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    Italy Travel Guide:

Tourism Information for Traveling in Italy

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  Tourism Rating   Travel Safety   Entry Requirements  Avoiding Petty Theft

 Special Note    Road Safety and Conditions    Medical Care

 

   

 

 
Tourism Rating   Top of Page  
Four globes = Place of a lifetime

 

Climate Note:

Predominantly Mediterranean; Alpine in far north; hot, dry in south.                   
Rome Climate

Venice Climate

Italy: Travel Destination of a Lifetime (four of four globes)

Italy is the world's leading tourist destination, offering the tourist a wealth of world class attractions.  Its countryside is beautiful and many of its cultural offerings are unrivaled.  Antiquities from the Roman Empire, as well as historic Greek settlements, can be found throughout the country. Noted museums, stunning churches and medieval towns dot the landscape. Good food, good wine, good travel - what more could you ask for while on vacation?

  1. Italy offers so much to see and do that you need to plan your itinerary carefully.  In addition, Italy is a destination where you schedule may be disrupted by strikes, work stoppages or influenced by the Italian take on life (shops may close after lunch, to reopen later that day).  Take it all in stride and do as the Italians do - enjoy life!


  2. Italy is a good place for independent travel.


  3. ThereArePlaces recommended vacation destinations for Italy are located at  Italy: Places To Visit.


  4. Additional information on travel Italy can be found at the country's official tourism websites http://www.enit.it or www.italiantourism.com.


  5. When planning your travel, be sure to review the ThereArePlaces Travel Planning Guides for insights on how  to "travel well" and "travel safe".

 

          

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel Safety   Top of Page
Green light = safe travel

 

 

Overall, Italy is a safe travel destination for tourists.

  1. No official health advisories, travel advisories, or specific terrorism warnings for Italy have been posted by the U.S. Government at this time. 
  2. The State Department's Overseas Citizens Services call center at 1-888-407-4747 can answer general inquiries on safety and security overseas. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-202-501-4444 .
  3. If you have an emergency in Italy, call 112. 112 is a European Economic Community initiative to provide a one telephone number contact for ambulance services, the police, the fire service, air and sea rescue and other emergency services available within a specific country (such as mountain patrol). The 112-telephone number is designed for use in emergencies only. Calls are answered in Italian and English.  The direct number for the police is113;fire department, 115;ACI - the Italian Automobile Club, 116; medical emergencies, 117.
  4. The U.S. Embassy in Rome  is located at Via V. Veneto 119/A, tel: 39-06-46741 and fax: 39-06-4674-2217; Internet address: http://italy.usembassy.gov .

    See our article on how U.S. Counsels can help Americans abroad.

    The U.S. Consulates are located in:

    Florence: Lungarno Amerigo Vespucci 38, tel: 39-055-266-951, consular fax: 399-055-215-550;

    Milan: Via Principe Amedeo 2/10, tel: 39-02-290-351, and fax: 39-02-290-35-273;

    Naples: at Piazza della Repubblica, tel: 39-081-583-8111, and consular fax: 39-081-583-8275.

    There are U.S. Consular Agents located in:

    Genoa: at Via Dante 2, tel: 39-010-584-492, and fax: 39-010-553-3033;

    Palermo: at Via Vaccarini 1, tel: 39-091-305-857, and fax: 39-091-625-6026;

    Venice: at Viale Galileo Galilei, 30,  tel: 39-041-541-5944, and fax: 39-041-541-6654

  
Entry Requirements   Top of Page
 

A valid passport is required for travel in Italy. A visa is not required for tourist stays up to three months  (For U.S. citizens that period begins when entering any of the following countries which are parties to the Schengen agreement: Austria, Belgium,  the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg,  Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia Spain, and Sweden).

If you do not have a passport, see our article on the Ins and Outs of Passports.  Other important travel documents, including visas are covered in our Information Guide on Passport, Visas, Customs.

For all purposes except travel, such as work, study, etc., a visa is required and must be obtained from the Italian Embassy or Consulates before entering Italy. For further information concerning visas and entry requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of Italy   ( http://www.italyemb.org )at 3000 Whitehaven St NW, Washington, DC 20008, via telephone at (202) 612-4400, or Italian Consulates General in Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, or San Francisco, accessible through the above Internet site.

