Time: GMT +1 - Italy commonly uses the 24 hour (military) clock 5:00 p.m. = 17.00
International Telephone Code : +39
Electricity: 220 volts, 50hz AC
Italy is well-served by airports located throughout the country. The two Italian intercontinental airports are in Rome and Milan. Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport, located in the outskirts in an area called Fiumicino, is approximately a 50 minute drive from Rome’s city center. Milan’s Malpensa airport is a 55 minute drive from the heart of Milan. English is spoken in all of the airports throughout the country.
Italy’s rail network connects the main cities to towns and smaller villages throughout the country. Trains in Italy are generally more economical than their US counterparts.
*Regional trains run between small towns and villages and stop at every station.
*Intercity trains are fast and comfortable and offer first and second class seats with the option of paying a supplement for a reserved seat.
*Eurostar trains offer the most efficient way to visit the major cities of the Italy. They are quite comfortable and make very few stops. There are first and second class carriages; tickets and seat reservations are mandatory prior to boarding.
*Cisalpina trains travel both between the major cities in Italy and also link Italy with other European countries. Cisalpina trains are fast and very comfortable. Tickets and reservations are obligatory on these trains.
Train Travel Tips
*Purchase tickets and seat reservations in advance. It is usually not possible to purchase seat reservations minutes before getting on the train.
*Validate ticket and seat reservation in the Yellow Box at the beginning of the train station platform BEFORE boarding the train. Failure to do so will result in a fine when inspected.
*Purchasing tickets on the train is possible however there are supplements for the ticket (and in some trains the reservations) for this service.
*Meals on board Eurostar and Cisalpina trains should be reserved in advance.
General Safety Advice
Unfortunately, professional thieves lurk in crowded areas, train and bus stations like all major cities all over the world. Always pay particular attention to belongings when in a crowded area. Never show large amounts of money in public.
*Always wear back packs on your front.
*Keep cameras in sight or on your front.
*Place wallets in front pockets.
*Be aware of people offering advice and help when you have not asked for this.
*Be aware of “Traveller’s Children”. These are groups of women and young girls wearing long dresses, with or without small children, holding cardboards, papers and/or carrying bags.
*Be aware of any suspicious looking characters.
*Leave all jewellery and valuables in the hotel safe not in room.
*When driving, always lock the car and never leave luggage, cameras or valuables in sight.
*Do not carry large amounts of cash, better to use credit cards and/or traveller’s checks.
Travelling with Disabilities
Unfortunately, Italy is not the easiest country to travel in for those who have disabilities. The country is constantly improving services and airports, museums, hotels and other public places are slowly becoming more disabled-friendly. Some of Italy’s high-speed trains and buses have wheel chair lifts. Many trains have reserved seating for disabled passengers. Please note that the Unique City of Venice is one of the most difficult cities to move around for those with physical handicaps and/or who have a wheelchair. For further information on how to get the most out of your time in Venice please do not hesitate to contact your IC Bellagio Travel Consultant.
*Do not wear shorts, short skirts or spaghetti strap/strapless tops and sundresses while visiting churches.
*Do not intrude or cause any sort of disturbance while church services are in progress.
*Many churches, museums and art gallery’s forbid the use of flash photography and often ban the use of the camera altogether. Always ask politely at the entrance or to the museum or church guard if you can use your camera.
*Since 2005, it is strictly forbidden to smoke in restaurants, offices, bars and most public places. Some restaurants may have a separate smoking section, always ask first.
*Topless sunbathing is tolerated on non-family and out of the way beaches only.
*Bargaining is not appropriate in shops. Bargaining can be practiced at outdoor markets (with the exception food markets).
*Take out a good health and travel insurance policy prior to the trip.
*Vaccinations are not necessary unless you are travelling from a known infected area.
*For minor ailments, you can ask the nearest pharmacy for assistance for over-the-counter medications.
*If you need an English-speaking doctor, ask your hotel or ground agent for assistance.
*If you need an ambulance in an emergency situation the number to call is: 118.
*Tap water is safe to drink in Italy. There are many public water fountains in the major cities which are also safe to drink. Never drink the water from a source labelled: ‘Acqua Non Potabile’.
*To avoid heat exhaustion and sunstroke, drink plenty of water, wear a hat, use good sun-protection cream and do not spend long periods of time in the sun.
Italians are most appreciative of visitors who make an effort to speak at least a few words in their language. Keep in mind that Italian words are generally pronounced as written, with each vowel and consonant sounded.
Good Morning – Buon Giorno
Good Afternoon/Evening – Buona Sera
Good Night – Buona Notte
Informal greeting to say hello and also Good-Bye – Ciao
Please – Per Favore
Thank You – Grazie
You’re Welcome – Prego
How are You? – Come sta?
