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Italy has a population
of more than 60 million people, and the country is divided into
20 regions, such as Tuscany, Umbria, Veneto, etc. Each region has
a number of provinces. Within the modern state of Italy are two
independent states, Vatican City and San Marino. The country was
not unified into a single political entity until 1870, which helps
to explain the diversity that exists among the various regions.
This diversity, together with the warmth of its people, its rich
cultural heritage, and its wonderful scenery makes Italy the popular
tourist destination that it is. As you begin to plan your vacation,
you might find it useful to consult a map so that you have a clear
understanding of the geographic features of the country and a sense
of the distances between the cities and towns that you hope to visit.
Consulting one or more good guidebooks in advance of your travel
should assist you in planning your daily activities.
Rome's Leonardo da
Vinci (Fiumicino) Airport and Milan's Malpensa Airport are
Italy's major international airports, especially if the traveler
is taking a non-stop flight from North America. If your destination
is Tuscany, Leonardo Da Vinci Airport is probably a little
more convenient in terms of driving time. Travelers to Tuscany might
find it more convenient to fly into the airports in Pisa and
Florence, which have service from and to some other European
cities. In May 2007, Delta will be starting new non-stop service
four times a week between New York and Pisa. USAirways and Delta
have non-stop service to Venice respectively from Philadelphia and
New York. Eurofly, a seasonal airline, has non-stop service between
New York and Bologna and New York and Rome, with onward service
to some other Italian cities. As you decide on the airport to which
you intend to fly, you might wish to take into consideration both
convenience and ticket prices. Other major Italian cities with airports
are Venice, Naples, Palermo, Genoa, Ancona, Bologna, Catania and
Bari. For airline reservations and schedules, we suggest that you
contact a travel agent or check individual airlines on the World
United States citizens
do not require a visa to enter Italy for visits of less than
three months. For visits of longer duration, travelers should contact
an Italian consular establishment in the United States or Canada,
or search on the World Wide Web at http://www.italyemb.org.
Please remember, however, that a valid U.S. passport is required
for travel to Italy and virtually all international destinations
Travelers entering Italy
are not required to pay duty on a reasonable amount of items for
their personal use during their visit. The following duty-free allowances
- No more than 750 ml
of liquor and two liters of wine;
- 200 cigarettes or
50 cigars or 250 grams of tobacco.
Any specific questions
regarding Italian Customs regulations should be referred to an Italian
Effective January 1,
2002, Italy became one of twelve members of the European Union (EU)
to adopt the Euro as its official currency. The Lira ceased to
exist as an official currency in the first half of 2002. The
Euro is divided into 100 cents, and there are coins and paper currency
of various denominations. The Euro paper currency is standard throughout
the twelve countries; one side of all coins is standard throughout
the EU while the other side represents the country in which they
are issued. National coins are, however, interchangeable throughout
At the beginning of 2007,
a dollar was worth about $.76 in relation to one Euro. (In other
words, it takes about $1.30 to purchase one Euro at the official
rate of exchange.). Prior to departing from the United States,
you might wish to check the current exchange rate, which is generally
found in the financial section of many major American newspapers.
In Italy, the best exchange rate can usually be obtained by utilizing
ATM cards. ATM machines are found throughout the country.
Prior to leaving the United States, we recommend that you check
with your bank to ascertain whether its ATM card can be utilized
in Italy. Your bank will probably charge you a small fee for each
ATM transaction. Increasingly, U.S. banks have also instituted fees
for foreign exchange transactions executed via ATM's. In most places,
ATM machines are operational 24 hours a day. Banks tend to give
better exchange rates than exchange bureaus, many of which are found
in the larger tourist centers. Banks are generally open from 8:00
a.m. or 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. or 1:30 p.m. and 2: 45 p.m. to 3:45
p.m. on weekdays. A few banks have business hours on Saturday. Major
credit cards are generally accepted throughout Italy. (Travelers
will find that merchants generally prefer to take Mastercard and
Visa.) You will find that the credit card companies provide better
exchange rates than you will receive from banks or exchange bureaus.
