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How visitors to Italy can avoid driving penalties

Speed cameras, restricted traffic zones and parking in the wrong areas can all land you with a hefty fine while driving on Italy's roads. Here's a guide to the main penalties and how to make sure you don't get one.

How visitors to Italy can avoid driving penalties
What you need to know about traffic fines in Italy and how to avoid them. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

It’s a souvenir nobody wants to open after they return from their Italian travels – a traffic fine.

For tourists driving in Italy, getting slapped with a ticket for breaking the rules of the road is a common problem. This could be because you don’t know the rules of the road when you’re a visitor and naively infringe Italy’s Highway Code.

However, it’s worth taking the time to learn Italy’s traffic regulations as the costs of breaking them can be high and difficult to contend, particularly from abroad.

Here’s an overview of the most common ways you can get caught out and what to do if you do receive a penalty.

Speeding tickets

Going too fast is easily done when driving in Italy, considering that you might not know the speed limit for the road you’re on and that Italy has the most amount of speed cameras in Europe.

In fact, the speed limit not only changes depending on the road you’re driving on, but also depending on the type of vehicle and the weather conditions.

As a general rule, you’ll need to keep in mind that urban roads are usually limited at 50km/h – sometimes 30km/h in really built-up areas – and the highway permits speeds of up to 130km/h.

READ ALSO: What are the longer-term alternatives to car hire in Italy?

You should be able to see what the relevant limit is for the road you’re on with the figure displayed in round road signs, but for full details, see article 142 of the Italian Highway Code.

If you exceed the driving speed limit, the speed cameras called ‘autovelox‘ will take a photo of your number plate and your fine will be calculated depending on how far over the limit you were going.

You may also see a camera ‘Tutor‘, which calculates the average speed you drive at on a given stretch of road.

Fines start at €42 but can run into the thousands. The above link to the Highway Code has further details for how much you could expect to pay depending on the level of your violation.

The speed limits are not absolute and there is a 5 percent leeway, so if you were driving at 72km/h in a 70 zone, you won’t get fined.

ZTL fines

These traffic fines have caught out the best of us; they can be easy to miss as you may not even know what they are.

If you see a round road sign, a red circle containing the letters ‘ZTL’, don’t drive down that street unless you have a special permit.

If you’re just visiting Italy, it’s unlikely you will.

ZTL stands for Zona Traffico Limitato (Restricted Traffic Zone) and you’re most likely to find them around congested areas and inner cities. The government introduced them to reduce pollution and so the only vehicles allowed to enter a ZTL are residents or businesses in the area.

If you unwittingly sail past one, the camera will take a shot of your registration number and you’ll get a fine of between €83 and €332, plus administrative costs, according to article 7 of the Highway Code.

British residents of Italy can use their driving licenses until the end of this year, the government has confirmed.

Know the rules of the road to avoid fines in Italy. Photo by PACO SERINELLI / AFP

Beware that you’ll likely have to pay for each time you went down a ZTL road, which can mount up if you get lost and are driving around a historic centre in circles.

You may be lucky and be able to pay for just one of these penalties if the infractions all took place very close together. See below for information on disputing fines.

If you’re staying in a hotel within a ZTL, you should be able to drive to it and park there – as long as you communicate with the hotel first that you’ll be arriving by car and you give them your registration plate number.

READ ALSO: What you’ll need to do if you bring a car to Italy from another country

The hotel can then submit that to the database of permitted vehicles on your behalf and you won’t be subject to any ZTL fines.

However, remember that some hotels may say you can drive to drop off your luggage and then instruct you to leave your car outside the ZTL.

Check before travel and keep all booking confirmations and hotel correspondence in case the hotel forgets to enter your car details into the ZTL database.

Parking fines

Parking in Italy can really grind your gears. It may take a long amount of driving around to find a free space and some city centres’ paid parking can be costly.

It’s worth researching first where to park and where to find the cheapest spots to save you losing your cool. If you do that, you’ll only end up spending a few euros and avoid much steeper fines.

The amount of parking fine types you can incur in Italy are numerous.

If you don’t use a dedicated car park with a ticket on entry or exit, watch out for the different colours of lines. Blue lines mean you have to pay to leave your car there, usually via a parking metre.

If you find a spot in a parking metre zone, you’ll need your licence plate number when you enter how much time you want to stay for. These metres are required to accept coins, notes and bankcards – but make sure your card is authorised for use abroad if you want to pay this way.

Check how long the payment hours are – some are free after 6pm – 8pm anyway.

Get to know the various parking signs to avoid a traffic fine in Italy. Photo by Egor Myznik on Unsplash

There are also parking apps you can download ahead of time, like EasyPark, which is one of the most useful in Italy as it covers hundreds of Italian cities – and other European countries beyond. You can also try Phonzie, which has the option to buy bus tickets. Alternatively, look on the metre itself for different ways to pay, as some cities have their own parking app.

