While renting a car abroad, it is of utmost importance to familiarize yourself with the local rules of the road as well as parking laws so that you can avoid being hit with unexpected fines. In Italy, there are a lot of road rules that most Americans will not be used to, since most of us are not driving through protected old historic town centers in the United States, and these areas are very commonly found throughout Italy.
One American tourist found out the hard way that Italians do not mess around when it comes to breaking driving laws. The 34 year old tourist drove over the iconic Ponte Vecchio in Florence in his rental Fiat Panda, and was stunned when he was given a 500 euro fine for doing so, according to CNN. To make matters worse, he was driving without an international’s driver’s license.
He tried to explain to police that he was searching for a parking spot and did not realize where he was driving, let alone that it was a historic area. The Ponte Vecchio connects two parts of Florence over the Arno River, and it is located right in the middle of the city. In the historic center, tourists can visit the Duomo and Mercato Centrale. On the other side of the bridge, you can visit the Pitti Palace and see breathtaking views of the city from Piazzale Michelangelo.
Italy is notorious for road rules that can get you a serious fine if you’re not careful. Before starting to drive in Italy, familiarize yourself with the infamous ZTL’s, or zona traffico limitato, which are zones of restricted circulation that aim to protect historical centers from car traffic. Only registered vehicles and local residents are typically allowed to drive in these areas. Driving through a ZTL will absolutely land you a hefty fine.
This is certainly not the first time (and likely not the last time) a tourist has been hit with a massive fine for breaking the rules in Italy. Another American tourist was fined 450 euros when he was caught eating and drinking while sitting atop one of the ancient city’s fountains, which is a big no-no. Yet another tourist, this time from Saudi Arabia, was arrested by police after he drove a Maserati down the Spanish Steps.
An American couple got in trouble and were fined for riding motorized surfboards in the Grand Canal in Venice. The mayor of Venice referred to them as “overbearing imbeciles who make a mockery of the City.”
While visiting another country, it is always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the local customs and rules. Something that might not get a second glance in your country could end up costing you hundreds, so always try to anticipate these things by doing a bit of research ahead of time.