Italian ZTL fines: What are they?
Italian ZTL fines are tickets that are automatically generated and sent to drivers who cross in to the designated Limited Traffic Zones (ZTL) in a city, and who are unauthorized to do so. Not every city has a ZTL, but Italian ZTL fines are no scam. In 2008 in Florence – a city of 365,000 residents – almost 900,000 tickets were issued for traffic violations. Of those, more than half were given for driving unauthorized in an area of restricted access.
My post on Italian road signs includes a brief description of the ZTL sign (photo above) but this subject deserves more attention. These signs mark the boundaries of an area with restricted access to cars, called Zona Traffico Limitato (ZTL).
How to interpret a ZTL Sign
The red circle means no cars allowed. The numbers underneath are the times of day, using the 24-hour clock. So the sign above means no entry between 8 am and 8 pm. The fine print says that cars with a pass can enter.
5 Reasons It’s Easy to Get a ZTL Fine
2 - All cities do not have the same rules, so learning the rules for Pisa may not be useful for Florence or Milan. In some cities, non-residents cannot enter the ZTL, period. In many cities, any car can enter, but only with a pass. In Milan, access to the ZTL, and what kind of pass is needed depends on how environmentally friendly the car is. Don’t worry, it’s written on the signs – you just need to recognize and read them.
3 - Tickets are issued immediately and automatically, as soon as (and each time) the car crosses the ZTL boundary. There is no chance to explain to an actual person, “but officer, I didn’t understand….”. The ticket is sent to the address registered with the car, or for a car rental company, the ticket will be forwarded to the home address associated with the credit card (with an additional forwarding fine and a fine from the car rental company – more details below).
4 - GPS systems do not know about ZTL zones, and will pick the shortest route, which may indeed include driving straight into a ZTL.
5 - It’s sometimes not possible to turn around in historical centers of Italian cities. By the time you see the sign, you may not be able to avoid getting a fine. Due to traffic, narrow or one-way streets (which are probably the reasons the zone is designated ZTL), it may be necessary to enter the Zona Traffico Limitato in order to leave it.
What does a ZTL ticket Cost?
How To Avoid Getting A ZTL Fine
- Well, there’s the obvious: don’t drive in the historical center of Italian cities. Take the train. Or park your car and use the bus, the subway, the tram, or a taxi when going into the center.
- Reading this post already helps, since you should be able to recognize the sign and understand the 24-hour clock (where 18 is actually 6 pm, etc).
- If you are planning on driving in the historic center of a city, make sure you have a map of the ZTL area (links to maps of Pisa, Rome and Florence ZTL zones below) so that you don’t accidentally get caught in #5 above.
- If you are renting a car, it doesn’t hurt to ask the car rental place whether there are ZTL areas in the city, and where to buy a pass. Car rental offices within a ZTL zone will give you a temporary pass. But regardless of what they tell you, you are still responsible for any fines. I usually pick a car rental office on the outskirts of the city and take a taxi to get there – partly for ZTL and partly because I never recommend driving in Italian city centers, for the stress and the bumper to bumper traffic.
ZTL is not a scam
Pisa ZTL information
Rome ZTL information
The city of Rome provides useful information about ZTL in English as well as daytime and evening maps with limited traffic areas in the historical city center.
Florence ZTL information
Driving in Italy? 10 things you should know.
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