If you're planning to travel to an Italian city by car, be careful! Around 300 towns and cities in Italy have a "Zona a traffico limitato" or limited traffic zone (ZTL). Driving in these zones without authorisation can cost you dearly. Here's an explanation of what a ZTL is and the risks involved.
ZTLs are traffic-restricted zones located in Italian cities with historic town centres. Only local residents and registered vehicles are allowed to use them.
During certain hours, these zones are closed to outside vehicles that do not have paid access rights. If you drive in these zones when you are not authorised to do so, you could be fined.
Each entrance to a ZTL is marked by a sign and monitored by video surveillance. But be careful: the signs indicating these zones are not always easy to spot (they may be installed high up, close to the surveillance cameras). They are generally not very explicit (only in Italian) about authorised vehicles and the times when traffic is allowed. See below for an example of these signs.
Good to know: Many Italian towns have set up ZTLs. Before travelling, check the list of towns concerned on the website of the Italian embassy in your country, for example in France Informations générales sur la conduite en Italie - La France en Italie (ambafrance.org)
You can also find out more on the websites of the Italian cities concerned:
If you hold a French "mobility and inclusion" card, you can park in Italy in specific spaces that are clearly indicated. However, this card does not allow you to enter a ZTL without prior authorisation. Before your journey, you must request authorisation from the town hall of the city you intend to visit.
The same should applied for other disability cards, as they are not (yet) recognised throughout the EU, so check before leaving.
If you are staying in a hotel located in a ZTL, ask the hotelier to register your number plate for the duration of your stay.
Tip: do not drive in a ZTL until you have authorisation to do so.
Please note: authorisation to drive in your hotel's ZTL does not mean that you can drive in all the ZTLs in the city.
If you have driven in a ZTL in Italy without authorisation, you will have to wait several weeks, or even several months, before you receive the fine at home.
In most cases, you will receive a letter from a debt collection agency appointed by the Italian police or a French company within 360 days. In order to comply with this time limit, it is sufficient for the notification letter to have been sent within this period, regardless of the date of receipt.
In general, you will be able to consult the fine, the photo of the offence and dispute the fine directly online via the website indicated in your letter with the login details.
Good to know: payment of the fine can be claimed from you for 5 years from the day of the offence (limitation period).
Note : If you are living in France, a French debt collection agency can only claim the amount of the initial fine and must not charge you any additional fees.
The police must serve you with the fine within 360 days. You can always contest it for various reasons (you were not in Italy at the time, you were not the driver, the 360-day time limit has passed, etc.).
Once you have received the letter, you have 60 days to lodge an objection. You can lodge an appeal by recorded delivery letter either with the Prefect (free of charge) or with the Justice of Peace (€38) in the locality where the offence took place. Please note that the forms are in Italian only!
Good to know before contesting the fine:
- If you decide to appeal to the Prefect, you do not have to attend a hearing. If your appeal is unsuccessful, the fine will automatically be doubled. You will only be informed if the Prefect rejects your appeal.
- If you do not wish to visit the Préfet, we recommend that you delete the following sentence from the form « (Opzionale) Ai fini di un’ulteriore illustrazione dei motivi del ricorso, chiede inoltre di essere personalmente convocato, attraverso avviso all’indirizzo di cui sopra ».
- If you decide to lodge an appeal with the Justice of Peace, you will have to attend a hearing and may have to be represented by an Italian lawyer. If you live in France, the following list is provided for your information Avocats, médecins, traducteurs, notaires - La France en Italie (ambafrance.org). The judge may decide to double or not the amount of the fine to be paid if the dispute resolution is not in your favour.
In the event of non-payment, it is theoretically possible that you will be prosecuted in your EU residence country by the Italian authorities or a representative in that country.
We would draw your attention to the fact that non-payment may result in an increase in the fines and a risk of control by the police authorities if you return to Italy.
For more information on this type of fine, please contact the Embassy of your country in Italy. If you live in France, contact l’Ambassade de France en Italie.
In principle, car hire companies do not pay the fine you receive for unauthorised entry into a ZTL. They provide the police with your personal details so that they can send the fine directly to your home address.
If you live in France, the time limit for notification of the offence is 360 days, from the time the car hire company sends your details to the Italian police. So don't be surprised if you receive the fine more than 360 days later. In the event of a dispute, ask for a copy of the personal details that were provided to the police.
If you live in Italy, the notification period is 90 days from the date of the offence.
If you wish to contest the offence, please refer to the section above entitled "Do you have to pay the penalty for unauthorised driving in a ZTL?"
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