Useful information about driving in Italy

zona-trafficoLimited traffic areas have been created in most of the historical centers of Italian cities. This measure has been taken to increase pedestrian areas, commercial activities, and reduce pollution to preserve historical sites.

In these limited traffic areas only authorized vehicles are allowed to drive, such as: buses, police cars, ambulances, etc. Residents have access as well. All of authorized vehicles have their license plate registered with the Municipal Police.

If a vehicle crosses a limited traffic area, cameras will take a picture of the license plate.

The photo is automatically sent back to a computer of the Municipal Police and if the license plate is not registered a violation ticket is generated and sent to the owner of the vehicle. You WILL eventually receive a charge on your credit card of approximately Euro 36.30 for the moving violation and a second charge in the same amount for an administrative charge imposed by the rental car company to retrieve your rental records and advise the Italian authorities. This can typically take 3-9 months to appear.

The limited traffic areas are clearly indicated with a sign marked with a white circle with red borders (see picture above), stating the hours in which the area is restricted.

If you think you will be driving in one of these limited traffic areas, call your hotel after you rent the car, so they can tell you where you can drive. Some hotels also offer their customers a shuttle which picks up passengers from a parking garage, located outside the Limited Traffic Areas. However some hotels have a limited number of passes that they make available to driving customers when they make a reservation. If you are not staying in a hotel, contact the car-rental-Italy company or the person who you are renting from and ask for indications on how to go about driving in the area without incurring a traffic violation.

Hotels and rental car companies can also register your rental car’s license plate number for a very brief period of time with the local authorities exempting you from a traffic violation for just the time permitted for you to enter or exit your hotel’s zone or the rental car company location. If you think that you may have crossed a limited traffic zone in order to reach either of these ask them to contact the local authorities on your behalf. This can only be done on the spot – it cannot be done at any later time.

Based on our customer’s experiences in 2012, Florence seems to be the city where many foreign drivers receive the most amount of traffic violations due to limited traffic access. If you are forced to drive into a restricted area in order to arrive to your hotel or the rental car office, you should ask them to report your vehicle’s license plate to the authorities to avoid fines. If they are located within the restricted area, they can provide this service for you. We suggest you use the upmost caution when driving downtown Florence and watch for signs carefully. You may want to arrange pick up or drop off a rental car at the Florence airport which is located just a short distance outside the city center and avoid the problem completely.

You may also see signs in major cities that light up and say VARCO ATTIVO which indicates you are entering a restricted driving area of the city during the restricted time and if you are not authorized you will receive a traffic violation. The same sign when indicated VARCO NON ATTIVO means that that time the restriction has been lifted. These signs are widely used in Rome.

Typically moving violations will show on your credit card about 3-9 months after your trip and are usually Euro 30.00 + 21% VAT tax for a total of Euro 36.30 converted to your local credit card currency. A second charge for the same amount will also appear from Hertz Italiana SPA and this is an administrative fee for pulling your rental file at the request of the Italian authorities and reporting your credit card and address on file. To avoid these fines we suggest you drive carefully, avoid speeding, parking or driving in unauthorized parts of the cities.

poliziaIn Italy there is also an electronic speed control called Autovelox, a hidden camera system placed on the sides of regular roads as well as highways. There is always a warning sign indicating that the road is being monitored by cameras (see picture) below.

If your speed is 5% or above the limit, a traffic violation will be issued

Sample picture of a speed limit sign. The speed limit varies depending on the road type.

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