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My wife and I are traveling to Europe this May. We are renting a car in Florence, Italy for driving around Tuscany. We decided she will learn the language and I'll learn to drive there.

I've been trying to nail down the final preparations. I found this question covering the international driver's license. However, I've also read on the US government travel advisory website that you may need to pay traffic citations on the spot, or risk having your car impounded.

U.S. citizens driving in Italy should also note that, according to Italian regulation, if a resident of a non-European Union country (e.g., the United States) violates a traffic law, the violator must pay the fine at the time the violation occurs to the police officer issuing the ticket. If the citizen does not or cannot pay the fine at the time, Italian regulation allows the police officer to confiscate the offender’s vehicle (even if the vehicle is a rental vehicle).

What are the exact procedures for this? I'm guessing that officers in remote parts of Tuscany won't be carrying portal credit card readers with them, so I will need to carry cash. We're not planning on violating any traffic laws, but sometimes mistakes are made. How much cash should I plan on having to pay for common traffic violations (e.g. speeding, failure to yield, illegal turn in an intersection etc.)? Do parking tickets work the same way?

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Driving is something of a blood sport in Italy, you're probably more likely to have an accident than be issued a ticket by the Polizia in person. It's even more likely that a nasty surprise turns up on your CC later from a camera. Even if you had an unfortunate situation, I think the police would take you to an ATM. I suggest just carrying a normal amount (a couple hundred dollars each or whatever), and don't worry so much (travel advisories can have that effect). –  Spehro Pefhany Mar 15 at 22:59
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I don't know where you've heard that driving is a bloody sport in Italy but it is certainly false. According to statistics death rates accidents are comparable to those in Canada (and USA). –  Geeo Mar 16 at 7:45
    
Nice statistics, Geeo. I feel very reassured. We're of course planning on carrying cash, I just want to make sure we don't drive around all day, spend our carrying cash, and then get a ticket after the banks close, or something. I posted the question because if I were giving advice to Europeans about driving around rural USA, I would include a thorough warning about speed traps and small town income-driven ticketing procedures... –  Dacio Mar 16 at 8:05
    
Yeah, i was answering the other comment because of the "driving is a bloody sport in Italy" sentence which makes no sense whatsoever. –  Geeo Mar 16 at 8:12
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@Geeo It's not based on statistics, it's based on my experience driving in Tuscany when we were there for a few weeks. Signs and road markings are routinely ignored, roads are incredibly narrow by North American standards (especially in constrained places like Florence). I saw plenty of (probably non-fatal) accidents. Learning to drive (probably with a manual transmission) in Tuscany is insane, IMHO. It's not like the flat rural areas of the US. Mountainous, very narrow windy roads with minimal barriers to ditches etc. A really small car and drive it expertly (as most Italian drivers do). –  Spehro Pefhany Mar 16 at 15:03

1 Answer 1

up vote 9 down vote accepted

If you violate a traffic law and get busted you can pay on spot a reduced fine or a deposit which amount is half the price of the fine. If you chose to pay the deposits you will be able to contesting the fine.

The most common violations are:

  • no seat belt: from 76 to 306 euros.
  • underage with no seat belt: from 76 to 306 euros.
  • exceeding speed limits: from 39 to 3119 euros.
  • entering a ZTL (zona a traffico limitato - restricted traffic zone): from 76 to 306 euros. Be aware this is probably the one you are going to violate if you don't pay extra care. Usually the city center of most touristy city is ZTL.

Informations about current fines are a courtesy of ACI

I assume you won't drive under influence. If you have an accident always stop and call the police, even though it's unlikely they are going to understand English they will try to assist you nonetheless.
That said, 200 euros seems a reasonable amount even tho you can always ask to go to an ATM to withdraw some cash, unless you are in a remote area.

Parking tickets are left on the windshield so you don't have to pay it on spot.

One of the main differences I found driving in the USA is on how you turn.
Never turn with red lights (even if some people do it anyway).
You won't always find traffic light for turning left. If that's the case and if you can turn in the first place (pay attention to the sign with arrow in blue background) you must stop in the middle of the intersection and give way to those in the opposite direction.
I'm not sure this exist in other parts of the world but one of the most tricky thing when turning is the "controviale". A controviale is a road on the right parallel to the main one which is used to turn left or right. In this case you must know well in advance when you need to turn so that you can get in the controviale first and then turn at the desired intersection.

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I laughed at "call the police, even of it's unlikely they are going to understand English". Very fun and very sad indeed. –  Alessandro Da Rugna Mar 17 at 8:09
    
I'd like to see a reference for the ticket estimates, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense to prepare for the high-end... Thanks again, Geeo. –  Dacio Mar 17 at 14:34
    
reference added –  Geeo Mar 17 at 16:09

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