Sometimes a fork in the road really makes a big difference. Up the hill, just through Galuzzo on the outskirts of Firenze, Florence, we were cruising toward Viale Machiavelli. Caught up in conversation, we simply continued straight up the road instead of taking our normal right jog. Oops! By the time we saw the sign, ZTL, there was no turning back. Oh, those dreaded “zona traffico limitata, limited traffic zones.” No matter how quickly we circled the block to regain our correct route, the damage was already done.
Italy seems to have some of the best and fastest cameras in the world. They use them primarily to keep people out of congested historic centers. They can snap a picture of your license plate faster than you can say pecorino, cheese. After that, it is just a matter of time until the special delivery postcard quietly arrives.
As we returned from our walk Wednesday afternoon, Cheryl spied the postcard in the mailbox. So, Thursday afternoon, I fished the key out of the drawer and went to retrieve the suspicious notification. The anonymous cards are used to inform the recipient that he/she must go to the post office in order to sign for the real correspondence. Apparently there has to be someone official to look you scornfully in the eye—it’s part of the punishment process. So we dropped what we were doing and high-tailed it down to Sieci where our suspicions were confirmed. A 90 euro fine had been levied against us for our fateful wrong turn. Of course, in the official letter they had all of the incriminating evidence from their high-tech camera. There is no disputing that we were driving where we had been forbidden to do so. There was no choice but to pay la multa, the fine. Conveniently, the post office is authorized to accept payment as well. So we forked over the money, thereby publicly admitting our error.
The camera technique to manage traffic has worked so well, that recently it has been used to crackdown on speeding. This is a big deal since fast driving in Italy is a national pastime. They installed Autovelox, speed boxes, at secret places along favorite routes—even on the autostrada, freeways. Can you believe that? Someone told us that the cameras are so sophisticated they can not only identify your car traveling at high speeds, but also the color shirt you are wearing and if you have an oil stain on the left pocket.
Lately, they have started secretly relocating the “boxes” in the night (or so it seems). The old “slam on the brakes and go slow past the camera” technique is no longer effective, since we can’t be sure where they are anymore. Now, there is the element of surprise, followed inevitably with a sense of dread, and a hope that the polizia, police, have recently taken the “evidence” and haven’t replaced the cassette or whatever they use. So maybe, just maybe it’s possible that your violation wasn’t recorded. Fat chance!
These traffic photos are hard proof that we’ve erred. And by the way, their little postcards transform into very official looking letters that can find you wherever you are in the world, so don’t think you are exempt in a rental car or just didn’t know any better. That excuse doesn’t work. We have friends far far away who can attest to it!