COUNTRY INFORMATION SHEET
                          ITALY ~ 2008/2009


Italy is truly one of the cradles of Western civilization,
with one of the longest histories and richest cultures in
Europe. Rome was the capital of the ancient Roman
Empire, and is home to the Vatican See, the center of
the Roman Catholic Church. Florence, home to Leo-
nardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, was one of the
greatest centers of the Renaissance, and is filled with
beautiful art and wondrous architecture. Venice,
whose wealth was built on trade with the East, rose on
a series of islands; canals became its streets, linking
piazzas, palaces, and fabulous churches.

However, modern Italy is much more than a museum
of its past glories. The mountains of the southern
Alps, particularly the Dolomites, and the peaks and
valleys of the Apennines lend Italy a rugged natural
beauty. With thousands of miles of coastline, Italy is
also a major resort destination, attracting those seek-
ing summer sand and sun.

In spite of its imposing history and its natural beauty,
perhaps Italy's most enduring attractions are its people
and contemporary culture. While the stereotype of the
typical Italian is no more accurate than any other, Ital-
ians in general live life with passion and a vibrant sense of style. Quality food, wine, and design reach heights
in Italy rarely approached elsewhere in the world. Plan on spending at least a few days in an Italian city—full
of cafés, open-air piazzas, and the hustle and bustle of people going about their lives amidst ancient land-
marks—and take in the flavor of modern Italian culture.


Embassy of the United States of America, Rome                   Canadian Embassy, Rome
Via V. Veneto 119/A.                                            Via Zara, 30, 00198 Rome
Tel: 06-46741 and Fax: 39-06-4674-2217.                         Tel. 06 445981 / Fax: 06 44 598 37 50
Website:                                      Website:
Consulates in Milan,Florence and Naples.

Embassy of Italy                                                Embassy of Italy
3000 Whitehaven Street, NW                                      275 Slater Street, 21st Floor
Washington, DC 20008                                            Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5H9
Tel (202) 612-4400 - Fax (202) 518-2154                         Tel: 613.232.2401—Fax: 613.233.1484
Website:                                      Website:

Area: 301,230 sq km (187,176 sq miles).                           Population: 58, 145,321 (July 2008 est.)

Population Density: 196.1 per sq km.                              Capital: Rome. Population: 2,817,000.

Geography: Boot-shaped Italy possesses perhaps the most instantly identifiable physical shape of any coun-
try in the world, the result of its particular geography. Italy is situated in Europe and attached in the north to
the European mainland. To the north the Alps separate Italy from France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia.

Northern Italy: The Alpine regions, Po Plain and Ligurian-Etruscan Appennines. Piedmont and Val d’Aosta
contain some of the highest mountains in Europe and are good areas for winter sports. Many rivers flow from
the mountains towards the Po Basin, passing through the beautiful Italian Lake District (Maggiore, Como,
Garda). The Po Basin, which extends as far south as the bare slopes of the Appennines, is covered with gravel
terraces and rich alluvial soil and has long been one of Italy’s most prosperous regions. To the east, where the
Po flows into the Adriatic, the plains are little higher than the river itself; artificial (and occasionally natural)
embankments prevent flooding.

Central Italy: The northern part of the Italian peninsula. Tuscany (Toscana) has a diverse landscape with
snow-capped mountains (the Tuscan Appennines), lush countryside, hills and a long sandy coastline with off-
shore islands. Le Marche, lying between the Appennines and the Adriatic coast, is a region of mountains, riv-
ers and small fertile plains. The even more mountainous regioni (administrative districts) of Abruzzo and
Molise are bordered by Marche to the north and Puglia to the south, and are separated from the Tyrrhenian
Sea and to the west by Lazio and Campania. Umbria is known as the ‘green heart of Italy’, hilly with broad
plains, olive groves and pines. Further south lies Rome, Italy’s capital and largest city. Within its precincts is
the Vatican City.

