COUNTRY OF ART, CULTURE, HISTORY, FOOD AND WINE
Italy is a synonym for culture, art and history. Artistic wonders can be found everywhere. Our artistic and cultural heritage is one of the most valuable in the world. Italy has more cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other country: Rome, Milan, Venice, Florence, Pisa, Siena, Turin, Parma, Naples and Palermo are some of its most renowned cities of art.
Italy has always been a synonym for “good food,” offering an unique explosion of flavors, scents, and aromas. Aside from having one of the most famous cuisines, it also proposes an immense variety of different regional dishes and recipes, from more than 100 types of pizza and ways of cooking pasta to gourmet meat&seafood meals. Ancient Greeks used to call Italy “Enotria”, since it was renowned for its extraordinary wines. It would be impossible to list all of the features of Italian wines, worldwide famous for their variety and quality.
Geography and population
Land area: 113,521 sq mi (294,019 sq km); total area: 116,305 sq mi (301,230 sq km)
Population (2010 est.): 58,090,681 (growth rate: –0.07%); birth rate: 8.0/1000; infant mortality rate: 5.4/1000; life expectancy: 80.3; density per sq km: 197 Capital city (2003 est.):Rome, 3,550,900 (metro. area), 2,455,600 (city proper)
Since 2001, the currency used in Italy is euro €. One euro is divided up into 100 euro-cents. There are eight different coins (1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 euro-cents) and seven notes (5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros). Purchases can be paid in cash as well as by credit card. This payment system is common in Italian shops, which generally display the symbols of the credit cards they accept on the outside door. If you pay by credit card you will be asked to show an identity document. Travel cheques (in USD or Euros) can also be cashed in Italian banks.
Banks are open Monday to Friday from 8.30 to 13.00 and from 14.30 to 15.30.
To call an Italian telephone number from abroad, either from a landline or a mobile phone, you will need to add the international dialing code for Italy, which is 0039 (+39), followed by the telephone number you require. To reach another country from Italy, you will need to add the international dialing code for the country you are calling, followed by the telephone number you require. To make calls within Italy, dial the number you require without adding the international country code. Mobile phone reception in Italy is very good, based on GSM technology, which is not compatible with some countries (including the USA and Japan), unless you have a three-band mobile phone. Before travelling to Italy you should contact your telephone services provider to activate the international roaming service (if it is not already activated automatically). Making international calls from a mobile phone may be very expensive. Italy is in the Central European Time (CET) Zone, 1 hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), and observes Daylight Saving Time: in mid-autumn the clocks are shifted back of an hour to standard Central European Time (usually end of October).
Opening hours – Shops and post offices
Shops are generally open from Monday to Saturday, from 9.00 a.m. to 12.30 and from 3.30 p.m. to 7.30 p.m., although shopping centers and department stores often are open all day, from 10.00 a.m. to 9.00 or 10.00 p.m. Shopping centers and stores are also open on several Sundays throughout the year.
Post offices are open Monday to Friday from 8.30 a.m. to 1.30/2 p.m., some of them also in the afternoon from 2.30 to 6 p.m. . Saturday from 8.30 a.m. to 12.30 a.m.
Electricity and internet access
In Italy the electrical current is 220 volts AC (50 Hz). Electrical sockets comply with European regulations. In most hotels you will find adaptors for different types of plugs.
There are many internet points and cafés offering internet access. In many hotels (especially higher-category ones) a direct internet connection is provided in the rooms. In addition, you will find Wi-Fi access available in many airports, hotels, train stations and other public places where travelers pass through or stop off.
Documents required to drive in Italy
Driving licenses issued by any of the EU member states are valid throughout the European Union, including Italy. Drivers in possession of a license issued by any EU country do not require an international driving permit or a sworn translation of their own license.
Documents and VISA to enter Italy
European Citizens whose country is under the authority of the Schengen Treaty may enter Italy with a valid identity card or passport. Citizens from all other countries must show their passport on the border; where a visa is required, this must also be presented to the border authorities and must indicate the length of the holder’s stay and his or her destination.
Visa applications – specifying the reason for the trip – must be made to the Italian Consulate in the applicant’s country of residence, and are generally issued 90 days after the application has been made.
As visa regulations are continuously changing, we strongly recommend you to consult the official website of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.esteri.it/visti/) for updated and detailed information for foreigners regarding entrance visas for Italy and permits of stay. Information is offered in English and other languages.
Climate & Clothing
Average temperature drops quite a bit from September to October, so this is the month that really feels like autumn even if September was still summerlike. The temperature in October is generally mild enough that spending lots of time exploring outdoor attractions is enjoyable, and you won’t feel like you need to take breaks from oppressive heat. Of course, it’s not unheard of for it to rain more often than not throughout the month – so this is one of those months when you may get equal use out of your sunglasses and umbrella.
Temperatures in October vary depending on where you are in Italy. Generally in Northern Italy are between 45-65°F (7-18°C).
In Italy, visited year round by tourists from all over the world, English is enough spoken all over young people most of all.
ATMs (known in Italy as bancomat) are widely available in Italy and most will accept cards tied into the Visa, Amex, MasterCard, Cirrus and Maestro systems. As a precaution, though, check that the appropriate logo is displayed on the ATM before inserting your card. Banks opening hours generally are 08:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 2:45 to 3:45 p.m., Monday to Friday.
Major cards such as Visa, MasterCard, Eurocard, Cirrus, Amex and Eurocheques are widely accepted; you might be asked for an Identity Card to prove you are possessor of it.
Taxes & refunds
A value-added tax of around 22% is included in the prize of just about everything in Italy. Non-EU residents are in some cases entitled to a tax rebate. You will need to fill in a form in the shop and get it stamped by customs as you leave Italy.
In Italy tipping service, which usually ranges from 1 to 3 Euros depends on the restaurant, it is automatically added at the check and must be visible on the menu. Therefore, there is no need to tip. Normally, however, Italians just round up the bill, by a few Euros. Hotel staff, such as luggage handlers, happily accepts a small tip. Generally, no other public service workers expect tips. Also remember to take your receipt, even if paying cash. It is required by the law as you must be able to prove that you paid and the owner rang it in for tax purposes.