if the purpose of the limitations is to ensure safe driving and limit traffic in particular areas. The Italian authorities are doing a good job if their purpose is to collect fines from tourists, but they fail spectacularly if their purpose is compliance with the rules.

Posted by
2297 posts

Lee,

you show yourself how easy it is to find information in English that explains road signs. So do it before you drive! I googled for a couple of seconds and found this very comprehensive site for Italian road signs.

I think this link on Italian Traffic Tickets has been posted before. It also includes pictures of the speed warning sign and speed camera housing if you scroll down a bit. I don't speak Italian but it didn't take me long to figure out that "blah blah blah ... velocita" would mean something about "velocity" and since those signs always turn up with these ominous housings the logical conclusion for me is that it's a speed warning. I think it's actually quite courteous of the Italian government to mandate those camera warning signs ;-)

Of course you may argue that as a driver it's pretty hard to keep your eyes on all the new surroundings, traffic, new signs .... but the person in the passenger seat can help you as well - work as a team. And a GPS can take one more worry out of the game as well. And if you don't have a passenger? Well, then I'm with Lee: there are very few cases why renting a car as a single traveler in Italy would make sense.

I'm actually surprised how few questions are asked on this board about traffic rules in Europe BEFORE leaving. Maybe I missed it but I'm still waiting, forinstance, for a question about priority rules in unmarked intersections. Very different from country to country. I can tell you I've answered that question for German travellers going to Northamerica quite often but never here.

Posted by
1767 posts

For those of you still fighting this...

If you rented from an "American" car company (Hertz, Avis etc...) You might try going to www.flyertalk.com and posting on the applicable board there.

I will tell you that I have read posts on there where international travelers were charged for the tickets on thier credit cards. Off the top of my head, I don't recall if it was all Europe or other "international" locations.

And to decide that "you" are the law LOL! I do think the other risk is that you are "flagged" by the rental car company. (And that does happen. My brother has a coworker who can't rent from Hertz anymore LOL!)

Posted by
365 posts

Wales is beautiful this time of year.

(edges toward door)

Posted by
1 posts

We got a couple of these tickets too. They seem wrong for the following reasons:

  1. We didn't know we had violated the law because no cop stopped us and because, unlike red light camera tickets, it's not an internationally well-known violation.

  2. You can get multiple violations for the same very short trip because no cop stops you.

  3. The amount of the ticket is to high for a relatively non dangerous violation (compared to running a red light, for instance) and it's multiplied too greatly by the number of same violations on the same short ride.

  4. The notice comes so late after the violation.

We haven't decided whether we will pay the fines. It's hard because we are very law-abiding types. In any case, we will not go back to Italy because it has left a bad taste in our mouths to receive these tickets (for the above reasons) after we spent so much on the trip. I would advise anyone going to Italy to reconsider going there, but certainly don't rent a car if you go. How shortsighted of the Italian city governments to fail to understand the problems with these tickets.

Posted by
10344 posts

"We will not go back to Italy because it has left a bad taste in our mouths to receive these tickets * * * I would advise anyone going to Italy to reconsider going there, but certainly don't rent a car if you go."

Sorry to hear about your Florence ZTL tickets. Your feelings are understandable. I wish you'd known about the Helpline before you went, because we're trying to get the word out: not a good idea to drive into the historic center of Florence.

A slightly different recommendation to offer to others would be: Go to Italy. Take the train. Even rent a car if you want to explore one of the few areas not served by train, such as Tuscany. Just don't drive into the historic center of Florence.

Posted by
638 posts

Andy, I'm not going to get into the morality of whether to pay or not to pay, but having lived in Italy for 2 years, trust me, they'll never catch up with you. I-oops- "accidentally" left without paying a couple tickets, and I don't fear going back at all. I have a friend who got in a car accident (while living there) about 6 years ago, it was declared partly her fault and partly the other driver's fault, but her Italian lawyer said not to worry about it as she'd be long gone before anything got to her. I talked with another person (american) married to an Italian who finally were going to court for a legal matter after 17 years. The wheels of justice-or injustice- grind very slowly in Italy.....

Posted by
1 posts

I know this post has been quiet for some time but I was hoping for some advice. My story is as follows:

I lived in Rome for 3 years and often drove to Florence and was aware of the ZTL zones. I entered the E ZTL Zone by accident last June. I knew the zone was open between certain hours and in certain seasons but did not know the details. My Italian is fair but that sign was so small it took me a minute to read it. When I realized I shouldn't enter I couldn't backup do to traffic. I entered about 50feet and made a U-turn and exited.

