PLANNING YOUR TRIP - Frommer's EasyGuide to Rome, Florence and Venice 2017 - Stephen Keeling, Melanie Renzulli, Donald Strachan

Frommer's EasyGuide to Rome, Florence and Venice 2017 - Stephen Keeling, Melanie Renzulli, Donald Strachan (2016)


By Donald Strachan

This chapter provides a variety of planning tools, including information on how to get there, how to get around, and the inside track on local resources. If you do your homework on special events, pick the right place for the right season, and pack for the climate, preparing for a trip to Italy should be pleasant and uncomplicated. See also “When to Go,” p. 37.


By Plane

If you’re flying across an ocean, you’ll most likely land at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport (FCO;, 40km (25 miles) from the center. Rome’s much smaller Ciampino Airport (CIA; serves low-cost airlines connecting to European cities and other destinations in Italy. For information on getting to central Rome from its airports, see p. 40.

Carriers within Europe fly direct to several smaller Italian cities. Among the most convenient are Venice’s Marco Polo Airport (VCE;, Bologna’s Marconi Airport (BLQ;, and Pisa’s Galileo Galilei Airport (PSA;

For information on getting into central Venice from the airport, see p. 222. For reaching Florence from Pisa Airport, see p. 146. Florence is also connected with Bologna Airport, by the Appennino Shuttle (; Black-Phone_bphone 055/585-271). The direct bus runs 10 times each day and the journey takes between 80 and 90 minutes. Tickets cost 25€, 10€ ages 5 to 10, free ages 4 and under; book online ahead of time for a 5€ per adult, 2€ per child discount. Buses arrive at and depart from Piazzale Montelungo, close to Florence’s Santa Maria Novella rail station.

KEY ITALY BOOKMARKS Official English-language tourism portal for visiting Italy Cultural travel, exhibitions, and openings, especially in Florence Updated page with the latest transport strikes Find the cheapest fuel close to your lodgings (they also have free a mobile app) Frommer’s expert advice on the country

By Train

Italy’s major cities are well connected to Europe’s rail hubs. You can arrive in Milan on direct trains from France—including Nice, Paris, and Lyon—by TGV; on night trains from Munich, Germany, and Vienna, Austria; or intercity services from Zurich, Switzerland; and connect to Venice or Rome (see “Getting Around,” below). Direct trains from central Europe also arrive at Verona and Venice.

Thello ( also operates an overnight service connecting Paris with Venice. After crossing the Alps in the dead of night, the train calls at Milan, Brescia, Verona, Vicenza, and Padua before arriving in Venice around 9:30am. For Florence, Rome, and points south, alight at Milan (around 6am) and switch to Italy’s national high-speed rail lines; see p. 300. Accommodation on the Thello train is in sleeping cars, as well as in six- and four-berth couchettes. Prices range from 35€ per person for the cheapest fare in a 6-berth couchette to a maximum of 290€ for sole occupancy of a sleeping car. It’s worth paying the extra for private accommodations if you can.

You can book in advance online with Loco2 (, or with an agent such as Rail Europe (; Black-Phone_bphone 800/622-8600) or International Rail (; Black-Phone_bphone +44-871/231-0790).


By Car

Much of Italy is accessible by public transportation, but to explore vineyards, countryside, and smaller towns, a car is essential. You’ll get the best rental rate if you book your car far ahead of arrival. Try such websites as,,, and to compare prices across multiple rental companies and agents. Car-rental search companies usually report the lowest rates available between 6 and 8 weeks ahead of arrival. Rent the smallest car possible and request a diesel rather than petrol engine to minimize fuel costs. You must be 25 or older to rent from many agencies (although some accept ages 21 and up, at a premium price).

The legalities and contractual obligations of renting a car in Italy (where accident rates are high) are more complicated than those in almost any other country in Europe. You also must have nerves of steel, a sense of humor, and a valid driver’s license or International Driver’s Permit. Insurance on all vehicles is compulsory. Note: If you’re planning to rent a car in Italy during high season, you should book well in advance. It’s not unheard of to arrive at Rome airport in June or July to find that every agent is all out of cars, perhaps for the whole week.

It can sometimes be tricky to get to the autostrada (fast highway) from the city center or airport, so consider renting or bringing a GPS-enabled device or installing an offline satellite-navigation app on your smartphone. In bigger cities you will first have to get to the tangenziale, or “beltway,” which will eventually lead to your highway of choice. The beltway in Rome is known as the Grande Raccordo Anulare, or “Big Ring Road.”

