Useful travel tips for a journey to Italy
Based on official sources and many individual experiences, ZAINOO collected the most important information to master everyday situations in Italy.
As it is often the case, quality, service and prices vary enormously at different accommodations. Starting from a shabby fleabag to a luxury hotel, everything in different price and category classes is offered. Besides hotels, apartments and holiday houses, bed and breakfast as well as farm holidays gain more and more popularity. At Bed & Breakfast Italia one finds a large choice of b&bs at different price categories.
Although it is not very environmental-friendly, the car is one of the most popular and also most effective mode of transportation in Italy. Especially during high season between June and September one often has to deal with slow traffic and traffic jams to the south. Detailed hourly traffic information can be heard on the large radio stations in Italy, Austria and Switzerland, or via telephone and online at ACI.
The most important travel routes lead through Austria (Brenner and Tauern motorway) and Switzerland (Comosee and Montblanc tunnel), and are all very scenically attractive. Alternative routes go from France and Slovenia to Italy.
There are direct train connections to Venice, Milan, Rome and Naples from all important cities in Europe. Trains also regularly stop at many other Italian towns. The respective railroad companies have all the necessary information.
The most important airports in Italy are Rome Fiumicino and Milan Malpensa. They can be approached directly from most of the international airports in Europe. Many other airports, like Olbia, Venice, Verona, Palermo, Florence, Genua, Bari and Bergamo, are approached regularily. Especilly during the summer months, additional connections and charter flights are offered, where one can easily get a good bargain. A number of flight dealers and cheap-flight carriers provide attractive offers most of the time.
The tight network of ferryboats from Italy to many countries in Europe and Northern Africa is also very interesting. It is recommended to book early to get a spot during high travel times. Online booking under www.enit-italia.de
In general, banks are open from 8.30 am to 1 pm. In the afternoon, the opening hours vary from bank to bank. At weekdays before public holidays, banks close at 11.30 am already. At most of the cash dispensers one can easily draw money via credit card or bank card. The daily limit is set at € 500. Foreign cards are sometimes ejected - simply try again at another machine, most of the time it will work.
Unfortunately, Italy is not well-equipped for travellers with disabilities. Although there are many lifts in public buildings, a trip to Italy often is not that easy for wheelchair users. It is important to get advance information at the hotel as well as from the tourism association of the respective town to avoid invincible obstacles during the holiday.
The beaches in Italy belong are among the most beautiful in Europe. Many of them, however, are not freely accessible and remain property of hotels and other facilities. One has to pay a fee for deckchairs, sunshades and other services. The upside, however, is a clean beach.
Italy has a huge array of spots for camping aficionados with more than 2,000 official camping sites in different categories. Especially during high season and in frequented tourist regions, applying beforehand is recommended in order to get a spot. Camping in a park or ata resting place for one night is allowed. Wild camping, on the other hand, is forbidden. Because of security reasons, a secure camping site should be preferred to camping at resting places.
Although children are very popular in Italy, special offers for the little ones are limited. Family activities as well as special benefits must be looked and asked for individually. There are often reductions or even free entrance fees for small children.
Especially in Rome and Naples, but also in other big cities and tourist centres, one has to watch out for pickpockets. It is best to wear all the valuables in a purse close to the body and only the money for the day in the wallet. Bags and cameras should not be carried openly in any case and always as near to the body as possible. Beware of beggars, who can become very offensive, especially in groups; best change to the other side of the street and ignore them. Special problems in southern Italy are car break-ins. Rental cars and foreign automobiles are very often cracked. It is recommended to leave nothing valuable in the car and to not provide a potential target to thieves. If it comes to an annoying incident after all, the loss as well as the incident must be reported at a police station within 24 hours. The police then create a transcript which is needed to claim the loss with the insurance company.
Customs and duty
Today, the private goods traffic within the European Union is more or less customs-free. 800 cigarettes, 10 litres of spirits and 90 litres of wine as well as 110 litres of beer can be imported duty-free. If a check-up occurs, besides adherening to the allowed quantities of goods one has to convince the customs officer that all the goods are only for private use.
Non-EU countries and Switzerland: Non-EU citizens are allowed to export 200 cigarettes, 1 litre of spirits and 2 litres of wine.
When searching for a physician, the Guardia Medica can be called in many places. There is also medical treatment at the hospitals. In emergency cases, call the emergency number of the white, green or red cross, which can be found in the phone book, as well as the phone numbers of dentists.
Eating & drinking
Besides pizzerias and the normal restaurants, there are the traditionally cheaper and often family-run trattorias and osterias, which usually offer most simpler but, notwithstanding, delicious meals. As it is not usual in Italy to choose a table for oneself, one waits for the waiter who guides you to a table. At many restaurants they charge an extra fee for the place setting as well as a 10-15% service fee for the waiters; additional tips are nevertheless always welcome.
