Electricity

Electrical current in Italy is 230 volts, 50Hz. A variety of plugs are in use, including the European-style two-pin plug.

Language

The official language of Italy is Italian. English is understood in the larger cities but not in the more remote parts of the country.

Money

The Euro (EUR) is the official currency, which is divided into 100 cents. Those arriving in Italy with foreign currency can obtain Euros through any bank, ATM or bureau de change. ATMs are widespread. Credit cards are accepted in upmarket establishments and shops around the cities. Banks are closed on weekends, but tend to have better rates than foreign exchange houses.

Tipping

Tipping is customary in Italy and 10 to 15 percent of the bill is acceptable in restaurants, unless a 15 percent service charge has already been added to the bill. Hotels add a service charge of 15 to 18 percent, but it is customary to tip the service staff extra. Italians rarely tip taxi drivers but a 5 to 10 percent tip is always appreciated.

Health

There are no specific health risks associated with travel to Italy and visitors should be able to travel without special vaccinations and medications. Medical facilities in Italy are good but travel insurance is still recommended for non-EU citizens, as medical attention can be expensive. EU citizens can make use of Italy's health services provided they have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), with UK citizens using their Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). The GHIC replaced the EHIC for UK citizens and allows UK citizens access to state healthcare during visits to the EU. The GHIC is not valid in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, nor is it an alternative to travel insurance. Although it should be possible to get most medication in Italy, travel authorities always suggest taking any prescribed medication in its original packaging with a signed and dated letter from a doctor.

Safety

Tourists are vulnerable to pickpocketing in the bigger cities, particularly on public transport, in crowded areas and around tourist sites. It's advisable to be careful when carrying large amounts of cash and valuables. Be particularly careful around the main train station, Termini. Visitors should be wary of groups of children, some of whom will distract attention while the others try to steal what they can. Strikes by transport workers take place regularly throughout Italy and delays are possible.

Local customs

In Italy, it's an offence to sit on steps and in courtyards near public buildings, including the main churches in Florence; eating and drinking in the vicinity should also be avoided. Shorts, vests or any other immodest clothing should not be worn inside churches.

Doing business

Italians can be very formal and old fashioned, but are also warm and welcoming. Face to face communication is best and often a third party introduction can speed initial negotiations. Business attire is formal and stylish, and handshakes are the norm with first impressions counting a lot in Italy. Expect plenty of gesticulating, interruptions or people talking over each other. Business cards are used. Unfortunately the bureaucracy in Italy can slow down deal-making. Business hours are usually 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, but can vary according to season and region.

Duty free

Travellers over 17 years from non-EU countries do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco. As well as this, travellers do not have to pay duty on 4 litres of wine, 16 lires of beer or 1 litre of spirits over 22 percent volume, or 2 litres of alcoholic beverages less than 22 percent volume. Other goods up to the value of €430 is also permitted (reduced to €175 for children under 15).

Travellers from EU countries travelling within the EU are limited to 110 litres of beer, 90 litres of wine, 10 litres of fortified wine, 10 litres of spirits and 1kg of tobacco, 800 cigarettes, 200 cigars or 400 cigarellos. Prohibited items include narcotic drugs, medicinal products, arms and weapons, explosives and protected animal and plant species.

Communications

The international access code for Italy is +39. City/area codes are in use, e.g. 02 for Milan and 06 for Rome. Hotels, cafes and restaurants offering free wifi are widely available. As international roaming costs can be high, purchasing a local prepaid SIM card can be a cheaper option.

Passport & Visa

The borderless region known as the Schengen Area includes the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. All these countries issue a standard Schengen visa that has a multiple entry option, and which allows the holder to travel freely within the borders of all the aforementioned countries. Furthermore, all foreign passengers to Italy must hold visible proof of financial means to support themselves while in the country, return/onward tickets, and the necessary travel documentation for their next destination. Note that visitors may be refused entry, either for public security, tranquillity, order or health reasons. Extensions of stay in Italy are possible, by applying to local authorities. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Entry requirements

US citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least three months beyond their intended stay in Italy. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.

Passports endorsed 'British Citizen', 'British Subject' (containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode issued by the United Kingdom), and 'British Overseas Territories Citizen' issued by Gibraltar, must be valid on arrival. British passports with other endorsements must be valid for three months beyond the period of intended stay in Italy.

A visa is not required for British passports endorsed 'British Citizen' or 'British Subject' (containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode issued by the United Kingdom), nor for holders of identity cards issued by Gibraltar, and endorsed 'Validated for EU travel purposes under the authority of the United Kingdom'. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period for holders of British passports with other endorsements.

Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least three months beyond their intended stay in Italy. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.

Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid for three months beyond their intended stay in Italy. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.

South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for three months beyond their intended stay, and a valid Schengen visa, to enter Italy.

Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Italy. No visa is required.

New Zealand citizens must have a passports valid for three months beyond period of intended stay in Italy. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.

Useful contacts

www.enit.it

112 (General Emergencies), 113 (Police), 118 (Ambulance)

Embassies / consulates in other countries

Italian Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 612 4400.

Italian Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7312 2200.

Italian Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 232 2401.

Italian Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6273 3333.

Italian Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 423 000.

Italian Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 660 1744.

Italian Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 473 5339.

Embassies / consulates in Italy

United States Embassy, Rome: +39 06 46741.

British Embassy, Rome: +39 06 4220 0001/ 4220.

Canadian Embassy, Rome: +39 06 85444 2911.

Australian Embassy, Rome: +39 06 852 721.

South African Embassy, Rome: +39 06 852 541.

Irish Embassy, Rome: +39 06 585 2381.

New Zealand Embassy, Rome: +39 06 853 7501.