Throughout this article, Nico can let you in on some of the rules and guidelines for parking your rented car here in Palermo, as well as restricted traffic areas known as ZTL.
Buongiorno my dear friends, it is I, Nico, once more. Today I wanted to take a moment to reflect on one of Italy’s darkest mysteries – one that has kept both the tourists and local natives scratching their heads in every season throughout the year.
In this piece, I intend to speak specifically about two topics you need informed about, namely how and where to park, as well as this restricted traffic region known as the ZTL.
As ludicrous of a ‘mystery’ as you might believe this to be, it is still something unsolvable. It is no laughing matter at how challenging parking in Palermo could be. When combined with restricted vehicle zones, you need the latest and most credible information that changes along with the traffic patterns.
If you have already read pertinent information we provided about the best approaches to get around, then your realize the importance of renting a vehicle for your stay to ensure that there are no unforeseen hang ups with seeing Palermo’s surroundings during your upcoming trip.
As with other aspects of Palermo, there are barely controlling processes or regulations to improve the consistencies of vehicle parking. With anarchistic local traffic, it is not at all easier to find a space.
In my years here, I have seen more than one person jump out in the middle of the street, waving their hands and shouting loudly in frustration when a more cunning driver whips into the available parking spot ahead of another who laid claim to it. It’s madness.
The good news is, despite the frustrations, it rarely leads to violence.
So, let’s get to the point a little bit here and begin with the rules you must follow for the crazy parking here in Palermo and the ZTL zone. We want you to avoid costly fines and headaches, but even more importantly, avoid damage to the vehicle or get towed.
Where You Can Park in Palermo
When you are coming into the city, you should know that there are three main spots that are designated for your parking.
- Blue Lines – These are painted on the curbs indicating that you can park there for a particular fee. These are often the parking spaces directly in front of shops and stores. Nearly 80% of the best spaces in the best neighborhoods fall into this category. If you choose to park here, you must immediately purchase a ticket in one of the tobacco stores. One hour will cost 1€.
- White Lines – White lines indicate an area of free parking, though it is often difficult to pinpoint this fading white coloring. If you come across a sidewalk devoid of lines, you can look up to find Blue ‘P’ Signs – this says there is parking available for free as well. Look for these signs and faded white curbs to save some money.
- Private Garages – Undoubtedly one of the easiest strategies for visiting tourists with rented vehicles. Palermo is full of parking garages, and many offer reasonable day rates for parking all day long, but you can often haggle the price some with speaking Italian. As a rule of thumb, a decent facility would charge only 10-15 euros a day for this service.
If you want to find a private garage, I would recommend that anyone check out https://www.myparking.eu/. This is likely going to save you some money booking ahead of time and ensure available space.
Valuable Information for Blue-Lined Parking Spaces
You might think that you fully understand all of these points and overview sections I have brushed over so far, but I would hold off a moment on patting yourself on the back. I unfortunately, have to drop some more information that might leave you with a headache and feeling more cursed than you ever have before.
Stay focused with me here and we can navigate this mess together.
Palermo (at this point) has 21 different blue parking zones. This number continues to increase, but they are evenly distributed through main sections of the city. You will find that each of these areas have coding to indicate which blue-lined zone it is, beginning at P1 and ending at P21.
And why is it important for you to know how they are coded?
Before you can buy any parking tickets, you need to know where you have parked your car. Tickets are not universal, so you cannot buy tickets in P1, for example, and them continue to be valid in P12.
Got the wrong ticket? That could mean a fine for you from the patrolling enforcement.
So, how do you figure out where you’ve parked your car to avoid any unfortunate mishap? There are signs lining the parking area that can indicate the parking zone P1-P21 that you are in.
Got all the information about where you are? Good – Now you need to go buy yourself some tickets!
Where Should You Buy Blue Parking Tickets
Because you have to have these tickets to park in the blue areas, you need to know the two legal and the one (not so) legal option available to do this:
- Ticket Machine – There are some places throughout the city where you are fortunate enough to encounter an automatic machine that is in the area of where you park. Don’t get your hopes too high about this, because with the exception of the main attraction areas of the city center, these are scarce.
- Cafeterias, Tobacco Shops, Newsstands – Because you are never far away from one of these things here in Palermo, it stands to reason that they are the primary source of parking tickets for interested parties.
- Unsanctioned Parking Individuals – Taking advantage of tourists and locals is how these thugs make their money. They approach and attempt to sell you tickets illegally at an inflated rate. The drawback is that a refusal to purchase them from these shady individuals can lead to vandalism on your vehicle.
If you purchase a paper ticket, scratch the date and time you arrived and position it behind the windshield where it can get easily seen by the police.
Remember, the ticket itself is only good for one full hour. If you are staying somewhere longer, you will have to purchase multiple tickets that you scratch with subsequent hours and also display on the dashboard of your vehicle.
I feel as though I should divulge some things about the low life criminals that feed on the fear they can generate to strong-arm ticket sales. I am not proud of what I am going to tell you, but it is the truth: these thugs have been at this racket for decades now and the police will not do anything to stop it.
Strangely enough, you might also discover blatantly conflicting situations where police checkpoints exist right beside parking guys extorting money.
You might decide to pay them – and trust me, many people do. When they determine you are a visitor, they will ask for 2-5 euros as a tip. Locals ‘tip’ a maximum of 1 euro, but 50 cents is often plenty.
I do not buy tickets from thugs that are looking to take advantage of a situation – but I have also come back to find scratches on my car as a result. This ‘revenge’ can often be avoided if you pay. If you rent a car, make sure you get full coverage and you do not have to worry about paying these criminals. If it is your own car – well that might make the choice a little challenging.
