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The Country

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.

Arriving in Italy

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 Wide Web.

Entry Requirements

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 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 apply:

  • 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 consular establishment.


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 the EU

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.

Time Zone

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).


Arriving 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.

Settling In

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.
  • Butter
  • Bottled water
  • Soap
  • 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 are located.

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 also helpful.

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 States.

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.


Shopping/Market Days

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.

Shopping hours 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.

Driving in Italy

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: 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 Office

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.)

Telephone Calls

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.

Local Tourist Information

Many towns have tourist information offices. They generally have a wealth of information, and travelers are encouraged to take advantage of their services.

Playing it Safe

Occasionally vacations 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 parking areas.
  • 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.

Public Safety Services

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.

Medical Services

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 Day
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, 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.

Problems 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 that exists.


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