Fine – Bene
Excuse me – Mi Scusi
Excuse me when speaking to a number of people, moving in a crowd, entering a room – Permesso
Italy’s few coin-operated laundry mats are found in the larger cities only. Many towns, villages and cities offer rather the old style ‘cleaners’ where you drop off your laundry and they wash, dry and iron it, surprisingly, quite quickly.
The currency in Italy is the Euro. There are both coins and paper money, the coins are for both cents and Euros.
Coins: 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, 1 Euro and 2 Euro.
Paper: 5 Euro, 10 Euro, 20 Euro, 50 Euro, 100 Euro, 200 Euro and 500 Euro.
The most widely accepted Credit Cards in Italy are American Express, Visa and Mastercard. Credit Cards should be used for purchases over Euro 25.00 only. You CANNOT add tips to Credit Card purchases.
Banks are open on weekdays Monday - Friday only. Opening hours are generally 8:20 a.m. to 1:20 p.m. Some of the larger banks may open in the afternoon usually for only one hour from approximately 2:30 – 3:30 p.m.
There are 12 National Holidays in Italy and local holidays in each city, town or village usually in commemoration of the city’s patron saint. Banks, government offices, post offices, general stores and shops are closed. Often tourist sights and shops will be open, however, some museums may be closed; always check in advance.
Post Offices are usually open Monday - Friday from 8:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. and are open on Saturdays from 8:30 – 11:30 a.m. Times may vary from town to town.
Shops are open in the mornings with closure during the lunch hours and then re-open in the afternoon. They generally follow these opening hours: 9:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Most non-tourist shops will close on Sundays and Monday mornings.
A service charge is usually added to restaurant bills and it is normal to tip the waiters 10% if you are satisfied with the service. Taxi drivers should be tipped 10%. Hotel staff, such as porters, should be tipped about 50 cents per bag for taking your bags to/from your room. Tour Guides, Drivers and other special services we recommend the following amounts
*Tour Guide Half Day Euro 30.00
*Tour Guide Full Day Euro 50.00
*Transfer (Driver) Euro 25.00
*Driver Half Day Euro 30.00
*Driver Full Day Euro 50.00
Public restrooms are available in most cities, tourist towns and resorts in Italy. It is also quite normal to go into bars and cafés and use their facilities. Ask politely for ‘il bagno’ - ‘Signori’ is the restroom for the men and ‘Signore’ for women.
Driving in Italy
Driving in Italy is one of the best ways to enjoy the many small towns and villages that scatter the hillsides, lakes and mountains of this beautiful country.
To make the most out of your time driving in Italy please remember the below mentioned rules and regulations.
Driving is on the right (like in the US.)
Seat belts are mandatory for both driver and passengers.
Children should travel in rear seats.
It is strictly forbidden to talk on a hand-held cellular phone while driving. You may only use a Hands Free Phone. If stopped, heavy fines are sanctioned for talking on a cell phone while driving.
The speed limit in urban areas is 50 Km/h. In other areas the limit is 90 Km/h and on highways it is 130 Km/h.
The right of way belongs to main roads when marked with a priority sign (a yellow diamond on a white background). In all other cases, the right of way is given to traffic coming from the right.
LUMINOUS REFLECTING JACKET
It is required to wear a luminous reflecting jacket/vest if you exit your car on any main road. The jacket should be provided in your rental car. Failure to wear the jacket/vest in the case of a break down or similar will result in a heavy fine.
*Parking areas are denoted by a white P on a blue background.
*Other areas with limited parking require you to display the time of arrival (you will see a “Zona Disco” sign where you are normally allowed to park for one hour).
*Blue lined parking spaces are pay parking slots. There are usually machines to insert coins that issue a biglietto which can be displayed on the dashboard of the car.
*Alternatively, there is parking with an attendant who issues a ticket with the time of arrival and collects payment when you leave the car park.
*Yellow spaces are for taxis only.
*White lines parking slots are free of charge.
All highways have toll booths. Toll booth stations issue tickets when entering the highway and the toll is paid when leaving or changing the highway. Headlights must be turned on at all times of day when driving on highways.
Note when approaching the toll stations there are three toll booth options:
*The yellow option is called TELEPASS (this should never be used it is only for those equipped with the TELEPASS machine on their car; rental cars do not have these).
*The white lanes are CASH lanes only and often have a very long wait. Exact change is appreciated.
*The blue lanes, payment with Visa, Mastercard or American Express, are notably quicker than the cash lanes.
You must have a current driving license, preferably with Photo Identification.
Dimmed headlights, by law, should be used at all times.
A left side external mirror is mandatory.
HONKING THE CAR HORN
Honking the car horn is prohibited in small towns, but mandatory on mountain roads to sound your approach or in situations where you ought to give warning of your arrival.
The minimum age for driving a car in Italy is 18.
If the Police, this includes the Carabinieri, Polizia Stradale, or Guardia di Finanza, herald you with a red circular sign saying ALT, you MUST stop IMMEDIATELY. Pull over, keep your seat belt fastened and show all your documents (licence, car rental info. and passport).