Parking apps also let you add on more time to your parking, no matter where you are – pretty useful if you’re the other side of town and realise you have five minutes left on your ticket.

Take care with yellow lines, as they are reserved for certain users, such as residents, workers or for going to the pharmacy. 

READ ALSO: ‘Expect the unexpected’: What you need to know about driving in Italy

If you overstay or park in the wrong place, the fine again depends on how much over the limit you go. Fines begin at around €40, but can go into the hundreds if you choose to ignore the fine and not pay it – more of that below.

If you see parking spots indicated by white lines, anyone can use those and they are usually free – but always check the roadside for any signs or instructions in case.

Driving in bus lanes

As much as you need to look up for road signs while driving in Italy, keep your eyes down on the road too to check for bus lane markings.

You can get landed with a fine if you get distracted and wander into a lane reserved for public transport.

This can set you back anywhere between €87 and €344, according to article 7 of the Highway Code. 

What happens if I get a fine?

Firstly, it’s important to remember that any infringements you committed on Italy’s roads may take a while to sting.

If you live abroad, the police have 360 days to send you the fine; if the car is rented, the time limitation is the same for foreigners but the period starts from the date of receipt of your data by the rental company. Of course, this may then take longer to then get to you.

This is because the police have 90 days to issue a fine to the vehicle’s registered address in Italy. The car rental company then has 60 days to send the police your data and then the process begins again from the police contacting you directly.

Note that rental companies may charge you administrative costs on top of the fine.

As you will have signed a rental agreement and authorised use of your credit card, they will most likely directly charge your card for the costs plus VAT. Keep records of this in case you manage to dispute the fine and claim back these added fees from the rental firm.

The deadline to pay depends on how you received the penalty.

You have a few options if you do receive a traffic fine in Italy. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

If you found a ticket on your windshield, you usually have 15 days to pay. If you receive it in the post, you have 60 days but will get a 30 percent discount if you transfer the funds within five days, according to article 202 of the Italian Highway Code.

If you exceed the terms of 60 days, the fine will increase and will keep increasing for late payment interest.

The authorities assume no responsibility in postal delays.

You can pay the fine from abroad either by bank transfer or some municipalities allow you to pay online via a debit or credit card.

How can I dispute a fine?

You can appeal to cancel the fine if you have grounds.

It’s worth bearing in mind that it really has to be worth the effort, as sometimes paying the fine immediately with a 30 percent reduction may be the least hassle.

If you choose to appeal, you forego the chance to get a discount by paying immediately and instead risk the fine increasing in the meantime.

Should your fine be truly invalid – and especially if it’s high – you may want to go ahead with navigating Italian bureaucracy to avoid paying it.

However, your reasons must be in accordance with the Highway Code. It’s not enough to say, ‘I didn’t know’ or ‘It was my first time in Italy so didn’t understand that road was restricted’.

Accepted reasons must prove a defect, such as if the fine you receive contains incorrect information.

READ ALSO: Ten Italian driving habits you need to be aware of

Read the report carefully and note any errors regarding the day, time, place and location of the offence, or if the vehicle type or number plate are incorrect.

Other reasons to contest a traffic fine in Italy include traffic signs being obscured by vandalism or vegetation, a parking spot improperly defined or if the photo of your licence plate is illegible.

Check whether the articles of the Highway Code that have been infringed are listed correctly and how to lodge an appeal. If these defects are present, it will be possible to challenge the fine.

You can begin by contacting the municipality directly, but this doesn’t suspend the contestation. At the same time you can lodge an appeal with Prefect and the Justice of the Peace.

Appeals against fines before the Justice of the Peace can be submitted within 30 days of notification or assessment, while appeals to the Prefect can be lodged within 60 days.

This time limit starts from the moment you are aware of the fine. In other words, it runs from the date of receiving the fine.

What happens if I just don’t pay a fine?

The ticket will continue to accrue interest and rise. The municipality may enlist a debt collection agency and at that point, you’ll no longer be able to contest the ticket.

Please note The Local is unable to advise on individual cases. See full details of Italy’s Highway Code here and visit our travel section for the latest updates.

Member comments

  1. What about the “environmental zones” that Google maps announced in areas around Torino and Milano? I assume that my new rental care (diesel) met the requirements but it was new to me and I await my. fines…. Thanks.

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For members


EXPLAINED: What is Italy’s new digital invoicing rule for freelancers?

Italy is bringing in new rules from July that mean changes for freelancers on the 'flat tax' rate. Here’s what you need to know about the new ‘fatturazione elettronica’, or digital invoicing system.

EXPLAINED: What is Italy’s new digital invoicing rule for freelancers?

Italy has been slowly moving more of its bureaucratic systems online in recent years, and in many cases this has made it quicker and easier for residents to access services and get their considerable amounts of Italian life admin in order.

It was hoped that the new electronic invoicing rule would do the same for freelancers on Italy’s flat-tax regime, by doing away with the existing need to print out invoices and affix tax stamps by hand.