The going can be slow almost anywhere, especially on Friday afternoons leaving the cities and Sunday nights on the way back into town, and rush hour around the cities any day of the week can be epic. See for live traffic updates and a road-toll calculator. Autostrada tolls can get expensive, costing about 1€ for every 14km (81⁄2 miles), which means that it would cost about 18€ for a trip from Rome to Florence. Although fuel prices fell significantly in 2015-16, gas still averaged around 1.40€ per liter at time of writing. (Diesel is usually around .20€ cheaper.) Add in the price of car rental, and it’s often cheaper to take the train, even for two people.

Before leaving home, you can apply for an International Driving Permit from the American Automobile Association (AAA;; Black-Phone_bphone 800/622-7070 or 650/294-7400). In Canada, the permit’s available from the Canadian Automobile Association (; Black-Phone_bphone 416/221-4300). Technically, you need this permit and your actual driver’s license to drive in Italy, though in practice your license itself often suffices. Visitors from within the EU need only take their domestic driver’s license.

Italy’s equivalent of AAA is the Automobile Club d’Italia (ACI; They’re the people who respond when you place an emergency call to Black-Phone_bphone 803-116 for road breakdowns, though they charge for this service if you’re not a member.

DRIVING RULES Italian drivers aren’t maniacs; they only appear to be. Spend any time on a highway and you will have the experience of somebody driving up insanely close from behind while flashing their headlights. Take a deep breath and don’t panic: This is the aggressive signal for you to move to the right so he (invariably, it’s a he) can pass, and until you do he will stay mind-bogglingly close. On a two-lane road, the idiot passing someone in the opposing traffic who has swerved into your lane expects you to veer obligingly over toward the shoulder so three lanes of traffic can fit—he would do the same for you. Probably. Many Italians seem to think that blinkers are optional, so be aware that the car in front could be getting ready to turn at any moment. It is compulsory to keep your headlights illuminated—set to dip—even during the day.

Autostrade are toll highways, denoted by green signs and a number prefaced with an A, like the A1 from Milan to Florence, Rome, and Naples. A few fast highways aren’t numbered and are simply called a raccordo, a connecting road between two cities (such as Florence-Siena and Florence-Pisa).

Strade statali (singular is strada statale) are state roads, sometimes without a center divider and two lanes wide (although sometimes they can be a divided four-way highway), indicated by blue signs. Their route numbers are prefaced with an SS, as in the SS11 from Milan to Venice. On signs, however, these official route numbers are used infrequently. Usually, you’ll just see blue signs listing destinations by name with arrows pointing off in the appropriate directions. It’s impossible to predict which of all the towns that lie along a road will be the ones chosen to list on a particular sign. Sometimes the sign gives only the first minuscule village that lies past the turnoff. At other times it lists the first major town down that road. Some signs mention only the major city the road eventually leads to, even if it’s hundreds of kilometers away. It pays to study the map before coming to an intersection, carry a GPS device, or download an offline GPS app for your smartphone. Because they bisect countless towns, the strade statali can be frustratingly slow: When feasible, pay and take the autostrada.

The speed limit on roads in built-up areas around towns and cities is 50 kmph (31 mph). On two-lane roads it’s 90 kmph (56 mph) and on the highway its 130 kmph (81 mph). Italians have an astounding disregard for these limits. However, police can ticket you and collect a fine on the spot. The blood-alcohol limit in Italy is 0.05%, often achieved with just two drinks; driving above the limit can result in a fine, driving ban, or imprisonment. The blood-alcohol limit is set at zero for anyone who has held a driver’s license for under 3 years. Safety belts are obligatory in both the front and the back seats; ditto child seats or special restraints for minors under 1.5 meters (5 ft.) in height—though this latter regulation is often ignored. Drivers may not use a cellphone while driving, but this is yet another law that locals seem to treat as optional.

PARKING On streets, white lines indicate free public spaces, blue lines are pay spaces, and yellow lines mean only residents are allowed to park. Meters don’t line the sidewalk; rather, there’s a machine on the block where you punch in how long you want to park. The machine spits out a ticket for placing on your dashboard. If you park in an area marked parcheggio disco orario, root around in your rental car’s glove compartment for a cardboard parking disc (or buy one at a gas station). With this device, you dial up the hour of your arrival and display it on your dashboard. You’re allowed un’ora (1 hr.) or due ore (2 hr.), or whatever the sign advises. If you do not have a disk, write your arrival time clearly on a sheet of paper and leave it on the dash.

Parking lots have ticket dispensers, but exit booths are not usually manned. When you return to the lot to depart, first visit the office or automated payment machine to exchange your ticket for a paid receipt. You then use this to get through the exit gate.

ROAD SIGNS Here’s a brief rundown of the road signs you’ll most frequently encounter. A speed limit sign is a black number inside a red circle on a white background. The end of a speed zone is just black and white, with a black slash through the number. A red circle with a white background, a black arrow pointing down, and a red arrow pointing up means yield to oncoming traffic, while a point-down, red-and-white triangle means yield ahead.