Persons visiting Italy for any reason are considered non-residents.  As of May 28, 2007, under Italian law all non-residents are required to complete a dichiarazione di presenza (declaration of presence)

  • Tourists arriving from a non-Schengen-country (e.g. the United States) should obtain a stamp in their passport at the airport on the day of arrival. This stamp is considered the equivalent of the declaration of presence.
  • Tourists arriving from a Schengen-country (e.g. France) must request the declaration of presence form from a local police office (commissariato di zona), police headquarters (questura) or their place of stay (e.g hotel, hostel, campgrounds) and submit the form to the police or to their place of stay within eight business days of arrival.
  • It is important that applicants keep a copy of the receipt issued by the Italian authorities
  • If you take a room at a hotel, the staff will usually take care of registering your visit with the police and you need take no further action (this is why the hotel staff will request your passport during hotel registration, returning it to you, usually, the next day) .
  • If  you are staying with friends or in a private home, you must register in person at the nearest police station within a 8-day period.

Visitors may be required to show police that they have sufficient means of financial support. Credit cards, ATM cards, travelers' checks, prepaid hotel/vacation vouchers, etc. may be evidence of sufficient means. Additional information may be obtained from the Italian Government Tourist Board via Internet at http://www.italiantourism.com/  or telephone at: 212-245-5618.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parents or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure

DUAL NATIONALITY:  In addition to being subject to all Italian     laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on citizens of Italy.

In some instances, dual nationality may hamper U.S. Government efforts to provide protection abroad. For additional information, please see the State Department's  Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet home page at http://travel.state.gov for an explanation of dual nationality issues. U.S. citizens who are also citizens of  any other nation are reminded that U.S. law requires they enter and depart the United States documented as U.S. citizens.

 

 
  Avoiding Petty Theft   Top of Page  
 

 

 

 

 

Pickpocket alert!

 

 

 

 

 

The "Let me assist you" scam

 

 

Flat tire scam

 

 

Stay alert while riding trains

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stay alert while riding trains

Before you travel in Italy , read our articles on Pickpockets, Con Artists, and ATM safety in the ThereArePlaces Information Guide on Personal Safety for travelers.

Be alert and avoid the situations described below.

Americans are advised to exercise caution when frequenting nightclubs, bars and outdoor cafes, particularly at night, because criminals may make initial contact with potential victims in such settings. Individuals under the effect of alcohol may become victims of crime, including robbery, physical and sexual assault, due to their impaired ability to judge situations and make decisions. This is particularly a problem for younger Americans visiting Italy, where age limits on the sale of alcoholic beverages is lower than in most U.S. states.

Petty crimes such as pick-pocketing, theft from parked cars, and purse snatching are serious problems, especially in large cities.

  • Pickpockets sometimes dress like businessmen, so tourists should not be lulled into a false sense of security by believing that well-dressed individuals are not potential pickpockets or thieves.
  • Most reported thefts occur at crowded tourist sites, on public buses or trains, or at the major railway stations, Rome 's Termini, Milan's Centrale, Florence 's Santa Maria Novella, and Naples' Centrale and Piazza Garibaldi.
  • Travelers should also be alert to theft in Milan's Malpensa airport, particularly at car rental agencies.
  • Clients of Internet cafes in major cities have been targeted.
  • Tourists who have tried to resist petty thieves on motor scooters have suffered broken arms and collarbones.
  • In most large cities in Italy, you will eventually encounter groups of young gypsy children who may surround you and grab at your belongings.  You can be assured that they will take anything they can latch onto.  Try to avoid the situation. If accosted yelling  "Polizia" sometimes helps, as does taking a whack at the the would be theives.

Thieves in Italy often work in groups or pairs. Pairs of accomplices or groups of street urchins are known to divert tourists' attention so that another can pickpocket them. In one particular routine, one thief throws trash, waste, or ketchup at the victim; a second thief assists the victim in cleaning up the mess; and the third discreetly takes the victim's belongings. Criminals on crowded public transportation slit the bottoms of purses or bags with a razor blade or sharp knife to remove the contents. Theft of small items such as radios, luggage, cameras, briefcases, and even cigarettes from parked cars are a major problem.

Robbers take items from cars at gas stations often by smashing car windows. Thefts have also been reported from occupied vehicles waiting in traffic or stopped at traffic lights. Vehicles parked near beaches during the summer have been broken into and items stolen.

