Italy Travel Information
GMT +1 (GMT +2, Apr - Oct)
Electrical current in Italy is 230 volts, 50Hz. A variety of plugs are in use, including the European-style two-pin plug.
The official language of Italy is Italian. English is understood in the larger cities but not in the more remote parts of the country.
Tipping is customary in Italy and 10 to 15 percent of the bill is acceptable in restaurants (unless, as is increasingly the case, a 15 percent service charge has already been added to the bill). Hotels add a service charge of 15 to 18 percent, but it is customary to tip the service staff extra. Italians rarely tip taxi drivers, but a 5 to 10 percent tip is always appreciated.
Tourists are vulnerable to pickpocketing in the bigger cities, particularly on public transport, in crowded areas and around tourist sites. It is advisable to be careful when carrying large amounts of cash and valuables. Make intelligent use of hotel safes and split valuables between people, bags and pockets to limit the damage of being pickpocketed. Be particularly careful around the main train station, Termini. Visitors should be wary of groups of children, some of whom will distract attention while the others try to steal what they can.
Strikes by transport workers take place regularly throughout Italy and delays are possible. Anti-austerity strikes have also become common and travellers are advised to avoid these mass gatherings which can degenerate into violence.
In Italy, it is an offence to sit on steps and in courtyards near public buildings, including the main churches in Florence; eating and drinking in the vicinity should also be avoided. Shorts, vests or any other immodest clothing should not be worn inside churches.
Italians can be very formal and old fashioned, but are also warm and welcoming. Face to face communication is best, and often a third party introduction can speed initial negotiations. Business attire is formal and very stylish, and handshakes are the norm. First impressions count for a lot in Italy. Expect plenty of gesticulating and interruptions, or people talking over each other. Business cards are used. Unfortunately the bureaucracy in Italy can slow down deal-making.
Business hours are usually 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, but can vary according to season and region.
The international access code for Italy is +39. City/area codes are in use, e.g. 02 for Milan and 06 for Rome. There can be high surcharges on calls made from hotels. Public telephone boxes take phone cards for local and international calls, which can be bought from newsagents. Hotels, cafes and restaurants offering free wifi are widely available. As international roaming costs can be high, purchasing a local prepaid SIM card can be a cheaper option.
Travellers over 17 years from non-EU countries do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco. As well as this, travellers do not have to pay duty on 4 litres of wine, 16 lires of beer or 1 litre of spirits over 22 percent volume, or 2 litres of alcoholic beverages less than 22 percent volume. Other goods up to the value of €300 is also permitted (reduced to €150 for children under 15).
Travellers from EU countries travelling within the EU are limited to 110 litres of beer, 90 litres of wine (of which 60 litres may be sparkling), 20 litres of fortified wine, 10 litres of spirits, 1kg of tobacco, 800 cigarettes, 200 cigars, 1kg of tobacco and 400 cigarellos, perfume up to 50g or 250ml eau de toilette, and other goods for personal consumption to the value of €175 per adult or €90 for children under 15 years. EU citizens are also able to claim tax back if the VAT rates in Italy are higher than those in their country of residence. Prohibited items include narcotic drugs, medicinal products, arms and weapons, explosives and protected animal and plant species.