INTRODUCTION Italy is a magnificent and varied country filled with Culture and history at every turn. With links as old as memory, there are monuments and art around every corner. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was the rest of Italy and it shows with evidence of constant improvement. Visit the Eternal City, Rome, named for its links to ancient times. Italy is equally famous for its cuisine, its fashions in Milan, the luxury cars, and its beautiful coasts, lakes and mountains. Fall in love with the atmosphere of Italy as you bask in its history, culture and the warmth of its people.
OFFICIAL LANGUAGE The official language spoken is Italian, as well as many different dialects from region to region. English is also spoken in most tourist areas, especially by younger educated Italians.
CURRENCY The currency of Italy is the Euro, which has been in circulation since 2002 and most major credit cards are accepted throughout.
VISAS Canadians can travel into Italy without a visa for a period of up to 90 days, provided they have a passport with at least 6 months validity.
TIME ZONE Italy is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. Italy also has daylight saving adjusted at the same time as the rest of Europe.
POPULATION The population of Italy is estimated to be just over 58 million in 2009.
CLIMATE The climate of Italy is very diverse, depending on distance and between temperate northern Italy and the much warmer south. Mountainous regions are far cooler than Italy’s typical Mediterranean climate. The southern regions characteristically experience the Mediterranean environment with mild winters and warm dry summers. Meanwhile the inland areas, which range from mountains to valleys can experience cold, wet, foggy and snowy winters and the summers which can get quite hot. The average temperature during summer is 24°C but can reach up to 34°C in some coastal parts.
ELECTRICITY The electricity in Italy is 220V and the plugs with two prongs, therefore an adapter will be needed.
FOOD Italian cuisine in Italy is different to Italian food enjoyed elsewhere in the world. For example, pasta dishes contain a lot less sauce, and pizza is thin and healthy. The food also varies between regions as southern regions focus on pasta and olive oil, whereas the northern regions focus more on rice and butter. Meal times are also different; breakfast is usually small with only a coffee and pastry, whereas lunch is seen as the most important meal of the day. All shops close over lunch as this as well as dinner is seen as a huge social time, with dinner being later, normally after 9pm. Italian specialties include Risotto, which is a rice dish usually combines with meat, poultry, seafood, vegetables and or cheeses. Other specialties include Arancini (balls of rice in sauce deep fried), Polenta (corn meal), Gelato (Italian version of ice cream), Tiramisu and many different types of cheese and sausages. A Diner’s Tip: Travellers should both be aware and budget accordingly. The common practice in many Italian restaurants and bars is to charge more (typically double) for patrons to eat seated, rather than standing at the bar. Traditional meals include: antipasto (starter), primo (first dish - pasta or rice dishes), secondo (second dish - meat or fish dishes), served together with contorno (mostly vegetables), cheeses/fruit and dessert.
GETTING THERE By Air: All European airlines fly there, as well as Air Canada and Air Transat. Aegean airlines fly twice a day from Athens and several other airlines have connections via other European cities. By Sea: There are many ferry services from Greece and Croatia and most arrive in Venice, Ancona, Bari and Brindisi. There are also regular ferry services linking Corsica in France to Genoa, Livorno, Naples and north of Sardinia. By Train: There are many rail services linking Italy with France, Austria, Geneva and other Swiss cities, Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia and Spain.
GETTING AROUND Train travel is very popular in Italy especially for those who wish to visit main art cities as train stations are located centrally in town and service is very regular and of high quality. Hiring a car is one way to get around Italy, especially if you wish to get off the beaten track. There are many road networks, though there are many tolls, so this needs to be taken into consideration. Bus travel is the least expensive mode of travel though it can be tiring and trips can be lengthy. Buses have the advantage of linking small villages which don’t have train services. Air travel within Italy can be relatively expensive although it is an option to travel around the country. Alitalia is Italy’s own airline and services Milan, Rome, Bologna, Naples, Pisa, Venice and Turin.
ACCOMMODATION Accommodation varies in Italy, from the luxurious hotels to budget hostels. Depending on your wants, needs and likes, there is a type of accommodation for you. There are many different types of accommodation from world-class luxury hotels to small family owned Bed & Breakfasts. Booking is essential as many properties are booked months in advance especially in places like Venice or Amalfi coast.
NATIONAL HOLIDAYS 2010 1 Jan – New Year’s Day 6 Jan – Epiphany 5 Apr – Easter Monday 25 Apr – Liberation Day 1 May – Labour Day 2 Jun – Republic Day 15 Aug – Assumption Day 1 Nov – All Saints’ Day 8 Dec – Immaculate Conception 25 Dec – Christmas Day 26 Dec – St Stephen’s Day 31 Dec – New Years Eve In addition each city celebrates a public holiday on its “Saint Day”.
SHOPPING Opening hours vary between regions, however generally shops are open from 9am to 12:30/1pm and from 3:30/4pm to 7:30pm Mondays through to Saturdays. Most shops are also closed one morning a week, mostly being a Monday morning. However department stores and shops in tourist areas may stay open all day until late at night. Italy is home to some of the most famous designers, and many of their boutiques are located in main cities such as Rome and Milan. Some of the most common products for which Italy is most famous for are lace, locally made pottery, glass blowing, especially in Venice, paintings and other locally made handicrafts. Also watch out for VAT (Value Added Tax), in some shop windows, look for signs advocating the tax-free scheme for tourists. This enables you to claim back the tax that was charged on some items.
TIPPING Tipping is not expected if a service charge is added to the bill, however if there is no service charge, a tip of 10% is recommended, but it is not obligatory. In bars, Italians generally leave their small change as a tip. Tipping taxi drivers is not common, however a tip of hotel porters, particularly in higher class hotels is expected. THINGS TO DO Rome: Walk the streets and try one of the renowned Gelato’s, see the famous Colosseum, home to the spectacles and gruesome early Roman Gladiator fights to the death, The Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon are leading attractions. Appreciate the romance of the Spanish steps. Visit the many sites around the city, exploring the temples, residences, basilicas, churches, palazzi, piazzi, parks, museums and fountains. Explore Vatican City, an independent Papal nation in the heart of Rome and the location of St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, both products of the artistic genius of Michelangelo. Milan: Most commonly known as the fashion capital of Italy along with Paris. Milan is also the most important commercial and manufacturing city in Italy. Do not forget the La Scala Theatre the capital of world opera and La Duomo Cathedral. Turin: The foot of the Alps, this region was the venue for the 2006 winter Olympic games, Turin, or Torino, houses many museums, and historical cafes, which are always worth a visit. Venice: Mostly famous for its romanticized image of Romeo and Juliet (in nearby Verona) and of the Gondola rides. Glide on the canal in a Gondola, or sip coffees on Piazza San Marco, visit St Marks’s Square and St Mark’s Basilica, The Doge’s Palace, Rialto Bridge, Grand Canal and the Bridge of Sighs. Florence: Known as the artistic capital of the world, the centre of the renaissance development and birthplace to Machiavelli, Michelangelo and the Medici dynasty. Visit the Piazza del Duomo, Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Giotto’s Bell Tower, Uffizi and finally, don’t forget to visit the Academy of Fine Arts, home to Michelangelo’s David. Perhaps also take a day trip to Pisa, residence to the renowned Leaning Tower. Naples: Visit the Royal Palace, Maschio Angioino, Mergellina, Castel dell’Ovo Plebiscito Square. Visit the nearby Amalfi Coast, untouched by modern architecture and home to many small fishing villages. Take a tour Mount Vesuvius, and the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, destroyed in 79AD by an eruption.
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