I am a university student and I honestly don't have the money to pay the ticket even if I wanted too. Furthermore I will not be able to secure the required funds in the 20days allowed according to the letter I received. I wish to fight the ticket if only to delay the payment period a few weeks until summer jobs start. I have, however, read that if I loose the fine will double. Can anyone verify this fact. Has anyone been charged directly by the rental agency?

Thank you for the help

Posted by
10344 posts

"I have, however, read that if I loose the fine will double. Can anyone verify this fact. Has anyone been charged directly by the rental agency?"

We have not had follow up, here, concerning whether someone's fine has doubled. This website click here has advice on some of the questions you've asked (scroll down and you'll see the "what to do/your options" section).

Florence stands out as the city in Europe with the most aggressive policy on ZTL violations--sending people as many as 10 violations for a day's worth of driving (see the original post on this thread, from Andy in Victoria). A decent argument can be made that this is excessive; their computer photos would show that the same license plate drove by 5 cameras in 2 hours, and many other cities would, apparently, choose not to send out 1 or 2 tickets instead of 5.

I can't recall a post, here, from anyone in North America, who has reported having their credit rating impaired for non-payment.

To answer your last question, it appears that, in Italy at least 95% of the time, any charges put on the driver's credit card by the car rental company, have been for the "administrative fee" of disclosing your name and address to the Italian enforcement authorities; and that the credit card charges have not been for the fine itself. I say 95% because a few people think their credit card charge was for the fine, but the prevailing opinion here is that the rental car companies are not forced to pay the fine and therefore don't charge the fine to the credit card, because they don't pay the fine. (I don't know why the Italian authorities haven't seized on this means of enforcement, but I guess we should let sleeping dogs lie.)

Good luck on this.

Posted by
365 posts

Regarding Florence ZTL violations, here are the facts in my case:

  1. Two violations 7/07
  2. First letters (regular mail, not certified) received 2/08, I ignored them.
  3. Second letters (also regular mail) received 9/08, ignored these also.
  4. No further correspondence from Florence.

I'm not advocating paying or not paying, just citing personal facts.

Posted by
1 posts

I just recieved a Christmas card via registered mail from Florence requesting 120 Euros for driving in a restricted area in April of 08.I will ask for dismisal of the ticket with a document from the hotel I stayed in which was within this zone. lotsaluck Last year the auto rental agency I used during that trip wanted 350 dollars for damages that occurred during an "accident" that I was in..(it never happened) When I asked them for the police report and time and date of this event they backed off. Drivers Beware

Posted by
2828 posts

For anyone driving in Europe, I recommend spending 40-60 minutes familiarizing yourself with the European traffic signs and the entailed restricted road signs of each country, blank speed limits etc. It doesn't hurt (you can print and entertain yourself during flight with that) and helps you avoid these problems. ZTLs signs are oblivious, clear and always displayed. The problem is just that many drivers blankly follow their GPS and forget to look out for signs, not only for ZTLs, but also for the 2nd most common cause of fines in Europe: ignoring city perimeter signs that means a 50km/h speed limit.

Posted by
12040 posts

OK, since this zombie threat has yet again managed to resurrect itself, let me see if I understand the situation, having never been to Italy. Was this a matter of driving on roads that are completely off limits to all traffic (usually indicated in most of Europe by a red circle sign), or driving on roads that are restricted to everyone except residents or people with legitimate business on that street (in Germany, indicated by a sign that reads "Anleiger frei")? And shouldn't there ALWAYS be a sign to mark it in either case? If there is no sign but a camera to catch people, I can understand the outrage. Just asking because my wife wants to do a driving trip to Umbria this spring. If I'm going to get fined for violating an implied traffic law, I would probably like to know in advanced.

Posted by
25548 posts

This is one of the oldest Zombie threads we have - from 2009. I expect that Andy has dealt with his problem by now. If you want to speak about a current problem the best thing may be to start your own thread. That way poor Andy does not have to be reminded about his misfortune evry time somebody dredges it up for another random post.

Posted by
2932 posts

Nigel, It's usually considered good forum equitette to revive and old thread if your question or issue is related, as opposed to starting a new one, which will usually just lead people to link back to the information in the old one anyway. As far as spending an hour familiarizing yourself with signage, I'd actually recommend much more than that. As a U.S. citizen here under SOFA we're all required to take a several-hour-long class and pass a test, a huge part of that test being road signs. I passed on the first try after studying, but I still find driving here somewhat confusing and I've been doing so since March. I understand that there are some places in Europe that are really only seen well by car but man, this is one of the reasons that unless you have to, I really recommend not driving and relying on public transit/trains if you're a tourist. Germany is supposed to be relatively easy to drive in compared to say, Italy.