Many city centers are closed to traffic, and a simple white circle with a red border, or the words zona pedonale or zona traffico limitato, denotes a pedestrian zone (you can often prearrange to drop off baggage at your hotel); a white arrow on a blue background is used for Italy’s many one-way streets; a mostly red circle with a horizontal white slash means do not enter. Any image in black on a white background surrounded by a red circle means that image is not allowed (for instance, if the image is two cars next to each other, it means no passing; and so on). A circular sign in blue with a red circle-slash means no parking.

Gasoline (gas or petrol), benzina, can be found in pull-in gas stations along major roads and on the outskirts of towns, as well as in 24-hour stations along the autostrada. Almost all are closed for the riposo and on Sundays (except on the autostrada), but most have an automatic machine that accepts cash. Unleaded gas is senza piombo. Diesel is gasolio (or just diesel).

By Train

Travel Times Between the Major Cities





Florence to Venice

261km/162 miles

2 hr.

3 hr.

Rome to Florence

277km/172 miles

11⁄2 hr.

3 hr.

Rome to Naples

219km/136 miles

1 hr., 10 min.

21⁄2 hr.

Rome to Venice

528km/327 miles

3hr., 20 min.

51⁄4 hr.

Italy, especially the northern half, has one of the best train systems in Europe with most destinations connected. Consequently, the train is an excellent option if you’re looking to visit the major sites without the hassle of driving. The vast majority of lines are run by the state-owned Ferrovie dello Stato, or FS (; Black-Phone_bphone 89-20-21). A private operator, Italo (; Black-Phone_bphone 06-07-08 or 89-20-20) operates on the Milan-Florence-Rome-Naples high-speed line and a branch from Bologna to Padua and Venice.

Travel durations and the price of tickets vary considerably depending on what type of train you choose. The country’s principal north-south, high-speed line links Turin and Milan to Bologna, Florence, Rome, Naples, and Salerno. Milan to Rome, for example, takes under 3 hours on the fast train, and costs 89€—though you can find tickets as low as 25€ if you buy ahead and travel in off-peak hours. Rome to Naples takes 70 minutes and costs 44€ (walk-up fare) on the fast train, or you can spend 12€ for a trip on a slower train that takes just over twice as long. If you want to bag the cheapest fares on high-speed trains, try to book around 100 to 120 days before your travel dates. The Italo newsletter (and homepage) also regularly advertises limited-time promo code discounts of up to 50% off its advanced fares—making them crazy cheap.

TYPES OF TRAINS The speed, cleanliness, and overall quality of Italian trains vary. High-speed trains usually have four classes: Standard, Premium, Business, and Executive on the state railway; Smart, eXtra Large, First, and Club Executive on Italo. The cheapest of these, on both operators, is perfectly comfortable, even on long legs of a journey (though Business on the state railway is well worth paying a little extra for). These are Italy’s premium rail services. The Frecciarossa, as well as Italo’s rival train, is the fastest of the fast (Italy’s bullet train). These trains operate on the Milan-Florence-Rome-Naples line, and normally run up to 300 kmph (186 mph). Frecciarossa services also connect Milan with Venice (with halts in Verona and Vicenza). The Frecciargento uses similar hardware, but is a bit slower; it links Naples, Rome, Florence, Verona, and Venice at speeds of up to 250 kmph (155 mph). Speed and cleanliness come at a price, with tickets for the high-speed trains usually around three times the cheapest “regional” train. On high-speed services you must make a seat reservation when you buy a ticket. If you are traveling with a rail pass (see p. 301), you must pay a 10€ reservation fee to ride. Passes are not accepted, for now, on Italo.

Intercity (IC) trains are one step down, in both speed and comfort; specific seat reservations are also compulsory on IC services. The slower Regionale (R) and Regionale Veloce (RV) make many stops and tend to be on the grimy side of things, but they are also cheap: A Venice-Verona second-class ticket will put you back only 9€ compared with 24€ on the high-speed service. There’s no need to book R or RV trains ahead of time, and no price advantage in doing so.

Old Regionale trains are slowly being replaced, and comfort is improving. However, overcrowding is often a problem on standard services (that is, not the prebookable trains) Friday evenings, weekends, and holidays, especially in and out of big cities, or just after a strike. In summer, the crowding escalates, and any train going toward a beach in August bulges like an overstuffed sausage.

