Area Codes -- The country code for Italy is 39. City codes (for example, Milan’s is 02, Venice’s is 041) are incorporated into the numbers themselves. Therefore, you must dial the entire number, including the initial zero, when calling from anywhere outside or inside Italy and even within the same town. To call Milan from the States, you must dial 011-39-02, then the local phone number. Phone numbers in Italy can range anywhere from 6 to 12 digits in length
Business Hours -- General open hours for stores, offices, and churches are from 9:30am to noon or 1pm and again from 3 or 3:30pm to 7:30pm. That early afternoon shutdown is the riposo, the Italian siesta. Most stores close all day Sunday and many also on Monday (morning only or all day). Some shops, especially grocery stores, also close Thursday afternoons. Some services and business offices are open to the public only in the morning. Traditionally, museums are closed Monday, and though some of the biggest stay open all day long, many close for riposo or are only open in the morning (9am–2pm is popular). Some churches open earlier in the morning, but the largest often stay open all day. Banks tend to be open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 1:30pm and 2:30 to 3:30pm or 3 to 4pm.
Drinking Laws -- There is no legal drinking age in Italy, in the sense that a young person of any age can legally consume alcohol, but a person must be 16 years old in order to be served alcohol in a restaurant or a bar. Similarly, laws in other countries that exist in order to stamp out public drunkenness simply aren’t quite as necessary in Italy, where binge-drinking is unusual. Noise is the primary concern to city officials, and so bars generally close at 2am at the latest, though alcohol is commonly served in clubs after that. Supermarkets generally carry beer, wine, and sometimes spirits.
Electricity -- Italy operates on a 220 volts AC (50 cycles) system, as opposed to the United States’ 110 volts AC (60 cycles) system. You’ll need a simple adapter plug (to make the American flat pegs fit the Italian round holes) and, unless your appliance is dual-voltage (as some hair dryers, travel irons, and laptops are), an electrical currency converter. You can pick up the hardware at electronics stores, travel specialty stores, luggage shops, airports, and from Magellan’s catalog (www.magellans.com).
Embassies & Consulates -- The Australian Embassy is in Rome at Via Antonio Bosio 5 ([tel] 06-8527-21; www.italy.embassy.gov.au). Australia’s consulate in Milan is at Via Borgogna 2 (3rd floor; [tel] 02-777-041; fax 02-7770-4242).
The Canadian Embassy is in Rome at Via Zara 30 ([tel] 06-85444-3937; www.canada.it). The Canadian consulate in Milan is at Via Vittor Pisani 19 ([tel] 02-67581), open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 12:30pm and 1:30 to 4pm.
The New Zealand Embassy is in Rome at Via Clittuno 44 ([tel] 06-853-7501; www.nzembassy.com/italy). New Zealand’s Milan consulate is at Via Terragio 17 ([tel] 02-721-70001; fax 02-4801-2577), open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 12:45pm and 1:45 to 5pm.
The U.K. Embassy is in Rome at Via XX Settembre 80a ([tel] 06-4220-0001; fax 06-4220-2334; www.britain.it), open Monday through Friday from 9:15am to 1:30pm. The U.K. consulate in Milan is at Via San Paolo 7 ([tel] 02-723-001; fax 02-869-2405). It’s open Monday to Friday 9:30am to 12:30pm and 2:30 to 4:30pm.
The U.S. Embassy is in Rome at Via Vittorio Veneto 119a ([tel] 06-46-741; fax 06-488-2672 or 06-4674-2217; www.usembassy.it). The U.S. consulate in Milan—for passport and consular services but not for visas—is at Via Principe Amadeo 2/10 ([tel] 02-290-351; fax 02-2900-1165), open to drop-ins Monday through Friday from 9am to 12:30pm. Afternoons 2 to 4:30pm, the consulate is open by appointment only; call ahead.
Emergencies -- Dial [tel] 113 for any emergency. You can also call [tel] 112 for the carabinieri (police), [tel] 118 for an ambulance, or [tel] 115 for the fire department. If your car breaks down, dial [tel] 116 for roadside aid courtesy of the Automotive Club of Italy.
Gasoline -- Benzina (gas or petrol) is even more expensive in Italy than in the rest of Europe. Even a small rental car guzzles 40€ to 60€ for a fill-up. Unleaded gas is senza piombo. An important thing to remember is that petrol stations in Italy rarely accept U.S. credit cards in the after-hour machines, which will usually take only cash and Italian ATM/debit cards. For that reason, it’s always wise to stop and fill up if you see an open gas station.
Holidays -- Banks, government offices, post offices, and many stores, restaurants, and museums in Italy are closed on the following legal national holidays: January 1 (New Year’s Day), January 6 (Epiphany), Easter Sunday and the following Monday (called pasquetta, or Little Easter), April 25 (Liberation Day), May 1 (Labor Day), August 15 (Feast of the Assumption), November 1 (All Saint’s Day), December 8 (Immaculate Conception), and December 25 and December 26 (Santo Stefano).