Where You Cannot Park in Palermo
You are inevitably going to see just how creative Sicilians can be when parking their cars.
It is not at all uncommon to see a vehicle parked entirely on the sidewalk, blocking pedestrian traffic.
To protect yourself, it is a good rule of thumb to never park your car where you see one of these following situations:
- A shop with the wording ‘Lasciare libero lo scarrozzo’ on the shutters. This is a clear indication that tells you not to park there. While it is not a legally binding recommendation, it is still wise to heed these suggestions. You might have a vandalized car from parking in one of these spots.
- No Parking Signs – As indicative as you might think these signs are, many people still choose to ignore them. The police are always waiting to fine and even tow machines that are left in these spots – and it seems like they are always going to be just around the corner for anything warranting a ticket.
- Yellow Curbs – Yellow paint on the curbs indicate that these locations are designated for use by those with disabilities. If you happen to be legally disabled, and have means of proving it, you should not have issues from parking here.
I would suggest that to stay on the safe side, you only park where you see white and blue lines painted on the curbs of the roadways. These clearly mark out designated parking zones. If you have questions about what to do or where to go, locals can often be helpful in pointing you in the right direction.
What is a ZTL?
A ZTL is one of the restricted parking and traffic areas intended to protect historic areas of the city center from substantial vehicular traffic. These zones also help to reduce pollution, helping pedestrians and tourists to better appreciate the sights, smells, and architecture of old town.
I think instead of worrying about the harmful effects of pollution, we should be worried about what the local government is doing to old town.
I will hold my tongue about all of the clowns ruling Palermo, otherwise I am going to start cursing like a pirate. Getting back to this situation, the ZTL is every Sicilian’s nightmare because the rules change so often that no one really knows what they are supposed to do anymore.
I am going to do my best to make this as clear as possible for you.
As I mentioned you can consider the ZTL to be a limited traffic area where only those who have purchased a daily, monthly, or yearly pass can drive inside. This ZTL area encompasses the entire historical city center, and you can see the ZTL map here below:
As I am writing this now, the restrictions are in effect from 8AM to 8PM, Monday through Thursday, and also 8AM to 6AM on Fridays and Saturdays (through Sunday at 6 AM).
On public holidays and Sundays, you do not have the restrictions that exist every other day of the week, so you can move throughout the city center as you please. For more informations about public holidays, check out our tourist information page listing all upcoming holidays.
It would benefit you to speak directly with the hotel or whomever is hosting you during your stay about the current ZTL times. The municipality seems to be having fun at our expense by changing these times and dates frequently.
If you enter the zone while you are permitted to, make sure you leave again before it becomes active again or purchase your pass to avoid fines. The police are scoping for vehicles without the necessary pass.
Buying Your ZTL Daily Pass
As you might suspect and have already experienced elsewhere in the world, this area is monitored and surveilled by cameras, meaning that violations risk you getting substantial fines of up to 150€. If you have to enter this area during the restricted times, you need a pass to do so legally.
So, ready to have a few laughs about this?
The municipality keeps suggesting that you can buy a daily pass on the internet or through downloading an app on iOS and Android named PalerMobilita, but there is a problem with these methods. I won’t keep you in suspense for long … drumroll … they don’t work.
Give me a second, the laughs aren’t done quite yet.
Now, you need to buy a physical pass and activate it via SMS by:
- Visiting the Ribaudo Tobacco Shop at Verdi Square (Front of Massimo Theater) or at the AMAT Office at Via Alfonso Borrelli, 16 and purchase the ZTL daily pass for 5 euros. You can also get a monthly pass (at times) for 20€.
- Read the instructions on this pass (written in both Italian and English) to send the SMS (through an Italian phone number) to activate this purchased pass.
- Wait for an SMS that confirms you have activated your pass.
Yeah, you read the second step correctly. You need an Italian phone number. I told you that you would laugh till you cried – so much so that the geniuses running the show forgot that visitors were unlikely to have an Italian phone number.
So, what do you do?
Actually, there are two options for you here. You can ask your hotel or host to activate the ZTL pass for you, or you can buy an Italian phone number (which is highly recommended) so you have mobile data throughout Palermo. Honestly, it is very inexpensive.
If you choose to buy a phone number, check out this offer. No, they don’t pay me. I just believe it is the best current offer for those visiting Italy and Sicily. You can also check out this other one by Vodafone.
For the sake of your sanity, I would recommend getting an Italian phone number. This is not just for a ZTL pass, but to solve many other problems and issues you might have. Palermo has little in the way of free WiFi locations.
Best Place to Stay with a Car (When You Want to Avoid the Headaches)
I can see a confused look on your face in my mind, but don’t worry – Old Don Tano has a great solution for you as always.
If you have taken the time to read the guide I wrote about the best parts of Palermo for tourists to stay then you know already that I recommend the Politeama Area (the downtown region) for solid reasons:
- You do not have to deal with crazy traffic you would normally encounter in Old Town, and you are not in the dreaded ZTL area.
- You remain in walking distance to many of the major monuments of Old Town. If you get tired, you can even take a bus back to the Politeama area.
- Downtown has paid and free parking zones, all that are much safer than anywhere else in Palermo.
If you have a car or are renting one (even if you don’t have a vehicle at all) Politeama is where I would recommend that people stay. I would also say Mondello, but only during the summer months.
I nearly forgot! If you get a scooter, you do not have anything to worry about regarding the ZTL and blue parking areas – you don’t have to pay for any of it.
Now, before I say ‘arrivederci’ to you, I would like you to know that the founder of the website, Nico, also put together a useful travel guide that you should check out. It can help you to avoid problems like the ZTL and is loaded with time and money saving tips.
So, that’s it for today. If you have any further questions or concerns, you can leave a note down below and I will be sure to get back with you.