Ticket time bombs from Italy

This item appears on page 12 of the January 2010 issue.

My husband, Dick, and I received five traffic citations in the mail in October ’09, each involving a €116 (near $175) fine, for traffic violations on a trip to Florence, Italy, that took place two years before!

Apparently, under Italian law, the police have 360 days to send the notices, UNLESS the car involved is a rental car, in which case the allotted year doesn’t begin until the rental company informs the police of the renter’s name and address.

The citations, titled “Notice of Payment Before the Notification,” were actually sent by a company called Nivi Credit, Ltd. (www.emo.nivi.it), which has the contract to collect fines for Florence and other areas.

We wondered if this was a scam and were hesitant about sending our credit card number. Apparently, this concern was shared by many others; on the Slow Travel website, slowtrav.com, we found a long discussion about the legitimacy of Nivi Credit.

We decided that Nivi Credit is legitimate. Their website contains a long list of frequently asked questions re parking in Florence, etc., the answers to most of which are, “No, you can’t.”

So why were we issued tickets? In Florence there are automatic cameras placed at the entrances to restricted-driving zones (ZTLs), and they record the license plate numbers of cars driven by, among others, those who can’t read the signs in Italian restricting access to these areas.

(A good description of traffic cameras and tickets in Italy can be found at www.slowtrav.com/italy/driving/traffic_cameras_speeding.htm. — Editor)

We sent an e-mail to the Vice Consulate of Italy in San Diego, which resulted in this somewhat humorous response from a higher office: “Oh, yes, US visitors collect fines in Florence. What can I say? I suggest that you pay these fines, like the visitors from Italy pay here $355 for smoking on the walkway by the beach, $400 to pass with red light and even $5,000 and jail time for DUI.”

We paid all the fines using our credit card, which imposes lower fees than a bank transfer.

We used the car only to enter and exit the city. Because it is a very crowded and confusing city, best investigated on foot, we would certainly recommend that visitors park far away from the city center and take a cab.

I think the magnitude of the fines is unconscionable and decidedly unfriendly to tourists, but I suppose Florence will always be flooded with visitors no matter what!


La Jolla, CA