In a scam practiced on the highways, one thief signals a flat tire to the driver of another car and encourages the driver to pull over. Often, the tire has been punctured by an accomplice, while in other instances, there may, in fact, be nothing wrong with the vehicle. When the driver stops, one thief helps change the tire, while the other takes the driver's belongings. Use particular caution driving at night on highways, when there may be a greater incidence of robbery attempts. There have been occasional reports of break-ins of rental cars driven by Americans when the precautions mentioned above were not followed during stops at highway service areas.

On trains, a commonly reported trick involves one or more persons who pretend to befriend a traveler and offer drugged food or drink. Also, thieves have been known to impersonate police officers to gain the confidence of tourists. The thief shows the prospective victim a circular plastic sign with the words "police" or “international police." If this happens, the tourist should insist on seeing the officer's identification card (documento), as impersonators tend not to carry forged documents. Tourists should immediately report thefts or other crimes to the local police.

The U.S. Secret Service in Rome has been advised of, and is assisting Italian Law Enforcement authorities in investigating, an increase in the appearance of ATM skimming devices. These devices are attached to legitimate bank ATMs, usually located in tourist areas, and capture the account information stored electronically on the card's magnetic strip. The devices consist of a card reader installed over the legitimate reader and a pin-hole video camera mounted above the keypad that records the customer's PIN. ATMs with skimming devices installed may also allow normal transactions to occur. The victim's information is sold, traded on-line or encoded on another card such as a hotel key card to access the compromised account.

Here are some helpful hints to protect yourself and to identify skimming devices:
1) Use ATMs located in well-lit public areas, or secured inside the bank/business
2) Cover the keypad with one hand as you enter your PIN
3) Look for gaps, tampered appearance, or other irregularities between the metal faceplate of the ATM and the card reader
4) Avoid card readers that are not flush with the face of the ATM
5) Monitor your account statements for unauthorized transactions

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of any crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.

If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance. The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members of friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution for the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney

   
Special Note   Top of Page  
 

 

Stay alert while riding trains

 

1.  When entering Italy or registering at hotels, you may be asked to fill out a form listing your name, passport number, destination, local address, and reason for travel. You may be required to leave your passport at the hotel reception desk overnight. Remember to ask for the return of your passport the next morning.

2. Banks are usually open from 8:30am to 1 or 1:30pm.  They reopen at 3 or 3:30pm and close for the day at  4 or 5pm.  Most banks are open Monday through Friday and close for the weekend. Unfortunately, there is no uniformity to opening and closing times but the general guidelines given above provide reasonable guidance on this issue. Note that not all banks provide currency services (Exchange).

3.  Stores in larger cities remain open all day, including the lunch hour.  In summer, smaller stores in large cities and most stores in smaller cities close during the afternoon.

  •  The times of closing appear to vary between cities in Northern and Southern Italy but you may find stores closed near or after lunch (anywhere between 12 and 2pm) and reopening later in the day (3, 4, or 5pm).
  • Restaurants remain open for lunch, closing in mid-afternoon and re-opening for dinner at 7 or 8pm.  It is common for Italians to eat a late dinner in summer to avoid the heat of the day and you many find restaurants open quite late.
  • Always ask your hotel staff  for the operating times in the area you are visiting since you will find different schedules everywhere.

4.  Reconfirmation of domestic and international flight reservations is highly recommended

5.  Strikes and other work stoppages occur frequently in the transportation sector (national airlines, airports, trains, and bus lines). All are announced in advance and usually are of short duration. Check at http://www.trenitalia.com/  for information on trains strikes (there is a button for "English" at the top of the page).  If you speak or read  even a little Italian, you might want to take a look at http://www.commissionegaranziasciopero.it/ , a government site that details plans for all public strikes in Italy.

6.  Several major earthquake fault lines cross Italy. Principal Italian cities do not lie near these faults, but smaller tourist towns, like Assisi, do and have suffered earthquakes.

7.  Italy also has several active volcanoes generating geothermal events. Mt. Etna, on the eastern tip of the island of Sicily, has been erupting intermittently since 2000. Mt. Vesuvius, located near to Naples, is currently capped and not active. Activity at Mt. Vesuvius is monitored by an active seismic network and sensor system, and no recent seismic activity has been recorded. Two of Italy's smaller islands, Stromboli and Vulcano in the Aeolian Island chain north of Sicily, also have active volcanoes with lava flows.

