Italy - General Information

Passports/Identification

If you or any member of your party is not a British Citizen or holds a non-British passport, you must check passport and visa requirements with the Embassy or Consulate of the country to or through which you are intending to travel. 

Please note it is a legal requirement in Italy to be able to show some form of identification at all times, if requested by the police or judicial authorities. In most cases it should be sufficient to carry a photocopy of the data page of your passport. However, you should be prepared to be accompanied by the police to collect the original document if necessary, or to produce it within twelve hours of notification. A driving licence or credit card is not considered sufficient proof of identity.

Currency Information

The currency in Italy is the Euro (€), which is widely available in the UK.

Sterling cash can be exchanged at hotels, banks and exchange offices in Italy. Travellers cheques can only be exchanged at some banks. Major credit cards are accepted in hotels, larger shops and restaurants. We also recommend that you inform your bank/card company of your trip to Italy, in order to avoid any problems when withdrawing cash from ATM’s; as a security method on your behalf, banks occasionally stop withdrawals in the event that they are being used fraudulently abroad.

Banking hours in Italy are generally 08.30-13.30 & 15.00-16.00 Monday to Friday. Most banks are closed on Saturday and Sunday but some may be open on Saturday morning. 

Travellers cheques are now a less convenient way of obtaining local currency.  If you do decide to take travellers cheques, we suggest that you take them in Sterling.  Most Italian banks make a per cheque charge of approximately €2 as well as taking a percentage commission on Euro travellers cheques – charges do however vary from bank to bank and may be higher than this.

Means of Payment

When travelling outside of the UK, you should take more than one means of payment with you (cash, debit card, credit card). Make sure you have enough money to cover emergencies and any unexpected delays.

Tipping

Tipping has not been part of the British way of life but it is a common practice in most holiday destinations.  It is a way of saying thank you to someone who has given good service or for a job well done.  It is also an important source of income for people working in the tourism industry, whether it is the driver, local guide, hotel staff or in local bars and restaurants.  Your Tour Manager will be able to advise you of what an appropriate amount is and when to give it. 

Tips or gratuities are not included in the holiday cost and are totally at your discretion.

Entrance Fees

In July 2014 it was announced by the Italian Government that the concessions given to visitors over the age of 65 for admission to all state owned museums and historic sites had ceased, and all visitors irrespective of age will pay full price for admission. 

Duty Free

Italy is within the European Union. If you are travelling from the UK, you are entitled to buy fragrance, skincare, cosmetics, Champagne, wine, selected spirits, fashion accessories, gifts and souvenirs - all at tax-free equivalent prices.

Free import with goods purchased in the EU for personal use for passengers aged 17 and older: Tobacco: 800 cigarettes; 400 cigarillos; 200 cigars; 1kg of smoking tobacco. Alcoholic beverages: 10 litres of spirit over 22%; 20 litres of alcoholic beverages less than 22%; 90 litres of wine (no more than 60 litres of sparkling wine); 110 litres of beer.

If you are arriving from a non-EU country, the following goods may be imported into Italy by persons over 17 years of age without incurring customs duty: Tobacco: 200 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco. Alcoholic beverages: 4L of wine, 1L of spirits or 2L of alcoholic beverages not exceeding 22% vol, 16 litres of beer (only for VAT and excise duty).

Other goods (including perfume, coffee, tea, electronic devices) of €430 for air and sea travellers; up to €300 for other travellers.

The communes of Livigno and Campione d'Italia are treated as being outside of the EU for the duty-free section. If you are arriving from a non-EU country, the following goods may be imported into Italy by persons over 17 years of age without incurring customs duty:

• 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 100 cigarillos or 250g of tobacco.
• 2L of wine and 1L of spirits (over 22%) or 2L of fortified or sparkling wine.
• 50g of perfume and 250mL of eau de toilette.
• 500g of coffee or 200g of coffee extract (if over 15 years of age).
• 100g of tea or 40g of tea extract.
• Gifts not exceeding €90 (if entering from an EU country), €175 (if entering from a non-EU country).

Shopping

Please note that to abide by Italian law you must always obtain a receipt for any purchases made in any shop or bar in Italy.  Failure to do so may result in fines levied against the customer and supplier alike.

Opening times for shops are usually 0830-1300 and 1600-1730 Tue-Sat (Shops are traditionally closed on Monday mornings. (In the South afternoon opening times are usually later from 1700).  This is only a guideline and shopping hours are becoming increasingly flexible.

Many of our tours take in local shops and markets and some will visit factory shops or outlets, selling a range of goods.  However we cannot accept responsibility for the quality of the goods you have purchased or for any costs you may incur in having them delivered to your home address. 