Southern Italy: Campania consists of flat coastal plains and low mountains, stretching from Baia Domizia to
the Bay of Naples and along a rocky coast to the Calabria border. Inland, the Appennines are lower, mellow-
ing into the rolling countryside around Sorrento. The islands of Capri, Ischia and Procida in the Tyrrhenian
Sea are also part of Campania. The south is wilder than the north, with mile upon mile of olive trees, cool for-
ests and rolling hills. Puglia, the ‘heel of the boot’, is a landscape of volcanic hills and isolated marshes.
Calabria, the ‘toe’, is heavily forested and thinly populated. The Calabrian hills are home to bears and wolves.

The Islands: Sicily (Sicilia), visible across a 3km (2-mile) strait from mainland Italy, is fertile but mountain-
ous with volcanoes (including the famous landmark of Mount Etna) and lava fields, and several offshore is-
lands. Sardinia (Sardegna) has a mountainous landscape, fine sandy beaches and rocky offshore islands.
For more information on each region, see the Resorts & Excursions section below.

Government: Unification in 1861. Republic since 1946. Head of State: President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi
since 1999. Head of Government: Prime Minister: Silvio Berlusconi. Ambassador to the United States--
Ferdinando Salleo

Language: Italian is the official language. Dialects are spoken in different regions. German and Ladin are
spoken in the South Tyrol region (bordering Austria). French is spoken in all the border areas from the Rivi-
era to the area north of Milan (border with France and Switzerland). German is spoken around the Austrian
border. English, German and French are also spoken in the biggest cities and in tourism and business circles.

Religion: Predominately Roman Catholic with mature Protestant and Jewish communities and a growing
Muslim immigrant community

Time: GMT + 1 (GMT + 2 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in September).
       London ~ -1 hour                Los Angeles ~ -9 hours             Dallas ~ -7 hours
       Sydney ~ +9 hours               New York ~ -6 hours                Tokyo ~ +8 hours

Electricity: The voltage in Italy is 220 volts, with two-pin round pronged plugs. For European appliances,
the plug can simply be changed over, whereas US equipment will need an adaptor. Italian plugs come in
many different sizes, without any apparent special purpose, and you can buy adaptors or even just swap plugs.
It is worth buying travel plugs before you leave, as they are difficult to pick up in Italy.

                  Flag: Three equal vertical bands of green (hoist side), white, and red. It was inspired by the
                  French flag brought to Italy by Napoleon in 1797
Telephone: Full IDD service available. Country code: 39. Outgoing international code: 00. To telephone
Italy from the US, dial the international code (011) followed by the country code (39) and the full dialling code
(including the ‘0’) and telephone number. When dialling the US from Italy, dial 00 39 followed by the full
dialling code and number. If calling another number within Italy, please note that you will have to dial the city
code number, even if calling from within the city.

Useful and Emergency phone numbers
    12 : Directory Enquiries     176 : International Directory Enquiries
The following numbers may be dialed from every public phone without coins.
    113 : Police Emergency       112 : Carabinieri (Police)
    115 : Fire Emergency         118 : Medical Emergency

Public Telephones:
Coin-operated telephones are becoming a rarity in favor of the card operated telephones that take the scheda
telefonica. These plastic cards are sold in denominations of € 2.58, € 5.16, and € 7.75, and are available in ta-
bacchis, post offices, most newsstands and some bars. You'll need to break off the perforated corner of the card
before you can use it. Remember that even the local calls are timed, so if you are using coins, be sure to put
enough money in. A short local call is usually € 0.10 - € 0.21.
Note: Phone calls to land lines within Italy are quite inexpensive, but beware of numbers that start with 0338,
0335, 0339, 0349, 0347, 0368, etc. If you dial one of these, you are calling a telefonino (cell phone) which is
going to be considerably more expensive. Also, note that cellular phone numbers do not have the initial zero;
all other Italian phone numbers do

Collect call numbers:
You can also place collect or credit card calls by calling the operator in your own country:
    Canada 1721001                   USA (AT&T) 1721011
    USA (MCI) 1721022                USA (Sprint) 1721877

Mobile telephone: GSM 900 and 1800 networks.

