How to avoid getting traffic fines in Italy

I don’t know about you, but few things get me as excited as snail mail. Call me ‘behind the times’, but there’s just something exciting and romantic about getting a little (or big) envelope in the post. Even more so if it’s a notice to go to the post office for collection. A package? For me? :D

That was my thought (or hope) as I looked at the notice in my hand. I made my way to the post office and, to my disappointment, received an envelope with ‘Italianness’ all over it. I just knew it was a traffic fine. They literally went through all this effort to post me a fine across the waters? 13 998,3km to be exact

Are you serious

Why and where did I manage to get this fine, you may wonder. Apparently for driving in a limited traffic zone, and apparently in the same area where, in 2008 alone, 457,613 other people got fined for the same reason. That’s correct, folks. Of the 859,959 traffic violations issued by traffic police in 2008 already, 457,613 were issued to motorists who entered the limited traffic zones without the required permit. If those were the 2008 stats, I would be really scared to see 2015’s stats.

Here’s another interesting fact about Florence in particular (where I got fined): “Every 40 seconds, a motorist in Florence receives a traffic violation according to figures recently released by city officials. Traffic police issue approximately 90 tickets every minute, 1,253 tickets a day. The fines on these tickets average out to about 140 euro per year, per motorist, and they bring about 52 million to city hall each year, making it one of Italy’s most heaviest fined cities. Local officials note that the amount of money that enters the municipal budget through traffic fines has tripled in the last 10 years.”*

I had a mini-heart attack when I saw the amount of 110,96 euros. You have to understand, with the ZAR value being so, well, shall we say sad, these days (currently 1 Euro=R17,89), that is A LOT of money for something I didn’t even know I was doing wrong (a sneaky hidden surveillance camera captured my trespassing). I wish I had knowingly sped instead!

Okay, enough about me, let’s talk about you for a minute. Firstly, how you can avoid these damned traffic fines whilst acquainting the streets of Italy; and secondly, what to do if it’s too late and you’ve already received a little present in your post box.

General prevention:

  1. Keep within the speed limit.
  2. Make 100% sure that where you’ve parked your trusty steed is, in fact, a legal parking zone.
  3. Before you head off after parking your car, make sure that it’s free parking. If not, pay for the hours you’ll be parked there at the nearest parking meter. Most importantly, remember to not just put the parking meter slip in your wallet and head off – place it in your windscreen so that traffic officers can see it. This was not very obvious to me the first time! They should print instructions on the parking meter slip for goodness sake!
  4. Keep your eyes peeled for signs that indicate said “limited traffic zone” (maybe they are very large and clear signs and I just wasn’t paying attention because I was lost??).
  5. Use public transport
  6. Walk

Cure:

  1. If you have any Italian friends, family, or acquaintances, ask for advice on how to handle the matter.
  2. Step one might give you hope. I understand, I was there. But chances are your friends, family, acquaintances, hell, even the average Italian on the street, will probably tell you that you maybe stand a 0.2% chance of getting out of this pickle for free. But you could try to appeal if you feel very strongly about it. You have 60 days to appeal but the catch is – dam-dam-daaaaam – you may appeal exclusively in written Italian. I was also advised that pleading ignorance won’t easily work. And here’s another catch: If you don’t pay the traffic fine or your appeal is dismissed, the amount is doubled.
  3. If you pay it within 5 days, they give you a discount. My advice? Just pay it and cry later.

Ah, Bella Italia, your bureaucracy sucks. It really does.

Have you ever received a traffic fine in Italy? How did you get out of it?

Reference:
* Bella Toscana: Traffic violations and fines in Italy – restricted traffic zones in Florence


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