However, many credit card issuers are now charging fees for foreign
exchange transactions. Check with your card issuer if you have any
questions about this.
In most areas of Italy,
Italian is the principal language. An increasing number of
Italians, especially in the major cities and tourist areas, understand
and speak at least a little English. Finding an English speaker
away from tourist areas will be a little more difficult, and having
some knowledge of Italian obviously can enhance the enjoyment of
one's vacation. Italians appreciate efforts of foreigners to speak
their language, and most offer encouragement to those who make an
effort to speak Italian. With a little patience on the part of the
visitor, communication should not be a serious problem. The task
will be simpler if you speak more slowly than normal and suggest
to your Italian interlocutor that he/she speak more slowly.
Italy is six hours
ahead of Eastern Standard (Eastern Daylight Saving) Time.
While there is significant
variation in weather patterns from the north to the south of the
country, Italy generally has four seasons. The spring and
the fall are usually very pleasant for traveling. Winters and summers
are generally neither as cold nor as hot as the extremes of weather
generally found in the United States. In the months of July and
August, hot weather can be expected, but in the evenings it is generally
cooler with gentle breezes that make life comfortable. If travelers
are contemplating a winter rental, it is important that they arrange
to take a place that has heating. Heating is quite expensive
in Italy, and heating and fireplace wood are virtually always charged
as extras based either on consumption or on a daily/weekly rate
established by the owner. Information about weather in various
areas of Italy can easily be found on the World Wide Web.
Very few rental properties
permit pets. If a pet is permitted at a property and you decide
to bring one along, you should consult an Italian consular establishment
regarding entry requirements for bringing the animal into the country.
The airline a traveler is using should be able to provide information
on requirements regarding bringing the animal back into the United
States (or another country).
ENJOYING YOUR VACATION HOME
at Your Property
We provide you with directions
to the property. Here are a few hints to make the trip to your rental
a little easier. Purchase a detailed map of Italy or a map
of the region of Italy in which your rental is located either prior
to your departure or immediately after your arrival in Italy. In
the United States, these can be found at a large bookstore or at
a store that specializes in travel books. If you are traveling to
Central Italy including Tuscany and Umbria, Michelin has an excellent
map of the area. Istituto Geografico De Agostini publishes a number
of useful maps including one entitled "Italia Nord-Centro"
and one entitled "Toscana". In Italy, these maps can be
found at bookstores or in the rest stops on the super highways ("autostrade").
If you are renting a car, you will probably receive a map from the
car rental agency. Although these are useful in a general sense,
you will find that a more detailed map than the agencies usually
provide will not only ease the task of arriving at your rental,
but will also be useful for plotting your daily sightseeing itineraries.
Finding the property will be much easier if you plan to arrive
there during daylight hours.
Italian law requires
that owners or caretakers of properties provide the local police
with the names, country or origin and passport numbers of
all (or at least some) of the individuals residing in the house
during the rental. (The same is true of hotels.) So, at the time
of your arrival, you should be prepared to present your passports
to the key holder in order that he/she can obtain the necessary
information. You might find it useful to make several copies
of the data pages of your passport prior to leaving home and to
take them with you to Italy. These should be kept separately
from your passport, and are useful in the event of the loss of a
passport or to give to owners for registration purposes.
Your rental property
comes fully equipped with linens and towels. If you have a pool
or intend to go to a beach, you should consider bringing beach towels
or purchasing them in Italy. Most rentals do not provide them. Also,
washcloths are not generally used in Italy, so if you must have
one, please plan to bring it along.
While kitchens are equipped
for daily cooking, owners do not provide a stocked larder.
Usually you will find items such as sugar, salt, pepper, etc. that
are left behind by those who preceded you at the rental. Accordingly,
it is useful to stock up on some basics either before you arrive
at your rental or immediately after your arrival. Some of the items
you want can be found at rest stops along the autostrade.
Alternately, ask the person that meets you at the property for directions
to the nearest town with shopping facilities. Please bear in mind
that many stores in Italy are closed on Sunday, and many remain
closed on Monday mornings. We recommend that you do an initial shopping
for basic items on Saturday before the evening closing hour.