Traditionally, breakfast is rather modest in Italy and is often reduced to an espresso with pastry. Although most of the Italians also eat at lunchtime, the main meal is taken after 7 pm and normally consists of several courses.
The voltage in Italy is normaly 220 volt. An adapter is needed because of the different plugs. European plugs must not be used.
General emergency: 113
Fire brigade: 115
Medical emergency: 118
Breakdown service: 800116800
Domestic health insurance funds also pay for medical services within the European Union. Showing the health insurance card is required. Nevertheless, in many cases one has to pay for the service, yet receives a bill for a refund of all costs by the health insurance.
Holidays and national holidays
August is the typical holiday month also in Italy. Schools, shops and companies are closed at least for part of the month.
The official public holidays are the following:
1st January (New Year’s Eve)
6th January (Epiphany)
25th April (Liberation Day)
1st May (Labour Day)
2nd June (Anniversary of the Republic)
15th August (Assumption of the Virgin)
1st November (All Saints’ Day)
8th December (Immaculate Conception)
25th and 26th December (Christmas)
WLAN in hotels and restaurants is not very common in Italy. Most of the time a fee is charged for Internet access. One possibility to be online is to buy a mobile Internet card at a mobile phone shop. In most of the towns, there are also Internet cafes where one can surf per hour.
The official language, which is spoken by the vast majority of Italians, is Italian. Beyond that, there are distinctive regional dialects, such as Sardinian, Sicilian and Neapolitan, and some marginal languages especially in the autonomic regions: German in South Tyrol, French in Aosta Valley, Slowenian in Friuli Guilia Venetia and there is a Greek minority in Apulia as well as Spanish native speakers in Sardinia.
Italian post offices are open from Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 1.30 pm and on Saturday from 8.30 am to 12 am. The usually close for the afternoon. Stamps can also be acquired at the tobacconist’s. Letters and post cards normally are stamped with € 0.65.
The official currency in Italy is the Euro. Up-to-date exchange rates for Swiss francs and other currencies can be found in the newspapers or at one's bank. It is usually possible to pay with or credit your account with all popular credit cards in Italy.
Principally, nearly all motorways in Italy are liable to charges. At the tollbooths at the driveways and exits, the toll charge can be paid in either cash, by credit card or by Viacard. Normally, the Viacard can be obtained at the border crossings, petrol stations or the offices of the Italian car club ACI.
With enough knowledge of the Italian language, the Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica are recommendable daily newspapers. In larger cities and popular tourist regions, international newspapers are available as well.
The opening times in Italy depend on the company and on the area of business. Normally, most of the facilities are open from Monday to Friday from 8 am to 1 pm. In the afternoon, the opening hours vary notably. After a longer lunch break many shops open again only at about 4 pm, but then stay open until 7 pm. Some museums are closed on Mondays and also close for a lunch break. In many tourist destinations, it is possible to go shopping on Sundays.
Car burglaries and car thefts are a huge problem in many Italian regions. If possible, one should park the car at a locked up or guarded parking area. Moreover, it is necessary to leave nothing at all in the vehicle, to empty the glove locker and leave it open, as well as, if possible, to take out the car radio.
In the cities, white street kerbs permit parking whereas yellow kerbs are only for authorized persons and at blue kerbs requite a fee.
Entering dogs and cats is subect to an EU pet animal passport and valid anti-rabies vaccination. Additionally, the animal has to carry identification recognition (micro-chip or tattoo). With a dog, one should also take muzzle and leash to avoid further problems.
In Italy, pharmacies are open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 1.30 pm and from 4 pm to 7.30 pm. On Wednesday afternoon many pharmacies are closed on a rotating basis. Pharmacies are easily recognizable from the outside due to the green crossing and the inscription Farmacia.
The police in Italy is divided into two big organizations: the Polizia statale and the Carabinieri. The Polizia is under the authority of the ministry of interior and is responsible for thefts, visa and residence permits. On the other hand, the Carabineri are subject to the ministry of defence, and takes care of public affairs and investigates criminal issues. In addition, the Polizia is usually limited to the cities whereas the Carabineri maintain police stations even in the smallest villages.
There are a number of radio stations in Italy that partly broadcast abroad. Many of them play good and popular music. Personal Italian-wide favourites are Radio 105, Radio Capitale and RTL 102,5.
Travelling by train is relatively easy in Italy. For those who plan a trip through Italy, there are Interrail tickets at low prices and package offers of the Italian railway that allow travelling on 4 to 10 days per month available.
