Last updated on July 25th, 2023
Aaah, the dreaded ZTL in Italy. It’s one of the most popular topics in forums on Italy travel, and many visitors stress about accidentally entering one of the limited traffic zones in Italian cities and villages.
I’ve been driving here since 2003 and I’ve seen ZTLs pop up all over the country – from major metropolises like Milan to tiny Chianti villages.
The information in this article is based on my experience driving here, renting cars here, and working with visiting clients.
I’ve also collaborated with a Florence parking employee and an employee of SaS (Servizi alla Strada), which operates the ZTLs in Florence. I also spoke to representatives of multiple car rental agencies here in Florence.
This isn’t exactly an exciting article to read, but the information in it may save you hundreds of euros if you’ll be driving a rental car in Italy.
Good To Know: Not all ZTL rules are identical throughout Italy. It’s important to read all signs and ask the local authorities if you have any questions. Also, rules and laws change. This guide is intended to help clarify questions and doubts you may have about ZTLs in Italy.
If you’re planning on driving in Italy, check out our posts on:
Renting a Car in Italy
Renting a Car in Italy as an American
Italian Gas Stations and Getting Gas in Italy
Important Italian Road Signs
Driving in Italy
International Driving Permit for Italy
Renting a Car in Italy with a US Driver’s License
Italian Toll Roads – Driving on the Autostrada
Paying Tolls in Italy
Parking in Italy + Parking Sign Translations
ZTLs in Italy
What is a ZTL?
A ZTL in Italy is Zona Traffico Limitato or Limited Traffic Zone. The purpose of the ZTL is to reduce traffic, congestion, and pollution in city and town centers. They also help promote pedestrian-friendly zones.
ZTLs may be ‘attivo’ (active or on) 24 hours a day, or only for certain hours of the day or certain days of the week.
When a ZTL is attivo, only vehicles with permission may enter the ZTL.
If you enter an active ZTL without permission, cameras at the entry points will take a photo of your car and license plate and you’ll receive a fine.
Fines for ZTL infractions are usually €100-350, plus administrative fees. The exact amount of the fine depends on the city.
Vehicles That Have Permission to Enter the ZTL
How do you know if you have permission to enter a ZTL with your vehicle?
In general, vehicles that have permission to enter the ZTL include those belonging to residents, workers, hotel guests, and people using parking garages. In some cities, electric vehicles may enter the ZTL freely.
Good To Know: You do not need permission to enter a ZTL if the ZTL is open, or ‘non attivo.’
How To Tell if a ZTL is On / Active
The ZTL’s active hours (when it’s on and you’re not allowed to enter without permission) are listed on a sign before the ZTL begins. Almost all ZTLs (especially in large cities) have a red or green light or a digital ‘VARCO ATTIVO’ or ‘VARCO NON ATTIVO’ element, which is helpful when you’re driving. It it’s red or ‘ATTIVO,’ don’t enter! If it’s green or ‘NON ATTIVO,’ you may enter – access is free for all vehicles (unless noted – but this will rarely affect rental cars).
There may be other phrasing used, like on the above sign, but you can tell that the green light and ‘free access’ means you can enter without permission.
Good To Know: The hours will always be posted on a sign, but unfortunately, sometimes the sign is just before the beginning of the ZTL. If you see a sign but don’t have time to read it, try to pull over and take a moment to assess the situation (which may include getting out of your car, walking back, and reading the sign – I’ve done it!).
Helpful Tip: If you enter the ZTL when it’s green or ‘NON ATTIVO,’ know that you can stay in the ZTL as long as you want, as long as you are parked legally. This can be tough to do, as most parking spaces in ZTLs are marked for residents only. There are no ZTL cameras at the exits of the zone, BUT if you accidentally drive into another ZTL, you will be fined if it’s active.
Important: Do not rely on Google Maps, apps, or your GPS to give you info on ZTLs. Navigators will often route your right through ZTLs. You must always have your head up and be watching for the ZTL signs.
