Italy, the trip that keeps on taking

I really, really enjoyed my trip to Venice, Florence, Siena and my pet peeve, Florence. It's Sunday night July 7, 2012 and I just received a nice summons for a ZTL infraction. The infraction took place on March 12, 2011. That's why I'm calling this, Italy, the land that keeps on taking. That's interesting, my hotel went out of their way to register the tag before I left the car rental agency. Nice... what a scam! So even if you follow the rules, you still get screwed. Not only can't you go back and fight the 180 euros it's going to cost, but the hotel has no proof so you can fight it a year and half later. Slow bureaucracy? Hell no, just sly scam artists. Don't worry about the pick pockets, worry about those rascals in city hall, they're bigger thieves. Just to fight it, it will cost me 60 euros and then if your found guilty, they double the whole amount. What are the chances I'll win? Money talks, BS walks and they know the meaning of that phrase very well! In Siena I knew I was going into a ZTL so I knew before hand and accepted the citation. I got it soon after I arrived home and believe it or not I paid it. But this one, they can kiss my... Try to charge it to my credit card? Lets see who's going to pay? As far as Italy? Ha! It'll be a long time before they ever see my money again. I found the people to be great but tooo... much hassle with stupid rules. Send me back to those rascals in Spain, at least we can speak the same language. Rick should do a show on all the scams bureaucrats pull on tourists. Oh, he'll never do that, he'll loose any way to produce any shows in Europe. As you can tell this is left a real bad taste in my mouth, even though I loved both times I went to Italy.

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3194 posts

Miguel is justifiably frustrated. I understand why and I sympathize with you Miguel.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8728 posts

How do you know my hotel went out of their way to register the tag? Why don't they have proof? Did you get anything from them when you registered?

Posted by Miguel
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA
258 posts

Nigel, that evening when I got back to the hotel I asked the attendant in the front desk to show me the registration? She did. Now, how was I suppose to know that I needed an iron clad, etched in stone receipt for a future date close to a year and half later. But it seems that the city of Florence could give a #$%& about the registration, as long as they see a rental tag on your car, they will fine you. From what I've found doing a little research is a city of around 350,000, people generates over around 70 million euros a year in traffic infractions, mostly ZTL. Milan, a city that is 10 times larger generates 83 million. Do you think their is not a scam going on? Are you finding their actions to be justified? Do you have any stock in the ZTL of Florence? This ZTL does not discourage people from driving into the historical district, it just fines them. What do you do? Most visitors stay in the historical district. If you drive into your hotel, your screwed! If you get lost, your screwed! If you leave your hotel, your screwed! If the city doesn't honor the system that they have in place, what are you suppose to do a continent away? I knew what I had to do, I did it and still got fined. Question that? Justify that? like I told you, I knew what I had to do ahead of time, did it and what? Nothing!

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8728 posts

Do you have any stock in the ZTL of Florence? Aw shoot. Somebody finally blew my cover. I'll fess up. Yes, it was me. I took my life savings about 4 and a half years ago, and some that I "borrowed" from a bank and put in the system in Florence. I'm making thousands of Euros a day now... and it took you to find out. I'm selling the lot tomorrow. I can't live with the shame, I really can't. BTW - there's just the off chance that even if you were registered for a particular route (you do know you can't just pick a route?) you may have strayed off the route on the 12th. Any chance of that? I care not a jot if you got a ticket or not - I've never met you or seen you on TV that I am aware of - but as far as I know Florence tends to do things by the book. Shame that you take out your anger on a whole country...

