Italy in a Nutshell
Essential facts and information
about Italian accommodation, festivals, language, restaurants, tipping,
weather, transportation and currency.
Italy Travel Destinations -
Travel Planners to Italian Cities
Italy's Big Three Travel Destinations
Everyone knows them: Rome, Venice and
While you're in Florence, you'll want to make your way to other
destinations in Tuscany.
One of the big mistakes travellers make is to try to see this
triumvirate in 10 days. While you can certainly travel to each of
them within ten days, you won't really get to experience any of the
depth of these diverse and interesting places. If you only have a
very short time, we recommend a tour, one that whisks you from
place to place efficiently. You don't want to spend your time
waiting for trains if you've only a short vacation.
Italy in a Nutshell - Essential
Facts for the Visitor to Italy
Accommodation in Italy
The hotels in Italy are rated by a government
system that does not take into account the "charm" of a
place. The ratings on the outside of the building are based on an
objective 'facilities and services provided' assessment and are
not in any way related to ambience, charm or other subjective
It is a good idea to check out a room before you accept it.
Festivals and Sagras - always a way to see more than the average
tourist sees, find a sagra (a blessing of such things as porcini
mushrooms) and just dive in. You're likely to find great food served
in the open air at communal tables, a great way to meet the locals.
The Language in Italy
The language spoken in Italy is
Italian, obviously! However,
you will often hear local dialects spoken, which is why your High-School Italian seems irrelevant
sometimes. English is widely
spoken in areas heavily populated by tourists.
If you only learn one word of Italian, let it be
this one: sciopero. Pronounced "SHO-per-o"
meaning "strike." Labour issues in Italy are often brought
to public attention by short strikes, often lasting a day
or less. If you see notices hastily posted onto walls or windows of
a train or bus station, look for this word. Since they are of short
duration, strikes seldom cause too many problems for tourists who
Transportation in Italy
Italy is served by an extensive rail system.
Buses sometimes duplicate the rail routes, and many small cities in
Italy have access to the larger cities close by through a
twice-a-day bus trip. Bus stations are often found near the train
Trains and buses are subsidized, making Italian
transportation slightly cheaper than most of the rest of Europe.
Train passes may not offer much advantage over just buying a ticket
at the station. Since local trains are subsidized so that workers
can get to their work destinations cheaply, be aware that there are
often fewer trains on weekends and holidays.
You can often avoid queues at the ticket window by
buying a ticket at train station kiosks using your credit or debit
ES, or Eurostar Italia denotes the fast
trains of Italy. Besides the cost of a ticket, a reservation fee is
charged. Here are some typical travel times:
Milan - Reggio Calabria: 11h
Milan - Venice: 2h45
Rome - Turin: 6h11
Rome - San Remo: 6h39
Rome - Venice: 4h33
for major routes and information.
Tiickets for local buses can usually be bought
from a tabacchi (tobacco store) or sometimes at a news-stand.
Weather In Italy - When to Go
Italy enjoys a moderate climate. In the south,
rain is infrequent in the summer. In alpine regions impromptu thunderstorms are frequent, even in summer. At or near sea level the
average low temperature seldom dips below freezing (remember, that's
average. It does freeze occasionally in winter).
Summer can be extremely hot! In
head for the beach and stay there. Autumn is a wonderful time to visit Italy,
when porcini and truffles are in season. It can be quite cool at night
with rain in comparison to summer.
Eating Out in Italy
In the summer, hotels serve lunch
from around 12.30 with last orders around 14.00. Lunch (pranzo) is
often the main meal. Stores close between 12.30 and 16.00 and many
shopkeepers and shoppers alike flood to local restaurants. Dinner (cena)
is usually served from 19.30 onwards.
A small trattoria may not have a wine
list but will always have a house wine (vino della casa). Water is
safe to drink but Italians prefer mineral water (acqua minerale).
Generally a service charge is included in the bill.
There is often a small charge for coperto (table cloth,
napkins etc). It is customary to
leave small change for a tip or up to five percent of the total
bill if the service is good (some say 10 percent in a more
sophisticated ristorante where the service is impeccable).
When ordering a coffee at a bar it is customary to
leave a small coin for the person who makes and serves your coffee.
Most Italians enjoy a cappuccino
or espresso while standing at the bar. Breakfast is a social time
for most Italians. A croissant or brioche is the usual
accompaniement. You should expect to pay around €1.50 - €2.00 in
Be aware that it's more expensive
to sit down to enjoy your drink or snack. Sometimes it's acceptable
to pay after you have ordered but often you pay at a kiosk before
hand. From around 19.00 you will find bowls of savoury snacks and
olives to accompany an aperitvo (before dinner drink). If you prefer
not to drink alcohol you can order a red or white bitter or a crodino
(my personal favourite) which is made from extracts of vegetables
and orange in colour.
I've seen how frustrated and
critical many American and English people become in restaurants when
their Italian dish appears to be different from how it is in Italian
restaurants back home... This is because you are in Italy! So when
Pizza and salad is an Anglo-Saxon
invention and only offered here in some places to please tourists.
Portions of meat may seem less generous than in America and England
for example but this is because Italians usually eat meat as a
second course (secondo piatto) Vegetables and salad are
served separately as contorni because they are marinaded
differently from the sauce in which the meat is cooked.
Ice-cream (gelato) is
usually bought from a (gelateria) and eaten while walking up
and down with friends 'seeing and being seen'.
Italians usually finish a meal
with coffee (without milk) which helps to digest a meal. Digestives
such as the delicious and popular limoncello (40% lemon
liqueur) are served after coffee.
This brings us neatly to the
subject of the evening promenade which is fundamental to Italian
culture. This is an opportunity for Italians to show off and to get
a butchers at the way others dress (including us poor tourists!).
The passeggiata usually takes place during late afternoon, before
and after dinner in the main street (corso) and it doesn't
matter how many times Italians walk and down looking in shop windows
or at each other... they just love it!
Currency in Italy
The currency in Italy is the Euro, pronounced Ae-OO-roh. At the time the Euro was adopted, its value was set at
1936.27 Italian Lire.