Italian Society & Culture
From the Lombard invasion until the mid-nineteenth century, Italy was not the nation-state it is today. The Italian regions were fractured into various kingdoms, duchies, and domains. As a result, Italian dialects or regional minority languages and customs evolved independently. While all Italian states were similar and they retained basic elements of Roman language and culture, each developed its own regional culture and identity. As a result, even to this day, Italians define themselves primarily by their home region, province or town, and many still speak a local dialect or regional language in addition to standard Italian.
The Italian language has steadily replaced the numerous dialects and Gallo-italic and Italic languages, such as Sicilian, Venetian, Emiliano-Romagnolo, Lombard, Sardinian, Piedmontese, Ligurian (also known as Genoese), Friulian, Ladin, Franco-Provençal and Neapolitan. Standard Italian originated in literature of the 12th to 15th centuries, and was based on the dialects of Tuscany, along with influences of Sicilian and Venetian. In the 19th Century, Standard Italian became more common and helped unify the country.
Some non-Italian speaking minorities live within Italy. Thousands of German Bavarian speakers remain in the extreme north region of South Tyrol. Portions of the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region have a small Slovene-speaking minority of Slavic origin. A small cluster of French-speaking people live in the province of Aosta and a small Catalan-speaking enclave in Sardinia goes back five centuries after first settled by Catalans from Catalonia in Spain. Two minor Italic languages are spoken outside of modern Italy- Corsican in Corsica, France and Romansch in eastern Switzerland.
Since the 19th century, the economic disparity between the industrial north and the agrarian southern and north-eastern regions resulted in mass migration from the southern regions to the Americas, northern Italy and to other parts of Western Europe such as France and Belgium. Economic conditions in the poorer regions of Italy improved, even in the south, to the point that even the less-developed regions of the Mezzogiorno receive immigrants rather than send immigrants outwards. Today, Italy is less urban than other countries in Europe, with 67% of Italians living in a major urban area- compared to 76% of French, 88% of Germans and 90% of Britons. The vast majority of Italians live outside of the large (over 1,000,000 population) cities.
Information above is courtesy of www.wikipedia.org
||The 20th century has seen the transformation of Italy from a highly traditional, agricultural society to a progressive, industrialized state. There are many differences in people's daily lives in different places of Italy--Rome, Milan, Venice, Sicily, and others. All of them combined make a unique picture of the Italian lifestyle.
||The majority of the population of Italy lives in cities and villages; only a fraction live in hamlets or in isolated houses. From antiquity, Mediterranean peoples have had highly developed urban centers. Today, there are four cities in Italy with a population of more then 1,000,000 (Rome, Milan, Turin, and Naples); but there are many other large cities in Italy, and almost half of them are on or near the sea.
||A number of cities have merged into enormous metropolitan complexes, sometimes characterized as mega-cities, such as those surrounding Milan. Severe congestion and pollution are the result of a growing population and high level of automobile ownership in Italy.
||The capital of Italy--the city of Rome--today is a bustling place, full of traffic and crowds. It is amazing how sites of ancient culture and modern urban life coexist together in the modern country. People live alongside the temples, marketplaces and public buildings of the past.
||There are layers of history in Rome--Etruscan tombs, Senate meeting rooms, Imperial temples, early-Christian churches, medieval bell towers, and Renaissance palaces. One of the most famous ancient constructions of Italy is the Coliseum in Rome. It is a huge arena, called an amphitheater. It was used for staging games and gladiator fights, and was first opened to the public in 80 AD.
Travel TO Italy (Travel Tips)
Hefty fines are imposed on Tourists purchasing counterfeit goods while visiting Italy
As part of our ongoing commitment to ensure the safety and security of travelers, the Italian Government Tourist Board strongly recommends that tourists do not, under any circumstances, attempt to purchase any counterfeit items, as this may end up costing them well more than an authentic product.
As of May 2005 a new legislation was implemented (which carries fines of up to 10,000 Euros for people caught purchasing counterfeit products, and criminal charges for anyone caught selling counterfeit goods.) It aims at a national wide crackdown on the sellers and buyers of counterfeit items, i.e. purses, sunglasses, watches, belts, etc bearing luxury labels such as Prada, Gucci, Fendi only to name a few.
