When to Go

May and September are the ideal months to go as the landscape is clothed in fresh spring green or the first tints of autumn, any rain tends towards brief showers rather than endless drizzle. The wettest seasons are mid February to mid April and mid October to mid December.

Clothing

Travel light. A smart outfit for an evening stroll will make you feel less like a tourist. Respect convention and cover up bare flesh when visiting religious places. Lightweight clothing is essential in high summer; you will need a sweater and raincoat in the spring and autumn and in winter a warm coat.

Bella Figura

The key to Italian social behavior is often to be found in the idea of the bella figura, or cutting a fine figure. This is not just a matter of dressing smartly, though that is part of it. Bella figura embraces correct formal address; staying relaxed while waiting, not getting drunk.

Hotels, Pensioni

Hotels and guest houses alberghi and pensioni are graded by stars. One and two stars mean basic but relatively inexpensive where you might share the bathroom in a pensione/ 1 *. Three stars are pleasant, all round hotel without expensive frills and a wide price range depending on location and season.

Four star hotels offer every comfort you would expect at this high price and 5 stars denote world class establishments.

The cost of each room must be displayed in every room.

Electricity

As in most of Europe, Italy is 220V, alternating current so take a converter and an adaptor for electrical appliances. Power sockets have two holes and plugs have round pins.

Emergencies

For emergencies, dial 113 and you will get multi lingual operators.

Pharmacy

Italian pharmacists are knowledgeable and most know some English.

Metric

Italy uses the metric system
1 liter is 1.7 pints
1 kilo is 2.2 lbs

Food stuffs are commonly sold by the etto; 1 etto equals 100 grams or 3.5 ounces. Plural of etto is etti.

A kilometer is .62 miles. To convert kilometers to miles multiply by 5 and divide by eight.

Shopping

Hours Shops are typically open from around 9 to 12:30/ 1 and from 3:30-7:30. Most everything closes on Sunday although hypermarkets are the exception.

What to buy

Glass
Silk items like ties and scarves
Leather goods including shoes
Shoes
Ceramics
Paper
Jewelry
Food items like cheese, coffee, balsamic vinegar, prosciutto, truffle oil.

Be sure and notice the window displays as they are amazing. When I lived in Bologna and walked home each day from the university, I was entranced by the intricate displays on Via D’Azeglio.

Money

Italy uses the euro. Currently, one euro is around $1.30. See Currency Converter.

Mail

Use the Tabacchi, indicated by the big T outside, to buy stamps as the lines are long in the post office. The post office, ufficio postale, is open weekdays and Saturdays from 8-1:30. You will find red mailboxes in every city, usually with two holes one for local mail and one for all other places.

Phones

Pay phones are a problem as they are not maintained. To make an international call dial 00. In order to save money, don’t dial directly to the US from your hotel room. Buy a phone card at a Tabacchi. The country code for Italy is 39.

Tipping

Most restaurants include a service charge. Leave more only if the service was outstanding.

Laundry

Laundry coin operated, self service lavanderie are available in larger cities where you typically use your money to buy a token that runs the machines. They sell laundry soap from a dispensor at the lavanderia.

Toilets

They are far from widespread. The quickest and easiest thing is simply to stroll into a café/bar and buy and glass of water or coffee and use the facilities.

Additional Resources