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Florence bus fines

I am in Europe for five months, going through 25 countries. (Only 90 days in Schengen, no need for advice about that) Planning/executing this has been overwhelming.

I am starting out in Italy. Rome was awful, so I moved on to Florence because everyone told me it was better. My camera was stolen in Rome, so in Florence I headed out to Media World, which seems to be a Best Buy. I bought a ticket, and took the bus to the tram. Media World had the exact phone I had from the US. Happy day! I did not follow Rick's advice that travel insurance is optional, so I will be reimbursed the $450 for the camera.

To return to the hostel, I bought a ticket and took the tram to the station to catch a bus. I knew to take #17, but there are a lot of #17 (A, B, C) and it was trial and error "asking" drivers if I had the right bus. I finally found the correct one. When I was nearly to my stop, a ticket inspector checked tickets, and apparently tickets are only good for 90 minutes, and I was 15 minutes past that. He wrote me a ticket for 50+ Euros. He was a jerk (I am finding that par for the course in Italy) and said tickets were not for all day. I showed him my ticket to the camera shop as well as the return ticket and explained, he did not care. I did not buy one ticket and try to use it all day.

When I returned to the hostel, the staff said not to pay the ticket. They are Italian and have these tickets, nothing happens. I looked online, and other Americans said not to pay them, Italy can do nothing. I have tried to know/follow all the rules here, this was an innocent mistake. While I would normally pay fines, this one seems extreme. Has any other American left one of these tickets unpaid? Did anything happen?

Since Rome was awful and Florence is not much better, to be safe I canceled my time in Florence and Venice, I'm headed to another country tomorrow. Yay!

No need to lecture me about safety. I am wearing a money belt, cash in a silk pocket in my bra, my daypack is a Travelon that latches up so tight I have a heck of a time getting things out. In some ways it is the extreme security measures I took are part of the problem, it is difficult to get things in/out.

Posted by
16878 posts

Being on the road for five months, it's good that you have the option of some flexibility in your plan. But the whole thing could become dismal if you can't "clear the slate" and get a fresh start each morning for your new adventure. I'm sorry that you're skipping Venice, because it's my favorite. Over years of traveling, most things that have gone wrong have either faded from memory or become funny stories.

I understand that you bought two bus tickets but I'm not sure how more than 90 minutes elapsed on the return ticket/journey. That time usually starts when you activate the ticket onboard, but it may work differently if you buy from the driver. It seems to be pretty much any ticket inspectors' job to be hard-nosed, since a lot of people try to game the system.

Posted by
8293 posts

Pay the ticket, for Pete's sake. If you can afford five months in Europe you can afford to pay. Make your country proud and do the right thing.

PS Rome was awful? Florence was, too? In what way were they awful? I hope the next countries on your 5 month trip meet your expectations and are not awful.

Posted by
5464 posts

Sorry to say that if at the beginning of 5 months you dismissed Rome and Florence based on a bad experience (You were in the wrong for the bus ticket) and decided to skip Venice without giving it a chance, then you are in for a loooooong 5 months after you get tired and have less patience after a month or so of travel.

I would take a deep breath and make the best effort to enjoy what comes along. I have had some bad experiences on the road, most of the time I brush it off and look for the positive in your experience. Myself, I would follow up the ticket with a post about a lesson learned and go get a Gelato, looking forward to a few good museums the next day and a good meal.

Posted by
11613 posts

Pay the ticket like a big girl. You were wrong, there's a consequence.

Enjoy the rest of your trip without carrying extra baggage (unfinished business).

And read the Community Guidelines about asking for advice (or giving it) about flaunting the laws of the countries you visit.

Posted by
2353 posts

I would just pay the ticket and lesson learned. I see this is your first post here - I suggest you spend some time on this site - it is chockfull of tips and strategies to help make your trip everything you wanted it to be.

Posted by
12788 posts

Pay the ticket. No, the authorities cut no slack for 'innocent' mistakes, and that's been written about ad nauseam on these forums.

I'm also curious about why Rome was "awful" and Florence "not much better?" Because your camera was stolen and you were fined for breaking a law? Great cities, both, with so much to see. Hope you saw some of that.

Posted by
3932 posts

Rome can seem intense if this was your first time in Italy. But, put everything into perspective.

Negative: Your camera was stolen; Positive: you had insurance
Negative: You have a bus fine; Positive: you're on vacation

I'm predicting that if you're generalizing that people are "jerks" in Italy, you're going to hate your entire trip. And, you admit the planning has been overwhelming. Please, give yourself "a vacation" from your vacation! Take a day off and head to a smaller town, enjoy some relaxation at some outdoor cafes, stop in a museum & stroll through a park. Clear your head of your initial locations. Each country you experience will have their own culture, so try to be polite and courteous and enjoy such a great opportunity to see so much in these countries. .....and you're definitely missing out if you bypass Venice!