Fax: Some hotels have facilities. Alternatively, try one of the reasonably-priced call centers in the Termini
and Vatican areas.

Internet/E-mail: ISPs include Telecom Italia Net ( Public access is available in Internet
Corner Kiosks operated by Telecom Italia. Kiosks have been installed at airports, major hotels and in other
public places. There are also cybercafés in all main towns.

Post: The Italian postal system tends to be subject to delays. Letters between Italy and other European coun-
tries usually take a week to ten days to arrive. Postage costs depend on the country of destination and weight.
Postage for standard weight international postcards and letters varies between € 0.41 and € 0.77.
Stamps can be bought at post offices as well as at tabacchis, which have longer opening hours and are much
more numerous than post offices. Letters can be posted in any of the red post boxes mounted on walls around
the city (blue in the Vatican). Unless you're sending something to an address within Rome, use the slot marked
"Per tutte le altre destinazioni." Post office hours: 0800/0830-1200/1230 and 1400/1430-1730/1800 Monday
to Friday; Saturday mornings only.

The Vatican mail costs the same as the Italian, but you must buy Vatican City stamps and send your letters or
postcards from the Vatican post offices located only within the Vatican City. There are two locations in Piazza
San Pietro; one is behind the semicircular colonnade (on the right side as you face St. Peter's basilica), and an-
other is along the orange wall between the colonnade and St. Peter's (on the left side as you face the church)--
look for the blue boxes outside.

Press: The main towns publish a weekly booklet with entertainment programmes, sports events, restaurants,
nightclubs, etc. There are several English-language publications: monthly magazines Italy-Italy (Rome),
Grapevine (in the Lucca area) and The Informer (Milan), as well as Wanted In Rome, published twice monthly,
and the English-language newspaper, Daily American (Rome). Among the most important Italian dailies are
La Stampa (Turin), Corriere della Sera (Milan), La Repubblica (Rome), Il Messaggero (Rome), Il Giorno
(Milan) and Il Giornale (Milan).
Passport must be valid for 6 months beyond the return travel date for all nationals except from Austria, Bel-
gium, France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Portugal, San Marino,
Spain and Switzerland with a valid national ID card. For further information concerning entry requirements
for Italy, travelers may contact the Embassy of Italy at 1601 Fuller St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20009, tel.
202-328-5500 or via the Internet:, or the Italian Consulates General in Boston, Chi-
cago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, or San Fran-

Single European currency (Euro): The Euro is now the official currency of 15 EU member states (including
Italy), having replaced the Italian Lira in January 2002. 1 Euro = 100 cents. Euro notes are identical across
the euro area and are available in denominations of €500, €200, €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5. These can be used
anywhere within the euro area, regardless of country of issue. The notes differ in size and colour by denomina-
tion with the values printed in large figures. Euro coins have one common side and one national side. They
can also be used anywhere within the euro area, regardless of the country of issue. They are available in de-
nominations of €2, €1, 50 cent, 20 cent, 10 cent, 5 cent, 2 cent and 1 cent.

Currency exchange: Travellers cheques, cheques and foreign money can be changed at banks, railway sta-
tions and airports, and very often at main hotels (generally at a less favourable rate). Many US banks offer dif-
fering exchange rates depending on the denominations of Euro currency being bought or sold. Check with
banks for details and current rates.

Credit & debit cards: MasterCard, Diners Club and Visa are widely accepted. Check with your credit card
company for merchant acceptability and other facilities which may be available.

ATM Machines: Many banks in Italy have 24-hour automatic teller machines, or "bancomats." Cards with the
Cirrus symbol are accepted almost everywhere, but you may have to look a little harder to find a machine that
takes the Star symbol. The exchange rate at the ATMs is very good, so the only extra fee you'll pay is what-
ever your bank at home charges for international withdrawals. . For details of ATM locations in the countr(y)
ies being visited, please visit the following websites:-

Travellers cheques: Travelers cheques are accepted almost everywhere. To avoid additional exchange rate
charges, travelers are advised to take travellers cheques in Euros or US Dollars.