TRAIN TRAVEL TIPS If you don’t have a ticket with a reservation for a particular seat on a specific train, then you must validate your ticket by stamping it in the little yellow box on the platform before boarding the train. If you board a train without a ticket, or without having validated your ticket, you’ll have to pay a hefty fine on top of the ticket or supplement, which the conductor will sell you. If you board a train without a ticket or realize once onboard that you have the wrong type of ticket, your best bet is to search out the conductor, who is likely to be more forgiving because you found her and made it clear you weren’t trying to ride for free.

Schedules for all trains leaving a given station are printed on yellow posters tacked up on the station wall (the equivalent white poster lists arrivals). These are good for getting general information, but keep your eye on the electronic boards and screens that are updated with delays and track (binario) changes. You can get official schedules (also in English) and buy tickets at and, or at an online agent like

In big cities and tourist destinations, ticketing lines can be dreadfully long. Don’t be scared of the automatic ticket machines. They are easy to navigate, offer instructions in English, accept cash and credit cards, and can spare the stress that comes with waiting on a slow line. Note: You can’t buy international tickets at automatic machines. Rail apps for state and Italo services offer paperless ticketing for high-speed trains. You can also just show a copy (paper or electronic) of your booking confirmation email, which has a unique PNR code.

SPECIAL PASSES & DISCOUNTS To buy the Eurail Italy Pass, available only outside Europe and priced in U.S. dollars, contact Rail Europe ( You have a month in which to use the train a set number of days; the base number of days is 3, and you can add up to 7 more. For adults, the first-class pass costs $228, second class is $184. Additional days cost roughly $40 to $45 more for first class, $35 for second class. For youth tickets (25 and under), a 3-day second-class pass is $150 and additional days about $30 each. Buying your pass early in the year is often rewarded with an extra day’s travel at no additional cost (such as, pay for 3 days, get 4). Saver passes are available for groups of two to five people traveling together at all times, and amount to a savings of about 15% on individual tickets. There are also Italy-Greece, Italy-Spain, and Italy-France rail pass combinations.

Note: Booking rail travel online ahead of arrival will usually beat a pass on price, especially if you factor in the costs (and hassle) of making compulsory seat reservations on every high-speed train. However, the cheapest online fares are non-refundable: You gain some flexibility with a pass.

When it comes to regular tickets, if you’re 25 and under, you can buy a 40€ Carta Verde (Green Card) at any Italian train station that gets you a 10% discount on walk-up fares for domestic trips and 25% on international connections for 1 year. Present it each time you buy a ticket. A similar deal is available for anyone 61 and over with the Carta d’Argento (Silver Card): 15% off domestic walk-ups and 25% off international, for 30€ (the Carta d’Argento is free for those 76 and over). Children 11 and under always ride half-price and kids 3 and under don’t pay, although they also do not have the right to their own seat. On state railways, there are sometimes free tickets for children 14 and under traveling with a paying adult; ask about “Bimbi gratis” when buying your ticket (this option will also appear automatically when it’s available on the automatic ticket machines). The Italo Famiglia fare, available at the station and online, includes free travel for kids 15 and under accompanying an adult (in Smart class only, Monday through Saturday).

By Bus

Although trains are quicker and easier, you can get just about anywhere on a network of local, provincial, and regional bus lines. In a big city, the bus station for trips between cities is usually near the main train station. A small town’s bus stop is usually either in the main square, on the edge of town, or the bend in the road just outside the main town gate. You should always try to find the local ticket vendor—if there’s no office, it’s invariably the nearest newsstand or tabacchi (signaled by a sign with a white T), or occasionally a bar—but you can usually also buy tickets on the bus. You can sometimes flag down a bus as it passes on a country road, but try to find an official stop (a sign tacked onto a telephone pole).

For details on urban bus transportation, see individual chapters on Rome, Florence, and Venice. Perhaps the only long-distance buses you will want to take while you are in Italy are the efficient Florence-Siena service and slightly more awkward Florence-San Gimignano run. See “Siena,” p. 211, and “San Gimignano,” p. 217. However, if you are traveling on a tight budget, check FlixBus (; Black-Phone_bphone 02/947-59208) and Baltour (; Black-Phone_bphone 0861/199-1900) intercity fares, which often significantly undercut train prices. A long-distance bus is un pullman.

fast_fact ITALY

Area Codes The country code for Italy is 39. City codes (for example, Florence is 055, Venice is 041, Rome is 06) are incorporated into the numbers themselves. Therefore, you must dial the entire number, including the initial zero, when calling from anywhere outside or inside Italy and even within the same town. To call Florence from the United States, you dial 011-39-055, then the local phone number. Phone numbers in Italy can range anywhere from 6 to 12 digits.

ATMs The easiest and best way to get cash away from home is from an ATM (automated teller machine), referred to in Italy as a bancomat. ATMs are very prevalent in Italian cities, and while every town usually has one, it’s good practice to fuel up on cash in urban centers before traveling to small towns.