Luggage is examined on entering and leaving Italy. Free entry is allowed for personal effects: clothing (new and used), books, camping and household equipment, fishing tackle, 1 pair of skis, 2 tennis racquets, computer, CD player with 10 CD's, tape recorder or Dictaphone, baby carriage, 2 still cameras with 10 rolls of film for each camera, 1 movie camera, binoculars, personal jewelry, portable radio set (subject to a small license fee), 400 cigarettes and a quantity of cigars or pipe tobacco not exceeding 500 grams (1.1 lb).
All items mentioned above may be imported duty-free only on condition that they are for personal use and are not be sold, given away or traded. A maximum of two bottles of wine and one bottle of hard liquor per person may be brought in duty-free. The bottles must not be open. A maximum of 4.4 lbs. of coffee, 6.6 lbs. of sugar and 2.2 lbs. of cocoa are allowed duty-free.
Overseas tourists arriving in Italy after visiting other countries are allowed to carry with them souvenirs purchased in other countries up to a total value of $500 and only a verbal declaration is required. Purchases may include up to a half litre of perfume.
Exports from Italy
There are no restrictions on gifts purchased in Italy except for antiques and works of art. These require the authorization of the Ministero dei Beni Culturali e Ambientali.
Canadian Regulations on Purchases Abroad
Any person residing in Canada returning from a trip abroad can qualify for personal exemption. All articles acquired abroad, whether purchased or received as gifts, or purchased at a duty free shop, either abroad or in Canada, must be declared by the traveler on return to Canada.
U.S. Regulations on Purchases Abroad
Each U.S. tourist may bring back to the U.S. duty-free $400 worth of goods purchased abroad. The goods must accompany the traveler. A flat rate of 10% is assessed on the next $1,000 worth of goods purchased. Parcels containing gifts may be sent from abroad to the U.S. duty-free, providing the total value of such parcels received by one person, one day does not exceed $50. Each package should be marked "Unsolicited Gift". The amount paid and the contents of the package should be declared.
A visa is not required for a U.S. or Canadian citizens holding a valid passport unless they expect to stay in Italy more than 90 days.
N.B.: No visas (and no extension to previously issued visas) may be granted to tourists who are already on Italian territory.
For other questions on passport or visa regulations check the official Italian Embassy website: www.italyemb.org http://www.esteri.it/MAE/EN/Ministero/Servizi/Stranieri/ServReteConsolare.htm
Traveling With Your Pet
As of October 2, 2004 a new European Union regulation (EC 998\2003) applies for the non-commercial movement of pet animals (cats, dogs, and ferrets) in the European Union Member States.
Pets may enter Italy only if accompanied by their owner or a person responsible for them on behalf of the owner during their movement in Italy, and are not intended for sale. Up to a maximum of five pet animals are permitted.
In accordance with the above EC Regulation, it is mandatory to obtain, for each pet, a European Community Veterinary Certificate, issued, in the country of origin, by a certified veterinarian, containing information about the pet's general state of health and proving there is an effective vaccination protection against rabies: animals under the age of three months may not travel to Europe since the anti-rabies vaccine is not administered before the pet is three months old.
Pet animals must be identifiable by a clearly readable tattoo or an electronic identification system (microchip/transponder), which provides the pet owner's name and address. The certificate (issue date not to exceed 30 days prior to the departure date) is valid for 4 months from the date of the official veterinarian's signature or endorsement by the competent Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA U.S. Department of Agriculture's) or Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and is equivalent to the EU Pet Passport. The certificate forms are available from Italian diplomatic of consular representatives, whose authentication or certification is not needed.
To introduce pet animals in Italy from third countries, it is not necessary to subject the animals to tick or echinococcus treatments. Parrots, parakeets, rabbits and hares also require health certificates, and, upon entering Italy, are subject, to examination.
In Italy, it is mandatory to use a muzzle for dogs that walk on the streets or any open space without a leash, and a muzzle and a leash for dogs in public places and public transportation.