Currency restrictions: Check with the embassy before departure.

Banking hours: These vary from city to city but, in general, Mon-Fri 0830-1330 and 1500-1600.

1 Jan New Year's Day, 6 Jan Epiphany, 13 Apr Easter Monday, 25 Apr Liberation Day, 1 May Labour Day, 2
Jun Anniversary of the Republic, 15 Aug Assumption, 1 Nov All Saints' Day, 8 Dec Immaculate Conception,
25 Dec Christmas Day, 26 Dec St Stephen's Day,


Strict dress codes are enforced in many places of worship, where your torso and upper arms must be covered;
shorts and skirts must reach below the knee.
Table service is most common in restaurants and bars. There are no licensing laws.

Pasta plays a substantial part in Italian recipes, but nearly all regions have developed their own special dishes.
Examples of dishes from some regions are listed below:

Rome: abbacchio (suckling lamb in white wine flavoured with rosemary), cannelloni (pasta stuffed with meat,
calves’ brains, spinach, egg and cheese), broccoli romani (broccoli in white wine), salsa romana (sweet-sour
brown sauce with raisins, chestnut and lentil purée served with game) and gnocchi alla romana (semolina
dumplings). Of Rome’s cheeses the best include mozzarella, caciotta romana (semi-hard, sweet sheep cheese),
pecorino (hard, sharp sheep’s milk cheese) and gorgonzola.

Lombardy: risotto alla milanese (rice with saffron and white wine), zuppa pavese (tasty clear soup with
poached eggs), minestrone (thick soup with chopped vegetables), osso buco (shin of veal cooked in tomato
sauce served with rice), panettone (Christmas cake with sultanas and candied fruit). Wines: Valtellina, Sas-
sella, Grumello and Inferno.

Veneto: fegato alla veneziana (calves’ liver thinly sliced and cooked in butter with onions), baccalà alla
vicentina (salt cod simmered in milk), radicchio rosso di treviso (wild red chicory with a bitter taste).

Tuscany: bistecca alla fiorentina (thick T-bone steak grilled over charcoal, sprinkled with freshly ground
black pepper and olive oil), minestrone alla fiorentina (tasty vegetable soup with slices of country bread), pap-
pardelle alla lepre (pasta with hare sauce), tortina di carciofi (baked artichoke pie), cinghiale di maremma
(wild boar from Maremma region near Grosseto) with dishes of ham, sausages and steaks. Sweets include pan-
forte di Siena (confection of honey, candied fruits, almonds and cloves), castagnaccio (chestnut cake with nuts
and sultanas) and ricciarelli (delicate biscuit of honey and almonds from Siena).

Umbria: Extra virgin olive oil, black and white truffles, spaghetti, porchetta alla perugina (suckling pig),
carne ai capperi e acciughe (veal with caper and herb sauce) and good-quality local sausages, salami and
prosciutto famous throughout Italy. Local ingredients used in Umbrian cooking include pork and beef,
cheeses, lentils from the Valerina, fish from Lake Trasimeno and the River Nera, mushrooms and potatoes
from Colfiorito.

Campania: pizza (the culinary pride of Campania) served in a great variety of recipes, bistecca alla pizzaiola
(steak with sauce made from tomatoes, garlic and oregano), sfogliatelle (sweet ricotta cheese turnovers) and
mozzarella cheese (originally made with buffalo milk).

Sicily: pesce spada (swordfish stuffed with brandy, mozzarella and herbs, grilled on charcoal), pasta con le
sarde (pasta with fresh sardines), caponata (rich dish of olives, anchovies and aubergines), pizza siciliana
(pizza with olives and capers) and triglie alla siciliana (grilled mullet with orange peel and white wine). Excel-
lent sweets are cassata (ice cream of various flavours with candied fruit and bitter chocolate) and frutti di mar-
turana (marzipan fruits).

