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Italy

General

Italy is a member of the EU.

Time

The time in Italy is the same as Amsterdam, Paris and Rome and one hour ahead of London.

Languages

Italian is the main language in Italy but you can also get by with English, French or German.

Border formalities

Many formalities and agreements about matters such as necessary travel documents, car papers, requirements relating to your means of transport and accommodation, medical expenses and taking pets with you do not only depend on the country you are travelling to but also on your departure point and nationality. The length of your stay can also play a role here.

We advise you to consult the relevant authorities before your departure about:

  • which travel documents you will need for yourself and your fellow passengers
  • which documents you need for your car
  • which regulations your caravan must meet
  • which goods you may import and export
  • how medical treatment will be arranged and paid for in your holiday destination in cases of accident or illness
  • whether you can take pets. Contact your vets well in advance. They can give you information about the necessary vaccinations, proof thereof and obligations on return. It would also make sense to enquire whether any special regulations apply to your pet in public places at your holiday destination. In some countries for example dogs must always be muzzled or transported in a cage.

You will find plenty of general information on www.europa.eu but make certain you select information that is relevant to your specific situation.

For the most recent customs regulations you should get in contact with the authorities of your holiday destination in your country of residence.

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Currency

The currency in Italy is the euro. Approximate exchange rates September 2016: £1 = € 1.18. If travelling to Sicily and arriving at the weekend it is advisable to take sufficient cash with you as the cash machines are often empty.

Credit cards

You can pay by credit card in many places.

Opening times/Public holidays

Banks

Banks are in general open from Monday to Friday from 08:30 to 13:30 and from 15:00 to 16:00. In tourist areas banks are open without a break until 16:00.

Shops

Shops are open from 09:00 to 13:00 and from 16:00 to 20:00. Many shops in tourist areas are open all day and on Sundays.

In Northern Italy (Milan, Venice) shops open earlier in the afternoon and they also close earlier than in the south.

Chemists

Chemists ('farmacia') are generally open from Monday to Friday between 08:30 and 12:30 and between 15:00 and 19:30. In larger towns many chemists are open without a break from 08:30 to 19:30.

Public holidays
  • New Year’s Day
  • 6 January (Epiphany)
  • Easter
  • 25 April (Liberation Day)
  • 1 May (Labour Day)
  • 2 June (National holiday)
  • 15 August (The Assumption)
  • All Saints' Day
  • 8 December (Immaculate Conception)
  • Christmas

Communication

(Mobile)phones

The mobile network works well throughout Italy. There is a 3G network for mobile internet.

Wifi, internet

You can make use of a WiFi network at more and more public locations, often for free.

Post

Most post offices are open from Monday to Friday until 14:00 and on Saturdays until 12:00.

Roads and traffic

Road network

In general, the further south you drive, the poorer the quality of the roads. You need to watch out for traffic overtaking you on the right in Italy. You should also look out for scooters and mopeds. You are not advised to drive on country roads after dark. The Italian automobile association (ACI) offers breakdown assistance on many roads. Foreigners can request free help (if they have breakdown insurance) from this service by using the emergency phones located every 2 km along the motorway: tel. 803116.

Traffic regulations

Remember, all traffic in Italy drives on the right and overtakes on the left! Headlight deflectors are advisable to prevent annoying oncoming drivers. Italy uses the metric system, so distances are measured in kilometres (km) and speeds in kilometres per hour (km/h).

Traffic from the right has priority. Trams always have priority. Vehicles entering a roundabout have priority over vehicles already on it, but take care as not everyone adheres to this rule! On narrow roads a heavier vehicle has priority over a lighter vehicle. Uphill traffic on mountain roads has priority over downhill traffic. The use of winter tyres and/or snow chains is mandatory between 15 November and 15 April anywhere in Italy where this is indicated.

Maximum permitted alcohol level is 0.5‰.

Dipped headlights must always be used during the day outside built-up areas and also in all tunnels. Phones may only be used hands-free. Nothing may protrude from a car or trailer. This means that bikes on a bike rack may not stick out at the side!

Navigation

Notification of fixed speed cameras by navigation systems or mobile phones is permitted.

Caravans, motorhomes

The SS163 south of Naples is currently closed to caravans and motorhomes between Vietri sul Mare and Positano (a distance of 40 km) due to increasing traffic congestion.

Maximum allowed measurements of combined length

Height 4 metres, width 2.55 metres and maximum length 18.75 metres (of which the trailer maximum 12 metres).

Zona traffico limitato (ZTL)

In a number of cities, such as Rome and Florence, a 'zona traffico limitato' (ZTL) has been introduced. This zone prohibits entry to the city centre to protect it from air pollution. Signs which denote a ZTL vary from city to city and are not always easily recognisable. Take care, as the police enforce this strictly and cameras register cars that drive into the ZTL.

Fuel

Lead free petrol and diesel are widely available. LPG is easily available in northern and central Italy, less so in southern Italy.

Filling stations

Filling stations are open between 07:00 and 19:30 with a break from 12:30 to 15:30. You can usually pay by credit card. Outside opening times you can pay at unmanned filling stations at card terminals. Filling stations alongside motorways are open day and night.

Mountain passes

The following mountain passes are prohibited for caravans: The mountain pass between Domodossola and Locarno, Col de St. Bernard between Martigny and Aosta, Timmelsjoch (Passo del Rombo) between Sölden and Moso, Staller Sattel between Anterselve and Erlsbach, Passo di Selva between Selva and Canazei, Passo di Garden between Selva and Corvera, Passo di Costalonga between Merano and Vipiteno, Passo di Penzes between Vipiteno and Bolzano.

Tolls

Nearly all motorways are toll roads. You must also pay a toll in the following tunnels: Mont Blanc Tunnel, Fréjus Tunnel and the Great St Bernard Tunnel. You can pay in cash or by credit card or with a prepaid card (Viacard) which contains a credit amount for toll roads. More information: www.autostrade.it (in English).

Emergency number

112: the national emergency number for fire, police and ambulance.

Camping

Northern Italy (South Tyrol, Trentino, Lake Garda and Tuscany) has campsites which are among the best in Europe. Reserve in plenty of time. Campsites in Southern Italy, with a few exceptions, offer a lower level of quality than in the north of Italy. The islands of Sicily and Sardinia are becoming increasingly popular and campsites here are full in high season. The north of Sardinia is popular with divers and surfers. You must be able to identify yourself with an identity document at all Italian campsites. Your identity document will be kept at the campsite reception for the period of your stay. Free camping is allowed with permission from the landowner.

Practical
  • Tourist tax is levied in Italy. Take into account surcharges for amenities and entertainment.
  • Many swimming pools only open at the end of May and a swimming cap is often compulsory. Swimming shorts are often prohibited and you will need to wear traditional swimming costumes.
  • You should always take a world adaptor with you.
  • You can usually drink tap water. If in doubt, buy bottled water.
Crossing to Sardinia

You can reach Sardinia by various routes. Several ferry services make the crossing to Sardinia directly or via Corsica, from France or Italy.