Posted by
31319 posts

alicia,

The fines for ticket infractions are very common in Italy, both for Buses as well as trains and metro. I don't agree that the ticket inspector was a "jerk", he was simply doing his job. I've seen inspectors on the trains exercise some leniency, but I've also seen them apply the "hard nosed" approach and fine the errant passengers. It's incumbent on visitors to any country to do some research and be aware of the rules, and you could possibly encounter similar situations in other countries that you'll be visiting. Based on your description of the situation, you did break the rules and therefore the honourable thing to do is pay the fine.

I'm surprised at your perception of Rome and Florence as both are incredible cities, each with their own interesting personality and history. Even though Venice can be terribly crowded at times these days, it's so unique that it would be a shame not to see it when you're in the area, even for a day or two. Perhaps your expectations of Italy were different? I always get to Italy each year, regardless of where else I might travel in Europe, as it's one of my favourite countries.

Posted by
8293 posts

No word from the OP, no doubt she is off paying her fine.

Posted by
3 posts

Norma, most of my time here is volunteering for a church project, but I have a bit of time to travel at the beginning of the trip, and I will visit friends in Copenhagen and London at the end. I am not rich. If I were rich I would be on the Conde Nast website, not Rick Steves. However, rich or not was not really the question. I was berated on a bus and forced to sign a document in Italian. I asked what it was at the hostel, and was told what it was, they do not pay them, and I should not either. I wanted to check that advice out, but those not knowing the answer offered nastiness or lectures about how wonderful Italy is.

Rome was awful. I only mentioned the stolen camera part to give context to what I was doing in Florence. I hated Rome, and it gives me peace knowing that all proof I was there (photos) reside on a SD card in what I think of as a camera shaped coffin in Rome. There was no reason to enumerate why I hated Rome. I left it there, Florence was starting over. However, what happened in Rome and my day in Florence was enough of a pattern for me to pull the plug on Italy.

I realize that Italy chooses to be hard nosed and not help tourists understand. They choose not to see a difference between riding a bus with no ticket and someone confused overstaying it by 15 minutes. That is their prerogative! However, if I am not enjoying the small vacation part of this lengthy trip, I should leave. Not only for my sake (I deserve to enjoy at least a sliver of my time here), but also to refrain from spending money in places where I do not agree with their policies/practices. It is a common practice in the US to refrain from patronizing businesses with policies and practices you do not agree with, it is calling “voting with your dollars”. It is a logical choice to vote with my Euros and leave Italy. There are plenty of people who love Italy or have a favorite city there, Italy will survive. There is no need for me to risk misery because everyone ELSE loves it. Had I stayed in Italy, I would not have experienced the unplanned loveliness of Slovenia.

I am off for lovely Lake Bled. If you have not visited Slovenia, it is divine! :o)

Happy travels!

Posted by
862 posts

There is nothing extreme with the fine as 50€ is pretty standard fine for not having a valid ticket on public transportation (same in Munich). You admit to being over the time limit so the right thing to do is pay it and be done with it but I doubt there will be any consequences (other than karma) if you do not pay it.

DJ

Posted by
18056 posts

In my experience in Germany, validity times have always been plenty sufficient to get to anywhere in that zone, even with transfers. You had an hour and a half and were 15 minutes over? You must have spent an awful long time finding the right bus.

In Munich, at least, a day ticket (Tageskarte) is no more expensive than a round trip in that zone and is valid for the entire day.

It seems odd that the bus driver didn't check your ticket when you got on and tell you you didn't have enough time left on the ticket.

Posted by
11613 posts

Lee, bus drivers in large cities in Italy do not check tickets. They are busy driving in crazy traffic.

OP, you got advice from your hostel about how to break the law. If you are in Europe working for a church, I am sure you are an ethical person; what does your conscience dictate?

Posted by
7979 posts

"Voting with your dollars" doesn't work well with legal issues. That is only for retail. That you don't understand this is part of the problem.
If you overstayed your ticket time, then there is more to this story than what the OP has mentioned.

Posted by
12383 posts

My father was a supervisor with ATAF, the Florence Municipal Bus Agency. Prior to that he was an inspector, a driver, and, in the 1950s, a ticket vendor aboard before the ticket machines existed and all buses had a crew of two: a driver and the ticket vendor.

Yours is the typical excuse of immature spoiled kids who think they are "entitled".

When I was growing up my father had plenty of stories, while he was an inspector, of young foreign students and hippy looking tourists (it was the 1960s/70's) trying to get away with paying the tickets, advancing all sort of silly excuses, most commonly, the language barrier, since all warning signs were in Italian. Many of those hippy 1960's students are now retired and probably contribute to this forum.

But we are not in the 1970's now, and English is ubiquitous in Florence, and if you stopped texting on your smartphone or Facebook page for just a second, and bothered to look at that ticket or the posters on the buses, you would have noticed that both the tickets and the signs posted on board clearly state IN ENGLISH , that the ticket is valid for 90 minutes, not 105!!!

