1. FUN FACTS
- Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare’s most popular play, was set in the backdrop of Verona, Italy.
- Presently, Italy boasts of the lowest birthrate and fertility rate in the world.
- The viol, violin, cello, piano, mechanical clock, barometer, thermometer, optical glasses, and telephone were invented by Italians.
- Bubonic Plague killed one-third of the Italian population in the 14th century.
No other country is so immediately recognizable on a map; a high-heeled boot and the Sicilian triangular “ball” form a unique silhouette. Italy stretches from the high, glacier-topped Alps to half-way across the Mediterranean Sea, with a coastline extending over 4,411 miles. About 75% of the country is mountainous and even though much of the terrain is unsuitable for farming, about 1.4 million of its people still work in agriculture. Most farms are small holdings (the average farm has only 17 acres). Northern Italy primarily produces grains, sugar beets, soybeans, meat, and dairy products, while the south specializes in producing fruit, vegetables, olive oil, wine, and durum wheat.
With nearly 61 million inhabitants, Italy is the fifth-most densely populated country in Europe. Since WWII, it has changed from an agriculturally based economy to an industrial state ranked as the world’s seventh largest industrial economy. Today, Italy belongs to the G-8 (Group of 8 industrialized nations); it is a member of the European Union and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It has an excellent system of roads and an average of one car for every three citizens. Modern superhighways run the length of the peninsula, and tunnels through the Alps link the highway system to those of neighboring countries. Railroad lines connect all major Italian cities, and a high-speed railway links Rome, Florence, and Milan.
Italy is a new nation with a very old civilization. Until 1860, it was still a myriad of different states often at war with each other. Despite its unity as a Republic today, it is still fragmented into a deeply-rooted mosaic of regional cultures. Italians are strongly attached to their towns, neighborhoods, and family values which form the background of Italian society. They are warm, outgoing people. Time is not necessarily money to them, and the average Italian will always find the time to enjoy a good meal or drink a black espresso (28 million cups of coffee are sold every day!).
Italian food varies greatly from region to region. In the north, flat, ribbon-shaped pastas with cream sauces are most popular; in the south, the favorite pasta is macaroni served with tomato-based sauces. The most popular meats are veal and pork. Shopping possibilities are endless with magnificent craftwork and designer goods plentifully available.
Italy has the most beautiful architecture in the world. According to UNESCO, over 50% of the world’s great works of art are found here. Take the masterpieces of Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Tintoretto, and Caravaggio; the operas of Verdi and Puccini; and the cinema of Federico Fellini. Add the architecture of Venice, Florence, and Rome and you have just a fraction of its treasures from over the centuries.
2. VISAS AND PASSPORTS
Visas to Italy are not required for U.S. citizens. If you hold a passport from another country, please check with your local consulate about requirements for travel to Italy. All passengers traveling internationally are required to have a passport. Please carry proper identification (your passport) on you and do not leave it in your suitcase or hotel room.
European law requires you to carry your passport with you at all times.
3. COUNTRY CODES
The country code for Italy is 39. When calling to Italy from overseas, dial your international access code (011 from the U.S./Canada) followed by the country code, area code, and phone number. Phone numbers in Italy are eight digits in length. Dialing from the U.S./Canada: 011 39# ### ####.
The official currency of Italy is the Euro.
Bank hours 8:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. and 3/3:30p.m. to 4/4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Euro coins differ according to country, but they can be used in any EU state. Bank notes are of uniform EU design (depicting European architectural styles throughout seven ages, from Classical to Modern times).
1 EURO (€) = 100 Cents (c)
- Banknote denominations: €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200, €500
- Coin denominations: 1c, 2c, 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, €1, €2
Keep receipts until you have left restaurants or bars, as occasionally there are spot tax checks on owners. Credit cards are accepted in the larger Italian cities, and you should have no problems using them in shops and restaurants. Visa and MasterCard are most accepted. However, smaller shops, especially those in rural locations, may ask you to pay in cash or have a minimum amount required to use a credit card.
5. BUDGETING AND SHOPPING
The following budget guidelines are just approximate values or starting values for meals and are per person. Actual prices will vary widely by restaurant and city within a country but below are some averages as provided by our experienced personnel.
The approximate cost of a soft drink/mineral water/coffee is €3-5.
An average lunch consisting of a salad or sandwich and a soda or water starts at approximately €15.
A steak dinner at a mid-range restaurant with dessert and a non-alcoholic beverage starts at approximately €30.
A seafood dinner with dessert and a non-alcoholic beverage starts at approximately €40.
Service charges are included in restaurant bills, but it is customary to leave an additional 10% as a tip for wait staff.
- A tip for taxi drivers is not customary. If you would like to tip, round up the fare to the nearest 1-2 Euro.
- Tip hotel staff €1 for room service.
- A few small denomination Euro coins will be needed for public toilets.
7. ELECTRICAL OUTLETS
Voltage for outlets is 220V. North American voltage is generally 110V. Therefore, a converter may be necessary for your travels. Adapters will be necessary to adapt your plug into the outlet but may not convert the voltage, so both devices are necessary.
Italy uses a round, 2-prong plug.
Italy has hot summers and cold winters. The south experiences mild, wet winters and very hot summers. Rain generally falls in October, January and early spring. Pack lightweight clothing with a few warm layers in spring and early fall, plus rain gear. In winter, bring a jacket in the south and a warm overcoat in the north. Summers can be hot, so bring light summer clothes with a light jacket or sweater for evening.
To help you plan, below are average low and high temperatures for Italy.
To convert to Celsius, subtract 32, then multiply by 5 and then divide by 9.
9. FOOD SPECIALTIES
Regional pasta dishes and cheeses, salamis, and cured meats (ham and melon), veal escalopes, herbflavored meat and sauces, stuffed vegetables, and fine wines. Eggs, bacon, steaks, and other meats may be cooked very lightly, as this is the way usually enjoyed locally; ask chefs to prepare them the way you prefer. In larger bars and cafés, and at “Autogrills,” normally you decide what you would like, then stand in line to pay before taking your ticket to the barman to order. You can eat your meal/snack standing at the bar or at tables. Alternatively, there is a sit-down table service, which incurs a service charge.
10. A FEW WORDS OF THE LOCAL LANGUAGE
Good morning/day: Buongiorno, Good evening: Buonasera, Hi: Ciao, Please: Per favore, Thank you: Grazie, You’re welcome: Prego, Yes: Sì, No: No, Do you speak English?: Parla inglese?, I don’t understand: Non capisco, How much?: Quanto costa?, 1: Uno, 2: Due, 3: Tre, 4: Quattro, 5: Cinque, 6: Sei, 7: Sette, 8: Otto, 9: Nove, 10: Dieci, Where is…?: Dov’è…?, Telephone: Telefono, Bathroom: Toilette, Tea: Té, Coffee: Caffé, Bottled water: Acqua minerale (carbonated=gassata, non-carbonated=non gassata), Cheers!: Salute!, Restaurant check/bill: Il conto, Have a nice day!: Buona giornata!