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DRIVING

Explained: How to pay Italian traffic fines from abroad

It's the surprise souvenir that nobody wants, but it's not unusual to receive a fine for a traffic violation many months after a trip to Italy. Here's what you need to know if this happens to you.

Explained: How to pay Italian traffic fines from abroad
It's easy to end up with a fine if you're not familiar with the various parking signs in Italy. Photo by Egor Myznik on Unsplash

Your trip to Italy may now be a distant memory, but you’ve just received a reminder in the form of a fine in the mail for a traffic violation – probably one you didn’t even know you’d committed.

It’s an unfortunately common experience. 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, and it’s easy to fall foul of the rules even if you’re familiar with them.

READ ALSO: How visitors to Italy can avoid driving penalties

If a ticket has landed on your doormat, or you’ve been notified of one by your car hire company, the question now is what to do and how to pay. If you’re outside of Italy it’s not always clear how the payment process works.

To make it as painless as possible, here’s our guide to paying Italian traffic fines from outside of Italy – plus what to do if you want to contest the fine, and what happens if you simply don’t pay.

What happens if I get a fine?

Any infringements you committed on Italy’s roads may take a while to sting. If you live abroad, it’s usually several months at least before you’ll receive a fine – and could be more than 500 days under Italian law.

If you were driving a hire car, the rental company will get a notification first, because the police have 90 days to issue a fine to the vehicle’s registered address in Italy.

If you see a charge from the rental company on your credit card, it’s not because they’ve paid the ticket for you and are passing on the cost – it’ll be an admistrative fee for handling your ticket. These fees can be up to 90 euros, meaning they may cost more than the fine itself.

The rental company has 60 days to send police the driver’s data, including your home address. At which point the company will probably also notify you, charge you, and/or forward the ticket to you.

This doesn’t mean you need to pay the fine immediately, however – and in fact you may be unable to if you’re abroad.

How do you pay the fine from outside of Italy?

The ticket the Italian rental company receives will be written in Italian, with instructions for making a payment in Italy – meaning you’ll need an Italian tax code to make the payment, or that there may not be an option to pay online at all (the exact payment process varies by municipality).

If you’re outside of Italy, you should wait for the police to send another ticket directly to you – they have 360 days to send it once they receive your address from the rental company.

Police in Rome and Turin contacted by The Local confirmed that tickets sent abroad would be written in English, and would include an IBAN number for payment via bank transfer.

READ ALSO: Driving in Italy: What is a ‘Telepass’ and how do you use it?

Police said this ticket would be sent out by registered post, meaning it must be signed for. The payment deadline and timeframes for discounted payment kick in from the date you receive the letter and sign for it.

You have 60 days from the date of receiving the notification to pay your ticket. However, the amount depends on the payment date. The longer you wait, the more you have to pay.

The following timeframes apply according to Article 202 of Italy’s Highway Code (Codice della Strada):

  • If you pay within five days of receiving the notification, you will get a 30 percent discount for early payment. You will find the exact amount on your ticket.
  • If you pay within 60 days, you can still benefit from a smaller price reduction.
  • After 60 days, you’ll be liable to pay the full amount.
  • If you still haven’t paid after six months, late payment fees of ten percent are added. 

Before sending the payment, check to make sure the IBAN number corresponds to an Italian municipality.

When sending your bank transfer, write the licence plate of the vehicle, the date of infraction, and ticket number in the reference. And make sure you obtain a payment receipt for your records.

If your bank charges fees for international transfers, you may want to make the payment using a service such as Wise (formerly Transferwise).

Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

The payment is considered complete when the funds arrive in the municipality’s bank account, rather than from the date on which you send it, according to the Interior Ministry. So you’ll need to consider the fact that it can take anything from two to five working days for an international transfer to arrive.

When fines are paid online by international bank transfer, the five-day payment window is extended by two days. So you’re still eligible for the 30 percent discount if the payment arrives within seven days of you receiving the ticket. The 60-day time limit for payment is also extended to 62 days.

Can you contest the fine?

Yes, you can appeal if you think you have good grounds to do so. But consider first whether it’s worth the hassle.

Paying the fine immediately with a 30 percent reduction is the least expensive and by far the least stressful way to deal with it. If you appeal, you forgo this discount and risk the fine increasing in the meantime.

But if your fine is especially high, or is truly invalid (and you can prove it), you may feel the dispute is worth the tangle with Italian bureaucracy.

Keep in mind that your reason for appealing 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 I didn’t understand the rules.”

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

Valid reasons to contest a fine include errors on the ticket regarding the day, time, place and location of the offence, or if the vehicle type or number plate are incorrect.

See the local police website covering the municipality issuing the fine to find out more about the process. If you don’t speak Italian well, you’re very likely to need the assistance of a local friend or legal professional.

Find out more about the process of appealing a fine in a separate article here.

What happens if you don’t pay?

You could be tempted to just ignore the Italian fine since you’re back in your home country, perhaps on the other side of the world.

But while Italy may have a reputation for being chaotic and disorganised, the reality is that authorities are generally pretty hot on issuing and collecting fines. 

The ticket won’t go anywhere – it will just continue to accrue interest and the payable amount will rise.

The municipality can enlist a debt collection agency and at that point you’ll no longer be able to contest the ticket. And unpaid tickets may also cause problems when hiring a car in Italy on future trips.