Here is a list of
things that you might find useful to purchase:
- Toilet paper - usually
there is toilet paper at the house when you arrive, but it is
unlikely that there will be a supply that will last the length
of your rental.
- Paper towels and napkins
- Salt and pepper -
you might wish to postpone this purchase until after your arrival
in case others have left these behind.
- Bottled water
- Detergent both for
clothes and washing dishes
- Basic foodstuffs such
as milk, bread, jam cheeses, assorted fruits, fresh vegetables,
salad ingredients, coffee and/or tea, sugar, pasta, olive oil,
vinegar, and wine.
See the shopping
section below for additional tips.
Here are a few hints
that will make your stay at your rental property more enjoyable.
Remember, that air-conditioning continues to be rare in Italian
homes, which generally have been built to keep out the heat in the
summer and to retain warmth in the winter. If you are renting during
the warmer summer period, you will immediately notice, as you look
at nearby Italian homes, that everything is shut and shuttered from
mid-morning until temperatures start to cool down in the latter
part of the afternoon. It is suggested that you follow this pattern.
Close your shutters before going out on your daily excursions. In
the later part of the afternoon, open the shutters to ensure that
you capture the cooling breezes that generally come in late afternoon
and in the evening.
Italian homes generally
do not have the same amount of electrical current coming
into the house as Americans are used to. Houses in Italy have 220
volts, so exercise care before trying to plug American electrical
gadgets, i.e. hair dryers, computers, etc. that run at 120 volts
directly into the electrical socket. Individuals coming from the
United States will find that they generally should bring along transformers
and adapter plugs for their electrical equipment. (Most laptops
have transformers that will solve this problem, but users might
wish to bring along a surge protector if they are taking a computer
to the rental.) Remember that using too many appliances in a house
at one time might cause a circuit breaker to go off. For example,
it is probably best not to use a dishwasher and a washing machine
at the same time, especially if you are also using lights in most
of the rooms of the property. It is also useful at the time
of arrival to ask the person that greets you at the property to
show you the location of the fuse box where the circuit breakers
Water is a very precious
commodity in Italy, especially during the dry summer period. Clients
are urged to practice water conservation during their rental.
Houses in Italy generally
do not have screens. To control mosquitoes or other insects
that might appear, there are several methods to use. One is to buy
anti-mosquito coils that are readily available in Italy. You light
these in early evening particularly in the bedrooms, and they give
off a smell that is offensive to those little pests. Italians also
use a small plug-in device the size of night-lights that burn little
pellets of insect repellent. Another is to purchase flying insect
spray and to use it in bedroom areas prior to retiring for the evening.
Finally, for those who are particularly sensitive and who will be
lingering outside late into the evening, you might consider purchasing
an insect repellent that contains DEET before leaving the United
States. Keeping lights off in the bedrooms when not using them is
We are frequently asked
about clothes dryers. As with air-conditioning, these are relatively
rare in Italy, in large measure because of the extremely high cost
of utilities. In Italy almost all clothes drying is done on outside
lines or racks. You will find that virtually all rental properties
have these outside lines or racks.
Washing machines in
Italy operate differently from those in the United States. If
there is a washing machine at the property you have rented, please
read carefully any operating instructions provided by the owner.
If there are no instructions readily apparent, you are urged to
ask the owner/key holder who greets you at the property to show
you how the washing machine functions. Since most Italian washing
machines heat their own hot water, the entire washing cycle is considerably
longer than one experiences with washing machines here in the United
As indicated above,
utility costs are very high in Italy. Clients are strongly urged
to assist in energy conservation. This can be done by turning
off lights when you leave the rental for the day, and ensuring that
lights are off in unused rooms during the evening hours.
The quantity of available
hot water at one time in Italian homes is not always as abundant
as in American homes. In some instances, the hot water supply is
not centralized but comes from individual water heaters in the bathrooms
or in the kitchen. Limiting the length of showers is one method
of enabling all to share in the available supply of hot water.