Italy has over 20 major wine regions, from Valle d’Aosta on the French border to Sicily and Sardinia in the
south. Wines are named after grape varieties or after their village or area of origin. The most widespread is the
Chianti group of vineyards, governed by the Chianti Classico quality controls (denoted by a black cockerel on
the neck of each bottle). The Chianti area is the only area in Italy with such quality controls. Denominazione di
origine controllata wines come from officially recognised wine-growing areas (similar to Appellation Con-
trôlée in France), while wines designated Denominazione controllata e garantita are wines of fine quality.
Vermouths from Piemonte vary from dry and light pink to dark-coloured and sweet. Aperitifs such as Campari
and Punt e Mes are excellent appetisers, while Italian liqueurs include Strega, Galliano, Amaretto and Sam-

Tap water is generally safe to drink. Bottled water is available. The inscription ‘Acqua Non Potabile’ means
water is not drinkable. Drinking water from drink fountains is safe unless there is a sign telling you otherwise.

You are not expected to tip on top of restaurant service charges, but it is common (although not standard) prac-
tice among Italians to leave a small amount. If there is no service charge, the customer might consider leaving
a 10% tip, but this is by no means obligatory. In bars, Italians will usually leave any small change as a tip, of-
ten only 50 cent to a €1. Tipping taxi-drivers is also not common practice, but, if staying in a higher class ho-
tel, you should tip the porter.

Bargaining is common through Italy in flea markets, but not in shops. At the Porta Portese market in Rome,
for instance, don’t hesitate to offer half the asking price for any given item. Don’t de deterred by stallholders
who dismiss you with a wave of the arm: the person at the next stall will be just as likely to accept your offer
after a brief (and obligatory) haggle. While bargaining in shops is not acceptable, you might find that the pro-
prietor is disposed to give a discount if you are spending a reasonable amount of money.

Theft is a major problem for travelers in Italy. Pickpockets and bag-snatchers operate in most major cities and
are particularly active in Naples and Rome. The best way to avoid being robbed is to wear a money belt under
tour clothing. You should keep all important items; such as money, passport, other papers and tickets in your
money belt at all times. If you are carrying a bag or a camera, ensure that you wear the strap across your body
and have the bag on the side away from the road to deter snatch thieves, who often operate from motorbikes
and scooters. Motorcycle bandits are very active in Naples, Rome, Syracuse and Palermo.
You should watch out for groups of dishevelled-looking women and children. They generally work in groups
of four or five and carry paper or cardboard which they use to distract your attention while they swarm around
and riffle through your pockets and bag. Their favourite haunts are in and near major train stations, at tourist
sights (such as the Colosseum) and in shopping areas. If you notice you have been targeted by a group, either
take evasive action, such as crossing the street, or shout va via! (go away!) in a loud, angry voice.

Pickpockets often hang around on crowded buses (the No 64 in Rome, which runs from Stazione Termini to
the Vatican, is notorious) and in crowded areas such as markets. There is one way to deter pickpockets: sim-
ply do not carry any money or valuables in your pockets, and be very careful about your bags.

In case of a theft or loss, always report the incident at the questura within 24 hours and ask for a statement,
otherwise your travel insurance company will not pay out.
The social structure is heavily influenced by the Roman Catholic church and, generally speaking, family ties
are stronger than in most other countries in Western Europe. Normal social courtesies should be observed.
Dress is casual in most places, though beachwear should be confined to the beach. Conservative clothes are
expected when visiting religious buildings and smaller, traditional communities. Formal wear is usually indi-
cated on invitations. Smoking is prohibited in some public buildings, transport and cinemas. Visitors are
warned to take precautions against theft, particularly in the cities.

People in Italy are, on the whole, friendly towards foreign visitors. On entering a shop or bar it is customary to
greet people with a general ‘buon giorno’ (good morning) or ‘buona sera’ (good evening) and the same applies
when leaving.

Shopping hours: 0830-1230 and 1530-1930 Monday to Saturday, with some variations in northern Italy
where the lunch break is shorter and the shops close earlier. Food shops are often closed Wednesday afternoon
Prices are reasonable and the quality of goods is usually high. Chain stores such as La Rinascente, Coin, Upim,
and Standa are found in many Italian cities and towns.

