Of all the recurring complaints I get from readers, the one they find by far most vexing has nothing to do with excessive fees, surprise surcharges or surly employees.
It’s about traffic tickets. In Italy.
Dean Brown is the latest in a long line of agitated drivers. In 2008, he and his wife visited Florence. “I parked my rental car in a space with a meter,” said Brown, a general contractor who lives in Tiburon, Calif. “I made sure the meter had the correct amount of paid time for our visit. Now I have received a notice of “Violation of the Highway Code,” which states that my vehicle was circulated in a limited-traffic area without authorization. They are asking for 183 euros,” about $250.
Here’s another complaint, from Joseph Loscalzo, who got a bill from his car rental company seven months after his Italian vacation. “The notice says that they used an approved video control system to issue this ticket and they are asking for 183 euros,” wrote Loscalzo, who is the president of an advertising agency in Corte Madera, Calif. “What are my options? I may travel to Italy again and don’t want to get arrested if pulled over by the police.”
The stories of Italian traffic violations share a common narrative: Tickets are received months, sometimes more than a year, after travelers have returned home. They’re impossible for the average American visitor to decipher, because they’re in Italian — and not just any Italian, but Italian legalese. And there’s no easy way to appeal them, through either a car rental company or the Italian government, so most visitors pay them.
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