8. ThereArePlaces makes every attempt to ensure that the travel information we present to you is current. Before you depart, be sure to check with official government sources to determine the status of critical information relating to a particular county.

   
Road Safety and Conditions   Top of Page  
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While driving in Italy, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the U.S.

The information below concerning Italy is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate for all locations or circumstances.

Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Condition/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Condition/Maintenance: Good
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Excellent on toll roads, good elsewhere.

Tourists driving rented vehicles should pay close attention to the provisions of their rental contracts.  Failure to do so could result in fines or confiscation of the car during your travels.  Make sure that you are familiar with the terms, restrictions and costs related to your car rental (see our article on Rental Car Costs).  

The U.S. driver's license must be accompanied by an International Driving Permit (obtainable in the U.S. from American Automobile Association and the American Automobile Touring Alliance) or by an official translation of your U.S. driver’s license.

Speed Limits in Italy:

  1. Built-up areas - 50 km/h
  2. Outside Built up areas (including  dual carriageways) - 90 or 110 km/h
  3. Motorways - 130 km/h

Our information on speed limits is as current as possible. Always confirm the speed limits with your rental car agent and observe the posted speeds limits whenever and wherever you drive.

Streets in historical city centers are often narrow, winding, and congested. Traffic lights are limited, often disobeyed and a different convention of right-of-way is observed.

In rural areas, a wide range of speed on highways makes for hazardous driving. Roads are generally narrow and often have no guardrails.

Travelers in northern Italy, especially in winter, should be aware of fog and poor visibility, responsible for multiple-car accidents each year. Most Italian automobiles are equipped with special fog lights. Roadside assistance in Italy is excellent on the well-maintained toll roads, but limited on secondary roads.

Italy has over 5,600 kilometers (3,480 mi.) of “Autostrada," or superhighways. Commercial and individual vehicles travel and pass on these well-maintained roads at very high speeds. Accidents do occur in which contributing factors include excessive speed, alcohol/drug use, and/or sleepiness of long-distance drivers. Italy has one of the highest rates of car accident deaths in the European Union.

Use of safety belts and child restraining devices is mandatory and headlights should be on at all times outside of urban areas.

Motor scooters are very popular and drivers often see themselves as exempt from conventions that apply to automobiles. Travelers who rent scooters should be particularly cautious. Pedestrians and drivers should be constantly alert to the possibility of scooters' sudden presence.

ThereArePlaces recommends that you do not drink and drive.  In most foreign countries, especially in Europe and the UK, the maximum permitted blood alcohol levels are lower than those enforced in the United States. Penalties and punishments are significant. See our article on drinking and driving in foreign countries for more information.

For specific information concerning Italy's drivers' licenses, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Italian Government Tourist Board (ENIT) ( http://www.enit.it )  at tel: 212-245-4822 or the A.C.I. (Automobile Club Italiano) at Via Magenta 5, 00185 Rome, tel: 39-06-4477.

For information on obtaining international drivers licenses, contact AAA or the American Automobile Touring Alliance. For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet home page at http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/safety/safety_1179.html#safety .

  
Medical Care   Top of Page  
 

Medical facilities are available in Italy, but may be limited outside urban areas.

  • Public hospitals, though generally free of charge, sometimes do not maintain the same standards as hospitals in the United States, so travelers are encouraged to obtain insurance that would cover a stay in a private Italian hospital or clinic.
  • It is almost impossible to obtain an itemized hospital bill from public hospitals, as required by many U.S. insurance companies, because the Italian National Health Service charges one inclusive rate (care services, bed and board).

We strongly urge you to consult your medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, you should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing medical service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your departure, please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur.

Your existing medical insurance carrier may cover "customary and reasonable" medical care while you are abroad. Usually, if reimbursement is provided, it is paid at a reduced rate (due to the use of an "out of system" provider). Check with your insurance carrier before you depart to determine the type and amount of coverage that may be provided. If coverage is provided, be sure to ask how claims should be filed and ask them to send some claim forms, in case you require any medical treatment while on vacation.

Read our article on  travel insurance to learn the factors that you should consider before you purchase or decline to purchase a travel related insurance policy.

ThereArePlaces Information Guide on Health contains valuable health related advice for the traveler considering a trip abroad.

   
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