Driving in Italy part 8 — Fines: Avoiding long distance pen-pals in fancy uniforms

by Mario 03-Feb 2010

Tutor: This common English word is perfect doublespeak for these Orwellian times. When the sign says you are entering a Tutor zone, slow down. What Tutor does is calculate your average speed from the warning point to an end point. Should you reach the end point earlier than the speed limit would have allowed, guess what? You just got tagged. 

AutoVelox: This warning announces hidden cameras along the next few miles. You may be tempted to follow some local driver speeding and crawling at inexplicable intervals, assuming they know where the clocking cameras are. He doesn't. Camera positions are changed often and the car you are following just has engine trouble. Keep it safe. If you don't exceed the speed limit by more than 10 kms per hour the camera should let you slide by. These cameras are well disguised to look like birdhouses, utility boxes, a bunch of bolts, signs and street lights. Concentrate on the speedometer and don't even try to guess their whereabouts.

ZTL: This is the worst and most common infraction committed by foreigners. ZTL means limited traffic zone. Replace the word limited with restricted and you begin to get the picture. ZTLs are present in most historical city centers throughout Italy. Unlike the highways where everything is clearly marked, you have to look for ZTL signs. The sign is a red letter O on a white background, much like a do not enter sign. They are usually small and placed at intersections above or near traffic lights where you may turn in another direction to avoid crossing that ZTL checkpoint.

Once have you crossed it, even for a second, it’s too late. Your picture was automatically taken. Your license plate was crosschecked against a database of sanctioned vehicles and you will be fined. ZTL cameras are only aimed at those entering restricted zones. At this point you might as well fully enjoy your crime and cruise around the restricted zone for the rest of your vacation. Just be careful not to unintentionally go back out and in again. 

ZTL signs in some cities also display the days and hours when restrictions apply. For instance, you may be able to drive within ZTL areas at night or during certain hours on Sundays. The purpose of the ZTL was to cut down on congestion and pollution so ancient city centers could breathe a bit of fresh air in the hope of surviving a few more centuries. Today, cars allowed within a ZTL include residents, businesses, businesses doing business with businesses, public transit, taxis, municipal employees, utility companies, politicians, diplomats and people with pull. Gee, that seems like everybody. No wonder you got tagged. You thought you were just following a long traffic jam. Could someone please pass the David an oxygen mask?

If your hotel happens to be in a ZTL you may be in luck. Provided you inform the hotel ahead of time. If they are in a ZTL they may issue you a permit for your temporary stay. This allows you to go in and out of the ZTL at leisure. Contact the hotel well ahead of your stay. Some hotels have only a limited amount of passes. Each city has its own rules on how hotels may apply for their guests. So be sure check ahead.

For the rest of us who are not sleeping by the Trevi Fountain and do not have a cousin in the mayor's office, don’t despair. This nifty ZTL site gives some information on restricted areas in most Italian cities. Again, the site is in Italian. City names are on the right hand side and in the case of Rome, Perugia and a few others it does display an actual google map with the various checkpoints. Finally, municipalities are not completely insane. You can reach most areas of any city in Italy such as stadiums, train stations, designated parking areas and major thoroughfares without danger. The next episodes of Fines will continue with Parking & Avoiding Parking Tickets in Italy...


3/26/2010 1:19:09 PM #

I really enjoyed my driving in Italy. Went from Jesolo near Venice up through the mountains to Corona. Great scenery.

Tyson F. Gautreaux

5/13/2010 5:31:04 AM #


Italy has an excellent network of roads and highways that is one of the most extensive in Europe,which gives excellence for driving.

Airport Limo

7/19/2010 7:15:02 PM #

We are planning to visit Italy next September. We were not planning on driving. This information was helpful. We are now considering renting a car. Thank you!


7/21/2010 11:29:20 AM #

I have really encountered these signs as I've toured Italy photographing great scenery.

Devon Photographer

8/11/2010 6:03:45 AM #

That tutor sign is a brilliant idea. It's good to know what these signs mean for when I go traveling through Italy in the summer.


10/9/2010 5:41:18 AM #

I'm dying to go to Europe. Italy looks like a great place to visit, and thanks to this post, I know where NOT to drive, or to try to avoid as much as possible.


10/15/2010 1:06:34 AM #

We were not planning on driving in Italy. This information was very helpful. We are now considering renting a car to be able to see and enjoy more of the country. Thank you!

B. DeCosta

12/10/2010 12:04:57 PM #

Thank you will use this info next time I am driving in Italy, this summer coming I hope


12/28/2010 7:23:44 AM #

Thx. I'll keep that in mind when I go to Italy this summer!

Tandarts Rotterdam

1/5/2011 3:00:25 PM #

Thank you very much for the information you provided. I appreciate you compiling all these info. I want to go to Europe!!!


1/11/2011 4:16:07 AM #

First I love Italy... Second, thanks for taking time to discuss this. This is my first time i visit here. I found interesting stuff in your blog. I am looking forward to more. Please keep up the good work.


5/9/2011 10:00:52 PM #

This hidden cameras is a must for the people's safety....


About this blog

Welcome to our Access Italy blog, a mosaic of eclectic, but practical, information; fascinating cultural insights; and unique commentary on a wonderful way of life only the Italians could have designed.  more....


Important Information