Italy: Information for tourists

Italy – Some Information About the Country 

Italy is a European country, the member of the EU and NATO, shares border with France, Austria, Switzerland, and Slovenia. Its total area is 301,302 sq km, the length of coastline is about 7600 km.
The head of the country is the president, the executive power is vested by the Government, the legislative power - the Parliament.
Italy is considered to be a decentralized unitary country, divided into twenty-provincial regions where the five regions have a special autonomy status. Each region is divided into several provinces - there are 110 provinces in the country. And provinces are divided into small communes (more than 8000 people in each).
The capital of Italy is Rome. 

The geographical features of Italy
The country abounds in mountains and hills. One of the main attractions of the country is the Adriatic Sea, which is warm and peaceful at any time of the year. It is located in the eastern part of the part of the country, on the Apennine peninsula side.  
The Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea is connected by the Strait of Otranto. Between the two states of Alula and Calabria there is the Gulf of Taranto.
Sicily is separated from Calabria by a narrow and incredibly beautiful the Strait of Messina, and from North Africa by the Strait of Sicily, its width in some places reaches one hundred thirty-five kilometers.
Between Sardinia and Corsica, there is a beautiful sea of triangular shape – the Tyrrhenian Sea. If you go to the north of Corsica, you can enjoy the beauty and charm of the Ligurian Sea and the Gulf of Genoa.
Italy is rich in rivers and lakes, but the most famous tourist attractions is the river Po, which reaches a length of over 650 kilometers, Lake Garda (the largest lake in Italy), Lake Como and Lake Maggiore.

The climate in Italy
The climate of Italy is very warm and pleasant in any season. The country is protected against the cold and the wind in autumn and winter by the mountains. In general, the climate is Mediterranean (subtropical). Summer is dry and warm, winter is mainly dry with a few rainfalls. The south part of the country always enjoys good and warm weather. The driest and warmest month is July. The average rainfall is 20 mm. The rainiest weather in Italy is from October to December (100 mm of rain per month).
In the northern Italian regions in winter the temperature does not fall below minus 5 degrees Celsius. In the Po Valley, the coldest weather in January, when the daytime temperature is around five degrees Celsius. In the north, the snow is a normal phenomenon, you can see it in the middle of winter, on the surface of the earth on average for one and a half to two weeks. The rainfall is usually in October-November.  And in January-March there aren’t rains or snow at all. In summer, the average temperature at night is 20 degrees Celsius, during the day is up to 30 degrees Celsius.
In the mountainous areas of the peninsula and the Alps, in the winter, the temperature dips below zero Celsius. High in the mountains, the snow usually doesn’t melt for 6-7 months a year. From October to May, there are snow and unstable temperature. In general, winter is mild, but the summer is hot and dry.
The hottest climate in Sicily (the south of Italy), where even in winter months the daytime temperature does not drop below + 14 degrees Celsius.
The water temperature in resort areas, during the period from January to April, ranges from 14 to 16 degrees Celsius, in the period from May to September – from 25 to 27 degrees Celsius. In October, the water temperature is lower, but still comfortable for swimming (plus 23-25 degrees Celsius). If you like to swim in a cold water, you can do it even in December, the water near the island of Sicily is usually warmer than 18 degrees Celsius.

Some Useful Information for Tourists

The most interesting cities in the country are Milan, Naples, Florence, Rome, Venice. The main resort cities are Rimini, Sicily, Lido di Jesolo, Riccione, all the Amalfi Coast, the island of Capri.

