Welcome to Italy!
Europe's kinky over-the-knee boot has it all: popes, painters, polenta, paramours, poets, political puerility and potentates. Its dreamy light and sumptuous landscapes seem made for romance, and its three millennia of history, culture and cuisine seduces just about everyone. You can visit Roman ruins, gawk at Renaissance art, stay in tiny medieval hill towns, go skiing in the Alps, explore the canals of Venice and gaze at beautiful churches. Naturally you can also indulge in the pleasures of la dolce vita: good food, good wine and improving your wardrobe.
Map of Italy
301,230 sq km
116,305 sq miles
GMT/UTC +1 (+2 in summer) (Central European Time)
Daylight Saving Start
last Sunday in March
Daylight Saving End
last Sunday in October
A Latin language related to French, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian. Standard Italian and numerous dialects are spoken.
84% Roman Catholic, 6% Jewish, Muslim and Protestant
Electric Plug Details
European plug with two circular metal pins
Country Dialing Code
Italy's climate varies from north to south and from lowland to mountain top. Temperatures at sea-level tend to be similar around the country, with altitudes creating steep changes between summer and winter. Winters are long and severe in the Alps, with snow falling as early as mid-September. Storms develop in spring and tend to last to autumn, making summer the wettest season. The northern regions experience chilly winters, hot summers and regular even rain distribution, while conditions become milder as you head south. The sirocco, the hot and humid African wind that affects regions south of Rome, produces at least a couple of stiflingly hot weeks in summer.
GMT/UTC +1 (+2 in summer) (Central European Time)
Start: last Sunday in March End: last Sunday in October Weights Measures System Metric
Italy's instantly recognisable boot shape kicks its way into the Adriatic, Ionian, Ligurian and Tyrrhenian Seas – all of which form part of the Mediterranean Sea. The islands of Elba, Sardinia, Ischia, Capri, the Aeolians and Sicily lie offshore. Mountains feature prominently in Italy's topography, and bolster its landlocked borders all the way from Genoa in the west to Trieste in the east. Italy's backbone is formed by the Apennines, extending from Genoa right down to the soccer ball that bounces off the toe of Calabria: Sicily. The Po River Valley in the country's northeast forms the largest lowland area, and is heavily populated and industrialised as a result. Underground rambunctiousness is evident from the country's three active volcanoes – Stromboli in the Aeolian Islands, Vesuvius near Naples and Etna on Sicily – and the devastation wrought by earthquakes, especially fierce in 1908 and 1980. Beauty abounds in Italy but, unfortunately, so does pollution, particularly in the big cities and along the coast.
Dangers & Annoyances
It requires a lot of patience to deal with the Italian concept of service. What for Italians is simply a way of life can be at times immensely trying for the foreigner. Anyone in a uniform or behind a counter (including police officers, waiters and shop assistants) is likely to regard you with indifference. Long queues are the norm in banks, post offices and any government offices. It pays to remain calm and patient. Aggressive, demanding and angry customers stand virtually no chance of getting what they want.
Pickpockets and bag-snatchers, some working on motorini (motor scooters), operate in most major cities and are particularly active in Naples and Rome. The best way to avoid being robbed is to wear a money belt under your clothing. Keep all important items, such as money, passport, other documents and tickets, in your money belt at all times and wear bags or cameras slung across the body. You should also watch out for groups of dishevelled-looking women and children asking for money. Their favourite haunts are major train stations, tourist sights and in shopping areas. If you have been targeted by a group take evasive action (such as crossing the street) or shout 'Va via!' (Go away!) in a loud voice. You should also be cautious of sudden friendships, particularly if your new-found amico or amica wants to sell you or give you something. Parked cars are also prime targets for thieves, particularly those with foreign number plates or rental-company stickers. Try not to leave anything in the car if you can help it and certainly not overnight. Car theft is a problem in Rome, Campania and Puglia. It is a good idea to leave your car in supervised car parks. Service stations along the motorways are often a haunt of thieves. If possible park where you can keep an eye on your car.
A few Italians practise a more insidious form of theft: short-changing. If you are new to euros, take the time to acquaint yourself with the denominations. When paying keep an eye on the bills you hand over and then count your change. In case of theft or loss, always report the incident at the police station within 24 hours and ask for a statement, otherwise your travel insurance company won't pay out.
Local Health Conditions
This is only found in the Alps.
Rabies is a fatal viral infection. Many animals can be infected (such as dogs, cats, bats and monkeys) and it's their saliva that is infectious. Any bite, scratch or even lick from a warm-blooded, furry animal should be cleaned immediately and thoroughly. Scrub with soap and running water, and then apply alcohol or iodine solution. Medical help should be sought promptly to receive a course of injections to prevent the onset of symptoms and death.
This is found in coastal regions. Spread through the bite of an infected sand fly, leishmaniasis can cause a slowly growing skin lump or ulcer. It may develop into a serious life-threatening fever usually accompanied with anaemia and weight loss. Infected dogs are also carriers of the infection. Sand fly bites should be avoided whenever possible.
Lyme disease is transmitted by deer ticks, which are only 1-2 mm long. Most cases occur in the late spring and summer. The first symptom is usually an expanding red rash that is often pale in the centre, known as a bull's eye rash. However, in many cases, no rash is observed. Flu-like symptoms are common, including fever, headache, joint pains, body aches and malaise. When the infection is treated promptly with an appropriate antibiotic, usually doxycycline or amoxicillin, the cure rate is high. Luckily, since the tick must be attached for 36 hours or more to transmit Lyme disease, most cases can be prevented by performing a thorough tick check after you've been outdoors.