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!

15 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!

  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.

  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.

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