Be sure to confirm with your bank that your card is valid for international withdrawal and that you have a four-digit PIN. (Some ATMs in Italy will not accept any other number of digits.) Also, be sure you know your daily withdrawal limit before you depart. Note: Many banks impose a fee when you use a card at another bank’s ATM, and that fee can be higher for international transactions (up to $5 or more) than for domestic ones. In addition, the bank from which you withdraw cash may charge its own fee, although this is not common practice.

If at the ATM you get a message saying your card isn’t valid for international transactions, don’t panic: It’s most likely the bank just can’t make the electronic connection (occasionally this can be a citywide epidemic). Try another ATM or another town.

Business Hours General open hours for stores, offices, and churches are from 9:30am to noon or 1pm and again from 3 or 3:30pm to 7:30 or 8pm. The early afternoon shutdown is the riposo, the Italian siesta (in the downtown area of large cities, stores don’t close for riposo). Most stores close all day Sunday and many also on Monday (morning only or all day). Some services and business offices are open to the public only in the morning. Traditionally, state museums are closed Mondays. Most of the large museums stay open all day otherwise, though some close for riposo or are only open in the morning (9am-2pm is popular). Some churches open earlier in the morning, and the largest often stay open all day. Banks tend to be open Monday through Friday 8:30am to 1:30pm and 2:45 to 4:15pm.

Customs Foreign visitors can bring along most items for personal use duty-free, including goods up to 450€.

Disabled Travelers Most of the top museums and churches have installed ramps at their entrances, and some hotels have converted first-floor rooms into accessible units. Other than that, expect to find some of the most charming parts of Italy a little tricky to tackle. Builders in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance didn’t have wheelchairs or mobility impairments in mind when they built narrow doorways and spiral staircases, and heritage preservation laws keep Italians from being able to do much about this.

Public transportation is improving, however. There is generally access for passengers in wheelchairs on modern local buses and new hardware like Florence’s tram. There are usually dedicated seats or areas for those with disabilities, and Italians are quick to give up their place for somebody who looks like they need it. Trenitalia has a special number that disabled travelers should call for assistance on the rail network: Black-Phone_bphone 199/303-060. Italo has a couple of dedicated wheelchair spaces on every service: Call Black-Phone_bphone 06/07-08.

Accessible Italy (; Black-Phone_bphone 378-0549-941-111) provides travelers with information about accessible tourist sites and places to rent wheelchairs, and also sells organized “Accessible Tours” around Italy. Accomable ( is an Airbnb-like agency connecting travelers with accessible properties for rent.

Doctors & Hospitals See individual chapters for details of walk-in medical services in Rome, Florence, and Venice.

Drinking Laws People of any age can legally consume alcohol in Italy, but a person must be 16 years old in order to be served alcohol in a restaurant or a bar. Noise is the primary concern to city officials, and so bars generally close around 2am, though alcohol is commonly served in clubs after that. Supermarkets carry beer, wine, and liquor.

Electricity Italy operates on a 220-volt AC (50 cycles) system, as opposed to the U.S. 110-volt AC (60 cycles) system. You’ll need a simple adapter plug to make the American flat pegs fit Italian round holes and, unless your appliance is dual-voltage (as some hair dryers, travel irons, and almost all gadgets are), an electrical converter.

Embassies & Consulates The Australian Embassy is in Rome at Via Antonio Bosio 5 (; Black-Phone_bphone 06-852-721). The Canadian Embassy is in Rome at Via Zara 30 (; Black-Phone_bphone 06-854-443-937). The New Zealand Embassy is in Rome at Via Clitunno 44 (; Black-Phone_bphone 06-853-7501). The U.K. Embassy is in Rome at Via XX Settembre 80a (; Black-Phone_bphone 06-4220-0001). The U.S. Embassy is in Rome at Via Vittorio Veneto 121 (; Black-Phone_bphone 06-46-741). The U.S. Consulate General in Florence is at Lungarno Vespucci 38 (; Black-Phone_bphone 055-266-951).

Emergencies The best number to call with a general emergency is Black-Phone_bphone 112, which connects you to the carabinieri, who will transfer your call as needed. For the police, dial Black-Phone_bphone 113; for a medical emergency and to call an ambulance, the number is Black-Phone_bphone 118; for the fire department, call Black-Phone_bphone 115. If your car breaks down, dial Black-Phone_bphone 116 for roadside aid courtesy of the Automotive Club of Italy. All are free calls.

Family Travel Italy is a family-oriented society. A crying baby at a dinner table is greeted with a knowing smile rather than a stern look. Children almost always receive discounts, and maybe a special treat from the waiter, but the availability of such accoutrements as child seats for dinner tables is more the exception than the norm. There are plenty of parks, offbeat museums, markets, ice-cream parlors, and vibrant streetlife to amuse even the youngest children.

