A thing or two about parking in Italy ... know your colours!


Were you brave enough to hire a car in Italy? Or are you considering driving in Italy? I applaud you because it takes courage. And I’m not just talking about the madness of the Italian road rules. That’s just the beginning… I’m talking about the fact that at some point you will ... have to... park.

I still remember spending up to 10 minutes each time trying to interpret the parking instructions written on Australian road signs when I first moved here. Every time I had to park, I would get really agitated because that cryptic language is not taught anywhere and if you get it wrong there are consequences!

So, I figure you might have the same struggle whilst in Italy, considering all the possible rules, exceptions to the rules, language nuances and likely overwhelm caused by the "line colours". Yes, because in Italy street-side parking are not only designated with your typical signs, but also with coloured lines painted on the tarmac.

Blue parking lines. What is that?

sosta pagamento strisce blu 480x319Photo courtesy of Rodi Gaganico Online Blog

Blue parking lines is for paid parking, in other words pay now or pay even more later. Hated by every Italian citizen, these lines are now almost everywhere: near shops, schools, hospitals, and of course they abound in historic city centres. Unless you have a chest of euros, driving into town centres can become quite expensive and not much fun.

Just thinking about the names Italians call paid parking can overwhelm anyone: “sosta a pagamento” or “parcheggio a pagamento” or “sosta con ticket” or “sosta tariffata”. Yes, they all mean the same: "Paid Parking"!

To top it all off, you may find the scenario where the blue colour has faded making the unsuspecting driver believe they stopped in a white-lined parking spot. Or where the meaning of the colour on the road doesn’t match the sign on the post!

There is much debate around those blue lines taking over Italian cities bit by bit. It seems that the large number of cars in Italy makes parking a really good business to be in.

Want to dispute a fine?

Most councils have taken the management of parking into their own hands and therefore will not really be on your side when trying to dispute a fine. Other councils do not issue tickets on your windscreens anymore; thus, you will struggle to understand when it happened, why or how to dispute it especially if the hire car company charges your card after you left the country. Much hated by anyone, like I said.

What about the other colours?

White lines are “parcheggio gratuito”, from the word gratis. You guessed it: it's free parking. Pretty much non-existent, even if there is a much neglected clause somewhere stating that the number of white lines must be equal to the blue lines.

Forget about the yellow lines, which are for residents displaying the appropriate sticker and for disabled drivers, again owners of stickers.   

The solution?

Here are my suggestions:

  1. Know your colours and don't take chances.

  2. Budget euros for parking alone, to avoid any stress.

  3. Book a hotel that comes with parking, to ensure you can leave you car there when hopping on public transport to visit the town centre.

  4. Walk. We are so used to driving everywhere that sometimes we don’t realise how close things are in Italy. Plus, all those gelati will give you enough energy to walk longer distances. Of course, this is not an option that will suit everyone, but it’s worth considering it anyway.

  5. Leave your car within white lines outside town and ask for directions about where you can catch the navetta, a special minibus established to connect some parking lots with the next bus station or train station. For more information on how to ask for directions, check out the Crash Course.

  6. It's also useful to learn some language related to parking:  

Dov’e` un parcheggio gratuito? (where is free parking?)

Questo e ` un parcheggio a pagamento? (is this paid parking?), in case lines and sign posts are not clear.

Dov’e` il parcometro? (where is the ticket machine?)

All that is left for me to say now is ... in bocca al lupo! (Good luck!)


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