From the flowers of the Ligurian Riviera to the Alpine snows, from the golden wheat fields of Apulia to the autumn sunsets in Rome, there is a never-ending succession of lights and colours as the sky and the sea, the isles and volcanoes, the lakes and the mountains offers an ever-changing spectacle. Naturally, the busiest tourist season is from June to September, but during the other months, the savvy traveller will find everything Italy has to offer.
Click here to learn more about holidaying in each season.
Italy’s official language is Italian.
But there is a vast linguistic diversity that includes the use of dialects through the 20 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 northeast of Italy. Other languages such as Albanian, Greek are spoken in the south.
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 standard Italian today.
At the end of World War II, Italy became a Republic with a parliamentary form of Government.
The President, who is the head of the 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 constitutional law.
Since 1st 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.
Italy is in the Central European time zone (CET) equals GMT plus 1 hour.
Summertime (+ 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.
USEFUL PHONE NUMBERS
Emergency aid service: 113
Carabinieri (army corp which is also a police force): 112
Health Emergency: 118
Australian Embassy in Rome: 06 852 721
New Zealand Embassy in Rome: 06 441 7171
International code for Italy from Australia: 0011 39
International code for Italy from New Zealand: 0039
International code for Australia from Italy: 0061
International code for New Zealand from Italy: 0064
1st January (New Year’s Day)
6th January (Epiphany)
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’.
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.
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.
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 documentation 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%.
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, new legislation was implemented which carries fines of up to €10,000 for people purchasing counterfeit products and criminal charges for anyone caught selling counterfeit goods.
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.
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 the 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.
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.
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.
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).
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 places such as trains or camping sites.
It is customary for most religious sites in Italy to require both men and women to cover up their shoulders when entering the churches (i.e. no singlet or strapless tops allowed unless covered by a jacket). Some sites may be even so strict to ask for legs to be covered as well.
Please keep this in mind before travelling to a religious site as strict locations will not let tourists in should they not be dressed appropriately.
Health, Medicine & 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).