Famous worldwide for its cuisine, fashion and expensive sports cars, but also for its beautiful landscapes, Italy is a cultural and historic country.
From the ruins of Pompeii to the canals of Venice, via the architectural marvels of Rome, any trip to Italy is sure to be unforgettable.
Italian weather varies greatly depending upon the region; towards the north the winters can be quite cold, and rainfall quite frequent. In Venice, this can often lead to flooding- known as "Acqua alta" or high water- however maps are available showing approved dry routes for these situations.
Summers tend to be very hot throughout Italy, and thunderstorms can be expected around the Alpine region.
Italians celebrate a number of public holidays, when many offices, shops, and attractions will be closed. These include Christmas Day, New Year's Day, and Labour Day (1st May). Different cities may also celebrate local saint's days, although not all shops will close on these days.
Many shops and businesses also close or reduce their hours substantially during the peak holiday period of July and August.
The two main airports in Italy are Malpensa International Airport in Milan and Leonardo Da Vinci International Airport in Rome.
Italy has an extensive rail network providing links not only throughout the country but also to destinations in France, Austria, Switzerland and Slovenia.
Driving is on the right hand side of the road. The speed limit in cities is 50kmph, but on the Autostrade can be up to 130kmph. Check carefully, as fines can be severe. Seatbelts are compulsory in the front, and also in the rear where fitted. Motorcycles should use dipped headlights at all times, and cars should use dipped headlights during the day outside built-up areas.
In Venice, most travel is by boat or on foot. The vaporetti waterbuses and water taxis provide quick and easy transport around the city, or for a more leisurely and romantic journey you can take a gondola ride.
Italian is the main language, with a number of regional dialects. Venetian is referred to as a dialect, but has many differences to standard Italian.
English is quite commonly spoken in the main tourist areas, however you may find the following Italian phrases useful:
Hello : Ciao
Goodbye : Arrivederci
Do you speak English? : Parla inglese?
Please : Per favore
Thank you : Grazie
The currency in Italy is the Euro, which divides into 100 cents.
The domestic electricity voltage is 220V, 50HZ, with a special Italian plug. Adaptors for other plugs are usually available in supermarkets.
The telephone country code for Italy is 39. If calling from overseas, you should not drop the leading 0 on Italian land line numbers. To call another country from Italy, dial 00 before the rest of the number.
In an emergency, there are several different numbers you can call (see below). If you are unsure, then you should call 112 or 113- outside major towns you are more likely to find an English speaking operator on 113.
112- Carabinieri (Gendarmerie and military police)
113- Polizia (Police)
115- Fire Department
118- Health emergency/Medical rescue
1515- State Forestry Department
1530- Coast Guard
Smoking is banned in enclosed areas throughout Italy, although some establishments may provide a special smoking area.
Wireless internet access is rare, as it requires a government licence.
You will normally require ID to use public-access internet points, and by law all websites you visit will be recorded.