Health There are no special health risks you’ll encounter in Italy. The country’s public healthcare system is generally well-regarded. The richer north tends to have better hospitals than the south. Italy offers universal health care to its citizens and those of other European Union countries (U.K. nationals should remember to carry an EHIC: See Others should be prepared to pay medical bills upfront. Before leaving home, find out what medical services your health insurance covers. Note: Even if you don’t have insurance, you will be treated in an emergency.

Pharmacies offer essentially the same range of generic drugs available in the United States. Pharmacies are ubiquitous (look for the green cross) and serve almost like miniclinics, where pharmacists diagnose and treat minor ailments, like flu symptoms and general aches and pains, with over-the-counter drugs. Carry the generic name of any prescription medicines, in case a local pharmacist is unfamiliar with the brand. Pharmacies in cities take turns doing night shift; normally there is a list posted at the entrance of each pharmacy informing customers which are open each night of the week.

Insurance Italy may be one of the safer places you can travel in the world, but accidents and setbacks can and do happen, from lost luggage to car crashes. For information on traveler’s insurance, trip cancellation insurance, and medical insurance while traveling, please visit

Internet Access Internet is in healthy supply in most Italian cities, though don’t expect to find a connection in every small town. If you’re traveling with your own computer or smartphone, you’ll find wireless access in almost every hotel, but if this is key for your stay, make sure you ask before booking. In a pinch, hostels, libraries, and some cafes and bars have web access. Several spots around Venice, Florence, Rome, and other big cities are covered with free Wi-Fi access provided by the local administration, but at these and any other Wi-Fi spots around Italy, antiterrorism laws make it obligatory to register before you can log on. Take your passport or other photo ID if you go looking for an Internet point.

LGBT Travelers Italy as a whole, and northern Italy in particular, is gay-friendly. Homosexuality is legal, and the age of consent is 16. Italians are generally more affectionate and physical than North Americans in all their friendships, and even straight men occasionally walk down the street with their arms around each other—however, kissing anywhere other than on the cheeks at greetings and goodbyes will draw attention. As you might expect, smaller towns tend to be less permissive than cities and beach resorts.

Italy’s national associations and support networks for gays and lesbians are Arcigay and Arcilesbica. The national websites are and, and most cities have a local office. See for a searchable directory of local affiliates.

Mail & Postage Sending a postcard or letter up to 20 grams, or a little less than an ounce, costs 1€ to other European countries, 2.20€ to North America, and a whopping 2.90€ to Australia and New Zealand. Full details on Italy’s postal services are available at (some of it in English).

Mobile Phones GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) is a cellphone technology used by most of the world’s countries that makes it possible to turn on a phone with a contract based in Australia, Ireland, the U.K., Pakistan, or almost any other corner of the world and have it work in Italy without missing a beat. Also, if you are coming from the U.S. or Canada, you may need a multiband phone. All travelers should activate “international roaming” on their account, so check with your home service provider before leaving.

But—and it’s a big but—using roaming can be very expensive, especially if you access the Internet on your phone. It is usually much cheaper, once you arrive, to buy an Italian SIM card. This is not difficult, and is an especially good idea if you will be in Italy for more than a week. You can buy a SIM card at one of the many cellphone shops you will pass in every city. The main service providers are TIM (, Vodafone (, Wind (, and 3 ( If you have an Italian SIM card in your phone, local and national calls may be as low as .10€ per minute, and incoming calls are free. Value prepaid data packages are available for each—usually with LTE/4G data speeds—as are micro- and nano-SIMs, as well as prepaid deals for iPads and other tablets. Not every network allows tethering—be sure to ask if you need it. Deals on each network change regularly; for the latest, see the network websites. Note: U.S. contract cellphones are often “locked” and will only work with a SIM card provided by the service provider back home, so check to see that you have an unlocked phone.

Buying a phone is another option, and you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding one for under 30€. Use it, then recycle it or eBay it when you get home. It will save you a fortune versus alternatives such as roaming fees or hotel room telephones.

Money & Costs Frommer’s lists exact prices in local currency. The currency conversions quoted below were correct at press time. However, rates fluctuate, so before departing, consult a currency exchange website, such as, to check up-to-the-minute rates. Like many European countries, Italy uses the euro as its currency. Euro coins are issued in denominations of .01€, .02€, .05€, .10€, .20€, and .50€, as well as 1€ and 2€; bills come in denominations of 5€, 10€, 20€, 50€, 100€, 200€, and 500€. You’ll get the best rate if you exchange money at a bank or take cash out from one of its ATMs (see p. 302). The rates at “cambio/change/wechsel” exchange booths are invariably less favorable, but better than what you’d get changing money at a hotel or shop (a last-resort).