No vaccinations are required to enter Italy or to reenter the U.S. and Canada.
Emergency Telephone Number
For Medical Emergency dial 118
Healthcare and MedicalAssistance
Tourists requiring urgent medical care should go to the nearest hospital emergency room (airports and many train stations also have medical teams and first aid facilities). Those with serious illnesses or allergies should always carry a special note from their physicians certifying in detail the treatments in progress or that may be necessary.
Pharmacies (Farmacia), generally follow shops times (approx. from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 3:00 to 7:30 p.m., Monday to Saturday, but in large cities many are open no-stop. Night-time service is provided on a shift basis. Business hours and night shifts are displayed outside of each chemist's (they are also published in local papers). Before departure, it is advisable to procure a document certifying coverage by the national health-care service.
Health Services and Insurance Policy
Italy has no medical program covering U.S. and Canada citizens. Therefore, U.S. and Canadian tourists are advised to take out an insurance policy before traveling. First Aid Service (Pronto Soccorso) with a doctor on hand is found at airports, ports, railway stations and in all hospitals. Medicines can be obtained only from the pharmacy, whether they are on prescription or over the counter.
Tax refund for purchases made in Italy by non-resident visitors
According to the Italian law, based on the European Community provisions, as a non-resident visitor, you can claim a refund for goods and services tax paid for goods intended for personal or familiar use purchased in Italy. For more information see:
Will shops in Italy accept traveler's checks?
In major Italian cities and tourist areas traveler checks are accepted. The rate of exchange is calculated on the daily rate of exchange shown on the newspapers.
ATMs and Debit Cards
Can I use my Credit Card/Debit Card in Italy?
Yes. Most reputable establishments will accept major credit cards. Those establishments accepting credit cards will post the logos in their front windows, just as they do in the USA and Canada.
Are there ATMs in Italy? Will I need to know Italian to use the ATMs?
Yes. The ATM (Automatic Teller Machines) in Italy are known as Bancomat. There are many to be found in the large cities and even in small towns. The machines operate just as they do here; at the beginning of the transaction, it prompts the user for the preferred language.
Using a credit card, or even better, a debit card or your local bank ATM card is very easy. One must first locate either the Cirrus or BankMate symbol (on the Bancomat and on your card) to insure the card is usable on that particular unit. Cirrus and BankMate are the two most popular and widespread banking systems in the world so they are the best to have. If you are unsure about the compatibility or the banking systems, contact your credit card company or local bank.
After discovering the system is compatible, simply withdrawal money as you would at home. Of course, in Italy the money will be dispensed as Euros, but when you return home, your bank will have converted the Euros into dollars using the most beneficial exchange rate possible. Be careful though when using credit cards, as many banks are now charging large fees of 2.5% to 4% for cash advances which negate any advantage of using the Bancomat in the first place. One's best bet is to use your regular ATM card and simply withdraw money from your account just as you would do at your local bank.
Banks in Italy are open Monday through Friday from 8:35 a.m. to 1:35 p.m. and from 3:00 - 4:00 p.m.; in many tourist areas they are open no-stop from 8.30 a.m. to 4p.m. and closed all day on Saturday and Sunday and on national holidays. The afternoon one hour opening may vary from city to city. Travelers checks can be exchanged for Italian currency at most hotels and shops and at the foreign exchange offices in main railway stations and at the airports.
The new monetary currency is the Euro which is divided as follows: bills of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 Euro; coins of 1, 2, 5, 10 Euro, 20 and 50 cents.
Welcome to the Euro Official Site of of the European Union (EU)
Your Euro Converter On-line
What is the exchange rate?
To find the current exchange rate between US Dollars, Canadian Dollars and Euros, please visit
The Universal Currency Converter
How to Get Euro
Once in Italy, how do I convert my dollars in euros?
Tourists reaching Italy without foreign currency can obtain Euros through any bank, ATM machines, or exchange office (Ufficio di Cambio) at airports, seaports and railway stations in the main cities.
It is advisable to keep receipts of currency exchanged in case it be necessary to reconvert euros back into dollars before leaving the country.
