General information about Italy Italy food tours
Currently visitors from many countries - including Australia - are not required to obtain a visa to enter Italy for a vacation, as it is subject to the Schengen Convention. The Schengen area is made up of 26 European countries which have common entry and exit requirements. It allows travellers to move freely between member countries without having to go through border controls or have visas for each country.
Generally, if you intend to spend less than a total of 90 days within a 180 day period in the Schengen area for business or tourism purposes, you will not need to get a visa before you travel. This allows you to enter the Schengen area and travel between Schengen countries.
There is more detailed information on the Australian Government’s Smart Traveller website (http://smartraveller.gov.au/Countries/europe/southern/Pages/italy.aspx).
Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. If you are considering travelling to Italy, contact the nearest Italian Embassy or visit their website for up-to-date information.
In Italy, as for most of Western Europe, the official currency is the euro (€). The euro is divided into 100 cents (centimes or centesimi), with two decimals after the comma (not a decimal point... they use a comma). So, a price will often be displayed as €10,00 (ten euro); or €2,14 (two euro and 14 centesimi), etc.
The exchange rate with the Australian Dollar (AUD) varies daily. We use www.oanda.com as a guide for exchange rates, however you need to check with your financial institution regarding the rate they apply.
We often use our regular Visa cards in Italy, but we also use a Travel Visa card which we can preload prior to our visit (and top up on the way) as this isn’t linked to our main accounts. Check with your bank on this. Most shops and restaurants accept Visa or the other main credit and debit cards, and ATMs also generally accept Australian cards.
Italy’s climate varies considerably from the north to the south and according to the season. In summer, the temperature can be extremely hot, while in winter heavy snowfalls are not uncommon. For a detailed snapshot of Italian climates, visit https://www.climatestotravel.com/climate/italy
As most European countries, Italy is a relatively safe country. Violent crime is low, and most tourists will never be bothered by safety concerns other than petty crime. It is ranked 38th on the list of world’s safest countries.
Pickpockets may sometimes be an issue in larger cities - especially at crowded tourist sites. Pickpockets can work in teams, and sometimes even in conjunction with street vendors.
Begging is not uncommon in larger cities, but not to a greater extent than in major cities in other parts of the world, and you will rarely experience aggressive beggars.
We're usually pretty vigilant at transport hubs like train stations, airports, restaurants, outdoor cafes and on public transport. You should protect your personal belongings at all times, especially your ID and passport. We rarely carry our passports and keep any cards or money safely secured.
Recent terrorist attacks have happened in neighbouring countries (France and Belgium); and while tourists should raise their level of caution, the police presence has been greatly increased in large cities to deter further attacks.
Under Italian anti-terrorism laws, commercial accommodation providers must provide Italian authorities with the personal details of their guests. In the majority of cases, this will only require taking a photocopy of your passport.
We never travel without travel insurance, and it is mandatory for clients accompanying us on our tours to carry appropriate travel insurance. We do not provide travel insurance, however we work with local travel agents who can support you with this, airfares or any additional travel arrangements.
We have always found the water in Italy fine to drink – in fact, you will find little fountains throughout Rome where people line up and refill their water bottles because it is perfectly safe to drink.
That said, supermarkets sell bottled water really cheap and if it makes you happy, then do that.
In Italy, the standard voltage is 230 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. You can use your Australian electric appliances in Italy because the standard voltage (230 V) is pretty much the same as in Australia. The wall sockets look like the one on the right of this paragraph.
You will need an adapter to allow you to use your Australian devices in Italy – this is one of the most useful things you will take to Italy. We recommend taking two if you each have phones or laptops to charge. Buy them in Australia before you go as it can be challenging and expensive to try to purchase them in Italy (but not impossible).
They usually have the Aussie 3-pin socket for your device and 2-pins on the other side, like the adapter to your right.
Watch out when crossing the road!! Italians are claimed to be the worst drivers in Europe. They can be fast and furious. You need to be especially aware of scooters and remember: Italians drive on the right side of the road, not the left….
Mind dress codes at churches. Avoid wearing shorts and going sleeveless. It’s handy to have a scarf in case you do need to cover up. You will not be allowed to enter some religious sites unless you are appropriately dressed.
Avoid eating in or near tourist attractions or the main piazzas. Here you will often find poor quality tourist menus and exorbitant prices.
Italians eat late. Dinner time in Italy usually happens between 8:00 and 10:00 pm or even later.
Tipping in Italian restaurants is not necessary, but many restaurants have a cover charge called “coperto”, so unless specified as “no service charge” you may as well get used to having to pay a fee when you sit down at a restaurant. This can be anywhere from 1 to 5 euro per person, and no it is not just because you are a tourist. Italians and foreigners alike have to pay the charge to sit at the table.
Although we sometimes break the rule, Italians do not have a cappuccino after lunchtime was many believe that the milk in cappuccino impedes healthy digestion. So, do not be upset if waiters might refuse if you order a cup of cappuccino in the afternoon or evening!
Be careful about using the word ‘latte’ when ordering your favourite coffee as you are likely to get only a glass of milk. In case you don’t know, 'latte' is Italian for milk.
Standing at the bar ('al bar') while drinking coffee is cheaper than sitting down. Table service is a separate cost. We can show you where to get a great coffee and usually for around 1.50 euro (less than $2.50AUD!!)
Cold drinks are often served without ice.
Many Italians speak decent English, so the language barrier is not normally a big issue, however it is advisable to learn a few basic Italian words and phrases before travelling. We will teach you some of the basics to help.
The Italians are generally extremely friendly and polite people, but learning a few words in their language will get you a long way. It’s easy too!
Generally, it is not advised to use the term ‘ciao’ to greet people you do not know quite well. In Italy, they tend to commence in the formal with ‘buon giorno”. (As with all rules, Italians don’t always follow this to the letter – you’ll work it out.)
There are tourists. Lots of tourists.
Italy is a popular tourist destination for people from all around the world, so when we are in the most famous places, there will be lots of other tourists, to the point where queues for attractions like the Vatican, the Colosseum and the Uffizi Gallery snake so far down the road that they actually connect up with other queues for other attractions.
We using ‘skip the line’ tickets to fast-track our entry to the most popular sights, and also whilst some parts of the main cities can be jam-packed with people (Venice between Rialto and San Marco, for example), most tourists are blissfully unaware that a few streets away you can find the hidden treasures in a much less busy environment. We will show you how to find these.
Times in Italy are indicated in 24-hour format.
Just buying your tickets at the bus or train station is not enough. You must validate them at the little machines nearby or on the bus to prove that you are using the ticket right then. Not doing so can result in a hefty fine and an unhappy inspector.
Public drunkenness is uncommon and abhorred.
In Italy, smoking is banned in all public indoor spaces, including bars, cafés, restaurants and discos. But it can mean sitting outside in a restaurant can be a smokey experience.