Getting around Italy – what you must do being here
- First of all, you have to visit the Palatine Hill and the Forum in Rome - to find out about the "birth" of the Roman Empire (here is an amazing energy)
- Than, you must visit the Vatican and climb the dome of St. Peter’s Cathedral, to enjoy the beautiful panorama of the city (it is breathtaking!)
- If it’s possible, listen to the singing of Venice’s gondoliers (although nowadays, they sing a little in recent years)
- To make a trip in the gondola or at least by the river tram on the Grand Canal
- To visit the Milan Duomo (it is unforgettable place)
- To see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, with its struggle with the force of Earth's gravity
- To go to the Alps and ski there
- To see the island of Sicily, and to know about the history of "Capone"
- To sing the legendary song in one of the many beaches of San Remo
- To look at the Florence and to feel the Italy's heart and soul – its art capital

Information telephone numbers:
- Referral Italy’s Service - 100
- The military police (carabinieri) - 112
- Police - 113 (if you want to call the police in Rome, please call 4686)
- Italy fire service - 115
- Ambulance - 116 (in Rome to call an ambulance, please call 5510).
- Tourist’s telephone hot line in Italy "Easy Italia" - 039-039-039. Working Hours: daily from 9:00 to 22:00. The operators can speak any European language, including Russian. Yu can call if you need an assistance, consultation or advice, if you’re ill, need help, injured, want to call the police, lost, faced with poor service in the hotel, cafe, restaurant, etc. The operators can even tell you about famous attractions in the city nearby.
Draw your attention to the fact that in Italy there are short beeps – it is the norm! (in Russia – this is means that the line is busy). Hearing the short beeps, just dial the phone number. This feature is typical for urban payphones and all the home phones in whole the country.

Currency Exchange in Italy
Currency exchange is carried out in exchange offices through the country, post offices, and numerous banks. It is necessary to pay attention to the commissions (the currency may be good, but the commission is awful and expensive). The most unfavorable exchange currency at the airports, but the advantage of "exchange offices" is that they always work at day and night. Banks are open from Monday to Friday mostly from 8:30 am to 16:00. The days off are Saturday and Sunday.
In big cities, you always can pay by card. In small places, villages etc. it is better to pay in cash. If you can pay by card – there will be a sign "Carta - si". 

Terms of Beach service in Italy
The beaches are municipal, but often you can see lots of beaches that are private ones, they usually belong to hotel owners and individual entrepreneurs. Each beach has its own supervisor, who control the cleanliness and the tidiness of the territory. You have to pay for umbrellas and sun beds – their average cost is about 10 euros per set. However, according to local legalized regulations, the first five meters from the water are free. In other words, you can legally sunbathe just near the sea and don’t pay for it.
In Italy, there is a law, according to which, the time you can spend on the beach is limited - from 01:00 am to 05:00 am it is prohibited to be in the territory of any country’s beach! And it's not just words - in this time period, the police patrol the territories. If you will pay a lot of money (about 150 euro), if break the law and be on the beach.  

Let’s travel to Italy inexpensively

How to explore the country (the instruction caters for people on a budget)

You can go to Italy at any time of the year, but during the summer visiting the country is quite expensive. Numerous tourists increase the fare for everything: hotel prices, expensive meal in restaurants and cafes and so on. And a noisy crowd, from which, it seems, you will not hide anywhere. Of course, someone might like these things – noise, hectic life, polyphonic background, people. But if you want to study the most important historical Italian cities, and want to really enjoy the country - to plunge into the atmosphere of Italy, to make your vacation not only memorable, but not overloaded by irritating factors, the best option is to go to explore the country during October-November, February and March. Italy is expensive country. The prices for hotels are higher than in France, especially in the high season. The cost of breakfast at the cafe for one person starts from 8 euros, and we even don’t want to talk about prices in restaurants. Also, many people even don’t happy about souvenirs (prices) and costs of tickets. For many tourists, Italy is a luxurious vacation which can be compared with the vacation in the Maldives, Dubai or the Caribbean. But even with all its expensive prices, if you know something about this country, it is possible to have a holiday here. You can have nice and memorable vacation, about which you’ll tell your friends: "I was in Italy." 

