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Things to know about Italy

Capital: Rome


Religion: 98% of the population are Catholics. However, many different religious communities are located in the country. For example, such cities as Bari, Florence and San Remo have also Orthodox churches.


Official language is Italian. The country has many dialects, that’s why some words can differ. Speaking about foreign languages, English is popular in touristic and service spheres.


Italy, stretching from the north to the south, has different climatic conditions in regions. The north has mostly continental climate of the Po Valley (Pianura Padana), with cold foggy winters and hot summers. The subtropical climate is typical for the south, near Sicily. Though, the whole territory of the Italian Peninsula and other Italian islands has a Mediterranean climate. The average temperature of January is about 0°C. In June, it ranges from +23°C to +24°C. Clear sky is typical for the Mediterranean climate during most of the year.


The average temperature in Rome:
January+15 °C;
February +16°C
March +18°C
April +20°C
May +22°C
June +26°C
July +28°C
August +29°C
September +27°C
October +23°C
November +19°C
December +16°C


Currency: euro (€). €1 consists of 100 euro cents. Circulated banknotes are in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and also 500 euros and coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and also 50 cents.


Means of payment
Across the country, credit cards and traveller’s cheques are widely used. A wide range of cards is acceptable in many cities, restaurants, shops and supermarkets. The most used cards are American Express, Carte Blanche, Diner's Club, Mastercard and Visa. The sign "Carta – si" shows, that there you can use credit cards. For example, most gas stations accept cash. You should remember, according to the Italian low, you mustn’t hand the amount of cash, which is equal or more than €12 000. You’d better give a huge amount of money by cheques or through banks.


Currency exchange: Banks and exchange offices work on weekdays from 8:30am till 1:30pm, and from 3:00 pm till 4:15- 4:30 pm. State institutions usually don’t work on Saturdays and Sundays. Besides, you can convert currency at airports, post offices, restaurants and hotels, but their exchange rate is less profitable.


Calls to Italy from other countries
To make a call to Italy, dial international access code – international country code of Italy (39) – dialling code – phone number.


Calls from Italy to other countries
If you are in Italy, you’d better call to another country using public phone boxes. They accept coins and tokens. Phones, where you can use phone cards, are the most popular. Such phone cards are sold in kiosks that can be found nearby. The cost of an international call will depend on the country and daytime. E.g. after 8:30pm phone rate is very cheap, so within the country it’ll be cheaper to call from 10:00pm to 8:00am. In period from 6:30pm till 10:00pm there are some discounts on calls. You can also buy a special phone card, which gives you a discount for calling to a certain country. It’s the best way to call to one country. If you make a call within the country, you must dial – “0” before the code. In addition, to call within Italy, you can buy a sim-card and use services of a local mobile operator. To buy a sim-card, you must show your passport. The most popular mobile operators are TIM, Vodafone Italia, Wind, and 3 Italia.


Useful phone numbers in Italy:
Reference service of Italy – 100
Reference Service of State Railways – 147-888-088
Carabineers – 112
Ambulance – 118 or 113
Police – 113
Fire Department – 115
Italian Auto Club – 116


Time zone: UTC / GMT +1 hour
There is daylight saving time in winter and summer. During daylight saving time, zone GMT shifts to UTC / GMT + 2 hours.


You can import and export duty-free either local or foreign currency. However, bringing out of the country the amount of €10 000 or its equivalent in another currency, you must have a permission of Italian customs authorities.
From Italy, as from the European Union too, you can export up to:
- 200 cigarettes,100 small cigars, 50 cigars or 250 grams tobacco,
- 2 litres of wine or 1 litre of alcohol beverage more than 22% of alcohol, or 2 litres of alcohol beverages with not more than 22% of alcohol; 2l of sparkling wine.
- 50gr of perfume and 250gr of cologne;
You can import from countries of the European Union:
• up to 800 cigarettes, 400 small cigars, 200 cigars, 1 kg of tobacco;
• up to 10 l of alcohol beverage with more than 22% of alcohol, up to 20 l of alcohol beverage, which is not more than 22% ; up to 60 l of sparkling wine; up to 90 l of table wine and 110 l of beer.


Shopping in Italy
Shops are open from Monday to Saturday from 8:00am to 8:00pm. Some shops work on Saturdays. As a rule, they have a long break from 1:00pm to 3:30 pm. Except Sundays most stores are closed on Thursday afternoon. On Monday, they start working from 2:00pm. However, in the pre-holiday period shops can work on Sundays. Italy has seasonal discounts. Italian sale is in the period from the 7th January to the 1st March.


Transport in Italy


a) public transport


1. Subway is located only in big cities, such as Rome, Milan, Turin, Genoa and Naples. It works from 5:30am to 11:30pm. A token per a trip costs €1.


2. Orange buses and trams
Public transport work from 6:00am to12:00 pm. Buses with “N”-sign serve at night. You are advised to enter the bus through the back door, and out – through the middle door. You can buy a time-limit ticket. It allows you to use public transport three times during an hour. Tickets for public transport are sold at newsagents or cigar stands. A ticket must be punched in the bus. You can also use a tourist ticket, valid the whole day. It costs about €3-5. A week ticket for public transport costs about €12.