Posted by Miguel
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA
258 posts

Nigel, when you register your car's tag, it should allow you to enter the ZTL anywhere. If you read what so many people are constantly complaining about how ridiculous the ZTL's are and the signs that are suppose to inform you are going to enter one, you would agree how ridiculous they are. They approve the cameras, put them up, connect all the computers software and whatever else goes along with it in no time. But it takes them a year and half to send you a summons? Come on? My post clearly states that the Italians for the most part are cool people. But the government bureaucrats that are making these archaic rules, don't keep autos away from the important antiquities or archaeological sites. They are just making business for themselves. With all the money they recover from these ZTL's, the streets in Florence should be covered in gold. I think you're giving these city officials too much credit. As far of generalizing, why not? I can only make my opinion, based on how I'm treated. For example; most people consider the French to treat Americans rudely. Not me, I found them quite nice and generous with my family and me. But I've never had a problem with peoples attitude in countries that I've visited. I usually try to learn some of their language and familiarize myself with some of their customs. There is no way I can be a permanent citizen of their country, but I can be a temporary one. And I'm glad they allow me to visit and enjoy their country. Nigel, I loved visiting your country and I didn't have a problem with any congestion charges in London. Why? You guys have an awesome transportation system. You do it right. Let me know when you're selling the ZTL stock. It's going to have to do better than that FaceBook stock. Ha ha ha... I love RS web site, agree or disagree, we are all part of the same world.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17718 posts

Miguel, While I can understand your frustration and need to "vent", I disagree that this is a "scam". The ZTL areas don't discriminate - anyone that passes through them will get "nicked", including Italians and other European tourists, and also those from North America or other parts of the world. The circumstances that you reported with the Hotel registration of your car and then subsequent tickets, seems to be much the same experience that many others have had. As someone else mentioned, the vehicle exemption may have only been for a very limited and direct route to your Hotel, rather than "carte blanche" permission to roam around the city. The delay in receiving the tickets is also quite typical. I'm assuming the tickets were received from European Municipality Outsourcing? What was the value of the tickets? Italian bureaucracy moves SLOWLY and involving other parties such as the rental firm and EMO adds to the delays. It's often difficult for visitors to understand the working of laws in Italy, but "they are what they are". While this situation has left you with "a bad taste", as the old saying goes "Ignorantia juris non excusat". Hopefully you'll return to Italy one day. Cheers!

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2373 posts

"Nigel, when you register your car's tag, it should allow you to enter the ZTL anywhere." But it doesn't. You are only permitted to enter the hotel's ZTL. It's not a blanket pass to roam about the city. Most people that drive into Florence seem to get a ZTL ticket, and it's why most of us recommend never driving into Florence. Lesson learned if you decide to ever go back. I for one really enjoyed walking around Florence with minimal traffic on the very narrow streets. Everyone will have a different perspective, but as a tourist walking around, I prefer fewer cars. It's also much better for the buildings, which sustain significant structural damage from all the vibrations. I do agree that Florence seems to be very slow in issuing their citations. Maybe because there are so many. That fustrates people, understandably. But taking that out on the whole people or even Italian government seems a stretch. Finally, posters have reported here that unpaid Italian tickets have been followed up with collection agencies. So be warned if you choose not to pay...

Posted by simone
toronto, canada
17 posts

Hi Miguel, I was travelling in Italy last July 2011 and just received 3 tickets in the mail last week (July 2012) for passing through ZTLs in Lucca. I would be willing to pay one of the tickets, but paying three times for the same mistake within one hour is a little excessive. I am trying to figure out what my options are for not paying these tickets while residing in North America. Have you done any research?

Posted by Miguel
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA
258 posts

My stance is what makes their issuing tickets so slow? I got one in Sienna and it arrived about two to three Weeks after I got back from Italy. They sent it directly to the rental car agency and they forward it to me. I paid it and that's the end. The credit agency, I'll deal with them.

Posted by simone
toronto, canada
17 posts

So we're in the same boat right now. Mine arrived on July 5th and I really don't think I'm going to pay them. As far as the authorities know, I never received the letter as it was not sent by registered mail. Let me know how yours progresses.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7670 posts

Simone (and Miguel), as Ken noted, the Italian laws are what they are. You broke them, and you should pay your fines. If you choose not to, you face collections procedures and you have no defense, no matter how delayed the tickets were (and as Ken also said, this time span is typical). Whether you think they are "stupid rules" or not, they are the local laws.

