At noon in Italy it is noon all over Central Europe, 11 a.m. in Moscow, 8 p.m. in Tokyo.
Italian time is one hour ahead of Greenwich time but from Spring to Autumn, when daylight savings time, in Italy called, "ora legale", is effective, it's two hours ahead of Greenwich time. In 2004 the "ora legale" is confirmed from 28th March until 24th October 2004.
To use public telephones one should have a good stock of Euro coins. One needs a minimum of one € 0,20 coin for local calls, 1,50 euros and more for others, according to distance - then dial, and go on dropping them into the box as required. Popular and very much used are the telephone cards available in four denominations, € 3,00, € 5,00, € 7,00 and € 10,00 each. If you are in a hotel it is easier to place your call by contacting the switchboard or the concierge. The cost of the telephone call surely be higher due to the service charge demanded by the hotel.
Public order in Italy is maintained essentially by two forces: the Police and the Carabinieri. Police and Emergency service 113, Carabinieri 112, Ambulance 118, Fire Brigade 115 and Vehicle breakdown service 116. All emergency services can be called toll-free from any public telephone.
The mail service is quite reliable and improving. Always be sure to use the right size envelopes as indicated and publicized in post offices and don't forget the zip code. Stamps are available not only at post offices, but also at hotel desks and at any tobacconist's shop.
Present rates are: from minimum € 0,50 to € 0,75 to post letters for Europe, and € 0,85 to 1,20 to post letters for outside Europe.
Italy's currency was used to be the weak Lira but is changed to the Euro from 1st of January 2002. In fact in 1999 Italy entered in the new Masstricht Agreement regulation of exchange between the currencies of twelve major European contries (Italy, Belgium, Spain, Austria, Germany, France, Luxembourg, Portugal, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, Finland), the new currency that will be used is the new Euro (€). Indicative exchange rates in November 2003 are:
The Euro (€) are in coins and notes; metallic coins will be eight in denominations: 1 eurocent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 0,50 euro, 1 euro, 2 euros; one side of the coin are same for all countries, representing the European Union Chart, and the other side are different in each nation. Banknotes are of: 5 euros, 10 euros, 20 euros, 50 euros, 100 euros, 200 euros and 500 euros and are exactly the same colour, shape, size and picture in all the twelve countries.
Currency exchange fluctuations are rather frequent, especially between Euro, US Dollars, English Pounds and Swiss Francs.
There is no limit to the amount of money in foreign currency one is allowed to bring in, either in the form of cash or traveler's cheques. When leaving the country, the amount in foreign currency should not exceed the amount brought in, provided it was declared on arrival.
When crossing Italian frontiers, either in or out, the amount of Italian currency must not exceed € 750,00 in denominations other than € 500,00 notes.
To show appreciation for a service received one is expected to tip throughout Italy. However, value added tax (in Italian IVA) and service charge are included in all bills. Porters should get Euro 0,50 - 0,75 per bag, cloak room attendants Euro 0,50 - 0,75, washroom attendants Euro 0,20 - 0,30. Waiters and maids (if you want to please them) should be given 5-10 % of the bill.
Drinking water is safe almost everywhere (not on trains), but Italians prefer bottled mineral water with their meals.
A good suggestion, due to convenient prices, is to stick to local wine or beer during meals.
Voltage is usually 200 or 220 and all services AC 50 cycles. The voltage may vary, but in most of the cities and towns it is 220. A tourist carrying electrical appliances to Italy should have a transformer, either obtained before leaving his country or bought at an electrical appliance shop in Italy. Check the local voltage with the hotel before using electrical appliances. Plugs have prongs that are round not flat, therefore an adapter plug is needed. Many electrical appliances such as steam irons, hair dryers and water heaters are available in the U.S. for use abroad without the need of separate transformers or adapters.
Most deluxe, first and second class hotels have laundry and dry cleaning facilities at moderate prices. If a hotel does not provide these services, the desk clerk can direct you to the nearest shop (tintoria) or you can look in the classified telephone directory/yellow pages under «Tintorie» (Cleaning and Pressing) and "Lavanderie" (Laundry).
During weekdays, Mondays to Fridays, opening hours are from 08:30 a.m. to 01.30 p.m. and three times a week from 03.00 p.m. to 04.30 p.m. (days of afternoon openings vary from city to city).
Visitors should be warned that from early Friday afternoon till Monday morning all banks are closed, but travelers' cheques can be cashed and money exchanged at railway stations, air terminals, many hotels and some travel agencies.
Many banks have an electronic cash dispenser available all day long, in some cases honouring major credit cards.
Offices and shops are also closed in the following cities on the local feast days honoring their patron saints: Venice (April 25th, St. Mark); Florence (June 24th, St. John the Baptist); Genoa (June 24th, St. John the Baptist); Turin (June 24th, St. John the Baptist); Rome (June 29th, Sts. Peter and Paul; Bologna (October 4th, St. Petronio); Cagliari (October 30th, St. Saturnino); Trieste (November 3rd, San Giusto); Bari (December 6th, St. Nicola), and Milan (December 7th, St. Ambrose).
A valid passport without visa (this is requested only of tourists coming from a few Far East countries) is enough to enter Italy.
Customs formalities need not worry visitors to Italy. At airports customs officers take it for granted that passengers using the «green channel» exit actually have nothing to declare, although random spot checks are always possible. On trains, roads, etc., they usually accept the traveler's verbal declaration. However, luggage must be opened and inspected if requested, in the traveler's presence. There are certain restrictions on the import of tobacco (no more than 350 cigarettes or 90 cigars or 500 gr. of tobacco can be admitted duty free), wines, liquors, coffee, tea, perfumes (1 bottle each), which may vary depending on whether you are a resident of an EU country, entering from Europe or from outside Europe, etc.
At the time of printing, no vaccinations were required to enter Italy from any country. Small pox and cholera vaccinations are suggested to travelers coming from infected areas. Health services are uniformly guaranteed throughout the country by the Local Health Service Offices called Unità Sanitarie Locali (USL). Health services are free for Italian citizens, but they have to pay a 'ticket" for medicaments and medicines; for foreign nationals, rules may vary depending on country of origin.
Citizens coming from EU member countries and some other countries having bilateral agreements with Italy should have a copy of E Form III or similar and go to the nearest USL to obtain a health assistance certificate called "attestato sanitario" which will entitle them to the same services available to Italians.
Travellers who do not have such a certificate will have to pay personally for any health services and, where possible, obtain reimbursement from their own health insurance pian when they return home.