Italy Starter Kit:
A starter kit for Italy on TravelPod should focus on the things important to travelers who are both seasoned and inexperienced. It should be a resource and for some-- a starting point for research and planning. Hopefully you will find the information worthwhile.
Italy is country that offers something special for the educated tourist and the casual tourist. As a peninsula that is located on the Mediterranean Sea, it has diverse landscapes from beautiful coastal beaches to high mountains great for skiing. Italy is a celebration of passions – art, history, cuisine, fashion, luxury sports cars and motorcycles and special events only found is a country that began as city-states. There is a reason people recognize the phrase “la dolce vita”.Best time to Travel:
Ideally the Spring is the best time to travel to Italy because the temperatures are warm and not hot. The largest geraniums I have ever seen are in bloom and the gardens are fragrant but it is also the time the sights are still crowded because school trips are planned for this month. Early June is like May but the beaches become crowded with school children. By the end of the month the temperatures can become very warm. July and August are the hottest months of the year and can be come uncomfortable to sightsee and the country seems to shut down in August. We have traveled to Rome and further south in September and the temperature drop and it is much drier, although I have had to buy a sweater or two in October. Rome in October is beautiful and comfortable- that’s why locals refer it to as “ottobrate romane”. Remember that the further north you travel in the fall, the higher altitudes may already have temperatures that are already quite low, particularly at night. November is a rainier period and the days are shorter. December brings the winter months and cold windy weather is the rule until March.
Daylight savings Time: On the last weekend in March, clocks move forward 1 Hour. On the last weekend in October the Clock move back 1 hour.Holidays:
I am providing a list of holidays because we found ourselves in Rome on August 15 on Assumption Day; It is much like a Sunday in Italy everything is closed !! Italy is a Catholic country and religious holidays are observed.
January 1 New Year
January 6 Epiphany
Easter Sunday and Easter Monday—Vary each year
April 25 Liberation Day (End of WWII 1946)
May 1 Labor Day
June 2 Republic Day (Birth of the Republic 1946)
August 15 Assumption Day
November 1 All Saints Day
November 4 Unity/Armed Forces Day (Victory over Austria-Hungary 1918)
December 8 Immaculate Conception
December 25 Christmas
December 28 St.Stephen’s dayCurrency:
Italy is part of the European Union and uses the Euro. The exchange rate varies daily and it is important to check. In the fall of 2008 it varied from $1.21-1.42 in the 2 weeks we visited.
My best advise about the exchanging of Dollars for Euros is stick with the ATM. Traveler Check are passé and a large fee is charged when using them even if the checks are in Euros. An ATM always has English-language instructions. Using your debit card with an ATM takes dollars directly from your bank account at home and gives you that country's cash. Italian banks don't charge extra to use their ATM’s. Transportation:
Once arriving in the city of your choice most people chose train or car travel. Italy has an extensive train and bus system. All the major train stations in Italy have a bike rental shop nearby, which will allow you to cover much more ground in less time, for much less money than a car.By train
: The train is an excellent way to move from major cities and medium sized cities and is an economical way to get around. But the price and the speed of the train vary even though the trains travel on the same track.
AV Alta Velocità: The fastest trains available from Milan, Bologna, Rome, and Naples
ES Eurostar: This train runs between the large cities and is the fastest and the most comfortable. Reservations required
IC Intercity and Intercity Plus Inter city trains that not as fast as ES but less money. Reservations not needed but suggested.
IR (Interregionale), R (Regionale), D (Diretto): Smaller slower trains that go to smaller towns.
All necessary information about buying tickets, schedules etc. are available at:http://www.ferroviedellostato.it/homepage_en.htmlBy Car
: There is a lot of information about renting cars in Italy so I am not go-to-go into detail here, but I have always found it easier to arrange for a car on the Internet. It can be done while at home or in Italy. However, there are important things I do want to share.
1. All US and Canadian driver license are valid but you must also get an International license to drive in Italy. It is a translation for the police. I have never been asked for it but it is required. Get International license at AAA or CAA. You must also always wear seat belts.
2. Gasoline is called Benzina and diesel is called gasolio.
3. Tolls can be paid by credit card.
4. It is important to recognize the “Limited Traffic Area” signs. (A white circle with red border). No cars are allowed in center of town. The camera will take you car’s picture and license plate #, a ticket will be issued and sent to rental agent to be paid.
5. You will be billed for any ticket you received in Italy and it will go through your car rental agency.By Bus:
Within and between towns is a good bus service called SITA S.p.a. The signs at the bus stop list all the stops in the direction it travels from top to bottom. You must however purchase a ticket from newsagents, tobacconists, ticket kiosks or bars. It must be validated to avoid fines. Machines are usually located in foyers and inside buses. You cannot buy a ticket on the bus or subway.Accommodations:
The most important piece of information I can give you about hotels etc. is that the prices for accommodations are determined by the season you travel. Even during high season there are slow periods, so ask if there is a special price available. Most hotels include breakfasts but always ask.Sightseeing:
Try to buy tickets for the sights you want to visit. Prices change and you will avoid long lines.
I hope to add bits of information on the forum that will help anyone who is planning a trip to Italy.