Posted by Gerard
Temora, NSW, Australia
172 posts

Was it only in the past two months or so ,someone posted their lament of getting the debt collectors at the door. I recall somewhere near $500, I suggest you either immediately write to the City of Florence and state your case, or pay the fine. If you don't do anything then you may later have a bigger issue. I deal with debt recovery and am in local government and yes it is slow, but it's immobile, laws govern their actions in how you are dealt with. Perhaps, Italy is even slower, it's so easy to say its as scam, perhaps some proof may be better, as I said state your case..... Regards.

Posted by simone
toronto, canada
17 posts

Miguel - after some research, it seems as though Italian traffic laws require authorities to notify foreigners of their violation within 360 days from the date of the infraction. Based on this - legally, the EMO requesting payment on behalf of the Prefect has no right to doing so. Feel free to write to the prefect informing them of this and email the EMO letting them know their mistake and the fines should disappear.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8728 posts

As far as the authorities know, I never received the letter as it was not sent by registered mail. Registered mail tends not to work internationally. I wouldn't be surprised if the Italian law takes the day of posting as the day of notification - not taking into account any postal delays, and regardless of any confirmation of receipt.

Posted by simone
toronto, canada
17 posts

the EMO has dropped my case, according to their email response. They are sending a confirmation letter in the mail for my records.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7670 posts

So Simone, are you still willing to pay one if them, like you said you were (since you actually did commit the offense)?

Posted by simone
toronto, canada
17 posts

Yes I would definitely pay one of them. It is only about $140 canadian which is no big deal. However, they have now exceeded their time limit to request payment so it seems as though I am fortunately off the hook.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17718 posts

Miguel and Simone, You may find it very interesting to have a look at This Website. It provides an excellent description of the entire process.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7670 posts

You're missing my point completely. You broke the law, and said you would be willing to pay one of your three fines. Because of a technicality, you now no longer have to pay. I am asking if you will still be paying one of them (because you know you broke the law and said you would be willing to pay one) even though you are no longer obligated to do so. Character, after all, is shown by what you do when no one is looking.

Posted by simone
toronto, canada
17 posts

I broke the law. And was only made aware of this mistake over a year after the incident. I would have paid had I been legally required, but because of the time that has elapsed, the EMO has lifted my fines. If you would like to make a donation to them, since you are so committed to their cause, please feel free to forward them money through their bank account number which can be found online. :)

Posted by simone
toronto, canada
17 posts

Also Nancy, there is no way I can pay one of them - the ticket numbers are no longer valid so I cannot make payments on them anymore.

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3576 posts

I always suspected Nigel...(shaking head disappointedly)... If I ever drive anywhere near Florence, I'm using the parking lots at the edge of town...

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2171 posts

The ZTLs are well signed. The caution measures getting into/to hotels within the ZTLs are two: (1) making sure the hotel registered your plate number with the city, allowing you to drive there (easy) (2) making sure you do not navigate outside the designated sub-areas for your authorization (here is where 80% of fined drivers make mistakes - they consider all ZTL as one single zone where they are allowed to drive). For reason #2, I'd suggest people to park in garages or lots outside the ZTL, so problem is avoided. I hate the ZTLs and, as an (also) Italian citizen, I'll never vote for a politician supporting them, as I'm very pro-car and against public transit subsidization in general (I think fares in Italy are too low and should be increased, and cars should be able to drive anywhere roads are legal for cars, regardless of being residents or not).

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7819 posts

miguel,, seem enough time has elasped so now your tickets are expired like Simones.. I personally do consider it a horrible system.. and frankly rude.. I really do not care what others think,, a notice of infraction arriving after over a year of event is ridiculus and the authorities should be ashamed.. no ones system should be that messed up.
As far as I am concerned it is a money grab pure and simple and sorry Nancy,, if I was excused from paying it I wouldn't pay it out of the goodness of my heart.