The official heating
season in Italy is basically from October 15 to April 15. Given
that Italy has four climatic seasons and that weather is unpredictable,
clients sometimes wish to utilize heating either before October
15 or after April 15. They should consult immediately with the owner/key
holder concerning this need, if it occurs, bearing in mind that
heating is almost always charged as an extra either based on usage
or on a price the owner has calculated based on past experience.
Heating is expensive in Italy, so travelers renting properties there
in heating season should factor in the cost of heating as they think
about the budget for their vacation.
Italy is a shopper's
paradise. One of the advantages of renting vacation accommodations
with cooking facilities is the opportunity to experience the vast
array of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as the wide assortment
of specialty meats and cheeses. Each area of Italy has its own specialties,
and vacationers are urged to try these. Shopkeepers tend to be very
helpful, and frequently will offer the shopper an opportunity to
sample a particular product before buying it. Small food stores
are found in virtually all towns and villages. Supermarkets
are becoming increasingly common in Italy, and generally prices
are somewhat lower than in the smaller stores. Italians place a
major emphasis on the freshness of the ingredients that go into
their cooking, which visitors will observe when doing their shopping.
Virtually every town of any size has its weekly open-air market.
(These markets usually close by 1:00 p.m.) The fresh vegetable stalls
and the vendors who sell pork products, cheeses, roast chickens,
etc. offer quality items - the local authorities check them often,
and levy heavy fines if the quality of ingredients is not up to
established standards. The open-air markets are lots of fun, and
offer clothing, leather goods, and household items in addition to
food products. BUT, do not expect incredible deals when purchasing
non-food items. Fakes abound, as they do among street vendors whom
travelers will run across in many cities, so buyers are urged to
exercise caution when shopping. Travelers are warned that Italy
recently enacted legislation establishing penalties for purchasing
knock-off items from itinerant street vendors. While these new laws
are unevenly applied, travelers need to be aware of them.
tend to vary from region to region, so it is a good idea to check
on these as soon as you arrive at your vacation rental. Typical
times are 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. or 4:30 p.m. until
7:00 p.m. or 7:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Food shops are
frequently closed on Monday mornings, and there also might be some
variation in shopping hours in the summer months. Department stores
and shops in tourist centers may stay open all day, and sometimes
well into the evening.
If you are a foreign
tourist, you can claim a VAT (Value Added Tax) rebate on
purchases of over 155 Euros spent in a single store. In order to
obtain a refund of the VAT you paid, you will need a receipt
from the vendor and a description of the items purchased. Look for
stores with the sign "tax free shopping" when making
larger purchases. They are familiar with the procedures that need
to be followed, and most stores in larger cities and tourist areas
can help you with this. In order to obtain a refund, you should
not use the goods purchased while in the European Union area, and
you should present them to Customs officials as you exit the Italy
- - usually at an airport - - or to a Customs official of the last
EU country visited on your trip. The Customs official will provide
you with the documentation you will need to claim your rebate. At
that point, you have two choices. One is to mail the documentation
back to the vendor, and ask them to send the refund to you. The
easier method is to go to an agency with offices in the departure
area of the airport that specializes in tax rebates. The agency
will either provide you with an immediate rebate of the tax you
paid - less their transaction fee - - or send it to your home address.
Italians have the reputation
of being among the fastest drivers in the world. This reputation
is probably well deserved. This having been said, they are probably
among the best drivers in the world. They have quick reflexes, and
almost always seem to have their car under control. A few pointers
will help you cope with Italian drivers. It is important to know,
to the extent you can, where you are going. Check your directions
and the map prior to setting out on your trip, and, use a passenger
in the car as a navigator to assist you. If you do not wish to drive
as fast as the Italians do, stay in the right lane. If you intend
to drive quickly and stay in the passing lane, put your left turn
blinker on and leave it on as long as you are in that lane. And,
if you wish to warn others that you are traveling at a high rate
of speed, and wish them either to move out of the fast lane ahead
or not to move into the passing lane, flicker your bright lights
a few times. Watch closely how Italians behave on their roads, and
try to emulate them if you feel comfortable doing so. Finally, on
country roads, you will find that slower moving trucks frequently
impede the flow of traffic. Exercise due caution as you try to get
around these trucks.
