Avoiding the Zone Traffico Limitato in Italy is one of the most important things to do on your road trip there. Here’s why and how to do just that.
What is the Zone Traffico Limitato?
These are, as the name implies, zones where access for traffic is limited. There are over 200 different Zona Traffico Limitato zones like this in Italy which are able to issue you with some rather hefty fines that can even follow you home. The lowest fine being around 50 euros and the highest being around 80 euros. This isn’t just for one day though, this is per crossing. That means that if you enter, leave, then enter again – you will get fined twice.
They aren’t just in the biggest cities in Italy either, they are even in small seaside towns, so check before you go. They are there to guard historic centres from excess pollution, which is an honourable goal. Don’t make the mistake we did of not checking before setting out.
If you are not able to find any information online about the zones then make sure you are careful when driving around. City centres are guaranteed to have ZTL zones, and, thankfully they all have a second part to them which tell you more details about the restrictions.
For those of you who don’t speak Italian, I think you can see what the problem would be.
Now you know what they look like and what they are there for we need to get some more information about them.
5 Reasons Why the Zone Traffico Limitato is a problem:
Other than the rather hefty fine that you can get for crossing them and the fact that it’s done per crossing there are some even more troublesome problems for tourists.
The first of these problems is that not all cities have the same exceptions to the rule. This means that you cannot simply assume that because in, say, city X you can enter on Sunday, that you can enter city Y on Sunday. The hours where exceptions are granted also change. Essentially the whole sign can change from city to city, so you really need to check each city individually to make sure that you are not going to be entering the Zone Traffico Limitato. Which brings us on to our second problem.
The second problem is that Sat Navs aren’t usually good at stopping you from entering the Zone Traffico Limitato zones. They generally assume that you have permission to enter them (which you can get without being a local) or that you know what you are doing in general, sadly we didn’t at the time. This leads to the awkward situation of having to sit down with a map and work out how to get to your hotel without crossing the Zona Traffico Limitato…assuming your hotel isn’t inside of it, but more on that later.
We only realised halfway through our trip that we needed to pay attention to this sign and had to make sure that the hotels we booked were not inside of the Zona Traffico Limitato. This meant that on our drive from Naples to Rome we had to drive around the whole of Rome instead of following the sat nav to make sure we didn’t cross the ZTL zone. The best thing to do is to find a waypoint to put into your sat nav to make sure that you can just follow it as usual.
The third problem is that other people are quite freely crossing this zone. Do not think that you can do the same. They are either locals or other unwilling tourists who are going to receive a nasty surprise when they get home. We are still waiting to see if ours comes, as they can come any time up to a year after, which brings us to the next problem.
The fourth problem is that you may have absolutely no option left but to cross into it. Maybe you are getting pushed from behind, or maybe you simply turned down a one-way street. Whatever the reason, sometimes it is unavoidable, which is what happened to us and we ended up crossing a pedestrian shopping street in front of the Italian army (who ended up being very nice and helpful by the way, if not rather bemused when we stopped to ask them what the hell as going on).
Lastly, all zones have cameras right next to them. This means that fines are issued automatically and there is no means for an argument about it. It doesn’t matter that the only safe place to turn around was after one of these signs, you will still have to pay for the privilege.
3 Way To Avoid the Zona Traffico Limitato
There are a few ways that you can get around the Zona Traffico Limitato, some of them are not as obvious as the others.
Firstly there’s the obvious one. Don’t drive. There are plenty of options, such as using park and ride zones or simply staying in one place and getting the train into bigger cities. Alternatively, there is the option of doing what we did when we went to Florence. We managed to find a shopping centre outside of the ZTL zone and parked there and then got the tram into the city centre. This is by far the easiest option in terms of stress and ease of use.
Secondly, if you have booked a hotel that is inside of the Zona Traffico Limitato, let them know. You are allowed to cross the ZTL zone if you are going directly to and from your hotel – no sightseeing. Your hotel should be able to sort out all of this for you if they are able to provide you with parking. If not, then they still may be able to assist you. Get in contact with them and make sure that they know you are driving and see what they can do to help.
Thirdly, if you have crossed and are a bit stuck for options then don’t turn back straight away. Have a look around to see if you can find one of the car parks that are within the bounds of the Zone Traffico Limitato. These garage car parks (not just street parking!) will ask you to sign a form that they will then send to the local government offices to prove that you were driving around the city to get to park there. This will mean that you do not receive a fine, as long as you go directly there and then directly out again. This is also just a tactic that you could use generally, but you better hope that they aren’t full when you get there!
You can see some of this advice in practice by going to the visit Florence website and looking at the advice they have specifically for that city.
In short, do not plan to cross the Zona Traffico Limitato unless you are absolutely sure that you are allowed to by forms of written permission. It’s just not worth the risk. If, however, you do happen to cross a ZTL then look for a parking garage that might be around you to save you from a big fine. You can google these quite happily, but don’t drive all around the ZTL trying to find one – you risk even higher fines or the local government just not believing you and issuing you with a fine anyway.
You SHOULD be ok if you have booked a good standard hotel THAT OFFERS PARKING, if not then they still might be able to help you – but if they don’t have any parking places then it will simply be trying to set you on the right path rather than giving you a solution.
The Zona Traffico Limitato almost ruined our Italian road trip due to the amount of stress it gave us. Make sure that it doesn’t do the same for you. Find out where it is in relation to where you need to be and plan accordingly. Do not cross it without written permission – by this I mean even a message from the hotel on your booking website of choice. If you have crossed it then look for a parking garage.
If you are really concerned then there are plenty of other advice forums and pages that are city specific and that will be able to offer even more in-depth advice for your trip. The signs are obvious once you know what you’re looking out for so it should be pretty easy.
Lastly, this is not some sort of scam. When walking around the centre you will see lots of traffic, now just imagine if all of those tourists were allowed in as well.