FORM OF GOVERNMENT
At the end of World War II, Italy became a Republic with a parliamentary form of Government.
The President, who is the head of state, serves a 7 year term in office and may be re-elected.
Italy is divided into 20 regions, of which:
  • -15 have an ordinary statute (a statute approved by parliament)
  • -5 (Valle d’Aosta, Trentino-Alto Adige, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Sicily and Sardinia) a special statute approved by a constitutional law.
  • TIME ZONE
Italy is in the Central European time zone (CET) equals GMT plus 1 hour. Summer time (+ 1 hour) is in force from the end of March until the end of September. However each year, from approximately the last week of March until the last week of October Italy adopts daylight saving time and advances the clock one hour. From the end of March until the end of October Australia is 8 hours ahead of Italy, while from the end of October until the end of March the time difference increases to 10 hours. New Zealand is 10 hours ahead of Italy, increased to 12 hours from the end of October until the end of March.
LANGUAGES

Italy’s official language is Italian. But there is a vast linguistic diversity in this country that includes the use of dialects through the twenty regions in the country, such as Lombardic (in Lombardy), Roman (in Rome) and Calabrian (in Calabria) as well the use of other languages in areas that border with other states. These include German and Ladin in Alto Adige, French in Valle d’Aosta and Slovene in the north east of Italy. Other languages such as Albanian, Greek are spoken in the south.
Although many dialects are spoken in everyday conversation, standard Italian is the national language of schools, juridical proceedings, media and is understood throughout the country
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LANGUAGE HISTORY

Italian is a Romance language related to French, Spain, Portuguese and Romanian. Romance languages belong to the Indo-European group of languages, which include English. Indeed, as English and Italian share common roots in Latin, you will recognize many Italian words.
Modern literary Italian began to develop in the 13th and 14th centuries, predominantly through the works of Dante, Petrarca and Boccaccio, who wrote chiefly in the Florentine dialect. The language drew on its Latin heritage and many dialects to develop into the standard Italian today.