Posted by trudy
San Antonio, Texas, USA
20 posts

c'mon, Nancy, get real ---- Do you honestly think that Miguel or Simone will demonstrate poor "character" if they don't pay those asinine tickets? Only a ninny would pay them, if they didn't have to!

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7185 posts

I have to admit the ZTL's scared me enough to find a parking lot outside of town and walk to my hotel. I ddn't trust the hotel to do the registration because - well, it's Italy. Fortunately, I escaped without a fine. I didn't like Florence that much anyway. Lodging and food was low-quality and expensive plus the locals are probably the least friendly in Italy (especially for a relatively small town). It's still a must see, though, just too many great sights to pass up. But I don't see myself making it part of future trips to Italy.

Posted by Andrew
Durham, USA
71 posts

Brad, sorry your lodging was low-quality. Next time, trying staying here. Very friendly. Husband and wife owners, and while the wife is from Boston, you can still understand her English. (grin) http://www.ilbargellino.com/ Very centrally located and great service. Just leave your car outside Florence. :-)

Posted by Robert
Rockville, MD
1 posts

I was in Florence in May 2012 and returned home the end of the month. In July I received 2 charges from the rental car company (Hertz) for an administrative fee for providing my information to the authorities ($44.73 each). In November I received notification from Florence of a ZTL violation ($133.05) which I paid. I had heard the horror stories about people returning home only to receive a violation in the mail requiring them to get a money order in euros to send in. At least they have a web site set up that will take a credit card. I knew when I had violated the ZTL as I saw the sign but where it was located was on a one way street and there were other cars following me so I couldn't back up to avoid it once I did see the sign. I did not enter another ZTL as far as I know but I am waiting for the second notification, but it is just as likely that Hertz double billed me. Either way it was a wonderful trip and that little experience isn't going to sully the memories of a wonderful 2 weeks....

Posted by Claudio
Bergamo, Italy
117 posts

Well, we do without Miguel's money. Damn these Florentines!

Posted by Miguel
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA
258 posts

Damn right Claudio, you're not getting my money anymore.

Posted by Claudio
Bergamo, Italy
117 posts

I do not like the ZTL, which in Italy are popping up like mushrooms, but there are other options besides the obvious that the Florentine authorities are a bunch of crooks, namely that the hotel was wrong to send the number plate to the municipal administration or the municipal administration was wrong to record the number plate. These situations happen to Italians as well, a friend who has lived for decades in a city ??center, when the ZTL was activated, he took about 20 fines for a mistake of the Municipality, but then he did normal appeal to the Justice of the Peace and they were deleted. "Italy, the land that keeps on taking", nice, another name to add to the many that are given to Italy. Be careful Miguel that maybe the Florentines sent your picture to Interpol!

Posted by Miguel
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA
258 posts

What are you saying? That Italian governments only treats Italians fairly? Screw the tourists that have no way of fighting this from another country. Do they use the credit card agencies to extort the fines out of the tourists? Or they need to send those punks at Interpol for a chicken ass ticket? I'm so scared... Well what is it man, what is it? Are you a bureaucrat in some tiny little town, that needs to extort money out of tourists or what? Come on tell us what town it is so we can avoid it?

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2442 posts

Miguel, you've been carrying this for several months now, I don't think a reasonable solution exists that will satisfy you. Glad you loved Italy.

Posted by Miguel
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA
258 posts

Zoe, yeah I think you're right we beat this horse to death already several times

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7819 posts

To be fair, Miguel did not reactivate this thread, and when someone comes on a thread you post you are emailed notified, so he HAD let it go but came back to respond to new poster.
I still think Italy has some issues with the way it handles traffic tickets, and I wouldn't be proud of the way they do it, it would embarrass me as a local if we did that to OUR tourists( I live in a very touristy city) but then our attitude is a bit different.. I would also as a local be upset with a system that is so dysfunctional that it takes 18 months to issue parking tickets, for goodness sake its not rocket science.