Please ensure you have a clear understanding of the price you have agreed with the vendor and the conversion rate of pounds to the local currency, before signing for the sale either in cash or using your credit card.  Please exercise care when using your PIN number abroad making sure it is not visible to others. 

Climate & Clothing

Temperatures can vary greatly depending on altitude, time of year and the region you are visiting. We recommend checking the weather forecast a few days before you travel.

Spring, early summer and autumn are the best times for touring as it is generally warm everywhere. However, the temperatures in the evenings can be cooler and it is therefore advisable to take something warm to wear; remember it is always easier to remove warm clothes if you need to than to add those you don't have! 

Weather from October to March is wintry and you should expect conditions similar to the UK, especially in the north. 

Comfortable shoes are a must as there can be a lot of walking involved on some excursions.

Please note most areas of Italy suffer from Mosquitoes during warm weather, usually in the evenings, so it is advisable to take insect repellent with you.

As Italy is such a large country with such varying temperatures it is best to check weather forecasts yourself just prior to travel. Information is readily available on the internet.

Food & Drink

Eating out in Italy is a joy. It is a country rich in culinary and gastronomic products and some of its dishes are amongst the best-known in the world.

There is a huge choice available, from the smartest, sophisticated restaurants to the simplest of cafes and bars whether you want a sandwich, snack or a full meal.

Just about all bars, cafes and restaurants in Italy are licensed so you can always have a beer or wine even with a simple sandwich.

Dinner is usually served in the late evening in Italy, especially in the hot months.

In many Italian households a 3-course meal at both lunchtime and dinner is still par for the course.  Both meals begin with a primo piatto or first course which is a risotto (rice), soup (zuppa or minestrina) or a pasta dish.  (Pasta is only a first course dish in Italy).

There is an infinite variety of such primi - pasta comes in many shapes and forms, depending often on the region in which you find yourself.  The accompanying sauce, whether it be based on fish, meat, cheese or vegetables, should be just enough to coat the pasta.  The origins of the pasta course date from poorer times when the pasta was used to help a small amount of meat or whatever ingredients were available go a long way and this tradition remains an important part of the character of pasta dishes.

Next is the main course or secondo piatto which is a meat or fish dish often simply grilled and accompanied by a side dish of 1 or 2 'contorni',  vegetables cooked in a variety of ways or served plain for you to add olive oil, the usual accompaniment or dressing for plain vegetables which brings out their flavour.

The meal finishes with either a dessert, perhaps ice-cream for which Italy is so famous, or often fresh fruit of the season.

For special meals a further 4th course is added at the beginning, before the pasta, which is called an 'antipasto' which might be a selection of the local salami and meats, or perhaps in Tuscany the famous Crostini; toasted Tuscan bread with various toppings like tomatoes, pate etc, or Bruschetta; toasted bread rubbed with raw garlic and sprinkled with salt and drizzled with the local extra vergine olive oil.

Specialities:

  • Pesto: sauce of basil, pine nuts and pecorino cheese
  • Parmigiano (parmesan cheese)

Wine is the national drink and is produced in all regions, particularly well-known are;

  • Abruzzo: Trebbiano D'Abruzzo, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
  • Apulia: Primitivo di Manduria, Salice Salentino
  • Calabria :   Greco di Bianco, Cirò
  • Campania : Greco di Tufo & Lacryma Christi 
  • Lazio and around Rome: Frascati, Est Est Est
  • Liguria: Rossese di Dolceaqua
  • Sardinia:  Vermentino & Cannonau
  • Sicily: Marsala and Moscato
  • Tuscany: Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile dI Montepulciano
  • Umbria: Orvieto
  • Veneto: excellent prosecco's or sparkling dry white wine like champagne from Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, as well as the familiar Soave, Valpolicella, Bardolino.

After a meal why not try the Italian espresso coffee - small, strong and aromatic!

Breakfast is a meal of little consequence to the Italians who usually take their only cappuccino of the day at breakfast along with perhaps a pastry.  Hotels, however, have mostly adapted to the northern European habit and provide bread, butter, jams, honey, fruit juices etc.

The famous Italian pizza is an invention of the Neapolitans and one of the culinary prides of the Campania region where it is served in a great variety of recipes.  It was originally made of bread dough, spread with herbs and tomatoes, a simply cheap and tasty form of bread sold in slices.  The most common version (The Pizza Margherita) with tomatoes, herbs and mozzarella cheese was invented at Brandi's ristorante in Naples to celebrate the royal visit of the Princess Margherita to the city in the time of the Bourbons.

Voltage

The electricity supply is similar to the rest of Europe and 2-round pin sockets operate on 230 volts AC, 50 HZ. 

Please note that travel electrical equipment such as kettles or irons should not be used in your hotel room as they can be a fire hazard.  In most Italian hotels, rooms have hair driers.