USEFUL TELEPHONE NUMBERS

Emergency aid service 113
Carabinieri (army corp which is also a police force) 112
Fire Brigade 115
Health Emergency 118
Australian Embassy in Rome 06 852 721
New Zealand Embassy in Rome 06 441 7171
International code for Italy from Australia is 001139
International code for Italy from New Zealand is 0039
International code for Australia from Italy is 0061
International code for New Zealand from Italy is 0064
POST OFFICES
Post Offices are generally open from 08:00/08:30 am to 01:30/02:00 pm from Monday to Friday, Saturday from 08:00/08:30 am to 12:00/01:00 pm. Stamps (francobolli) can be purchased at any post office and any authorised tobacconist. Goods sent by Parcel Post to Italy as a gift or for personal use of the receiver up to a value of EURO 45, are exempt from Customs Duty. Special concessions are available for certain goods during the Christmas period sent to private addresses as gift packages. Alcohol, tobacco, perfumes, coffee and tea are subject to limited quantities.
GST REFUND
According to EU law, non-EU residents can obtain a refund from the sales tax (IVA/GST) already included in the price of the goods purchased in Italy. The goods must be for personal use and exported, unused, when exiting the country. The total value of the goods purchased must exceed the value of € 154,94. To obtain the refund you must purchase from outlets that offer ‘duty free’ facilities. Before leaving the store make sure you have the appropriate document required for a GST refund, (which includes the details of the purchase). The document must be kept together with the receipt. If you are leaving Italy headed for a country outside the EU, you must obtain a stamp, on the above mentioned document at the Italian Customs Office (Dogana – Ufficio Viaggiatori) located either at the airport, at the border (if you are travelling by road or train) or at the sea-port, by presenting the relevant goods (still unused) and the passport. The stamp by Customs is required to certify that the goods are being exported. Do not use your purchased item before showing them to the Customs offices. The amount of alcohol that can be brought into the country is: 2 litres up to 14% and 1 litre up to 14%.
TAX RECEIPTS
Visitors to Italy, as well as all other persons, are required to always obtain a receipt after purchasing goods or paying for services. In order to avoid paying the fines laid down by Italian law, foreign tourists must always ask for these receipts. You might be asked by a taxation officer (Guardia di Finanza) to show the receipt immediately after you leave the shop or bar. Failure to do so may result in a fine.
SHOPPING
Opening hours of shops vary from region to region. In general shops are open from 09:00 am to 00:30/01:00 pm and from 03:30/04:00 am to 07:30 pm from Monday to Saturday. They are usually closed on Monday morning. Department stores and shops in tourist locations may remain open all day and, sometimes, until late in the evening.
IMPORTANT
Hefty fines are imposed on tourists purchasing counterfeit goods while visiting Italy.
As part of our ongoing commitment to the safety and security of travellers, the Italian Government Office strongly recommends that tourists do not, under any circumstances attempt to purchase counterfeit items, as this may end up costing them well more than an authentic product. As of May 2005 a new legislation was implemented which carries fines of up to 10 000 Euro for people purchasing counterfeit products and criminal charges for anyone caught selling counterfeit goods. It aims at a nationwide crackdown on the seller and buyers of counterfeit items, i.e. purses, sunglasses, watches, belts etc bearing luxury labels such as Prada, Gucci and Fendi only to name a few.
SMOKING
New restrictions for the protection of health now apply.
Smoking is NOT allowed in places that can generally be defined as ‘public’ (Airports, Post Office, Banks, Hospitals, Cinemas, Theatres, Shops, Museums, etc.). Smoking is NOT allowed in restaurants and bars unless they have separate allocated areas for smokers. Anyone smoking in prohibited areas risks a fine of up to €250.
CURRENCY
Since 1 January 2002 the Euro has been effectively circulating in Italy and is now the only currency. For ten years (up to 1st March 2012) only branches of the Banca d’Italia will change Italian Lire into Euros.
is the symbol for the Euro.
Notes are issued for €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 & €500.
Coins are in Eurocents: €0.01, €0.02, €0.05, €0.10, €0.20, €0.50, €1 & €2
A maximum of € 10,000 can be brought into Italy.
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PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
1st January (New Year’s Day)
6th January (Epiphany)
Easter Sunday
Easter Monday
25th April (Liberation Day)
1st May (Labour Day)
2nd June (Anniversary of the Republic)
15th August (Assumption)
1st November (All Saints’ Day)
8th December (Immaculate Conception)
25th December (Christmas Day)
26th December (Boxing Day)
In addition each city celebrates a public holiday on its ‘Saint Day’.
CONFERENCES & MEETINGS
Italy is the ideal location for conventions and for international and national group workshops thanks to its diversity in convention sites such as resorts, modern buildings or old-fashioned palaces, villas, castles and historical houses. The many conference centres available are all set against a framework of nature and art that cannot be equalled, with constantly expanding facilities and services of optimum quality.
Italy is becoming increasing popular as a conference location for large international bodies; the great advantage that Italy offers is the variety of the locations and the possibility of offering conference-goers leisure itineraries and activities that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The north-west of Italy, the so-called “industrial triangle” – Turin, Milan and Genoa – offers a perfect mix of old aristocracy and modern services to create the ideal experience for any occasion. The north-east guarantees the magic delight of the three Venices (Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Trentino Alto-Adige regions), while in the heart of Italy you can lose yourself in the midst of art, history and traditions. Between Rome and Naples, all major colours of Italian history are represented, while the south represents a vast terrace overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
HEALTH, MEDICINES & INSURANCE
No vaccinations are required to enter Italy. To bring medicines into Italy a certificate issued by a doctor is required indicating that the medicine for personal use only (a translation into Italian is advisable). A Reciprocal Agreement exists between Australia and Italy regarding Health Assistance, which covers Australian citizens (or a person who is permitted to reside indefinitely in Australia – people covered by Medicare), up to a period of six months from the date of entry into Italy.
The Italian Public Health Service provides, through local health centres, medical treatment to Australian visitors at hospitals and clinics that are part of the health service, or at authorised medical centres, upon presentation of their passport and possibly an Australian Medicare card.
It is important to remember that if you need to be admitted to hospitals urgently you should advise the hospital staff that you wish to be treated under the Australian-Italy Health Agreement.
There is no reciprocal agreement between New Zealand and Italy. For further information on taking medicine you can contact: the “National Prescribing Service Medicines” on 1300 888 763 or Medicare on 1800 500 147 (travelling with PBS medicine).
ELECTRICAL APPLIANCES
The electrical current in Italy is AC, the cycle is 50 Hz and the voltage is 220. Check the local voltage with the hotel before using electrical appliances. Plugs have two round-pronged plugs, making an adapter plug necessary.
RESTAURANTS
It is customary in Italy for restaurants to provide a normal table dressing and a small basket of bread. This is usually included in the final bill and is charged per person as the ‘coperto’ or cover charge.  While tips are not obligatory, it is up to the client to decide whether or not they wish to leave something for the service (similar to Australia)
CREDIT CARDS
The most popular credit cards in Italy are American Express, Visa and MasterCard. You can use credit cards for many purchases, hotels and restaurants. It is also possible to use them at ATMs (they are called BANCOMAT). It is possible that Italian ATMs may reject foreign credit cards; in this case you should try another ATM with a different bank.

VACCINATIONS & WATER

No vaccinations are required to enter Italy. Tap water is safe to drink. Water from drinking fountains is safe unless there is a sign “Acqua non potabile" You may see this sign inside trains, camping sites.
VISA REQUIREMENTS
Australian and New Zealand visitors travelling on a valid Australian and New Zealand passport are allowed to enter Italy: without a visa for tourism for a maximum period of 90 days however, the passport must be current when returning from Italy. For further enquiries on other types of visas, please contact the Visa Office at the Italian Embassy/Consulate in your city.
EMBASSY OF ITALY IN AUSTRALIA:
12 Grey Street
Deakin 
ACT 2600
Australia
Phone: (+61 2) 6273 3333
Fax: (+61 2) 6273 1223
e-mail: ambasciata.canberra@esteri.it
www.ambcanberra.esteri.it
EMBASSY OF ITALY IN NEW ZEALAND:
34-38 Grant Road
Thorndon
Wellington
New Zealand
Phone: (+64 4) 4735 339
Fax: (+64 4)  4727 255