Posted by Claudio
Bergamo, Italy
117 posts

my dear Miguel Perhaps I expressed myself badly, or maybe you're too cranky to understand, I said before the possibility of cheating, there is a possibility of error, but certainly in your case there was a conspiracy to defraud you by the Florentine authorities. I'm not a bureaucrat in tiny little town that needs to extort money out of tourists, as long as you're not the typical arrogant tourist of a vulgar big city who believes he can do whatever he wants once abroad.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7819 posts

"vulgar big city" , er, I think Miguel is from a city with about 160,000 people, thats not really a big city to me? Its not a village either, but I don't think the size of a persons city has anything to do with anything!

Posted by Miguel
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA
258 posts

Cladio your going to have to put a rest to your excuse and this thread. There have been so many complaints to the time it takes some municipalities to adequately send these citations, that they can't all be in error? Or could they be? Maybe they are just inept? That's still no excuse. Or maybe they've figured out that if they wait long enough they could stick it on the credit card you used to pay for the rental and the rental car agency keeps on file ( there's a thought, pay it with an obscure credit card and then when you get back to your country, cancel the card). Now that I think about it that's probably what happened to me. They waited so long that my credit card expired a new one was issued. That's why they didn't couldn't bill directly. There you go, I love slow bureaucracy now. They saved me some money.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1960 posts

I had no problems with ZTL's. They are well publicized and signed. I avoided cities with ZTL's like the plague. My problem was with a radar operated camera on the causeway going out to Venice. Who would think those rascals would be radaring in a place without any side streets or people. And there wasn't even any traffic out there. Hertz charged me $46 and the cost of the speeding ticket separately. If you want to travel in the continental style, sometimes you've got to pay the piper. We just suck up such inconveniences and travel in a frugal manner, seldom spending a penny we don't have to. Socialism is just very, very expensive to administrate. (Hear that Mr. President.) And U.S. citizens don't want to live in tiny $1 million apartments and pay $9.51 per gallon for gasoline. And we want our retirement accounts to be there when we retire and want to travel the world.

Posted by Jerry&Stelly
Dallas, TX, usa
163 posts

Wow, what a rant. We love Italy and Florence and the rest of the towns with no car traffic in Italt. We have been to Italy three times and took buses and trains. And for a city that gives tickets for driving in their city we dodged many a car in Florence while walking. Thank goodness there weren't more cars driven by people who probably don't know the traffic rules.

Posted by Cindi
Montclair, Virginia, United States
56 posts

Wow, after reading all these comments, I'm glad we won't be driving while we're in Italy!!

Posted by Lori
Spokane Valley, WA
76 posts

We loved Florence but also got a fine when we got home. It said it was for driving in a lane reserved only for public vehicles. I don't know if we did or didn't so we paid the fine. We had read about all the problems with violations before we left so we tried to be very careful. We only drove in Florence picking up and returning the vehicle and didn't see any signs about lane restrictions in those areas. It does seem like a scam to me. You can't prove otherwise so you have no choice but to pay the fine.

Posted by Miguel
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA
258 posts

Lori, if you drove into the city center or the tourist area, welcome to Florence! The signs are there BUT, that's a big BUT. Can you read Italian that quick, so you could make a split second decision? Can you read Italian at all? Remember if you drive into a ZTL, your caught by the camera. If you drove out and then back in, got you again and so on...

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7953 posts

This thread had been buried for quite a while.

Posted by Miguel
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA
258 posts

Yep!!! I think we beat this horse to death already. Let it go everyone! I think if you read the threads, you've got an idea of what to expect. Will it keep people fro traveling to Italy or the EU? NO!!! They know it and they will keep screwing travelers over and over again... Love you all and the passion you have. BUT, LET IT GO!!! IT IS WHAT IT IS...

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

BUT, LET IT GO!!! IT IS WHAT IT IS... I agree! It's not as if there aren't speed traps and radar all across the U.S., as well as red light cameras in many cities.