Safety

Problems of pick-pocketing of handbags and passports can be common in Italy especially in the major cities, as in any major tourist destination.  We would warn you always to be careful of your personal belongings and not to carry your passports/extra cash/credit cards etc unless necessary.  These should be left in a hotel safe where possible. 

You should be particularly careful of handbags and wallets - where you need to carry money and documents it is advisable to use a money belt under your clothes rather than an exposed one.

Excursions and activities

We recommend you do not purchase excursions from hotels or street vendors as these may not have been safety checked, may not meet required local standards or have adequate insurance cover.

If you choose to partake in an activity you should ensure your travel insurance covers you for that specific activity.

We recommend you heed any additional advice specific to your destination, given to you by your Tour Manager or Local guide.

Immunisations

There are currently no compulsory vaccinations for travel to Italy; however we strongly recommend that you consult with your General Practitioner or Practice Nurse who will assess your particular health risks before recommending vaccines. This is also a good opportunity to discuss important travel health issues including safe food and water, accidents and insect bites. Many of the problems experienced by travellers cannot be prevented by vaccinations and other preventive measures need to be taken.

Mosquito Advice

As you are travelling to a region where mosquitoes are present, we strongly recommend you are adequately prepared before you start your holiday.  While the risk of you becoming infected by a mosquito is extremely small, we would not want your holiday spoiled by a nasty bite or illness that is easily preventable with some simple pre-cautionary steps.

We therefore advise (subject to consultation with a qualified pharmacist or your doctor) you purchase high performance mosquito repellent before your trip and apply this regularly during your holiday, including when you go to bed.  We would also suggest that you take with you a ‘plug-in’ mosquito repellent device for your hotel room as an extra measure. These, along with DEET based repellents, are available from most pharmacies.

The National Advisory Committee on Malaria Prevention recommends using DEET based repellents with a concentration of over 20% as these give a longer duration of protection than other types currently available. Repellents with a concentration of 50% DEET have the longest duration of protection and require fewer applications per day. It is extremely important to re-apply throughout the day, particularly in hot or humid conditions or after swimming.  When both sunscreen and DEET are required, DEET should be applied afterwards.

Mosquitoes are active close to any open water, but their biting habits vary between species, so it’s best to assume you are at risk of being bitten at any time throughout the day or night. Remember to adequately cover your arms and legs – long trousers and sleeves are definitely a good idea. You can also spray your clothing with DEET products, but their effectiveness is shorter on clothing than on skin.

If you are bitten by a mosquito and develop a high fever for two consecutive days, you should seek urgent medical assistance.

Hand Sanitizers

It may be prudent to carry a hand sanitizer for use overseas, especially after handling money. 

Immunisations

There are currently no compulsory vaccinations for travel to Italy. 

Prescribed Medication

Remember to carry all prescribed medication in your hand luggage and be aware that you may not be able to obtain similar medication abroad and that treatments may not be the same as in the U.K.  

Prescription medicines are normally required to be declared at check-in.

EHIC

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) allows you to get state-provided healthcare in all European Economic Area (EEA) countries and Switzerland at a reduced cost or sometimes free of charge.

In order for the EHIC to be accepted, you must attend a hospital or health centre that provides state healthcare. It is not accepted in a private hospital or clinic. Policy holders are under no obligation to provide insurance details in a state hospital or health centre. You have the right to insist that your EHIC is accepted for all necessary state-provided medical treatment. If you do not have your EHIC with you then you can call the Overseas Healthcare Team in Newcastle who will be able to provide you with a Provisional Replacement Certificate.

Walking

If you intend to go walking/ trekking on any of our tours, we suggest you take a good pair of walking shoes/boots, sun cream, sunglasses, a hat, and a collapsible walking stick would be a good idea too. We would also suggest you take a small rucksack to carry drinks etc. 

Accommodation & Bathrooms

You will find that in some hotels in Italy there is not always uniformity of rooms, so size and shape may vary a great deal.  We cannot therefore guarantee that all rooms for our customers will be the same in each property. 

Please also note that Italian hotels do not usually provide tea/coffee-making facilities in their rooms.

In some Italian hotels you may find there is no shower curtain or screen, in which case please be extra careful in case of slippery floors. Bathmats are not always provided.

You will find in many Italian hotels timer switches are used on stairways and in other public areas. You should be aware that lighting may automatically switch off without warning but can simply be reactivated by repressing the timer light switches - these are usually, but not always, illuminated.

Please also note that, often, towels provided in Italian hotels are not of the same type as the British terry-towelling, but rather a simpler flat cotton style.