Many Italian products are world-famous for their style and quality. Care should be taken when buying antiques
since Italy is renowned for skilled imitators. Prices are generally fixed and bargaining is not general practice,
although a discount may be given on a large purchase. Florence, Milan and Rome are famous as important
fashion centres, but smaller towns also offer good scope for shopping. It is advisable to avoid hawkers or sell-
ers on the beaches. Some places are known for particular products, eg Como (Lombardy) for silk, Prato
(Tuscany) for textiles, Empoli (Tuscany) for the production of bottles and glasses in green glass, Deruta
(Umbria) and Faenza (Emilia-Romagna) for pottery, Carrara (Tuscany) for marble.
Main shopping areas are listed below.

Rome: offers a wide choice of shops and markets. Every shop in the fashionable Via Condotti–Via Sistina area
offers a choice of styles, colours and designs rarely matched, but at very high prices. Equally expensive are
shops along Via Vittorio Veneto, a street famous for its outdoor cafés. Old books and prints can be bought
from bookstalls of Piazza Borghese. Rome’s flea market is at Porta Portese in Trastevere on Sunday mornings,
selling everything from second-hand shoes to ‘genuine antiques’.

Milan’s: industrial wealth is reflected in the chic, elegant shops of Via Montenapoleone. Prices tend to be
higher than in other major cities.

Venice: is still famous for its glassware, and there is a great deal of both good and bad glass; that made on the
island of Murano, where there are also art dealers and skilful goldsmiths, has a reputation for quality. Venetian
lace is also exquisite and expensive; however, most of the lace sold is no longer made locally (only lace made
on the island of Burano may properly be called Venetian lace).

Florence: boasts some of the finest goldsmiths, selling from shops largely concentrated along both sides of the
Ponte Vecchio bridge. Florentine jewellery has a particular quality of satin finish called satinato. Much filigree
jewellery can also be found. Cameos are another speciality of Florence, carved from exotic shells.

Southern Italy: In the south there are still families hand-making the same local products as their ancestors:
pottery and carpets in each region; filigree jewellery and products of wrought iron and brass in Abruzzo; prod-
ucts in wood in Calabria; corals and cameos in Campania; a variety of textiles, including tablecloths, in Sicily
and Sardinia. In Cagliari it is possible to find artistic copies of bronze statuettes from the Nuraghe period of the
Sardinian Bronze Age. In the larger towns such as Naples, Bari, Reggio, Calabria, Palermo and Cagliari there
are elegant shops with a whole range of Italian products. Many smaller towns have outdoor markets, but sou-
venirs sold there are sometimes of very low quality, probably mass-produced elsewhere.

The moderating influence of the sea and the protection given by the Alpine barrier from the cold north winds
join to bless Italy with a temperate climate. Nevertheless, the weather varies considerably according to how far
one is from the sea or the mountains. The winter is very cold in the Alps, cold and foggy in the Po Plain and
the central Apennines; mild and even warm on the Ligurian coast, the Neapolitan coast and in Sicilia.

The summer is hot and dry, but the temperature is mitigated on the coast by sea breezes and in the Apennines
and Alps it is pleasantly cool. In mountain areas, winter is ideal for skiing, and summer for excursions, hiking,
etc. Seaside and lake resorts, with their excellent hotel facilities, have an intense tourist season in the summer,
while the cities that are rich in art treasures are ideal in spring and autumn

Required clothing: Lightweight cottons and linens are worn during the summer, except in the mountains.
Lightweight to medium weights are worn in the south during winter, while warmer clothes are worn elsewhere.
Alpine wear is advised for winter mountain resorts.


                                                                                      Distances in kilometres
                                                                                      Distance in miles
    278           106
    173           66
    575           210             299
    357           130             186
    219           594             489             786
    136           369             304             488
    530           154             255             273          741
    329           96              158             170          460

                                          USEFUL WEB SITES

                (for information on the Euro)
      (web site of the Italian Embassy in Washington DC)
       (web site of the Italian Govt. Tourist Board)
            Local weather reports.

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