Decoding a ZTL Sign in Italy
Some ZTL signs are straightforward, like this one:
You can see that the ZTL is closed, so unless you have permission, you can’t enter. You can see the camera that photographs your license plate just ahead on top of the pole.
Here is another example of a ZTL sign in Italy:
Here drivers are warned that they may not enter (the red circle) because it’s a zona traffico limitato – limited traffic zone. Entrance is forbidden to unauthorized vehicles except (eccetto) for authorized vehicles assisting handicapped persons, emergency services (police, ambulances, or the fire department) only in the event of an emergency, or vehicles authorized to unload (but only for 15 minutes). [The sign with the dog is warning owners to ‘scoop the poop’ or get a €160 fine.]
Another ZTL sign:
This sign lists the hours the ZTL is active: from Monday through Friday, 7:30am – 8:00pm, and on Saturday from 7:30am – 4:00pm. From the first Thursday in April to the first Sunday in October, the ZTL notturna (night ZTL) is also active, on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 11:00pm to 3:00am the following day. Exceptions are two-wheeled vehicles (scooters, motorcycles), vehicles with a handicap decal, and those authorized for sectors A & B (vehicles with permission). The yellow sign gives drivers a heads-up that the night ZTL starts on April 7th.
Helpful Tip: It helps to know the days of the week when translating ZTL and parking signs. Check out our Useful Italian Travel Phrases (with printable cheat sheet!).
You may want to read more about Important Italian Road Signs!
Easy Ways to Avoid Driving Into a ZTL
So, you know you can’t enter an active ZTL, but how do you avoid accidentally driving into one?
- Look at a ZTL map ahead of time. IMPORTANT: Only rely on an official city ZTL Map (for example, Florence’s is at http://www.serviziallastrada.it/it/ztl-zona-traffico-limitato – click on ‘Mappe ZTL’). The zones can change. If you’re looking at a 3rd party map online, if it’s not up-to-date and you receive a fine – too bad. The photo above gives you an idea of what a city’s ZTL looks like. This is Florence’s map and you can see all of the ‘Ts’ – the ZTL entrances with cameras.
- Don’t rely on Google Maps, Waze, or navigation systems.
- Don’t blindly follow other drivers into a ZTL.
- If you see a sign but don’t have time to read it, pull over.
- Plan to park outside of the historic center and walk in.
- Don’t drive – use public transport like trains, buses, taxis, or trams.
How the ZTL Works for Hotel Guests
If you are staying at a hotel in the city center, you will get permission to enter the ZTL.
The hotel staff will take down your license plate number and submit it to the appropriate authority (in Florence, it’s Servizi alla Strada), who put it on a lista bianca (white list). If you’re on the list, you won’t receive a fine.
Important: If you have parking at your hotel, you can leave your car there during your stay or leave and re-enter.
If you are just dropping off your luggage (or picking it up after check-out), you have a limited window to be in the ZTL with your vehicle (usually 1-3 hours but check with your hotel.
Important: Always double-check that the hotel has entered your license plate on the white list.
How the ZTL Works for Parking Garages
If you are parking at a parking garage in a ZTL, the attendant will send your license plate to the authorities to be put on the lista bianca (white list) so you won’t receive a fine.
Not all parking garages will submit your license plate, so it’s best to call ahead of time. But, in our experience, most will.
What To Do If You Accidentally Enter a ZTL
Unfortunately, Italian authorities do not care if you accidentally enter the ZTL – there is no allowance for error.
So, if you do enter the ZTL, try to leave on the shortest route possible. Cities often have multiple ZTL areas. If you drive around entering and exiting ZTLs that you’re not allowed to be in, you’ll receive multiple fines.
Example: You’ve checked out of your Florence hotel and you’re driving to the Tuscan countryside. Get directions from the hotel reception so you exit your ZTL and leave the city without re-entering a different ZTL.
Helpful Tip: If you’ve accidentally entered a ZTL, try to drive into a parking garage. You can park your car for an hour or two, explore the city, then leave without a fine. Remember to make sure they enter your license plate onto the lista bianca and also confirm how to leave the city without re-entering a ZTL.