An International Driver's
Permit (IDP) is required to drive in Italy. The Italian Government
strengthened its law requiring this in 2004. An International Driver's
Permit can be obtained from the nearest office of the American Automobile
Association. On the Internet, it is also possible to obtain an IDP
quickly from "It's Easy," an agency located in New York
that can also assist in obtaining passports and visas. Their web
address is: www.itseasypassport.com.
Their toll free telephone number is 1-866-487-3279. We have used
them, and found that they provide fast, efficient service - - although
the costs are higher than personally visiting an AAA office. IDP's
are valid for one year from the date of issue. An IDP can also be
obtained by mail from AA by downloading an application form from
the Internet and following the instructions that are provided.
Taking the Train
When traveling by rail, make sure you validate your train ticket at the station before you board the train. This is done at the yellow validation boxes. If you do not validate your ticket, there is a 40 Euro penalty. Additionally, plan your trip in advance. Don't be surprised if a rail line is on strike, unknowlingly to everyone. The trains, even though on a schedule, are frequently on "Italian time".
Post offices are found
in most towns and villages. They are generally open from 8:30 a.m.
until 1:00 p.m. Mailboxes (red) are found at various sites in towns.
Stamps can also be bought at "Tabacchi". These stores
have a black sign with words "Tabacchi" out front.
("Tabacchi" also sell such items as matches,
salt, telephone cards and stationery.)
Many rental properties
have telephones. If your property does have a telephone, you will
be expected to pay for the number of calls that you have made as
measured in units ("scatti"). There is either a counter
attached to the telephone line or a number that can be called to
ascertain the number of units used in the course of a particular
period. If your property does not have a telephone, and you feel
an absolute need to have one, you can rent a cell phone that will
operate internationally. (Some cell phone plans include international
service via your usual cell phone telephone number. Check with your
provider.) Before your departure, you can call AutoEurope at 1-800-223-5555
to arrange a rental. Alternately, you can rent a cell phone after
your arrival in Italy. A cell phone rental office is located on
the lower level of Rome's Leonardo da Vinci Airport. You can also
go onto the web and find other sources for cell phone rentals. Our
experience is that cell phone rentals arranged after arrival in
Italy are more costly.
You will find that public
telephones are plentiful in Italy. Some work with coins and
some work with telephone cards. In our travels, we have found it
useful to purchase telephone cards that can be obtained from Tabacchi
stores, post offices and some other public places. They come in
various denominations. Local calls in Italy are relatively inexpensive;
calls within the country but outside the local dialing area can
quickly become expensive.
For telephone calls in
Italy outside your local calling area, it is necessary to add an
area code preceded by a zero. Thus, if you are calling Rome, you
dial 06 plus the number. If you are calling Florence, you dial 055
plus the number. International calls dialed directly from Italy
can be very expensive. Americans traveling in Italy who have telephone
credit cards will generally find it cheaper to use them. This can
be done easily by dialing the American long distance providers at
the following numbers from any telephone in Italy:
- AT&T 1721011
- MCI 1721022
- Sprint 1721877
There are also some telephone
cards available for purchase in Italy, which permit international
calls at very reasonable rates. In buying these cards, individuals
should check carefully the per minute rates that will be charged
to the country being called.
Many towns have tourist
information offices. They generally have a wealth of information,
and travelers are encouraged to take advantage of their services.
are ruined by acts of thievery. Utilizing good common sense, travelers
can minimize the possibility that they will fall victims to this.
We have the following suggestions:
- Utilize fanny packs
for the valuables that you are carrying around with you, especially
if you are going to be in crowded areas.
- Lock the access doors
to your vacation rental when you leave for the day.
- Do not leave personal
possessions in your car, especially when leaving it in unguarded
- Minimize the amount
of currency that you carry with you at any single time.
- If you lose your passport,
you should report this promptly to the nearest United States consular
office or to the consular office of the country of which you are
a citizen. Make a photocopy of your passport and carry that with you when traveling. Leave your official passport in a secure location. Never relinquish your passport to anyone, the photocopy or other photo ID should be satisfactory..