In any case, the evolution of international computerized banking has led to the triumph of plastic throughout Italy—even if cold cash is still the most trusted currency, especially in small towns and mom-and-pop joints. (It remains a good idea to carry some cash, because small businesses may accept only cash or may claim that their credit card machine is broken to avoid paying fees to the card companies.) Visa and MasterCard are almost universally accepted, and some upscale businesses take American Express. Diners Club tends not to be accepted in Italy. Be sure to let your bank know that you’ll be traveling abroad to avoid having your card blocked after a few days of big purchases far from home. Note: Many banks assess a 1% to 3% “transaction fee” on all charges you incur abroad, whether you’re using the local currency or your native currency.

Traveler’s checks have gone the way of the Stegosaurus.














Bus ticket (from/to anywhere in the city)


Double room at Continentale (expensive)


Double room at Antica Dimora Johlea (moderate)


Double room at Locanda Orchidea (inexpensive)


Continental breakfast (cappuccino and croissant standing at a bar)


Dinner for one, with wine, at Ora d’Aria (expensive)


Dinner for one, with wine, at A Crudo (moderate)


Dinner for one, with wine, at GustaPizza (inexpensive)


2-scoop gelato at Gelateria della Passera


Glass of wine at a bar


Coca-Cola (standing/sitting in a bar)


Cup of espresso (standing/sitting in a bar)


Admission to the Uffizi


Newspapers & Magazines The “International New York Times” and “USA Today” are available at most newsstands in the big cities, and sometimes even in smaller towns. You can find the “Wall Street Journal Europe,” European editions of “Time,” the “Economist,” and most of the major European newspapers and magazines at the larger kiosks in the bigger cities.

Police For emergencies, call Black-Phone_bphone 112 or Black-Phone_bphone 113. Italy has several different police forces, but there are only two you’ll likely need to deal with. The first is the carabinieri (Black-Phone_bphone 112; who normally only concern themselves with serious crimes, but point you in the right direction. The polizia (Black-Phone_bphone 113;, whose city headquarters is called the questura, is the place to go for help with lost and stolen property or petty crimes.

Safety Italy is a remarkably safe country. The worst threats you’ll likely face are the pickpockets who sometimes frequent touristy areas and public buses; keep your hands on your camera at all times and valuables in an under-the-clothes money belt or inside zip-pocket. Don’t leave anything valuable in a rental car overnight, and leave nothing visible in it at any time. If you are robbed, you can fill out paperwork at the nearest police station (questura), but this is mostly for insurance purposes and perhaps to get a passport issued—don’t expect them to spend any resources hunting the perpetrator.

In general, avoid public parks at night. The areas around rail stations are often unsavory, but rarely any worse. Other than that, there’s a real sense of security in Italy.

Senior Travel Seniors and older people are treated with a great deal of respect and deference, but there are few specific programs or concessions made for them. The one exception is on admission prices for museums and sights, where those ages 60 or 65 and older will often get in at a free or reduced rate. There are also special train passes and reductions on bus tickets in some towns (see “Getting Around,” p. 296). As a senior in Italy, you’re un anziano (if you’re a woman: un’anziana)—it’s a term of respect, and you should let people know if you think a discount may be due.

Smoking Smoking has been eradicated from inside restaurants, bars, and most hotels. Many smokers remain, and they tend to take outside tables at bars and restaurants. If you pick an outdoor table, you are essentially choosing a seat in the smoking section, and requesting that your neighbor not smoke may not be politely received.

Student Travelers An International Student Identity Card (ISIC) qualifies students for savings on rail passes, plane tickets, entrance fees, and more. The card is valid for 1 year. You can apply for the card online at or in person at STA Travel (; Black-Phone_bphone 800/781-4040 in North America). If you’re no longer a student but are still 25 or under, you can get an International Youth Travel Card (IYTC) and an International Teacher Identity Card (ITIC) from the same agency, which entitles you to some discounts.

Taxes There’s no sales tax added onto the price tag of purchases in Italy, but there is a 22% value-added tax (in Italy: IVA) automatically included in just about everything except basic foodstuffs like milk and bread. For major purchases, you can get this refunded if you live outside the EU. Several cities also recently introduced an accommodation tax. For example, in Florence, you pay 1.50€ per person per night for a 1-star hotel plus 1€ per night per additional government-star rating of the hotel, up to a maximum of 10 nights. So, in a 4-star joint, the tax is an extra 4.50€ per person per night. Children 9 and under are exempt. Venice, Rome, and several other localities impose their own taxes. The tax is rarely included in any published room rate.

