What would it be like to wake in the heart of the Roman Empire, lunch in a sumptuous 16th-century Renaissance villa, and go to bed in the capital of 21st-century designer chic? Visit Italy, taking in Rome Florence and Milan, and experience is yours. But that’s not all. Italy combines are history and contemporary fashion with stunning natural landscapes: the turquoise waters of the Costa Smeralda offer one of Europe’s most beautiful stretches of sand, sea and sunshine, while the snow-covered slopes of the Dolomite mountains are a haven for winter sports enthusiasts. Beside the renowned cities of Venice, Genoa and Naples (each with its own unique identity – Italy was only unified in 1870), there are romantic Medieval hill towns, such as San Gimignano in Tuscany, and unspoiled fishing villages, like the unforgettable Positano on the Amalfi coast. Visit vineyards and cellars to taste the very best regional wines; the Veneto, famed for the sparkling white prosecco, and Tuscany, home of the highly acclaimed robust red, Brunello di Montalcino. And to really get away from it all, take a boat to the islands of Sicily or Sardinia to experience rural hospitality in the blissful Mediterranean.
Area: 301,323 sq km (116,341 sq miles)
Geography: The boot-shaped Italian peninsula lies on the Adriatic, Ionian, Ligurian and Tyrrhenian Seas, all of which form part of the Mediterranean Sea, all of which form part of the Mediterranean Sea. To the north, the Alps separate Italy from France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia. The islands of Elba, Sardinia, Ischia, Capri, the Aeolians and Sicily lie offshore. The Apennines extend from the northwest in Genoa until the south in Sicily. The lowland plain of the Po River Valley in the northeast forms the largest lowland area, and is highly industrialized and thus, heavily populated. Po River is the only navigable internal body of water for transporting and trading purposes.
Language: Italian is the official language. English, German and French are also spoken in the biggest cities and resorts by people connected with tourism.
Credit Cards: MasterCard, Diners Club and VISA are all accepted.
Travelers Checks: Accepted almost everywhere.
Banking Hours: These vary from city to city; generally, 8:30am-1:30pm and 3pm-4pm Monday to Friday. 8:30am-1pm Sat. Banks are closed on Saturday morning.
Air: Italy’s national airline is Alitalia (AZ) (www.alitalia.it).
Approximate flight times:
London to Rome is 2 hours 30 minutes
New York to 8 hours
Chicago to Rome is 9 hours 30 minutes
Los Angeles to Rome is 15 hours 35 minutes
Rome (ROM) (Fiumicino) (www.adr.it) is 26km (16 miles) southwest of the city (travel time 30-55 minutes). There is a direct rail link to Termini Station and a bus service every 15 minutes. Taxis are also available to the city.
Rome(ROM)) (Ciampino) is 32km (15 miles) from the city (travel time 60 minutes). Buses are available to the underground station Anagnina. Taxis are also available.
Milan(MIL) (Linate) (www.sea-aeroportimilano.it) is 10km (6 miles) east of the city (travel time 25 minutes). Taxis and buses are available to the city.
Milan (MIL) (Malpensa), 45km (29 miles) northwest of the city (travel time 60 minutes).
Naples (NAP) (Capodichino) (www.gesac.it) 7km (4.5 miles) north of the city (travel time 20-30 minutes.
Florence (FLR) (Amerigo Vespucci) (www.aeroporto.firenze.it) 5km (3 miles) from the city center, travel time 15 minutes. Taxis and buses available to the city.
Social & Business Customs
Pasta plays a substantial part in Italian receipes, but nearly all regions have developed their own special dishes and one will never tire of their excellent variety and quality.
Italy has over 20 major wine regions, from Val 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 of Tuscany, governed by the Chianti Classico quality controls. The Chianti area is the only area in Italy with such quality controls. Denominazione di origine controllata 9DOC) wines come from wines designated Denominazione controllata e garantita (DCG) are wines of fine quality.
Nightclubs, discos, restaurants and bars with floorshows and dancing can be found in most major towns and tourist resorts. Restaurants and cafés throughout Italy will invariably have tables outside. In Rome open-air concerts in summer are organized by the Opera House and the Academy of St. Cecilia, while there is open-air theater at the Baths of Caracalla.
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 centers, but smaller towns also offer good shopping. It is advisable to avoid hawkers or sellers on the beaches.
8:30am-12:30pm and 3:30pm-7:30pm Monday to Saturday. Shops do not close anymore at lunch time, especially in tourist cities. Food shops are often closed Wednesday afternoon. In August, most Italians take their vacations, and as a result, many shops and businesses are closed.
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.
Service charges and state taxes are included in all hotel bills.
A knowledge of Italian is a distinct advantage. Prior appointments are essential. Remember that ministries and most public offices close at 1:45pm and, except by special appointment, it is not possible to see officials in the afternoon. Office hours: Monday to Friday 9am-6pm.
Summer is hot especially in the south. Spring (April-May) and autumn (October-November) are mild with fine, sunny weather. Winter in the south is much drier and warmer than in the northern and central areas. Mountain regions experience chilly winters with heavy snowfalls.