Tap Water

Tap water everywhere contains some bacteria and different minerals. You are used to the tap water back home but when you travel, the water is different and it may upset you. For this reason it is safer to drink the bottled water although it is safe to clean your teeth with tap water.  It may be advisable to ask for drinks without ice.

Air Conditioning/Heating

In Italian hotels which are equipped with air conditioning, the period in the season and times of day when it is operational are at the discretion of the management. Often the air conditioning will not be turned on until 1st July subject to local byelaws. The provision of central heating is also at the discretion of the management but in compliance with the current fuel saving requirements in Italy, this is normally limited to the period from Nov-March. 

Swimming Pools

Where hotels have their own swimming pools, you may wish to arrange to take your own towels, as some hotels do not provide these.  Always familiarise yourself with the depth of the pool before swimming.  Diving is not recommended.

Time Zones

Local time in Italy is 1 hour ahead of that in the UK throughout the year.

Coaches

All of our UK executive coaches used on our coaching holidays are of the highest standard and are equipped with on-board wc and washbasin.  If you are being picked up locally and transported to the main coach, there may not be toilets available for that part of the journey.

Some coaches used on our European flight holidays may be equipped with wc and washbasin however this is not common and cannot be guaranteed.  In all cases, regular comfort stops will be made to ensure a relaxing journey.

Please note that smoking is not permitted on any of our coaches.

Entrance to Italy’s medieval towns is barred to coach transport. Coaches are designated a parking area and from there visitors walk to the centre.

Extra Charges

Please note that payment for any extras such as drinks, laundry, telephone calls and meals other than those included in your tour price, must be made directly to your hotel prior to departure.

Lost Property

We will endeavour to trace any lost property and provide you with contact details in order that you may recover your property.

Museum & Churches Opening Times

The majority of Italy’s museums now conform to uniform opening hours of 0900-1900 daily, although closure may in some circumstances be brought forward during the winter months. 

Most museums are closed on Mondays and archaeological sites are generally open from 0900 to 1 hour before sunset, also Tuesday to Sunday.  Churches are usually open from approximately 0700-1230 and 1400-1900.  Please remember however that during mass entrance to tourists is usually prohibited and in all circumstances dress should be appropriate with no shorts, short skirts and bare shoulders.

Opening days at the Vatican Museum are the exception being closed on Sundays, not Mondays, and during Easter and Christmas. 

Buses, trains and trams

Almost every city and large town will have a bus system and most are cheap and efficient.  Bus stops are known as fermate and list full details of the routes they serve.  Buses, autobus, generally run from 0600-2400 and there are also night buses, servizio notturno in the larger cities. 

Tickets (biglietti) must be bought before boarding buses from kiosks belonging to the bus company (ATAF in Florence, ATAC in Rome), bars and tobacconists displaying the bus company’s sticker.

Buses are boarded by the front and rear doors and exit by the central doors.  Tickets must be validated by punching them in the machines at the front or rear of the bus.  There are large on-the-spot fines if you are caught without a proper validated ticket!

The majority of city buses are painted bright orange and display the final destination on the front.

Taxis

Please only take official taxis which may be in different colours in the different cities, but will have a “Taxi” sign on the roof.

Metropolitana

The underground metro system (la metro for short) can be found in Rome, which has just 2 lines, A and B which join at the city’s central railway station, Stazione Termini. 

As for Italian buses, tickets (biglietti) for the Metro must be bought before entering the underground system either at the ticket booth at stations or, much more easily at local bars and tobacconists. Again tickets must be validated at the turnstiles before entering the platforms and on-the-spot checks and fines are regular.

Transport in Venice

For visitors to Venice, public transport is by "vaporetto" waterbus.  The main route through the city for the vaporetto is the Grand Canal.  Waterbuses also supply a useful service connecting outlying points on the periphery of Venice, and linking the city to the islands of the lagoon.  The most important service to visitors is the No.1 which operates from one end of the Grand Canal to the other and travels slowly enough for you to admire the waterside palaces. 

The vaporetto were originally steam-powered (vaporetto means little steamer) but today are mostly diesel run.  Although all boats tend to be called vaporetti, this only really applies to the large slow routes such as No.1 and these provide the best views. 

Motoscafi are the slimmer, smaller boats that go at a faster pace and Motonavi are the two-tier boats that run to some of the islands and to Punta Sabbioni on the mainland near the outlet to the sea. 

The main routes run every 10-20 minutes until the early evening and services are reduced after 11pm but they do run all through the night.  Please be warned that during high season the main routes are very crowded and you should always be careful of handbags and wallets as pick-pockets do operate.

For those with little time, the fastest and most practical means of getting from A to B is by water taxi which is expensive, but for those who really wish to get the most from their time in this amazing city the best way to travel and to see the real Venice is always on foot.