Italy Travel Guide

Italy Travel Guide

Eating Out
Things To See
General Info

Visiting Italy

If touring the beautiful cities of Italy is not enough for you then check out some of the other attractions Italy has to offer – sun kissed beaches, snow capped mountains and much more.

If touring the beautiful cities of Italy is not enough for you then check out some of the other adventure activities Italy has to offer. The Alps is always a great place to start, the higher slopes, in particular the Dolomites have beautiful ski resorts for the enthusiastic skier among you. The ski season is normally from December to late March, however certain slopes have year round skiing, especially in Mount Blanc and the Matterhorn. Alternatively, the lower slopes of the Alps and the Apennines have great hiking trails and amazing scenery. Finally the southern coastal areas offer great water sports facilities such as wind surfing and sailing.

Italy is famous for its beautiful cuisine; the Italian food and drink will definitely be an added pleasure of your holiday. Breakfast in Italy normally involves a cup of rich Italian coffee or a cappuccino and a croissant. For lunch look out for sandwich bars or the local store (alimentari) where you can get delicious toasted ciabatta sandwiches which are called ‘pannini’. A full sit down Italian dinner will consist of an appetizer (anti-pasto), a pasta/shop (primo), meat/fish (secondo) which is normally accompanied by a salad and sometimes vegetables (contorno). Alternatively you can grab a pizza in one of the countries many pizzerias – a cheap and tasty option every time as Italy is the home of pizza. Finally beware as Italian food can be quiet spicy and very often dishes are tomato based.

The most popular drink in Italy is wine and it is drunk with nearly every meal. It can be purchased in restaurants in quarter, half and litre bottles, the cheaper option is to buy it from supermarkets. Most spirits and beers are served in Italy – be sure to check out local Italian beers such as Peroni and Dreher and Italian brandies like Stock.

Getting There
The country can be accessed by road, rail, air or sea. The quickest and most expensive means of entering the country but which is essential for non -European visitors is by air. Italy’s two main hub airports are Rome Fiumicino and Milan Malpensa with direct connections to the European capitals and main cities of North America. It is possible as well to find international flights to one of the smaller airports, which exist in almost every region of Italy

The most popular means of entering the country from within Europe is by train. This is a relatively cheap option and the Italian rail service is more efficient than their bus service. Direct trains to Italy connect the main European cities. This mode of transport is particularly attractive for destinations in the northern part of the country, where the stations in Turin, Milan, Verona, Venice and Trieste are arrival points of the very comfortable Eurocity trains. Alternatively you can arrive into the country by ferry from Albania, Croatia, Greece, Malta, Spain, Turkey and Tunisia.

Getting Around
Once there the most appropriate means of getting between cities is by train or by bus. Trains will connect you to all major cities and towns. Buses will also bring you into smaller villages and towns. The most appropriate however to discover the unbeaten track is by car. Car hire however in Italy can be pricey but if you intend to avail of it remember to bring your driving licence (with an Italian Translation) and International Green Card of Insurance is also advisable.

Home of the Renaissance, Italy has it all. It is bursting with beauty, history, art and culture. A country of contrasts you can spend a day hiking up the Alps or wandering the streets of Rome or shopping in Milan or floating down the canals of Venice in a gondola. The best time to visit the country is in spring (April-May) or autumn (October-November), when the temperatures are pleasant and the crowds are less. In August most Italians take their vacations, and many shops and businesses are closed as a result.

Don’t miss the following:

Rome is a beautiful city of history. As it is home of the Roman Empire and the Catholic Church, you will find amazing monuments, churches, tombs and buildings. One visit to Rome and you will be dying to come back and do it all over again.

If Rome is the city of history, Florence is the city of art. Home of the Renaissance the city is stamped with medieval art and architecture, with every artist of the period featuring their work in the city.

The city of canals and gondolas, Venice is built on 117 small islands. It marks a pleasant get away from the hustle and bustle of other Italian city as Venice is virtually free of cars – you will instead find yourself being transported by boat or walking everywhere.

Although not the most beautiful of Italian cities, the atmosphere of Milan should not be missed. Traditionally the second capital of the Roman Empire, today Milan a main life source of world fashion and finance.

Naples & Pompeii
Travelling south of Rome, you will find the beautiful city of Naples, nestled into a majestic bay, it is one of Europe’s most densely populated and vibrant cities. Just short trip from Naples is the ancient city of Pompeii. Buried by a volcanic eruption from Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, it was excavated in the 1700s. Today it provides a fascinating insight into the life and times of the Ancient Romans.

Rome hosts a lot of classical music concerts in the summertime – check out The Teatro di Marcello. Venice also holds festivals and concerts all year round. Vivaldi concerts are held almost every night and many people attend in full period costumes.

There are plenty of local festivals all over Italy. Some of the better ones include:

Carnevale: held in the 10 days before Lent this is celebrated in almost all Italian towns – in Venice costumed revellers fill the streets and canals.

Scoppio del Carro: held in Florence on Easter Sunday, a cart of explosives is set off following a mediaeval tradition.

Palio – held in Siena on July 2 and August 16 this is a traditional bare-back horserace in the Piazza.

Opera Festival: held in Verona from June – August each year.

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.

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.

Italy has a varied climate which falls into three geographical regions. The northern regions have cold Alpine winters and warm wet summers. In the Po Valley, winters are damp and icy while summers can be exceptionally dry. And, the rest of Italy, compliments of a temperate climate, generally has pleasant weather with long, hot summers and mild winters.

Italian is the official language but different dialects are spoken in different regions. For example, German is spoken in the South Tyrol region which borders Austria. French is spoken in all the border areas from the Riviera to the area north of Milan which borders France and Switzerland. English, German and French are also widely spoken in the bigger cities and in the major tourist areas.

Currency Exchange
While traveller’s cheques are widely accepted, there are some places which will refuse to do so, particularly in more remote parts of the country. Therefore, it is advised that you change them into lira as soon as you arrive in the country. 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.

Time Zone
Italy is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.

Opening Hours
Opening hours in the country are somewhat erratic but in general shops are open from 9.00am until 1.00pm and again from 4.00pm until 7.30pm. In certain towns, however, many stores take a half day where they do not open after lunch so you do really need to check with the particular area before you go. The larger stores, however, are generally open all day and many also open on Sundays, particularly in tourist areas.

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.

Electricity in Italy is 220V, 50 Hz but in some places including Rome, 125V is still used so you should check the particular area before you travel.

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.

To call Italy from abroad you first dial 00, followed by 39, the local area code and the local number. If you wish to call abroad from Italy 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 also need to drop the first zero from the local area code for both types of call.

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.

Post Office
In general post offices are open between 8.30am and 2.00pm from Monday to Friday and from 8.30am to 12.00pm on Saturdays and on the last day of the month. Branches at airports and the main post offices in the larger cities, however, are usually open 24 hours a day for registered mail and telegram services. 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.

Public Holidays
It is worth noting what the public holidays are before you travel to a country as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day. 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 a good idea to check the particular area too as certain towns and cities also shut down during special events.


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