We all like souvenirs. They remind us of the good times we had on vacation. In this respect they’re like family photographs. Someone, while looking at photos of a married couple who was getting divorced, once said to me that it was sad to see how happy they were in all the pictures.
“That’s the way pictures are,” I replied. “They’re taken when people are happy. If you’re in the middle of a fight, no one says, ‘Hold on a minute, let me get a picture to remember this.’”
Traffic tickets you get while on vacation as unwanted souvenirs. You don’t choose to bring them back, but they follow you home nevertheless, reminding you of your trip and making you admit, “Oh, yeah, I guess I was speeding.”
My latest unwanted memento arrived the other day courtesy of the City of Spoleto in the Umbria region in central Italy. I had been expecting it. In October, 2022, a notice from my rental car company arrived telling me (among many things) that a police officer “ha accertato che in data 17/07/2022 alle ore 12.05 nel Comune di Spoleto in S.S. N.3 FLAMINIA km/civico 116+655 il conducente del AUTOVEICOLO targa GJ273SA ha commesso le seguenti violazioni… alla velocita’ di Km/h 71, superando di Km/h 1 la velocita’ massima consentita nel tratto di strada percorso il cui limite massimo e’ di Km/h 70.”
Luckily, I speak Italian and was able to get the gist. Essentially, photo radar caught me driving 71 kilometres an hour in a 70 zone. The middle part translates to “Exceeding by 1 km/h the maximum speed allowed.” Like any souvenir it brought back memories of the day - in this case cruising along Via Flaminia, a highway that runs along to the west of Spoleto. It was a little after noon on a bright July day and we were travelling to see Spoleto’s Mobilita Alternativa system, which is a system of moving walkways, elevators and escalators that connects most of the hilly town.
It appeared that in my eagerness to see Spoleto, I had driven one kilometre faster than the speed limit. Now, like a revenant raised from its grave, the Italian traffic system was coming for its reckoning. The fine would be €42 ($60) plus administrative fees.
It’s important to keep in mind that the October letter was merely a notice from my rental company, which, by the way, charged me a fee for the service. The official speeding ticket itself would arrive later.
When? That was a tough call. Members of the European Union have up to 360 days to issue it. And so, I waited. Ho aspettato.
Months went by and then on June 12 it arrived. If paid five days within receipt, my fine would be reduced by 30 per cent and I would be stuck with €29.40 plus €19.60 for postage and administrative charges, for a total of €49 ($70). The ticket did not contain a photograph of my one-kilometre Gilles Villeneuve impersonation.
I knew the “Honeymoon Phase” of my Italian speeding ticket experience was over, as this was not my first Italian traffic ticket. I’ve had a few. Receiving the notice is by far the easiest part of the procedure.
I considered disputing the one-kilometre infraction. I could lodge an appeal to the Prefect of Perugia, the national government’s representative in that province, who performs all the state and local administrative functions, by sending a registered letter with a return receipt to the Police Department. The court might take mercy on me for it only being one kilometre an hour over. Italian drivers are not exactly what you’d call “speed adverse.” Conversely, they could come down hard.
Upon reflection, fighting the speeding ticket seemed a forlorn hope. Would it be worth the dozens of emails? Would it be worth the hours on hold? Would it be worth the postage? Besides, they had me on camera. I did the crime and now it was time to pay the fine, which on the grand scale wasn’t too high. The maximum speeding fines in Italy for going 60 kilometres an hour or more faster than the speed limit are €829 ($1,200) to €3,316 ($4,798). I had not stepped into that territory.
There are some who might suggest I refuse to pay the ticket. I would describe these people as “people who have not yet had the pleasure of dealing with Italian bureaucracy.” Blowing off the fine would be a misguided course of action. Were I to scoff at the Prefect of Perugia, I would be chewed up like so much strangozzi and washed down with a glass of Orvieto Classico. The fine would stay on my record and I might not be able to rent a car again in Italy.
Of course, paying it is not much fun either. Unlike previous Italian speeding tickets, I was able to pay this one online, which I did. Did the City of Spoleto receive my money? I don’t know. They don’t send you a confirmation. Hopefully this ends the saga of the €49 one-kilometre an hour fine. All good. Tutto bene. Until the next one.