The bus driver does not check or sells tickets in Italy. Italian city bus authorities use an honor system. People are expected to buy the tickets before boarding and date stamp them when they board at the machine. From that moment the ticket is valid for 90 min. Only occasionally inspectors come aboard and do random checks because obviously there are smart axxes who take advantage of this honor system.

You might have thought that the inspector was a "jerk", but I'm sure that s/he, like my father in his time, was sometimes tired of being taken advantage of by "smarty pants" kids, both local and foreign, who were advancing all kinds of stupid excuses not to have a valid ticket. You might have been in good faith and forgot to stamp another ticket after the 90 min expired, but the overwhelming majority of those caught, aren't in good faith. They just try to get away with not paying and inspectors weren't born yesterday. My father certainly wasn't and when someone tried to play smart he would have them pay on the spot in the presence of the Municipal police. Bus inspectors are public officials and they can actually detain you on the bus while waiting for the police, so if he let you get away without paying on the spot, you are lucky. And NO, there are no 'quotas' or 'commissions' for inspectors or policemen, unlike in many US jurisdictions. Quotas were ruled unconstitutional by Italian courts, therefore they are not an option.

I can also tell you that American authorities have no mercy with foreign tourists when it comes to fining them. Most of my friends from Italy got plenty of traffic tickets while visiting the US. One was written a parking ticket in Sausalito less than 30 seconds from the expiration of the meter time. The meter maid didn't give a damn they were Italian tourists and were only seconds late. They paid the ticket (actually I did for them).

You are free to skip Venice and leave Italy, without paying the ticket. There are 40 million foreigners visiting Italy every year, I'm sure they will not miss someone like you or your freakin 50 euro.

Posted by
11613 posts

Roberto, in the smaller cities, bus drivers do sell tickets, but not routinely. I have seen this in places where the the edicola or tabacchi shops are closed in the afternoons.

Posted by
31319 posts

I get the impression this was just an honest mistake by someone that wasn't aware of the time limit on the tickets or the fact that fines would result. I'm sure it happens to lots of other people. The part of the story that I didn't agree with was calling the ticket inspector a "jerk", as he was simply doing the job that he's paid to do.

Unfortunately she didn't realize that there are some good camera stores right in Florence that she could have walked to, such as Fontani Camera at Viale F. Strozzi, 18 - 50129 Firenze (I know, as I've done that).

Posted by
12383 posts

Yes Zoe, in the small cities and for extraurban buses, like Sita, the drivers might sell tickets.
In large cities they don't anymore. Before the 1970's there were human ticket vendors sitting on the back of the bus. People would get on board and purchase the ticket from the guy. He would be vendor and inspector of course. Then in the early 1970's they replaced the vendor guy with huge yellow machines, the size of small refrigerators. You'd insert 50 lire and the machine would spit out a ticket. Years later then they replaced the expensive big machines with the smaller types that only date stamp tickets, which had to be bought at Tobacconist's shops.
The reason why they didn't task the driver with the sale of tickets is, my father would have told you, efficiency. In Italy the bus driver must stop at the bus stop only the time necessary for people to board and get off. The company goal was to get the bus moving within 2 seconds at each stop. That can't happen if the driver has to collect money and ensure everybody has paid. That system also allowed ATAF to devote both the front door and the back door to boarding (the middle one is for descending). That also increased the efficiency of the system by doubling the number of passengers that could board per second. The efficiency of the boarding process, is the most important factor to decrease the time the bus stops at each bus stop and therefore the average speed on the route. That efficiency is not possible if everybody has to board from the front door and the driver has to check everybody's ticket like it happens in most cases in America. In fact bus systems in American city centers like SF are much slower for that reason. That system is not so necessary in extraurban routes like Sita because those buses make few stops, therefore you can have the driver wasting time selling tickets. But in a big city where there is a bus stop every 200 mts, the speed of the passengers loading is crucial.
And now that I passed on to you some history and technical aspects I learned from my father of how bus systems are managed, you can go back and appreciate how much value you are getting for that 1.50€ ticket. That low price is also result of subsidies funded by Italian taxpayers, so as foreigners who don't pay the exorbitant income taxes in Europe, we should also appreciate that the locals are subsidizing our travels by making public transit (incl. regional trains) so cheap.

Posted by
1638 posts

It would seem that some (hopefully small) part of our US populations has come to expect that exceptions will be made for them in any situation and then become defensive and hostile when they aren't. This doesn't play well in some other countries and is disappointing to watching.

Posted by
16171 posts

Roberto, When your father was checking tickets in the 60's & 70's, what was the US$ equivalent price of a bus ticket? Was it the "nickel ride" as the NYC subway was until 1948.

Posted by
21346 posts

Interesting the perceptions of the posters. I assumed she was an older woman, perhaps retired, who is very set in her ways with a really attitude problem. Some how thinking that Rome is awful and Florence similar, strikes as more of a problem with the poster than the cities. Rome can be intense and Florence more relaxing.