The never-ending saga of the Italian traffic ticket.

Above: a shot taken while waiting for stop light in Rome in September 2022.

The last time I got a traffic ticket in Italy, it was because of an utterly honest mistake.

It was my first time returning after the lockdowns in 2020. I was rolling into the town of Bra, Piedmont, where I stay during my teaching gig at Slow Food U.

During the health crisis, they had expanded the pedestrian area to include outdoor dining at the hotel where I stay. In years past, I could drive through there to access the hotel’s courtyard parking.

Because the parking area was no longer accessible (owing to the tables and chairs blocking it), I was forced to make a trip around the block. As a result, I had no other choice but to enter the dreaded ZTL — the zona traffico limitato or limited traffic zone — for which you need a resident’s permit. It was a mistake anyone could have made.

As with previous tickets, I received a “preview” from the rental company.

Being that I would be returning to Bra a few months later for a second round of seminars, I decided to go to the police station and pay the fine directly. I was hoping to avoid the late fees I’ve incurred in the past when I’ve waited for the “official” ticket to be forwarded.

It turns out that it was a bad move. Even after I paid the ticket through the proper channels, I still received a notice via email from an agency called Nivi saying that I still needed to pay, including exorbitant late fees.

After much back and forth, including impeccable documentation of my payment, they finally managed to find my payment. And I was absolved…

I’m glad I played it the way I did but in retrospect, I wish I had just paid the late fees when Nivi came calling. I could have avoided a lot of anxiety in the meantime.

I still can’t figure out what the acronym Nivi stands for. But its website says its a “European Municipality Outsourcing” group — a collection agency.

Now I’ve received a notice from the rental agency that I was clocked doing 118 kilometers per hour in a 110 zone. I was literally less than 5 mph over the speed limit!

I called up a friend in Italy who was happy to pay the fee and help me avoid the late fees. But the codes on the “preview” wouldn’t allow him to do that. He called the “municipality” that issued the citation. They said that I would have to wait until the “official” ticket arrived. But they also said that I might not be forced to pay.

I’m happy to pay my traffic fines. And I consider myself a very safe, cautious, and respectful driver. But I can imagine how daunting this may all seem to someone who just wanted to enjoy their vacation in Italy. Hoping this is helpful.

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