Tipping In hotels, a service charge is usually included in your bill. In family-run operations, additional tips are usually unnecessary. In fancier places with a hired staff, however, you may want to leave a .50€ daily tip for the maid and pay the bellhop or porter 1€ per bag. In restaurants, a 1€ to 3€ per person “cover charge” is automatically added to the bill, and in some tourist areas, especially Venice, another 10% to 15% is tacked on (except in the most unscrupulous of places, this will be noted on the menu somewhere; if unsure, you should ask, è incluso il servizio?). It is not necessary to leave any extra money on the table, though it is not uncommon to leave up to 5€, for good service. At bars and cafes, you can leave something very small on the counter for the barman (maybe 1€ if you have had several drinks), though it is not expected; there is no need to leave anything extra if you sit at a table, as they are probably already charging you double or triple the price you’d have paid standing at the bar. It is not necessary to tip taxi drivers, though it is common to round up the bill to the nearest euro or two.

Toilets Aside from train stations, where they cost about .50€ to use, and gas/petrol stations, where they are free (with perhaps a basket seeking donations for the cleaners), public toilets are few and far between. Standard procedure is to enter a cafe, make sure the bathroom is not fuori servizio (out of order), and then order a cup of coffee before bolting to the facilities. It is advisable to always make use of toilets in a hotel, restaurant, museum, or bar before setting off around town.





Thank you



You’re welcome




Per favore

pehr fah-vohr-eh







Good morning or Good day



Good evening

Buona sera

bwohn-ah say-rah

Good night

Buona notte

bwohn-ah noht-tay

It’s a pleasure to meet you.

Piacere di conoscerla.

pyah-cheh-reh dee koh-nohshehr-lah

My name is ____.

Mi chiamo ____.

mee kyah-moh

And yours?

E lei?

eh lay

Do you speak English?

Parla inglese?

pahr-lah een-gleh-seh

How are you?

Come sta?

koh-may stah

Very well

Molto bene

mohl-toh behn-ney




Excuse me (to get attention)



Excuse me (to get past someone)







Where is … ?

Dovè … ?


the station

la stazione

lah stat-tzee-oh-neh

a hotel

un albergo

oon ahl-behr-goh

a restaurant

un ristorante

oon reest-ohr-ahnt-eh

the bathroom

il bagno

eel bahn-nyoh

I am looking for …

Cerco …


the check-in counter

il check-in

eel check-in

the ticket counter

la biglietteria

lah beel-lyeht-teh-ree-ah


l’area arrivi

lah-reh-ah ahr-ree-vee


l’area partenze

lah-reh-ah pahr-tehn-tseh

gate number

l’uscita numero

loo-shee-tah noo-meh-roh

the restroom

la toilette

lah twa-leht

the police station

la stazione di polizia

lah stah-tsyoh-neh dee poh-lee-tsee-ah

the smoking area

l’area fumatori

lah-reh-ah foo-mah-toh-ree

the information booth

l’ufficio informazioni

loof-fee-choh een-fohr-mah-tsyoh-nee

a public telephone

un telefono pubblico

oon teh-leh-foh-noh poob-blee-koh

an ATM/cashpoint

un bancomat

oon bahn-koh-maht

baggage claim

il ritiro bagagli

eel ree-tee-roh bah-gahl-lyee

a cafe

un caffè

oon kahf-feh

a restaurant

un ristorante

oon ree-stoh-rahn-teh

a bar

un bar

oon bar

a bookstore

una libreria

oo-nah lee-breh-ree-ah

To the left

A sinistra

ah see-nees-tra

To the right

A destra

ah dehy-stra

Straight ahead

Avanti (or sempre diritto)

ahv-vahn-tee (sehm-pray dee-reet-toh)






Prima colazione

pree-mah coh-laht-tzee-ohn-ay







How much is it?

Quanto costa?

kwan-toh coh-sta

The check, please

Il conto, per favore

eel kon-toh pehr fah-vohr-eh

















What time is it?

Che ore sono?

kay or-ay soh-noh

It’s one o’clock.

È l’una.

eh loo-nah

It’s two o’clock.

Sono le due.

soh-noh leh doo-eh

It’s two-thirty.

Sono le due e mezzo.

soh-noh leh doo-eh eh mehd-dzoh

It’s noon.


eh mehd-dzoh-johr-noh

It’s midnight.

È mezzanotte.

eh mehd-dzah-noht-teh

in the morning

al mattino

ahl maht-tee-noh

in the afternoon

al pomeriggio

ahl poh-meh-reed-joh

at night

alla notte

dee noht-the



































































la primavera

lah pree-mah-veh-rah






















































venti due

vehn-tee doo-ay





























cinque milla

cheen-kway mee-lah


dieci milla

dee-ay-chee mee-lah