Getting a ticket is never a pleasant experience, but paying it online as quickly as you can is the least expensive and stressful option in the long run.

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

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DRIVING

Why is it taking so long to book a driving test in Italy?

People trying to sit their driving tests in many parts of Italy are reporting long delays when booking their theory or practical exam. The Local looks at why this is happening.

Why is it taking so long to book a driving test in Italy?

Getting an Italian driving licence (or patente di guida) isn’t exactly a piece of cake, especially for foreign residents, who, besides familiarising themselves with the national Highway Code, must also achieve a high level of Italian language proficiency before taking the test.

But the process has become more of a challenge over the past few months for candidates experiencing long waiting times – up to five months in some cases – when booking their theory or practical tests.

READ ALSO: Who needs to exchange their driving licence for an Italian one?

As many local licensing offices (Uffici di Motorizzazione Civile, which are roughly equivalent to the UK’s DVLA or the US DMV) fail to explain these delays, candidates are left wondering what the problem is. 

The short answer is that Italy’s licensing department is facing critical understaffing problems, which, by the look of things, aren’t going away anytime soon. 

“The problem is national,” Emilio Patella, national secretary of Italy’s main driving schools’ union UNASCA, tells The Local.

“The size of the [licensing department’s] current workforce is half of what it was ten years ago, or half of what it should be on a regular basis.”

READ ALSO: Do you have to take Italy’s driving test in Italian?

Cars line up to cross the Italian-Swiss border

People taking their practical driving tests in Como face a waiting time of 140 days on average. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

This means that, presently, there simply aren’t enough employees around to meet the market’s demand – a situation which is the result of “over 20 years where few to no hirings were made”, according to Patella.

Not all local offices are currently registering gigantic delays, with waiting times varying from area to area based on demand and the number of staff available.

Regions in the north-west and north-east of the country – especially Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna – are bearing the brunt of the national crisis.

Como has the worst-affected office in the country, Patella says, with the average waiting time for candidates looking to take their practical test standing at 140 days (or well north of four months).

Other cities experiencing long delays include Brescia, Bergamo, Milan, Turin, Vicenza, Verona, Piacenza, Parma, and Reggio Emilia.

Katherine Sahota, a British national living in Brescia, has been trying to book her theory test since September, but says there have been “little to no appointments available” in the area.

While being denied the opportunity to book a test is sufficiently frustrating in and of its own, the issue is particularly pressing for Britons in Italy at the moment.

READ ALSO: ‘So stressful’: How Italy-UK driving licence fiasco threatens couple’s Tuscan dream

The 12-month grace period allowing British nationals to drive across Italy on UK licences is due to expire on December 31st and, with negotiations over a reciprocal agreement between Italy and the UK showing no sign of progress, many British nationals have chosen to get an Italian driving licence. 

But the delays affecting many licensing offices across Italy are already undermining their efforts and mean it’s unlikely some residents will be able to get their licence before the deadline.

Sahota might just be one of them. 

“It is a helpless situation not being able to plan anything,” she tells The Local.

“I don’t think they understand how this affects the lives of people who need to drive for work, for families, for their own freedom of movement.”

Sahota’s situation, and that of many others across the country, isn’t being helped by the inherent nature of the Italian licensing system, which is built on a series of tight, consecutive deadlines. 

Red Vespa motorcycle and vintage Fiat

The Italian licensing system is based on a series of tight deadlines, which make candidates susceptible to even the shortest delays. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

After submitting a request to take the test, candidates have six months to pass the theory exam, within a maximum of only two attempts. They then have 12 months and a total of three attempts to pass the practical exam. 

Also, those who have to resit either exam can only do so at least a month after the failed attempt.

As a result of this, even a waiting time as ‘short’ as two months might keep a candidate from being able to retake an exam within the set timeframe. If this happens, the candidate has no choice but to re-enrol and pay all the enrolment fees again.

Several reports of residents not being able to retake an exam through no fault of their own have emerged over the past few weeks. 

Stefano Galletti, president of Bologna’s UNASCA office, said last week that candidates in the city “can barely take an exam” in the given time span, with longer-than-usual waiting times often keeping people from retaking in case of failure.

READ ALSO: Some of the best learner sites for taking your Italian driving test

While hiring more examiners looks like the solution to the problem, but increasing the Italian licensing department’s workforce might not be as straightforward as many would think. 

According to Patella, the Italian government will have to either implement a special hiring policy known as ‘piano straordinario’ – an option which, he says, hasn’t been considered so far – or delegate tasks to employees of other national agencies in order to fill the current gaps. 

But, even if one of the above measures were to be put into effect, Patella believes that “we would only manage to get back to a normal state of things in around three years” – that’s also because “being an examiner is not a very sought-after job and few people are still willing to do it”.

In the meantime, residents facing delays can get in touch with the Italian licensing department’s support centre to report their issue or ask for guidance. 

It’s also worth noting that residents are allowed to sit their driving tests in a province other than the one where they reside. 

However, if the province where they choose to take the test doesn’t border that in which they are resident, the licensing office can ask candidates to give a valid reason for the choice and to provide additional documentation.

For further information, contact your local licensing office (Uffici di Motorizzazione Civile). Find details of your nearest office here

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