Should you be victimized,
it is important that you report the incident to the police or Carabinieri
at the earliest opportunity. Travelers are advised to make photocopies of the data page of their passport with the photograph,
and record the number of their credit cards prior to departing from
home. Travelers should take several copies of these with them to
Italy and place them separately from their valuables to be used
should a passport and/or credit cards be lost or stolen. Another
useful measure is to ensure that one person does not carry all the
credit cards, ATM cards, or checks for a couple or a group.
There are several different
public security forces in Italy, including the national para-military
Carabinieri, the "Polizia", municipal police, and highway
police. They can all be contacted in case of need by dialing 113.
In the event that you
need urgent medical attention, your best bet is to head to the nearest
hospital and to go directly to "Pronto Soccorso" (Emergency
Services). The owner/key holder of the property at which you are
staying or the rental manager/agency can also be a source of assistance
in attempting to locate urgent medical services.
This is always a difficult
topic. A porter or a bellboy at airports and hotels always get tips:
€ .50 to €1.00 per bag. If you rent a house that provides
housekeeping service and you like the service that has been provided,
then by all means leave a gratuity. A service charge is normally
included in restaurant bills. If the service has been particularly
good, you might leave a small additional amount for the waiter.
For the restaurant owner, the best way to express appreciation is
to return to the establishment for another meal. Tip theater ushers
€ .50, taxi drivers 5 - 10 per cent of the fare, helpful gas
station attendants € .50 to €1.00, and leave a €
.10 to € .25 on the counter at the coffee bar.
The following national
holidays will be celebrated in Italy in 2008:
January 1 - - New Year's
January 6 - - Epiphany
March 23 - - Easter
March 24 - - Easter Monday
April 25 - - Liberation Day
May 1 - - May/ Labor Day
June 2 - - Anniversary of the Republic
June 24 - - St. John's Day (Florence local city holiday)
June 29 - - St. Peter's and St. Paul's Day (Rome local city holiday)
August 15 - -Assumption Day
November 1 - - All Saints' Day
November 5 - - World War I Victory Day (not universally observed)
December 8 - - Feast of the Immaculate Conception
December 25 - - Christmas
December 26 - - St. Stephen's Day (Boxing Day)
If you wish to remain
in touch with relatives and friends back home and do not take a
laptop to Italy, there are Internet stores and Internet cafes
in many cities and towns. Prices charged for Internet access vary,
but we have found that they are reasonably priced on an hourly basis.
We have always found the staffs at these places helpful in assisting
clients with problems in accessing their Internet server. While
staying in San Nicola Arcella, we would recommend MAIL BOXES ETC.
in Scalea, www.mbe.it.
If you take a laptop along, you will be able to use it if there
is a telephone at the property. You might wish to purchase prior
to leaving for Italy a kit that contains the type of connectors
that you will need for plugging into the telephone jacks. These
kits are available for purchase on the Internet. You will also wish
to ascertain local telephone numbers for your service provider.
at the Rental
Everything has been done
to ensure that you will have a carefree vacation at your rental
property. However, problems do occasionally occur. In the first
instance, report them to the owner of the property or the caretaker
responsible for the property. His/her telephone number has been
provided to you with your rental documents. If you do not receive
satisfaction, then it is important that you immediately contact
the vacation home management agency in Italy responsible for the
rental. They have English speakers on staff who can help resolve
the problem, hopefully in short order. It is important to remember
that the problem should be addressed at the time it occurs. Trying
to address it after your return to the United States is too late!
A Final Thought
For maximum enjoyment
of your vacation, remember that you are in a foreign country and
not everything will work as at home. Beds can be of slightly different
sizes, refrigerators can be smaller, meal hours are different, washing
machines operate differently, clothes dryers are relatively rare,
bedside lighting is not as bright as Americans are accustomed, etc.
etc. etc. Part of the pleasure of traveling in Italy is experiencing
not only the rich cultural heritage found there but also the diversity