Hospitals -- In Milan, the Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico ([tel] 02-5503-3103; www.policlinico.mi.it) is centrally located a 5-minute walk southeast of the Duomo at Via Francesco Sforza 35 (Metro: Duomo or Missori). In Venice, the Ospedale Civile Santi Goivanni e Paolo ([tel] 041-785111), on Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo, has English-speaking staff and provides emergency service 24 hours a day (vaporetto: San Toma).
Insurance -- Italy may be one of the safer places you can travel in the world, but accidents and setbacks can and do happen, from lost luggage to car crashes. For information on traveler’s insurance, trip cancelation insurance, and medical insurance while traveling, please visit www.frommers.com/planning.
Internet Access -- Cybercafes are in healthy supply in most Italian cities. In smaller towns, you may have a bit of trouble, but increasingly hotels are offering Wi-Fi throughout the rooms, although those in rural areas are not as likely to have a high-speed connection. In a pinch, hostels, local libraries, and often pubs will have some sort of terminal for access.
Language -- Italians may not be quite as polished with their English as some of their European counterparts, but they’ve been hosting Anglophones for a long time now, and English is a regular part of any business day. In very rural parts, slow and clear speech, a little gesticulating, and a smile will go a long way. In Venice and other cities, you will probably be the 20th English-speaking tourist they’ve spoken with that day.
Legal Aid -- Your embassy or consulate can provide a list of foreign attorneys, should you encounter legal problems in Italy. In criminal cases, if you cannot afford an attorney, the local court will provide one for you.
Mail -- At press time, the cost of sending a postcard or letter up to 20 grams, or a little less than an ounce, was 0.65€ to other European countries, 0.85€ to North America, and 1€ to Australia and New Zealand. Prices go up incrementally to 5.70€/8.70€/11.70€ for letters weighing up to 500 grams, or nearly 1 pound. For a full table, visit www.poste.it; there is an English version.
Newspapers & Magazines -- The International Herald Tribune (published by the New York Times and with news catering to Americans abroad) and USA Today are available at just about every newsstand, even in smaller towns. You can find the Wall Street Journal Europe, European editions of Time and Newsweek, the Economist, and just about any major European newspaper or magazine at the larger kiosks.
Police -- For emergencies, call [tel] 113. Italy has several different police forces, but there are only two you’ll most likely ever need to deal with. The first is the urban polizia, whose city headquarters is called the questura and can help with lost and stolen property. The most useful branch—the cops to go to for serious problems and crimes—is the carabinieri ([tel] 112), a national order-keeping, crime-fighting civilian police force.
Smoking -- Smoking has been eradicated from all restaurants and bars in Italy, as well as most hotels. That said, there are still smokers in Italy, and they tend to take the outside tables. Be aware that if you are keen for an outdoor table, you are essentially choosing a seat in the smoking section, and requesting that your neighbor not smoke may not be politely received.
Taxes -- There’s no sales tax added onto the price tag of your purchases, but there is a 19% value-added tax (in Italy: IVA) automatically included in just about everything. For major purchases, you can get this refunded. Some four- and five-star hotels don’t include the 13% luxury tax in their quoted prices. Ask when making your reservation.
Time -- All of Italy is in the same Western European time zone—that is, GMT plus 1 hour.
Tipping -- In hotels, a service charge is usually included in your bill. In family-run operations, additional tips are unnecessary and sometimes considered rude. In fancier places with a hired staff, however, you may want to leave a .50€ daily tip for the maid, pay the bellhop or porter 1€ per bag, and tip a helpful concierge 2€ for his or her troubles. In restaurants, 10% to 15% is almost always included in the bill—to be sure, ask “è incluso il servizio?”—but you can leave up to an additional 10%, especially for good service. At bars and cafes, a generous gesture is to leave a 1€ coin per drink on the counter for the barman, though it is hardly expected; if you sit at a table, leave 10% to 15% only if the service is good. Taxi drivers expect 10% to 15%.
Toilets -- Aside from train stations and petrol stations, where the typical donation to use the toilet is measured in .05€ pieces, public toilets are few and far between in northern Italy. Standard procedure is to enter a café, make sure the bathroom is not “out of order” (fuori servizio), and then order a cup of coffee before bolting to the WC. In Venice, the price of using a toilet is a little steeper: about 1€ in the major squares and parking garages, but they usually close at 8pm. It is advisable to always make use of the facilities in the hotel, restaurant, and bar before a long walk around the calles.
Visas -- Travelers from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.S., and the U.K. can visit Italy for up to 90 days without a visa, and can enter Italy with a valid passport. Visits of more than 90 days may require a visa, but the requirements vary depending on the purpose of your visit.
For more information on visas to visit or stay in Italy, go to the Foreign Ministry’s English-language page at www.esteri.it/visti/index_eng.asp.
Water -- Although most Italians take mineral water with their meals, tap water is safe everywhere. (Unsafe sources will be marked “acqua non potabile.”) In fact, Veniceis now urging its citizens to cut back on their plastic-wasting ways and turn back to the tap. If the water comes out cloudy, it’s only the calcium or other minerals inherent in a water supply that often comes untreated from fresh springs. Also, the water from fountains in public parks is not only potable, it’s often the best water you’ve ever tasted.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.