As in most countries in Europe, there are reductions for students and senior citizens in Italy. Many museums are free for senior citizens and teenagers at the age of 18 and younger; best always ask for discounts. Students should always take their international student identity card with them to benefit from the offers.
In order to drive a rental car in Italy, one has to be at least 21 years of age and be in possession of a national driving licence for more than one year. All current credit cards will be accepted, although it is recommended to book a rental car in advance via Internet for price comparison and saving lots of money.
Italy and shopping seem to be intrinsically tied together. Fashion, shoes, food and wine are among the top shopping goods in Italy. A lot of time, money and, above all, space for the journey home is necessary; not only in the boutiques of the big fashion capitals Milan, Florence and Romee.
Smoking has been prohibited in closed public places in Italy ever since 2015. Bars, offices and trains are affected by this law as well. Smokers must adhere to this prohibition as the state enforces it strictly imposing high penalties.
Many Italian taxis do not have a taximeter. It is recommended to negotiate the fare before the ride in order to avoid bad surprises.
In public telephone boxes, one can only call with telephone cards, which can be bought in bars and at the tobacconist’s. There are various mobile nets in Italy. A comparison of the roaming fees certainly helps in many instances.
The largest TV stations are the state-controlled stations RAI 1, RAI 2 and RAI 3 as well as the commercial TV stations from Silvio Berlusconi, Canale 5, Rete 4 and La 7.
In Italy as well as in most part of Europe, Central European Time (CET) applies. From the end of March to the end of October, the clock is changed by +1 hour to European summer time.
Tips are normally already included in restaurants as service fees and the waiter does not expect an additional tip, although they will of course like to take it. At the bars, usually one leaves the change.
Tourist information is not uniform in Italy and often very different in terms of quality. Nevertheless, one gets the most important information most of the times and to nice questions, the Italians are likely to answer willingly even if they do not speak English.
Traffic on the streets in Italy, especially in the large towns, is pure mayhem to say the least. It is advisable to drive very attentively and give way more often if the car should be brought back home without any damages. The import of fuel is forbidden in Italy; the petrol stations all offer the conventional types of fuel and are normally open from 7 am to 12 am and from 2 pm to 8 pm. There are additional 24 hours petrol stations on the motormays. The light must be turned on at daylight and high visibility jackets are compulsory. The speed limit is 130 km/h on the motorways and 90 km/h over land. The legal alcohol limit is 0.5 parts per thousand. One should keep all these rules, otherwise large fees can be fined.
Citizens of the European Union and Switzerland need a valid ID card or a passport for their stay in Italy. Children under 16 years of age must posses their own ID or have to be listed in the parent’s passport.
Loss: If the passport gets lost, it is important to inform the police of the theft immediately, otherwise formularity will be difficult. It is recommended to also bring copies of the most importants documents in order to shorten the complicated formularities.
Car documents: Driving to Italy with one's own car, the national driving licence, registration papers and the green insurance card net to be carried at all times. If there's no new EU licence plate, one has to carry the oval country symbol. The absence of this symbol is penalised with high fines.
Persons travelling alone should not have any problems in Italy. However, as in many other countries, the hotel prices for people travelling alone are far less attractive. A single room, most of the time, is only slightly cheaper than a double room. Women travelling alone need not be afraid, but are advised not to wander alone in dark alleys and remote quarters at night.
Spring is the best travel time in Italy, as it is in many other countries. Many of the plants are blooming and the landscape presents itself in its entire glory. However, the late summer / autumn has its own charm as well offering a beautiful stay at moderate temperatures and still warm water. At the high season in summer, it is often very hot. Those trying to avoid the masses of tourists should wander deep into southern Italy where the summers are usually quieter.
EU citizens do not need a visa for Italy. For a longer stay or a place of residence and work in Italy, one has to report to the police. Swiss citizens do not need a visa, if they stay no longer than 90 days.
For women, Italy is not a really dangerous country. Nevertheless, women have to deal with flattering but also peeving chat-up lines in many parts of the country. Especially foreign women are meant to be “fair game”. But with determinate politeness and a coordinated drawback, there usually will be no bigger problems. Beside this, common sense is the most secure way to avoid potential dangers at unsafe locations.
Working in Italy
EU citizens do not need a special working permission in Italy, although it is compulsory to apply for an individual tax identification code. There is a surprisingly great number of jobs for foreign-language-speakers in the touristic and educational sectors. For most of the other jobs, knowledge of the Italian language is vital.
Italy is connected to the international youth hostel system. With an international hostel card, one can spend the night at a hostel without any problems. Prices depend on locations and time and are between € 8 and € 15.