Cheap Holiday in Italy (Italy Travel Guide)

Some Advice for your vacation in Italy.

Italy dips down out of Europe and into the Mediterranean like a women’s leg firmly planted in a sleek stiletto, so it’s hardly surprising that Italians are known for their impeccable style and fashionable dress sense. They’re also known for once having an empire that stretched across the globe, and for having the most spectacular churches, frescos, sculptures and Renaissance paintings in all of Europe.

The Italy of today is littered with the relics of more than 3,000 years of history, and an atmosphere that ranges from the Armani-wearing-scooter-driving-espresso-drinking buzz of its cities to the quiet, pastoral existence of its hillside olive farms and seaside fishing villages.

From the depths of the canals in Venice, which floats on a series of islands in an Adriatic lagoon, and the bleached sands of San Remo on the Riviera, to the rocky crags of the Alps, Dolomites and Apennines, Italy has everything from beach holidays to luxury mountain ski resorts.

Italy’s cities reveal awe-inspiring architecture from the curved arches of the Ponte Vecchio in Florence to the crumbling magnificence of the Colosseum in Rome. Home of da Vinci, Michelangelo, Carvaggio and Botticelli, its artworks are a visual delight to all visitors.

Nestled into the outskirts of Rome is the independent Vatican City, the seat of the Pope and home to the famous St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. The influence of the Holy Catholic Church on the people of Italy is still evident today in a series of holy festivals, carnivals, and parades involving young and old alike in almost every city, town and village.

Climate
Italy has a largely temperate climate with regional variations. In summer the Northern parts of Italy are warm with occasional rainfall, the central region is somewhat stifled by humidity and the south scorches under the dry heat. In winter, conditions in Milan, Turin and Venice are dominated by cold, damp and fog and Tuscany’s winter temperatures approach freezing, while temperatures in the south of the country are more favourable averaging 50-60ºF (10-20ºC). Most people visit Italy between June and August, however the best time to visit is in Spring (April-May) and Autumn (September-October) when the weather is good and the tourists are few. The sea is warm enough for swimming between June and September. Most Italians take their vacation in August and many shops and restaurants are closed during this period. The ski season runs between December and April and the best time to walk in the Alps is between June and September.

Language
Italian. English is understood in the larger cities but not in the more remote parts of the country.

Money
The Euro (€) is the official currency, which is divided into 100 cents. Those arriving in Italy with foreign currency can obtain Euros through any bank, ATM or bureaux de change. ATMs are widespread. Travellers cheques can be exchanged with ease in the large cities, not so in the smaller towns. Credit cards are accepted in upmarket establishments and shops around the cities. Banks are closed on weekends.


Time
Local time is GMT +1 (GMT +2 between the last Sunday in March and the Saturday before the last Sunday in September).

Communications
The international access code for Italy is +39. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). All numbers must be preceded by 0, whether originating in Italy or out, unless calling a mobile phone. There can be high surcharges on calls made from hotels and it is generally cheaper to use a calling card. Public telephone boxes take phone cards for local and international calls, which can be bought from newsagents. The local mobile phone operators use GSM networks and have roaming agreements with most international operators. Internet cafes are available in the main towns and resorts.

Tipping
Tipping is customary in Italy and 10% of the bill is acceptable in restaurants (unless a service charge has already been included). Hotels add a service charge of 15-18%, but it is customary to tip the service staff extra. Italians rarely tip taxi drivers, but 5-10% is usual. Most other services expect some small change.

Safety
The Italian Government has warned that the risk of an international terrorist attack in the country has increased, and tourists should be vigilant in public places and tourist sites. Domestic terrorism continues, but targets are usually Italian authorities, however there is a possibility of being caught up in attacks. Tourists are vulnerable to pick-pocketing and muggings in the bigger cities, particularly on public transport, in crowded areas and around tourist sites, and should exercise caution when carrying large amounts of cash and valuables. Strikes by transport workers are taking place throughout Italy and delays are possible.

Health
There are no specific health risks associated with travel to Italy. EU citizens can make use of Italy’s health services provided they have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

Electricity
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. A variety of plugs are in use including the European-style two-pin plug.

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