How to go to Italy cheap and cheerful 

The Rule №1
Always plan your holidays in advance, think about the best method of transportation, routes, lodging, visa requirements, etc.
The Rule №2
If it possible, purchase tickets for the train, public transportation, museums, exhibitions - book them and buy online. Firstly, it gives you an opportunity to receive discounts, sometimes it’s more than 20%. And, secondly, it won’t turn you into the nervous wreck (you just cannot imagine the queue line near the museum ticket office, where you have to spend half a day to get an entrance ticket for the exhibition, where you can spend 40 -50 minutes). 
The Rule №3
No matter if the city is historical one or just a small city (Milan, Rome, Venice) we advise you to have a meal in places, where there are not many tourists. Remember! The nearer the epicenter of the tourism cluster, the higher the price for food in any shopping center, entertainment mall, or in a café or restaurant. Try to go to the side street, or turn the corner – you’ll find something that cates for people on a budget. 
The Rule №4
The cost of a hotel room for two persons in the historic Italian cities, regardless of the size of the room and the number of local people starts from € 100 per day (this is, of course, about the hotels of 3 * and above). Therefore, we recommend you to renting an apartment or a house in the non-touristic part of the Italian city. We will tell you why this is the best option later. 
The Rule №5
Do not rent a car immediately! In Italy, there is a good railway and bus nets. Italian buses and trams are in excellent condition, they feature all state-of-the-art amenities. And it is not seedy our trains and buses. The Italians are paying much attention to comfort of transportation, both in trains and in buses: air conditioning systems, comfortable seats, nice atmosphere – this is not a complete list of all the benefits of public transport in Italia. 

Now let's talk about the order of all the intricacies of holidays in Italy, and consider the option of independent travel to the country without any travel agencies, commissions and overpayments.
The high season in this wonderful country starts from mid-May and lasts until the end of September. The most important thing is to plan your holidays. If the trip is spontaneous, you’ll just broke. The price of airfare, hotel rooms, meals in the restaurants are really high. 
Planning a summer break in Italy? Book airline tickets in the period of January-March. If you want a vacation in Italy in the "off season", probably you won’t find "hot" tickets, but airlines are trying to reduce the prices for flights to a minimum, which is also a good economy.

Where to stay in Italy (cheap variants) 

The cost of living in Italy is high even in the off-season. Especially it is expensive to live in a hotel. But, the price for the room is cheaper than in summer during the period from November to March. It is believed that the cheapest hotels are 1 *, 2 *, 3 *. In Italy, such hotels are called pensions. For those who don’t care about super comfort and special features we suggest to think about hostels (in Italy they are called Bed & Breakfast). The only drawback – often such hostels are located far from the city center and aren’t easily accessible. But there are some pros such a cozy atmosphere, beautiful gardens in the surrounding area, serenity, fresh air, hostels always enjoy big kitchens where you can cook a delicious dinner or breakfast. Therefore, if you plan to rent a car, this type of accommodation will perfectly suit you. 
There is a great option to rent apartments or houses in Italy. This variant caters for people who travel with kids or with a big company of friends. In other words, if there are more than 4 or more people, renting a house or apartment in Italy - it is the most optimal and economic variant for you. The price will be cheap, because it is divided into daily or weekly rental of living and paid for the whole house. Moreover, this variant is super comfortable – it will meet all your needs. The Italian houses feature kitchen utensils and furniture. You can easily cook your own breakfasts and dinners, saving even on a meal at restaurants.

How to rent a car in Italy

Renting a car will be a perfect choice for people who with a large family or with friends. It’s much cheaper than using a public transport. If you know a few secrets, you will rent a cheap and good car:
- Most rental car are rented with a full tank of fuel. If you want to give a car back, make sure a tank is full as it was. Otherwise, you have to pay for the gasoline and its price will be higher than in a gas stations;
- Make sure and know an exact time when you have to give the car back. Some people find out that they have to pay for one more day, because they didn’t know when to return the car;
- If you pay for rent by credit card, be aware that sometimes the renter can block a certain amount of money as a deposit. Some renters notify you of this action, but some of them not. Moreover, it can surprise you! Especially when money is tight. The amount may vary from 500 to 700 euros;
- Inspect the car before you rent it. Italian car owners rarely inspect cars and pay no attention to the nuances of the car, but if you have not noticed a scratch on it, it is possible that when you return the car the owner will focus on it and will charge you. And no matter if you’ve made it or not. 

