Deciphering a Parking Sign – How to Avoid Parking Tickets in Italy

In Italy, where blue lines – strisce blu – delineate parking spaces, you must pay according to the parking rules on the posted sign. But first, you must decipher the sign:parking sign in Italy

The two hammers indicate a workday, which in Italy is classified as Monday thru Saturday.

So, on workdays, you must pay to park from 8.00 -13.00 and from 15.00-19.00.  This assumes that everyone is home eating a big lunch, apparently having worked up an appetite hammering all morning.  And for those unfortunate souls who have nowhere to go for a home-cooked meal, at least you can park for free during lunch.

The cross indicates Sundays and holidays, which do not have to be religious.  This means that all time off is sacred.

Italy no parking signThis sign means that it is forbidden to park on one side of the street, in this case, during specified hours. 

So, you cannot park on this side of the street from 19.00- 24.00 on workdays, and from 10.00-13.00 and 19.00 to 24.00 on Sundays and holidays. It is encouraging to note that, when you can park, at least the cost is very low – 30 cents for 30 minutes, 60 cents for 60 minutes – but this is in a small town in Sicily.  (Do not expect such prices in the heart of Rome, where it can be cheaper to take a cab than to park a car.) 

But now comes the tricky part: “Esporre biglietto prepagato distribuito presso revendite autorizzate” states the sign.  Allora?  Well then, let’s assume that after riffling through your phrase book, and arguing with your traveling partner, you have deciphered the meaning: “Display the prepaid ticket distributed by authorized vendors.”  Well, you think, just who is an authorized vendor and where do I find one?   Your next thought may well be to simply give up and drive away.

Forza, you can do this!   If you can’t decipher a sign or figure out where to buy a ticket, and there is no official traffic cop in sight, then head to the nearest café.  Wave your arms around, babble in any language, and look desperate – this should be easy to do. There are always retired fellows that hang out in their favorite bar, and will be eager to help.  In fact, once you have made it known that you are in need of assistance, they will instantly become your guardians and may eventually be hard to get rid of.  You officially become a ward of the bar until you leave town. 

Once you finally get your parking card, it will usually look like a scratch and win lottery park card in Italycard, except there are no prizes.  Scratch off the date and time of your arrival – give yourself an extra 10 minutes for all that effort – and run back to your car or you may get a parking ticket in the meantime.   If you do, return to the bar and get your guardian to intervene on your behalf.

Place the card on the dashboard – cruscotto – so that it can easily be seen by the vigili.  They are traffic cops and meter readers, that living up to their name, are ever vigilant.

By now, it is probably lunch time, when you could have parked for free. Relax and have a good meal.  Buon appetito!

29 thoughts on “Deciphering a Parking Sign – How to Avoid Parking Tickets in Italy

  1. Well, I never thought that I would be laughing out loud reading an article about parking regulations! I have seen these signs many times in Italy and never understood what the red sign meant. Thank you very much for this explanation.

    1. Just remember, Bruce, that blue lines on parking spaces mean you pay, at least during certain hours, yellow lines are for residents or authorized vehicles (don’t park there!) and the coveted white lines indicate free spaces. Have a great trip!

      1. Not for me in amalfi. Parked the car in a white zone, came back an hour later to see my hire car on the back of a lorry. Luckily there was a copper and he radioed through and they came back but with no car, took me to the pound and charged me 120 euros to get car back.

        1. Sorry to hear of your experience, Tony. Sometimes there are restrictions for amount of time allowed to stay or street cleaning, even for white-lined spaces. Always read the signs and ask a local shopkeeper if uncertain.

        2. Sometimes there is a time limit, such as an hour, so you have to write your arrival time on a piece of paper and place it on the dashboard. ALWATS check the parking sign, could be street-cleaning day, too!

  2. Hi,
    Maybe you can help me with this:
    I parked in white-lined area of Varenna where the sign said 2 hour parking. I knew white lines mean free. I also had read this site: which makes no mention of using a parking disk set to the time of parking, except in blue areas. My car is a rental and had no disk.
    I carefully made sure we returned within the allotted 2 hours with ten minutes spare, and I had a fine!
    I found the vigili who was unsympathetic and said I had to display my time of parking. Thus is was guilty until proven innocent.
    Is he correct?
    Can I successfully argue the matter, or should I just pay the 30 Euro fine?

    1. Hi David, Drat – I think you’ve got to pay! When there is a time limit indicated, even when there are white lines, you must display your time of arrival – otherwise, how is a the vigile supposed to know when you got there? Usually this is indicated on the sign stating 2 hour limit, with a “disco orario” noted or its symbol. You can just write the time of arrival on a piece of paper and display it on the inside of the windshield so that it si visible to a vigile – just write “Arrivo 9.30” or use the 24 hour clock int he afternoon “Arrivo 15.30” for example. I advise that you pay this ASAP, as otherwise the fine will increase.

    2. Yes, you need to display the time of your arrival, which can be written on a piece of paper and displayed on the dashboard. Otherwise, authorities do not know your time of arrival. I am afraid you have to pay.

  3. So grateful for your advice: focused, appropriate info, and beautifully delivered in an enjoyable and memorable manner. Standing in the road on the horns of a dilemma, your article came to the rescue, and I could stride off to lunch confident that the car (and my sanity) would have survived the jaunt upon my return! Great work. Thank you.

  4. Thank you for the useful information. It’s Sunday night and I need to head out and apply it at the parkometer for tomorrow. Fingers crossed it will all go smoothly.

  5. Thanks so much. We are in Varenna now and I expect the next 1wk+ will go smoothly. No yelling so far. Headed to Florence day after tomorrow.

  6. Sunday Parking in Florence. So here is a question I have heard many vague answers but not specific to this situation. I know that on Sunday we can drive in the ZTL and also park in the blue spots for free. I also know that yellow is limited to only special people 24/7 even sundays and holidays. But what about the white spots? That is residence, yes? Can we park in white spots, outside the ZTL (so piazza indipendenza) on Sunday’s without fine?


    1. Normally white-lined parking spaces are free, but they may have a time limit, such as 1 hour, in which case you need to write your arrival time on a piece of paper and place it on the dashboard where it can be seen from the outside. ALWAYS check the parking sign nearby, as there may be a street clleaning day, too!

  7. I am in Milan and have parked in a space that used to have a line marked but this has been painted over black, so there is no line at all. Can I park here? There are no parking signs in this little side street and there are other cars parked in the same space.

  8. Thankyou for this very helpful information. Just parked our rental in Rome not really knowing (until now) what the sign meant!

  9. We are in Sicily and had our hire car towed away this morning! We were told by the lady at our accommodation that we could park on the white line but she did mention the street sweeper. We will listen more attentively next time. The sign saying no parking between 05.00 and 08.00 on Fridays was on the next block. Who thinks to walk to the next block to read the sign. Luckily the lady from our accommodation drove us to where the car was impounded and we paid the €30 towing fee and now have a €30 police fine. Luckily it wasn’t too expensive.

  10. Can you comment on large parking garages? I presume that “Libertà” means “spaces available.” What does it say when full?

  11. Good evening, I will be a permanent citizen of Como due to work. So is there a monthly or a annual parking permit and if yes how much does it cost.

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