Italy is famous for its passion and its incredible beauty. But it is so much more than just this; it is also chaotic, colourful, noisy, full of history and rich in art.
Besides its well-known, big cities like Rome or Pisa, Italy also offers stunning landscapes – from the sunny beaches of Sicily and Sardinia to the snowy Dolomites – the whole country is full of a certain flair that you simply have to discover yourself.
Italians are generally seen as charming, stylish and uninhibited and you could say all of that is true in some way. For a lot of people in Italy, maintaining la bella figura (face) is the most important thing.
At the same time, Italians can be quite traditional; family ties for example still play an enormous role in the country’s culture. Three generations living together under one roof is quite common. Italians love football – the major teams are Juventus Turin and AC Milan. Motor Sports is also really big, the Italian Grand Prix held at Monza and the San Marino grand Prix at Imola are real mass spectacles.
Regarding food, it is not only pesto, pizza and Bolognese sauce that Italy is famous for. There is a wide range of regional specialities you might discover during your stay. Make sure you have some wine- Italy produces some great wines like Barolo or Chianti. Also, try Peroni, the national beer.
|Dialing Code||(00) 39|
|Emergency Numbers||Ambulance 118, fire brigade 115, police 112/113|
|Weather||During summer, the south is far hotter than the north. There is generally a big temperature difference between the north and south – especially in the mountain regions with their heavy winter snowfalls. In winter, it can be -2°C and snowing in Milan, while it is +12°C in Rome.
The wettest area is the north of the country (the wettest and coldest months are October-December, the hottest months are July and August). The average annual temperature In the Po Plain is about 13°C; in Sicily, about 18°C and in the coastal lowlands, about 14°C. The Po Valley and the Alps are characterized by their cold winters and warm summers. |
|Tourist Board website||www.italiantourism.com|
|Most Famous For||Pizza and pasta, wine, the Romans, Renaissance art|
|Useful Phrases||buongiorno (hello), grazie (thanks), mi scuzi (excuse me), quanta costa? (how much is it?), sta scherzando! (you’re joking!)|
|Accommodation||Italy’s major cities and tourist areas offer a good variety of accommodation, from hotels to family-run bed & breakfasts and room rentals, although hostels are rather rare. Camping is very common in Italy, but especially during summer, you should book in advance to guarantee your spot as it becomes very popular.
In rural areas in Tuscany, Piedmont, Umbria, Abruzzo, Sardinia and Apulia there are also farms that offer accomodation, which provide a great way to discover the ‘real’ side of the country. They offer good and healthy food, wonderful natural beauty and an all-round great experience at low-budget prices. |
|Business Hours||Shops are generally open from 09.00 -19.30 Mondays to Saturdays, although some of them close from 13.00 - 15.00. Sunday all shops are closed, except kiosks at train stations and most petrol stations.|
|Visas||Citizens of countries that are included in the Schengen (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden) do not need a visa. United States citizens, Canadians, Australians, New Zealand citizens, Irish nationals and British citizens must have a valid passport. A visa is not required for stays of up to 90 days. South Africans need a valid passport and a Schengen visa.|
|Tipping||In restaurants service is generally included in the bill. In addition in most restaurants there is the so-called "coperto" (cover charge ranging between approx 1-3 Euros) which is automatically added to the bill too. Since waiters do not earn that much in Italy, tipping will definitely make the staff happy, but you are not obligated to do so. You would generally tip 5-10 per cent of the price.
Tipping hotel porters and taxi drivers is appreciated, especially when they have been helpful with your luggage. Again this is not compulsory but certainly quite usual. |
Italy is surrounded by the Adriatic, Lingurian, Tyrrhenian and Ionian seas and as such has got more than 8000km of coastline. About three quarters of the inland area is mountainous (the Alps on the Northern border, the Apennines run over a distance of 1350km from north to south). About five per cent of the country is covered by National Parks and there are over 400 nature reserves and wetlands.
Since the end of World War II, Italy’s economy has developed from an agriculturally based economy into the world's sixth-largest economy in USD exchange-rate terms. It depends largely on the processing and the manufacturing of goods, very often in small family-owned firms. Italy belongs to the G8 Group of industrialized nations; it is also a member of the European Union and the OECD.
The center-left parties created the Olive Tree coalition while the centre-right is united under the House of Freedoms colation. The coalitions continued into the 2001 and 2006 national elections with the Olive Tree coaltion winning the latter and being the current ruling group.
The most important political party has been the Christian Democratic Party (Partito Democrazia Cristiana—DC), which is considered to be around the centre of the political spectrum. It can be described as a religious and an anti-class party. The other really important party is the Italian Communist Party (Partito Comunista Italiano—PCI), Western Europe’s biggest Communist party.
The fascist period of the twentieth century was a low point in Italy’s history. In 1925 Mussolini gained power and entered the country into WWII on the side of Germany. The defeat followed and Mussolini was killed by partisans in 1945.
Insofar as the post war era is concerned, Italy can be called highly successful; it was one of the founding members of the EC (European Community); it survived a time of terror during the Seventies and grew economically until 1980, at which point followed several crises and bribery scandals.
Media magnate Silvio Berlusconi became Prime minister in 1994 for a short while, and in 2001 he again became Italy’s Prime Minister. After the vote in 2006, the country’s general elections were won by Romano Prodi, who is supported by a centre-left coalition.