ZTL Fines in Italy
ZTL fines vary, depending on the location. For example, in Florence, a ZTL fine will be around 100€, but you get a discount if you pay within a certain amount of time (listed on the fine).
Fines are typically given by the polizia municipal (municipal police).
Good To Know: If you receive your fine in the mail and you were driving a rental car, you will also need to pay a car rental administrative fee (currently around €60). Typically, the car rental agency will automatically charge the card you used for your rental. Look at your car rental contract for details.
What To Do if You Get a ZTL Fine
If you enter a ZTL without permission, the local police will contact the rental car company for your contact information (and the rental car company charges an admin fee of around €60 for this). Then, the local police send the fine to you.
ZTL fines usually arrive between 3 and 12 months after the infraction.
You can either pay the fine or contest it.
The easiest way to pay is online (but that’s not always available, especially in smaller towns).
Helpful Tip: Keep (or take photos of) your hotel and parking garage receipts in case you need to contest a fine.
How to Contest a ZTL Fine
If you have mistakenly received a ZTL fine, you can contest it by contacting the municipal police, the prefect (head of the ZTL department), or the justice of the peace. You must contest the ZTL fine within 60 days of receiving it (not the date you supposedly entered the ZTL and received the fine, but the date you physically received the fine).
You’ll want to check the fine for the:
- Date, time, and place of the infraction
- Your vehicle’s info (license plate, make, and model)
- The type of infraction (non-authorized entry into a ZTL)
- Details on how to contest it
If it’s not clear how to contest the fine, contact the local police for further instructions.
You’ll need to prove:
- It wasn’t your vehicle (you were in another location at the time)
- Or, you were authorized to enter the ZTL (for example, your hotel forgot to enter your license plate on the white list)
- Or, the ZTL wasn’t properly marked (or the sign said it wasn’t active, for example)
You can prove these with photos, documents, or correspondence with your hotel.
Good To Know: If you decide to contest the fine and lose, you pay double the fine plus fees.
Helpful ZTL Vocabulary
- ZTL (zona traffico limitato) – limited traffic zone
- Varco – passage
- Aperto/non attivo – open/not active
- Chiuso/attivo – closed/active
- Multa – fine
- Targa – license plate
- Entrata – entrance
- Uscita – exit
- Pagare – to pay
- Carta di credito – credit card
- Macchina/veicolo – car/vehicle
- Permesso – permission
- Parcheggio – parking
- Albergo – hotel
- Vorrei confermare la mia targa è sulla lista bianca. – I would like to confirm my license plate is on the white list.
Almost all cities in Italy have at least one ZTL. Even small towns and tiny villages often have a ZTL. You can see a list of some of them here (be sure to check the updated date).
Each city has its own rules and systems for ZTLs, but in general, ZTLs are clearly marked, vehicle license plates are photographed at ZTL entry points, and vehicles without permission to enter the ZTL (when it’s active) receive a fine.
The best place to view an official ZTL map is on the city’s official website, or on the website of the company that runs the city’s ZTLs. Don’t rely on 3rd party websites for up-to-date info.
Official information for Florence ZTLs can be found at Servizi alla Strada, which runs the ZTLs in Florence.
ZTLs can change, but do not change frequently. It’s best to consult the city’s official map. Or, just keep your head up and pay attention to signs.
Officially, your fine will double, and you will need to pay additional fees as time passes. Italian collections agencies have no power abroad, but some larger Italian cities are beginning to partner with collections agencies in other countries.
It depends on the city. You must always register your license plate with the local authorities.
You cannot get temporary permission if you’re staying with friends or staying temporarily in an apartment in the city.
Yes, you can rent a car in Italy even if you have an outstanding ZTL fine. The rental car company works with the local police by giving them your contact info. After that, they ‘wipe their hands’ of the situation and move on.
The cameras are at the entrances of the ZTL and they take a photo of your license plate as you enter the ZTL. You can leave the ZTL freely.