We really enjoyed our walk along the sunny “lungomare” in Marina di Campo on Elba Island, did some shopping on the main street, stopped for a quick pizza for lunch and took some pictures for good memories as well as to share with you all. It was then time to go back to the car, but our 2 year old started asking for “Juice, juice, juice!”.
It’s a Saturday and a little past lunch time but we manage to find a “Conad” supermarket open on our way back and make our daughter happy.
We, on the other hand, are much less happy when we reach our DT-mobile in the parking lot and find a parking fine on our windshield. A fine for 25 euros for being exactly 20 minutes late on our 3 hour pre-paid ticket. This on a quiet Saturday in late September at 2 pm.
We had actually seen the traffic warden walking away from us as we neared the lot and even joked “hope she didn’t just fine us for being 20 minutes late, eh? haha”. Yep, she had.
We are a little surprised because there are just 2 cars in the whole parking lot, and that’s including ours. We are just a little bit late, we had paid for several hours, so it’s not like we had wanted to cheat and not pay at all. Aren’t we in Italy, where the laws are usually a bit “flexible”?
We reach the warden and try to explain that we were just a little slow coming back, it’s not like we overstayed by much what we had paid for, and that maybe, if we can just pay the difference, can she excuse and revoke the fine? No, she can’t.
“C’mon, the baby wanted a juice, pleeease….?” Nope.
She goes on to add that if it had just been 15 minutes, she would have normally let it go, but this was 5 minutes over that limit. Aren’t we lucky? Oh, she says we can pay within 5 days and get a discount.
With that, she went right back into the same parking lot, I guess to see if she could write a fine for the other car too.
In the end, back home we ended up paying the fine, thus contributing to the town’s budget for a bit more than we had originally intended to. This is how we’ll remember Marina di Campo for a while.
When it come to fines, the system in Italy works even “too well”
The parking fine in Elba was not our first fine this year. During our visit to Bolgheri earlier this summer, we collected another one for parking in the “wrong spot” in a very crowded parking lot outside of town. Actually, I just parked at the end of a line of cars not realizing that there was a “no parking” sign on that side of the lot (who places a “no parking” sign in a parking lot?!). It was a Sunday, again at lunch time, in the middle of August. If you thought that law enforcers in Italy are lazy, think again.
Guess what? As I’m thinking of writing this article, another member of our DT Team received a fine for exceeding the speed limit by 8 km/h while leaving Florence to reach the Tuscan coast. We must be really bad!
And the Oscar goes to…
As bad as it is to receive a fine, it can actually get worse. For example, you could return to the parking lot to find an empty space where you had left your car. That’s what we witnessed happening on the 14th of August on Via della Principessa in San Vincenzo, along the parco di Rimigliano along the Etruscan coast. On the day before Ferragosto, a national holiday, the traffic wardens were removing cars that had parked in a “no parking zone” to go to the beach. While they were wrong to park in that area, their having parked there was in no way blocking traffic or causing other problems we can think of. It’s actually pretty common for people to park there, maybe that’s why they added the no-parking sign? I can only imagine the families coming back tired and “cooked” from a long day under the sun at the beach and finding their car is gone. They might get lucky and find a note saying their car is held in some other town and that they can go get it (after paying the fine and any other expenses to get there) on the first working day. Not during the national holiday, of course. As this was the case, this means after 3 days.
That’s a sure "vacation-pooper" or ruined vacation :(.
Our warning: Tourists Beware of Fines!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about enforcing traffic laws and everybody has to follow the rules.
But I really do think that sometimes the “human factor” should be taken into account based on each circumstance. Otherwise, my impression is that they are just waiting for even the smallest mistake to have an excuse to fine you.
I mean, who parks in the paid parking lots? Tourists! The same tourists that have been invited by the marketing team of the local tourism boards tell visitors to come in the first place, at an expense by the local government. Before visiting Marina di Campo and Bolgheri, we checked websites such as VisitElba.info and CostadegliEtruschi.it to find more info on what to see and do, and we felt warmly invited to visit the beautiful area. But after this last fine, my feeling is that of having been “slapped on the hand” for misbehaving like a small child for having accidentally stayed in that empty parking lot 5 minutes more then their “tolerance limit”. Ouch!
So may this be a lesson for us and, in sharing our experience, for everyone who is planning a visit to the small towns all around Tuscany and Italy. Fines are unfortunately very common: for parking reasons, for driving over the speed limit, for entering limited traffic zones. You won’t receive any special treatment just because you are a visitor. In fact, they are probably counting on any false moves on your part to meet the financial shortfalls in the town’s local budget. And dont’ be fooled by stereotypes about Italian public officers: don’t rely on the traffic wardens to be sipping a coffee somewhere just because it’s lunchtime on a weekend, not even on a Sunday. They will more than likely be there waiting patiently for the opportunity to present itself to leave an “unwanted souvenir” on your windshield.
Have you taken any of these “souvenirs” home with you? Tell us about your experience with any fines in Tuscany and Italy in the comments below!