Maybe. Crowded tourist sites all over the world are at pickpocket and gipsy risk and Italy is no exception. One should always be on alert for these petty thieves, but a good offence is the best defence. Keep your money hidden preferably in an inside pocket or money belt.
TELEPHONE & MAIL
Emergency Telephone Numbers
12 Phone Directory Assistance
112 for Carabinieri's service
113 for Emergency Police Help
115 for the Fire Department
116 for the A.C.I. (Italian Automobile Club) - for road side assistance
118 for Medical Emergencies
176 International Inquires
Public telephones are available throughout Italy. Either local or international calls require the use of a phone card (Carta Telefonica) which may be purchased at any newsstand, tobacco shop or "bar"(coffee shop).
Long distance Calls (Interurbana)
Both local and long distance call require the proper area code before dialling the number. Ex: to place a call within Rome you must dial 06 + phone number.
To call Rome from Florence : 06 + phone number; to call Florence from Rome : 055 + phone number.
When calling a cellular phone, drop the zero of the area code, ex: 397 + phone number of the cellular.
To call USA or Canada from Italy: 001+area code+ phone number.
Area Code (Prefisso Telefonico)
Following are the area code numbers for some of the principal cities of Italy.
||Reggio C. 0965
Country Direct Service
From phones in major cities, to connect to a US long distance service, dial:
1721011 for AT&T
1721022 for MCI
1721877 for US Sprint
The numbers above work for Rome, Milan, Florence, Naples, Venezia, Torino, Catania, Vicenza, Livorno, Olbia, Bologna, Brindisi, Cosenza, Formia, Genova, Latina, Padova, Palermo, Perugia, Pescara, Pordenone, Pisa, and Trieste.
When calling from pay telephones, just insert 200 lire coin. You automatically reach an operator in the country of destination, avoiding all language difficulty.
Canada can be reached by dialling 1721001.
No matter how responsible you try to be with your phone card, you can run up
quite a bill when you call your parents/ your kids/ your significant other. E-mail may be an alternative and less expensive mean of communication.
Whatever e-mail service you use in your daily life, I would set up web-access mail for your trip (like the mail offered by Yahoo!, Hotmail, etc.). It is the easiest to use abroad since the only software and configuration you need are built right into the browser. Set this account up before you leave home, so you don't waste valuable time abroad.
It is getting easier and easier to find Internet cafes and clubs in Italy. Some, among many:
Directory of the Italian Internet Cafes
General Delivery Service
Mail can be addressed c/o Post Office by adding "FERMO POSTA" after the name of the town. The addressee can claim mail at the Central Post Office upon identification by passport.
Mr. John Smith
c/o Ufficio Postale Centrale
00187 Rome, Italy
Stamps may be purchased only at tobacco shops and at the Post Office. Always check at the counter for the exact fare to the country of destination
Post Office Hours
Post Offices are open from 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. On Saturdays they close at 12:00. Post Offices at airports and main Post Offices in large cities are open 24 hours a day for registered mail and telegram services.
The electrical current in Italy is AC - the cycle is 50Hz 220 V. A tourist carrying electrical appliances to Italy should have a transformer, either obtained before leaving your country or bought at an electrical appliance shop in Italy. Plugs have round prongs, not flat, therefore an European Plug Adapter (round pin) is needed.
Laundry and Dry Cleaners
Most hotels have laundry and dry cleaning facilities. If the 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 under Tintorie ( cleaning and pressing ) and Lavanderie ( laundry ).
Although normally shops are open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3:30/4 p.m. to 7:30/ 8 p.m., in large cities and tourist areas there is a tendency to stay open from 9.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. with possible variations from town to town. Department stores such as La Rinascente, Coin are found in many Italian cities and towns and are open from 9.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m.
Some excellent purchase options are: Clothes for men and women (dresses, shoes, gloves, silk ties, shirts); lacework, jewellery, leather goods (handbags, cases, boxes, luggage), ceramics, gold and silver items, alabaster, woodwork, straw, embroidery, glass and crystal ware.