3. Taxi
To order a taxi, you have to pay for distance that a driver will overcome going to your place. First three kilometres will cost €5-6, each next kilometer – €1. In the evening you should expect an extra charge or double rate. Every taxi has a pricelist in English; there you can find additional prices. E.g. charge for luggage, night travel, weekends, holidays, the way to or from an airport.


4. Bicycle. To travel around the city and its suburbs, you can rent a bicycle for a small charge. All major cities have many companies, which offer you such vehicles.


5. Motorbike. You can also rent a motorbike or a scooter. It’s the best way to go to suburb. You must use a protective helmet. The cost of renting is around €20-25 per day.


2) long-distance transport


1. Train. Italy has 6 types of trains. Their names are associated with the frequency of stops: eurostar, eurocity, intercity, expresso, diretto and locale. Eurostar is the most expansive kind of trains. You’re advised to buy a eurostar ticket for the appointed time and data in advance. It’s unnecessary to book tickets of interregionale, espresso, diretto and regionale beforehand, except holiday periods. Railway transport has a discount system for people under the age of 26 and young families.


2. Bus system between the cities is well-developed, but it’s not so popular as railway transport. Ticket price of long-distance trip is determined by the distance. For example, such trip as Rome-Venice costs about €80-100, its duration is 8-10 hours; Rome-Rimini – about €50-70, it will take you 5-6 hours; Rome-Naples costs €60, it lasts about 5-6 hours.

3. Aircrafts. Italian national air companies have flights to Ancona, Bari, Bologna, Brindisi, Venice, Verona, Genoa, Calabria, Cagliari, Catania, Lamezia, Milan, Naples, Palermo, Perugia, Pisa, Rimini, Rome, Trieste, Turin and Florence. The country has a system of special domestic flight prices for young people, retired people and traveling families.


Car rental
You can rent a car in most cities and resort areas. Some rental companies are located near airports. To rent a car, you must have an international driving license, a credit card and a passport. Besides you must be at least 21 years old. In Italy, car rental depends on season, car and duration of rent.


Traffic rules in Italy
If you are going to rent a car in Italy, you must know and follow traffic rules of the country.
- Your rental car must have a breakdown triangle.
- All passengers must wear seat belts; children under the age of 12 must travel with a special child restraint on the backseat.
- The allowed alcohol content in the driver’s blood is 0.8 per mile.
- Speed limit in the city centre – 50km/h, outside city – 90km/h, motorways – 110km/h, superhighway – 130 km/h.
- Italy has a right-hand traffic, overtaking is allowed on the left side.
- Parking space is indicated by blue and white colours, and its ban – yellow and black.
- You can use your cell phone, if it is equipped with the hand`s free system.
- In the highlands you must use snow chains for your safety.
- A tram has priority on the road.
- Italy has toll roads and other road sections with special toll. The toll depends on the type of a vehicle and the number of travelled kilometres.


Water transport in Italy
Italy has several kinds of water transport. For example, water bus – vaporetto – is the only kind of water transport in Venice. Ticket price for one trip on the Grand Canal is about €2, and for other directions – about €4. Venice also has river taxis, which are designed for four passengers, and the fare is paid according to the taximeter, as well as in a land taxi. There is also a so-called romantic kind of transport – gondola. Its price changes according to daytime. Speaking about other cities, for getting to islands, you’d better use a ferryboat. In Rome they work from 07:30am to 07:00pm. The fare is about €1.


Hotels in Italy
Italy has many different hotels and hostels, apartments and houses, bungalows and villas. All hotels have star classification. The average cost of a double room in a hotel will cost around €130-200. However, a house in a suburb or a tent in camping is the most popular way for living in Italy during the holidays.


As a rule, you should leave tips even in restaurants with fixed prices. Tip is about 10-15 % of the total.


National Holidays in Italy:
25 April ‒ Liberation Day;
1 May ‒ International Workers' Day;
15 August ‒ Ferragosto/Assumption Day;
1 November ‒ All Saints Day;
8 December ‒ Immaculate Conception Feast;
25 December ‒ Christmas Day;
26 December ‒ St Stephen's Day;
Easter is celebrated according to the church calendar.


Visa is not required for citizens of countries of the Schengen agreement. These are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Vatican City, Hungary, Germany, Denmark, Greece, Iceland, Spain, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Finland, France, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Sweden, Estonia. Citizens of other countries wishing to visit Italy must apply for a visa.


Electricity in Italy
Mains voltage – 220V and frequency – 50 Hz. European types of plugs C, F, L are used there.


Behaviour rules in Italy
Siesta is a national tradition of Italy, when from 12:00am-1:00pm to 3:00pm-4:00pm most institutions don’t work. At this time, only several street cafes work according to the special schedule. Transport either doesn’t work, or it’s impossible to get to the necessary place. It’s forbidden to smoke in public places, such as bars and restaurants. You can do it only in special zones or rooms for smoking, or in some street cafes. Italians avoid drinking alcohol beverage and beer, because it is considered a bad form. However, wine is an important detail of a meal. While Italians drink, they say: "Chin chin".
In Italy, people usually walk before dinner. According to etiquette, you should address people as “you”.
You’re advised to say hello, when you enter and goodbye, when you leave. As a rule, they say “Chao” only to close friends. In Italy, men make compliments to ladies, even at official meetings. 

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