How to eat cheap and tasty in Italy

It would be amazing to rent apartments of a hotel room with kitchen. It seems that the kitchen is no necessary, but don’t be silly. While visiting restaurants, pay attention to prices. Buying groceries, you can save a lot of money! Moreover, the savings will be significant and will surprise even those who don’t like saving money during holidays. 
In Italy, there are several famous supermarkets - Bennet, Auchan, Carrefour, Coop (here you can buy affordable and good food and products). The lowest prices one can find in Lidl stores, Penny Market. By the way, in Italy, as in other European countries, supermarkets constantly organize events, discounts and sales, so pay attention to the yellow or red tags.
If you want to dine in the cozy restaurant of the city and spend your time with pleasure, you should also find out something interesting and useful about Italian’s public catering:
- Do not try to eat into the first restaurant you see;
- Forget about the meal in the restaurants and the cafes which are located in the central areas of the city and in areas with large concentrations of tourists - the prices are artificially high, and food quality is not always good and satisfying;
- Feel free to ask the hotel manager where to have a tasty, inexpensive meal in the city – Italians adore talking about food, they have a food cult, so they will advise you cozy and affordable restaurant where you can try authentic Italian kitchen in the family restaurant with amazing atmosphere;
- Being in Italy, do not leave a tip - they are included into the price of meal, but if you really like the service, you can leave a tip.

Italian public transport

In Italy, there is a well-developed network of rail transportation, so you can travel around the country without any problems by the local trains or commuter buses. You have to order tickets for the rail transport in advance, in the Internet or by phone. You can get a good discount. For example, buying a ticket for several trips at once (for example, for ten), you’ll save 20 % of the whole cost. In Italy, there are family tickets when you can get an additional discount buying tickets for several people. When ordering tickets for public transport – tell for whom the ticket is ordered - for children, students, pensioners in Italy there are provided some bonuses and discounts. In general, for those who are planning to move around the city by public transport, it makes sense to purchase travel tickets for all modes of transport (train, bus), in Venice -  there are also river buses.

Italian museums

In Italy, there is a tradition to arrange museums open days. Of course, we can’t guess the "free" day, even if we plan everything in advance. But free entry can be a nice bonus when visiting Rome or Venice. In addition, remember that in Italy you can book tickets on-line. There are some reasons why you should purchase them on-line: firstly, you can get a good discount and a number of bonuses, and secondly, there is no need to stand in long queues in front of the museum’s ticket office and go through the so-called "green corridor"- a separate queue for those who bought tickets online. By the way, many Italian museums work in the first half of the day, and often Monday is a day off.

Holiday in Italy in the off-season

Travelling to Italy in November or February can be a good idea for those who want to relax (even without bathing), to explore the sights, to learn a lot about the country and at the same time ... enjoy the peaceful atmosphere – there will not be many tourists at this period of time. 
The best option would be to visit Rimini - Italian resort town on the Adriatic coast, which for obvious reasons is empty in the off-season, but still attractive. Firstly, the city has excellent train connections, so getting to Rome, Vatican, Naples, Florence, Venice and other cities will not be a problem. For example, the trip to Rome takes only 2 hours. Secondly, the cost of hotels and apartments is rather cheap. Thirdly, Rimini enjoys lots of attractions and interesting places to explore.

Shopping in Italy

Working hours of the average Italian shop are from 9 - 10 am up to 18 - 20 pm. Days off are Sunday and, often, the first half of Monday. The lunch break in Italy begins at 13 o'clock and may last up to 16 o’clock. But shops in touristic cities work until the late night and even on weekends.
Italians are famous for the production of:
- Women's jewelry
- Leather goods
- Shoes
- Fur Clothing

You can buy inexpensive clothes of local fashion, beautiful lingerie, jewelry and ornaments, accessories. 
We recommend you to shop in Italian outlets - the largest Italian stores which are located outside the major cities, where you can purchase clothes of local fashion designers with great discounts.
The most "fashionable" city is Milan, Rome takes the second place (Via dei Condotti street). The third is Florence (Via de Tomabuoni street).
There are season sales 2 times a year: the winter sale - from January to February, the summer one - July and August. The first day of sales is different each year.

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