Things to see and do - Italy
Italy Leisure tips
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Practical A to Z
Practical A to Z
- Eating out
- Embassies and consulates
- Public holidays
Lunch is served from 12.30-2.30pm and dinner from 7.30-11pm. Weekly closing days can vary, but most restaurants are open at the weekend.
Where to eat
The service and interior decoration of ristorantes is formal and often elegant. Family-run trattorias or osterie serve local specialities at more moderate prices and in a livelier setting. If you are pressed for time, try the bakeries, panineria or pizzerie al taglio(pizza by the slice), which are generally only open during the day. Treat yourself to an ice cream for dessert.
Tips and Bills
Service is often included in the bill, but it is customary to leave a tip. A cover charge and bread should be in the bill, but some trattorias and many pizzerias still bill them separately (€1-5). Fish prices are often indicated in weight (etto for 100gr).
A traditional meal will start with antipasto (raw and marinated vegetables, cured meats, olives, etc.), followed by a primo piatto such as rice, but more generally pasta and a secondo piatto (meat or fish dish) served with contorno (side salad or vegetables). Cheese and fruit are next, followed by a wide range of desserts: pastries, cakes, ices, etc.
Italian espressos are extremely strong and tiny. If you would prefer a weaker coffee, ask for a caffè lungo and add extra water if necessary.
Bottled mineral water is always brought to the table because Italians do not usually drink tap water (but you can ask for acqua naturale or acqua del rubinetto).
Embassies and consulates
British Embassy –Via XX Settembre 80a, 00187 Rome - t 06 4220 0001 - http://ukinitaly.fco.gov.uk/en
Irish Embassy – Piazza di Campitelli 3, 00186 Rome - t 06 6979 121 - http://www.embassyofireland.it/
The voltage in Italy is 220V, but sockets vary and it is recommended to take an adaptor.
Also see Know before you go.
Universal European emergency number: t 112.
Police: t 113. Medical emergencies: t 118.
Chemists are open Monday-Saturday, 8.30am-12.30pm and 4-8pm. The names and addresses of out-of-hours doctors and chemists are posted outside.
The currency of Italy is the Euro.
Banks / exchange
Banks are open Monday-Friday from 8.30am to 1.30pm and 3 to 4pm; they are closed at the weekend.
Currency can be exchanged in banks, post offices (except traveller’s cheques) and exchange offices. A commission is often charged.
Credit cards and traveller’s cheques
Payment by credit card is developing fast, but remains less widespread than in the UK or Ireland. Credit cards are rarely accepted in small restaurants and family-run trattorias. Euro zone residents should note that bank charges for withdrawals and payments are identical to those in their country of origin.
Two types of payment by card exist in Italy: Bancomat payments, which require a PIN code and are charged a commission of €1.55/payment, and the credit card system which does not charge a commission and only requires a signature. Request a “credit card” payment if you are asked to type in your PIN code.
Budget / cost of living
Those travelling on a small budget should plan on spending around €80-100/day per person for a room in a basic hotel and meals in pizzerias or trattorias. Add 30% for large cities, such as Rome.
Those on medium budgets can expect to spend around €150/day per person for a room in a charming hotel and restaurant meals.
If you have more to spend, a night in an upmarket hotel and a meal in a gastronomic restaurant will cost around €250/day per person. This is not however a “luxury” budget, because hotels in this category, particularly in the cultural cities, can be exorbitant.
Most museums are closed on Mondays. Many ticket offices close between 30min and 1hr before the museum’s closing time. Churches are generally closed between noon and 4pm. The large basilicas are open from 7am to 6pm. Visitors are advised not to wear shorts (sometimes forbidden), short skirts or low-cut, sleeveless t-shirts. Religious institutions are closed during services.
Archaeological sites close around 1hr before sunset.
Post offices are open from 8.30am-2pm (noon on Saturdays). In large towns, some branches stay open until 6pm (2pm on Saturdays). Postage rates within the Europe zone are €0.65 for a letter (up to 20gr) or postcard.
6 January – Epiphany
25 April – Anniversary of the 1945 Liberation
2 June – Proclamation of the Republic
15 August – Assumption Day
12 October – National Holiday
1 November – All Saints Day
8 December – Immaculate Conception
25 and 26 December
Each Italian town also celebrates its own patron saint’s day.
Shops stay open at lunchtime in some of Italy’s main cities; otherwise they are open Monday-Saturday from 9am to 12noon and 3.30-7.30pm.
Italian clothing sizes are larger than standard European sizes (European 40 = Italian 44 = UK 14 = US 10), but Italian shoe sizes are smaller (European 39 = Italian 38 = UK 5.5 = US 7).
Although tolerated for many years, the Italian government is now clamping down on counterfeiting. As a result, possession of counterfeit goods, even a few DVDs, will make you liable for penal sanctions and very heavy fines.
Calling Italy from abroad
00 + 39 (country code for Italy) + area code with the 0 (without the 0 for mobile phone numbers, which begin with a 3) + number of the person.
Calling home from Italy
00 + country code. For the United Kingdom: 44; for Ireland: 353.
Always dial the area code including the 0.
The number of digits varies.
In public phone booths, pre-paid telephone cards (scheda telefonica) (1, €2.50, €5, €7.50 and €10) can be purchased from Telecom Italia agencies and tobacconists. Don’t forget to tear off the corner to validate the card.