Beware the urban ZTL—the Zona Traffico Limitato

Most of Italy's cities now how ZTL limited traffic zones, Limited Traffic Zones, Italy, Italy (Photo by Mattes)
Most of Italy's cities now how ZTL limited traffic zones

Many Italian cities are now closed to non-resident cars

Many Italian cities—most notably Florence and Rome but also smaller cities like Siena, Siracusa, and Assisi—are either experimenting with or have already adopted the ZTL ("Zona Traffico Limitato" or Zone of Limited Traffic)—you may have heard of something similar called a "congestion charge" famously instituted by London (and famously shot down in New York). Milan now has one, too: €5 ($6) per day.

A ZTL usually entails closing off the historic center to all cars that do not have a pass (mostly only residents and commercial trucks are allowed in).

The tricky bit is you can still drive into them—enforcement is by traffic cam, not physical barriers—you're just not supposed to, so you have to know they're in place and how to avoid accidentally entering the ZTL.

Practical upshot: Traffic cameras will take a picture of your license plate if you enter the ZTL. If you are not a resident who has paid for a registered pass—or do not get your hotel to register your car with the police immediately upon arrival so they know you are a tourist and can issue a temproary pass—you will be hit with a huge fine.

Since this fine has to find you via the car rental company, that company will tack on a frankly obscene "convenience fee" (often of $60 or more). What's more, the delay going via the rental company often results in the notice arriving to you after its due date, so you will also incur an additional late fee from the city.

Yes, I speak for experience here.

Best solution: Know when a city has a ZTL and respect it. Park the car at one of the public lots ringing the ZTL that were set up for this very purpose (and which are far, far cheaper than private garages in town) and enjoy the city on foot. It's more fun that way, anyway.

(Not to bore you with details, but local backlash has led a few citites that had previously implemented a ZTL—including Milan and Palermo—to suspend them, at least for now. In other words, this is a constantly changing new reality for traveling in Italy.)

Check with the local tourist office before driving into town to get the latest. There's also a blog—in Italian—that tries to keep track of ZTLs all across Italy: ztl-italia.blogspot.com. It has gone a little moribund in the past few years, but many of the maps and links are still accurate.

The Photos section below includes maps of the ZTLs of major cities, plus decodes some of the ZTL sineage you'll see.

Photo gallery
  • Most of Italy
  • This ZTL is limited—from 7:30–11am, 1–5pm, and 6:30–8:30pm—with the following eccetto (exceptions): those with a
  • The electronic part of the sign is letting you know that you have free access (
  • The ZTL of the centro storico and Trastevere parts of central Rome (there are a few other bits), Limited Traffic Zones, Italy (Photo )
  • This map of Florence
  • The ZTL of Naples, Limited Traffic Zones, Italy (Photo )
  • The ZTL of Milan—which is a bit different in that _everyone_has to pay a congestion charge to driving into
  • The ZTL of Palermo, Limited Traffic Zones, Italy (Photo )
 
AutoEurope.com
 
Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for car travel

English (inglese) Italian  (italiano)  Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
car automobile ow-toh-MO-bee-lay
scooter/motorboke un motorino oon mo-tair-EE-no
gas station stazione di servizio stah-zee-YO-nay dee sair-VEE-tzee-yo
gas benzina ben-ZEE-nah
diesel gasolio [or] diesel gah-ZOH-lee-oh [or] DEE-zell
Fill it up, please al pieno, per favore ahl pee-YAY-noh, pair fa-VOHR-ray
Where is... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the highway l'autostrada lout-oh-STRA-dah
...the state highway la statale [written "SS"] lah sta-TAHL-eh
...the road for Rome la strada per Roma lah STRA-dah pair RO-mah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
keep going straight sempre diritto SEM-pray dee-REE-toh
to cross attraversare ah-tra-vair-SAR-ay
toll pedaggio peh-DA-jo
parking parcheggio par-KEH-jo
road map carta stradale kar-ta stra-DA-lay
where can I pay the fine? dove posso pagare la multa DOH-veh Po-so pag-GAR-ray la MOOL-tah


Typical road signs / terms » more

English (anglais) French (français) 
Stop Stop
Exit  Uscita
Staffic light Semaforo
One-way Senso unico
Dead-end Strada senza uscita
Parking prohibited No parcheggio or parcheggio proibito
Pedestrian zone Area pedonale
Limited Traffic Zone (you pay to drive in) ZTL or Zona Traffico Limitato

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
     
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
     
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
     
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
     
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
     
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
     
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah


* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).