READ ALSO: Beat the queues: 19 bits of Italian bureaucracy you can do online

But a close look at the details of the new rules shows that it probably won’t make life easier for those on the flat tax rate, who have so far been spared the bulk of that infamous Italian red tape – but now need to get to grips with a new online system.

Known as the ‘regime forfettario‘, Italy’s flat-rate tax scheme for individuals and small businesses was introduced in 2015 to encourage more commercial activity by slashing tax rates and simplifying bureaucracy.

New freelancers who choose this tax system generally pay somewhere between just five and 15 percent tax on earnings, regardless of overheads.

READ ALSO: The pros and cons of Italy’s five percent flat tax for freelancers

Little has changed since its inception seven years ago, but freelancers using the scheme now need to be aware of new rules coming into force from July 1st, 2022.

How you invoice – how you send, receive and store receipts, therefore – is due to move from analogue to digital, bringing new requirements and know-how on digital invoicing software.

Here’s what’s changing for freelancers with the so-called ‘fattura elettronica‘.

Who is required to send electronic invoices?

While this was already a requirement for the self-employed on other tax regimes, those on the flat tax rate will now be included from July 1st.

They were previously exempt, but that changed under the PNRR (National recovery and resilience plan or piano nazionale di ripresa e resilienza) – the Italian government’s plan for using EU funding for post-pandemic economic recovery.

Digital invoicing is intended to fight Italy’s major problem with tax evasion, as well as to further automate accounting processes.

For now, not all freelancers under this tax scheme need to move to digital accounting – only those who received an income in excess of €25,000 in the previous year are required to comply with the new rule.

It will then extend to all freelancers using the flat-rate scheme from January 1st, 2024.

From that date, everyone subscribed to the ‘regime forfettario’ will have to switch to electronic invoicing and there are hefty penalties in place for those who don’t.

How will electronic invoices work?

Italy’s tax authority has defined a couple of notable differences between the digital or electronic invoice (fattura elettronica) and a paper invoice (fattura di carta) in its updated guidelines.

Firstly, the digital invoice has to be created using a digital device (a computer, tablet or smartphone), and secondly it has to be sent to the client via an ‘Interchange System’, the so-called Sistema di Interscambio (SdI).

READ ALSO: ‘Smart working’? Here’s what you need to know about going self-employed in Italy

Italy’s flat-rate tax scheme is going digital. Photo by Christian Dubovan on Unsplash

This electronic postal system checks whether the invoice contains the required data for tax purposes, as well as checking the verified e-address (or the so-called PEC address) of the recipient.

In doing so, the electronic invoice automatically checks that the VAT number (partita IVA), or the tax code (codice fiscale) depending on who you send the invoice to, really exist.

Once the checks are completed, the system sends the invoice to the client, which will trigger an alert to the freelancer with a delivery receipt, showing the date and time the document was delivered.

How can you send an e-invoice?

There are a few accounting software options on the market if you’re now faced with having to send electronic invoices.

Some charge a fee of around €1-€4 per month or come at a cost per transaction.

Platforms such as ‘Aruba‘ or ‘Fatture in Cloud‘, are competitive and may offer you a free trial before you deciding to buy.

The Italian revenue agency (Agenzie delle Entrate) has also created free-of-charge services to help send and receive e-invoices. These include websites as well as apps for completing the required steps, which are detailed in their guide here.

You can access their Invoices and Receipts (‘Fatture e Corrispettivi‘) portal to benefit from these free services.

You’ll either need a Spid ID (‘Sistema Pubblico dell’Identità Digitale‘), a Carta Nazionale dei Servizi (CNS) or accounting credentials known as Fisconline/Entrate, which are issued by the Agenzie delle Entrate.

You can also delegate this task to an intermediary, such as an accountant (commercialista) who would do this on your behalf, the revenue agency stipulates 

What about the Italian tax stamp?

Until now, freelancers issuing invoices under the ‘regime forfettario‘ have had to attach a €2 stamp, called a ‘marca da bollo’, to every invoice over the value of €77,47.

So what happens when e-receipts go digital and you can’t physically stick a stamp on a document? Well, that goes digital too and the Inland Revenue has issued a 16-page guide on how you need to go about it.

It seems the previously attractive ‘light’ accounting of this regime is about to get bogged down by time-consuming bureaucracy too.

Authorities will systematically check that the fee has been paid each quarter for all the invoices that require it.

As a general rule, you can see if there are any discrepancies by the 15th day of the first month following each quarter on their Invoices and Receipts portal.

You or your intermediary have until the end of that month to fix any accounting errors, but make sure to check with an accountant if you have any difficulties or need specific advice for your personal circumstances.

Once you receive your final stamp duty bill for each quarter, you can pay either via IBAN, which you set up on the portal, or by filling out an electronic F24 form – details of how to do that are included in the guide.

For further information and FAQ’s, see Italy’s Inland Revenue Agency website on the electronic invoice here.

Please note The Local cannot advise on personal cases and seeking expert financial advice is recommended.