Did you know?
Until unification in 1870, only 5% of the population spoke Italian.
None required for UK
Flights go from most major UK
airports to Milan, the capital Rome,
Florence, Pisa, Bologna, Venice,
Catania and Cagliari. Prices vary greatly, and it may be best to get a flight to Pisa and then take a one hour train journey into Florence rather than paying a premium to fly to Florence. Likewise it may be cheaper to fly to Bologna and take a train to Venice.
It all depends on your time and money.
About two and a half hours to northern Italy; four hours to the south.
Travelling by train is simple and cheap; they run on time from 1930s Deco-style stations but can call at every stop en route (don't be fooled by the world 'direct'). Make sure you get the fast train if you don't want to do this. Internal flights are an option if you're going from the North to Sicily.
Ferries can take you to Elba and the other islands from various points on the mainland. Italian drivers are notorious - be prepared, and be careful of mopeds when driving or walking. All major cities have good transport systems.
Prices vary enormously around the country but as a rough approximation: litre of petrol 65p; small beer £2.50; roll of film £2.50-£3; moderate restaurant meal £15.50; four-mile taxi ride £9.50.
April-June and September-October are the best times to go: the weather is good, prices are low and there are fewer tourists. Late July and August are very hot (30C/86F, or higher in cities such as Rome),
prices rise and Italy teems with holidaymakers. Most of the country goes on holiday in August, leaving the cities largely closed and the coast and mountains packed out.
One hour ahead of GMT
International dialling code from the UK
220V 50Hz, but some places still use the old 125V system - check with your hotel or landlord.
Shops open at 8am, shut at 1pm for a long lunch and then reopen at 3-4pm till 7-8pm. Banks open 8.30am-1.30pm and 2.45pm-4.30pm Mon-Fri.
Health - Before you go
No vaccinations needed. The UK
has a reciprocal agreement with Italy regarding healthcare. To take advantage of this you will need to get an EHIC form from any UK
post office and make sure you understand how to access this health care when away.
Health - When you are there
A new law states that all foreigners have the same right as Italians to emergency health care. That, plus your E111 form, gives you good access to care. Take the E111 form to the local Unita Sanitaria Locale (USL) office and they will give you the information you need. However, many Italian public hospitals are underfunded, so you may prefer to take out travel insurance so you can use a private clinic.
Pickpockets and bag-snatchers are the main problems for travellers. Keep your valuables in a money belt. In the south, women may be harassed if they wear skimpy clothing. Wearing a bikini in the streets near the beaches of Venezia Lido will get you fined.
Police - Tel 113. British Embassy in Rome:
Via XX Settembre 80a. Tel: 06 482 54 41.
Siestas are the norm so expect shops to shut between 1pm-4pm. There are strict dress codes for places of worship all over Italy, so be as considerate as possible. People look at each other a lot more than they do in the UK,
both men and women. This is normal - Italians take a lot of trouble to look good, they expect it from others and like to admire the results of all that grooming. Men will flirt: be polite. If they're hassling you, be firm, otherwise enjoy it.
Italy is a qualifying country for the Pet Travel Scheme but there are stringent requirements and documentation to fulfil prior to taking a pet on holiday. This can take some time to organise. Check with your vet.
You are not expected to tip on top of restaurant charges or taxi fares. Restaurants usually have a cover charge that includes bread, olive oil and water.
Italian State Tourist Board: 1 Princes St, London
W1R 8AY. Tel: 020 7408 1254. Brochure line: 09001 600 280 (calls cost 60p per minute).