All that US, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand nationals require to stay as a tourist in the city for a period of up to ninety days is a valid passport. It is almost impossible to extend you stay beyond this amount of time unless you leave the country and re-enter it once again. EU residents are free to travel and work in the country with a valid passport but it is extremely difficult for other nationalities to obtain a working visa. Citizens of all other countries should check with the Italian embassy in your home country to see what the requirements for your particular nationality.
The currency used in Italy is the Euro which is made up of 100 Cent. Notes come in denominations of €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5 and the coins in use are €2, €1, 0.50C, 0.20C, 0.10C, 0.05C, 0.02C and 0.01C.
The principal language in Florence is Italian but English, French and German are also widely spoken, particularly in the major tourist areas.
Florence has a typical Mediterranean climate resulting in very hot summers and cold and damp winters. July and August are the hottest months of the year where temperatures average at 25 degrees Celsius and the lowest temperatures are in January. October is generally the wettest month. As a result the best time to visit, when taking the weather into consideration, is spring or autumn. As well as this, tourist sites and attractions are not as busy at this time of year so you should enjoy a very pleasant stay.
Visitors from EU countries are entitled to medical treatment under the EU Reciprocal Medical Treatment agreement. Before you travel you should collect an E111 form from your local social security office. This form may also be obtained in post offices also. Australia’s Medicare system also has a reciprocal health-care agreement with Italy.
In case of an emergency call 118. The city’s main public hospital Ospedale Careggi is at Viale Morgagni.
Florence is located in the Central European Time (CET) zone which is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and six ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
Shops in Florence are generally open from 9.00am until 1.00pm and from 3.30pm until 7.30pm from Monday to Saturday. Most still remained closed on Sundays although this is beginning to change. Many of the larger stores also remain open during ‘riposto’ as do those in tourist areas of the city. Offices are generally open from 9.00am until 5.00pm from Monday to Friday and banks open from Monday to Friday between 8.35am and 1.35pm and again from 3.00pm to 4.00pm. In some of the larger cities, however, they don’t close for lunch.
Florence’s main tourist office, Consorzio ITA is located in the train station by track 16 and it opens between 8.30am and 8.30pm daily. You will also find information at the Informazione Turistica in P. della Stazione and this opens daily between 8.15am and 7.15pm from April to October and between 8.15am and 2.00pm from November to March. Staff in both offices will be able to provide you with whatever information you should need while you are staying in Florence and they also speak English which will probably be a big help for a lot of you.
There is a value added tax included in the price of all goods in Italy but the good news is that for all non EU residents, this is something which you can get back after you leave the country. This rebate only applies, however, if the item purchased cost more than €155. If this is the case, you need to fill in a form in the shop where you buy the item, have it stamped at customs and return it to the shop within sixty days. Following this your refund will be issued by cheque or to your credit card. At major airports and border crossings there are facilities which will provide you with an immediate cash refund.
While traveller’s cheques are widely accepted, there are some places which will refuse to do so. Therefore, it is advised that you change them into lira as soon as you arrive in Italy. For all currency exchange, banks are generally the most reliable and offer the best rates. There are also exchange offices at all major airports and train stations whose opening hours are usually more convenient but the commission is more expensive.
All major credit cards are also widely accepted and if you have the PIN you can use these to receive cash in compatible bank machines. The same applies to bankcards which are members of any of the international banking networks or Eurocard.
Electricity in Italy is 220V, 50 Hz but in some places including Milan, 125V is still used.
To call Florence from abroad you first dial 00, followed by 39 which is the country code for Italy, the local area code 055 (including the initial zero) and the local number. If you wish to call abroad from Florence again you dial 00, followed by the international calling code for your particular country and then the local number. It is worth noting that you will need to drop the first zero from the local area code for the latter type of call where applicable.
Public telephones are widely available throughout the city. A local call from a public telephone requires the use of a token (Gettone) which may be purchased at a newsstand or in any tobacco shop. Most telephones, however, will now only accept phonecards. These cards come in various denominations and can be purchased at newsstands, tobacco shops or from vending machines in Telecom centres.
The main post office in Florence is at V. Pellicceria just off P. della Repubblic and its opening hours are between 8.15am and 7.00pm from Monday to Friday and from 8.15am until 12.30pm on Saturdays.
Stamps can also be purchased at tobacco shops but it is advisable to post airmail letters and postcards at the post office to ensure the postage is correct, otherwise the mail will be returned to the sender.
While a service charge of between 15 and 18% is included in all restaurant bills, it is customary to leave a small tip if the service merits it. Between 5 and 10% of the total is sufficient. If you are in a café or a bar where the service charge is not included you should tip between 10 and 15%. Taxi drivers are usually given 10% of the fare and tour guides and drivers should be given about 15% of the total cost of the tour price.
In Italy they take place on January 1st and 6th, Easter Monday, April 25th, May 1st, August 15th, November 1st and December 8th, 25th and 26th. It is worth noting what the public holidays are before you travel to Italy as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day. It is also advisable to check the particular area too as certain towns and cities also shut down during special events.