Something strange has been happening in Testaccio in recent weeks. Pavements have been mysteriously widened; lanes have shrunk. Arrows on streets that went in a certain direction have been superseded by new one way signs and thwarted by no entry discs. Then there are the huge, grey stalks that have mushroomed overnight on certain corners… but no, it’s not an attack of the Triffids. The electronic policemen are coming.

For many years now, Rome’s vigili urbani (traffic police) have been a familiar site on the corner of Via Galvani and Via Nicola Zabaglia on Friday and Saturday evenings (except during the summer). Patrolling a resident-only zone for car users on weekend nights, they prevented non-residents from driving into the area between the hours of 11pm and 3am. Finally, like the zones of San Lorenzo, Monti and Trastevere, Testaccio is about to join the ranks of districts which are guarded by cameras equipped with number plate-recognition technology.

The whole scheme starts in an experimental fashion on the evening of September 6th; for the first month, residents will still be able to pass without having registered their vehicles formally in the scheme. From October onwards however the cameras will mean business, resulting in fines for all who enter unless their car has been logged in the system. Scooters are absent from the scheme but with a new wave of bans coming in for Euro 1 vehicles as of November 1st (now including those residents in the “anello ferroviario” with 4 stroke engines that escaped last year’s edict) it might be a good moment to check where your vehicle stands. Electric cars, those with disabled badges, taxis and NCC vehicles can all enter without securing an additional permit.