ZTL Zone in Italy - what do they mean? Driving in Italy, what you need to know ahead of time. - ouritalianjourney.com

The dreaded ZTL zones in Italy. It’s probably one of the most popular topics in question forums regarding travel in Italy. And… rightfully so with so many visitors driving in a foreign country.

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Let’s see if we can answer some questions and relieve some stress about accidentally entering one of the limited traffic zones in Italian cities and villages. We know this is a long post but it is full of good information you just might need.

Not all the ZTL rules in Italy are the same in every city. It’s also possible that the laws could have changed since the last time you drove in a particular city. Always – ALWAYS check prior to your visit.

So what exactly is a ZTL?

ZTL stands for Limited Traffic Zones or “Zona Traffico Limitato” in Italian. Many historical centers use this to limit the traffic and congestion in certain areas of cento. It also is a way to promote pedestrian-friendly areas.

When ZTLs are Active

ZTLs may be active 24 hours a day, or only for certain hours of certain days of the week. You must stop and read the sign carefully.

Almost all ZTLs in larger cities have a traffic light with two colors – red and green. The sign will read “Varco Attivo” or “Varco Non-Attivo.” If the light is red – do not enter. If it’s green and “Non-Attivo” you can enter – but still be cautious.

It’s very helpful to know the days of the week when translating ZTL and parking signs:


What Happens When You Enter Without Permission?

When a ZTL is active, only vehicles with a local permit (usually a sticker) are permitted to enter. If you enter without the sticker, hidden cameras will take a photo of your car and license plate. This then turns into a ticket and fine.

How to Read a ZTL Sign

In general, a red circle strictly indicates no cars are allowed. There are likely numbers underneath this circle indicating the times of day using the 24-hour clock. Also, these signs will say that cars with a pass may enter.

If you come across a sign but don’t quite have time to read it, pull over and take a moment to assess the situation. You may have to take a few minutes to fully understand the sign – even if it means getting out of your car to go back and understand the sign. Use your Google Translate app or similar app for translation. There is typically a spot to turn around before entering the ZTL zone. Stop and turn around the car before the sign. The locals won’t be surprised – it happens all of the time.

ZTL Zone in Italy - what do they mean? Driving in Italy, what you need to know ahead of time. - ouritalianjourney.com

Do You Have Permission to Enter a ZTL With Your Vehicle? 

Generally, vehicles that have permission to enter the ZTL include those belonging to residents, workers, and business owners. Sometimes parking garages and hotels can get a temporary pass for you to enter and exit. Contact them beforehand – don’t wait to ask once you have driven into the ZTL.

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?

Don’t rely on Google Maps or your GPS to give you information on ZTLs. Most of the systems will not notify you and often route you right through without notification.

Look ahead of time at a ZTL map of the city. I would also make sure it’s an official one and that it is up-to-date. Here is a link for Florence, Italy. As you can see, there is lots of useful information on it – especially the ZTL entry zones indicated with a “T.” But… I believe this map is from 2011 – ancient!

Here are three useful tips:

  • It would be much easier (and safer) to park outside the historic center
  • Use the local trains, trams, buses, taxis or walk to arrive in the city center
  • By all means, don’t just follow the driver in front of you and drive in!

How the ZTL Works for Hotel Guests

If you are staying at a hotel in the city center, you may be able to get permission to enter the ZTL. The hotel staff will inform you of this before you arrive. Follow their directions to a tee. You will need to provide a license plate number. If you are renting a car, send this to the hotel as soon as you rent the car.

What To Do If You Accidentally Enter a ZTL

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to talk the Italian authorities out of issuing you the ticket. It’s automatic. If you find yourself inside one, exit immediately. There could be additional fines added to you already entering the zone – you never know.

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ZTL Fines in Italy

ZTL fines vary, depending on the city and the location. To give you an idea, a ZTL infraction can cost anywhere from €100-350, plus additional fees. 

If you receive a fine in the mail and you are driving a rental car, you will also need to pay a car rental administrative fee from the car rental company. This amount will be around €50. Typically, the car rental agency will automatically charge the card you used for your rental. Check your rental contract so you are aware of the consequences.

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. The ZTL fine will be sent by the local police and you can expect it to arrive anywhere from three months to a year after the violation. 

If you receive a ZTL fine and believe it was issued incorrectly, double-check the date it was issued against your car rental agreement to make sure the dates match.

You can either pay the fine or contest it. 

If you pay the fine, there is sometimes a discount for paying quickly once you receive the notice.

Helpful Tip: Take a photo of your hotel or parking garage receipt in case you need to contest a fine.

How to Contest a ZTL Fine

If you feel you have mistakenly received a ZTL fine, you can contest it by contacting the municipal police or local authorities. Larger cities will usually have an email address or a telephone number to contact them.

Most definitely check the fine for:

  • Date, time, and place of the violation. Make sure you were in the location at the particular time
  • Your vehicle’s info (license plate, make, and model) Make sure it’s correct
  • The type of infraction – not authorized to enter ZTL (for example)
  • Information on how to contest it if you wish to do so

What you will need to prove if it’s not correct:

  • It was not your vehicle as you were in (XXX city) at the time
  • Or, you were authorized to enter the ZTL and your hotel forgot to add your license plates on the “white list.”
  • You can prove these points with photos, documents, or verification correspondence from your hotel

Good To Know:  If you decide to contest the fine and lose, you pay double the fine plus fees.

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Here is Some Helpful ZTL Vocabulary

  • Chiuso/attivo  – closed/active
  • Multa ­– fine
  • Targa – license plate
  • Entrata – entrance
  • Uscita – exit
  • Carta di credito – credit card
  • Macchina – car/vehicle
  • Permesso – permission
  • Parcheggio – parking
  • Albergo – hotel

Personal Thanks

I want to thank our good friends, Jim and JoAn for their input on this post. Since I don’t drive in Italy, I wasn’t one hundred percent positive on some of the information. I appreciate their insight and contribution.

We hope this post helps you feel a little more confident in driving in Italy. Please let us know in the comments if you think it might help – or – if you have additional information to contribute to other readers!

ZTL Zone in Italy - what do they mean? Driving in Italy, what you need to know ahead of time. - ouritalianjourney.com


  1. Such great information! It is a heart-thumping moment when a ZTL suddenly appears–sometimes in odd places. Firenze–our favorite city–has been the most difficult for us. We now use alternative transportation to visit that city and leave our car in the countryside.

  2. We rented a car for one day in 2022 and drove from Venice to Sirmione and into the ZTL with permission due to the location of our hotel. The drive through Sirmione was one of the most harrowing I’ve ever done! The next day we dropped the car in Como (we had a day between an ocean and river cruise). Based on that experience, we rented a car and drove around Italy for a month last year, about 2,900km and several ZTLs, including Lucca, Siena and Florence. We had few problems, but I accidentally drove through a ZTL in Greve in Chianti and am still trying to figure out how to pay the fine. I was looking for a parking place and was right behind a delivery truck that I followed right into the ZTL.

    1. It happens very easily Dennis. You shouldn’t follow any cars or trucks because of this reason. There should be something written about how to pay it. If not, check with Greve Commune and see if they have any information. Thanks for sharing your experience!!

  3. Articolo bene! Combination language and cultural information. To me the ZTL means being able to experience an Italian town with much less concern of getting run over. To my buddy who went and had no idea, it means three separate tickets within 10 minutes as he crossed in and out of the zone trying to find a parking spot in Marostica!

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