All that US, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand nationals require to stay as a tourist in Rome for a period of up to ninety days is a valid passport. It is almost impossible to extend your stay beyond this amount of time unless you leave the country and re-enter it 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 their Italian embassy to see what the requirements are for their 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 Rome is Italian but English, French and German are also widely spoken, particularly in the major tourist areas.
Taking the weather into consideration, the best time to visit Rome is either in spring or autumn. In summer it gets very hot and humid with temperatures remaining in the nineties for days on end. These high temperatures begin in May and can last until as late as October so if you do find extreme heat difficult to handle, avoid this time of the year.
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.
Rome 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 Rome are generally opened 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.
Government Offices are open from 8.30am until 2.00pm but they do open until 5.00pm in the major cities. Museums are open from 9.00am until 7.00pm, some close between 1.00pm and 3.00pm and all are shut on Sunday and Monday.
Banks are generally 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 do not close for lunch.
The main tourist office in the city is located at 11 Via Parigi and it is open from 8.15am until 7.00pm from Monday to Saturday. There is also another branch at Stazione Termini which is open from 9.00am until 7.00pm from Monday to Saturday. Staff in both offices will be able to provide you with whatever information you should need while you are staying in the Italian capital from bus timetables to private tours 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.
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.
To call Rome from abroad you first dial 00, followed by 39 which is the country code for Italy, the local area code 06 and the local number, but don't forget to drop the 0 on the area code.
If you wish to call abroad from Rome again you dial 00, followed by the international calling code for the country you are calling, the area code (without the 0) and then the local number.
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, €2.58, €5.16 etc. and these too can be purchased at newsstands, tobacco shops or from vending machines in Telecom centres.
The main post office in Rome is at 19 Piazza San Silvestro between Via del Corso and Piazza di Spagna. Its opening hours are between 9.00am and 6.00pm from Monday to Friday and from 9.00am until 2.00pm on Saturdays.
Stamps can 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.
It is worth noting what the public holidays are as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day.
In Italy they are New Years Day (January 1st), Epiphany (January 6th), Easter (March/April), Liberation Day (April 25th), Labour Day (May 1st), Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (August 15th), All Souls Day (November 1st), Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (December 8th) and Christmas.