ITALY FAST FACTS
- Capital City: Rome
- Languages: Italian, English, French , German , Slovenian , Albanian
- Visas: EU citizens require only a passport or ID card to stay or work in Italy for as long as they like. They are, however, required to register with a questura (police station) if they take up residence and obtain a permesso di soggiorno (permission to remain for a nominated period).Citizens of many other countries, including the US, Canada, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Switzerland and Japan, do not need a visa if entering as tourists for up to three months. Passports may not be stamped upon entry, so that three-month rule can be interpreted with a certain flexibility.
- If you are entering for any reason other than tourism (for instance, study) or plan to remain for an extended period, insist on having the entry stamp. Without it you could encounter problems when trying to obtain a permesso di soggiorno. Non-EU citizens who want to study at a university or language school must have a study visa. These can be obtained from your nearest Italian embassy or consulate.
- Currency: Euro
- Dialing code: +39
- Electricity: 220V
- Time Zone: Central European Time +1 (+2 in summer)
- Weather – Italy’s climate varies from north to south and from lowland to mountain top. Temperatures at sea-level tend to be similar around the country, with altitudes creating steep changes between summer and winter. Winters are long and severe in the Alps, with snow falling as early as mid-September. Storms develop in spring and tend to last to autumn, making summer the wettest season. The northern regions experience chilly winters, hot summers and regular even rain distribution, while conditions become milder as you head south. The sirocco, the hot and humid African wind that affects regions south of Rome, produces at least a couple of stiflingly hot weeks in summer.
- When to go: Italy is at its best in spring (April-May) and autumn (September – November). During these seasons, the scenery is beautiful, the temperatures are pleasant and there are relatively few crowds. Try to avoid August, as this is the time that most Italians take their vacations, and many shops and businesses are closed as a result.
- Recent history: Italy’s parliament has a reputation for scandal and resignation, and at times it has left Italy virtually ungoverned and utterly chaotic. The explosion of corruption cases in the Mani Pulite (Clean Hands) and Tangentopoli (Bribesville) cases in the 1990s threw the traditional political parties into chaos and eventually led to Italy’s richest man, entrepreneur Silvio Berlusconi, becoming prime minister in alliance with the former Fascist party and northern Italian secessionists in 2001. Berlusconi, plagued by fraud and other charges, spent much of his term concocting laws to suit his private and business interests. His most lasting legacy was probably the nationwide ban on smoking in all enclosed public spaces in early 2005. With his coalition looking brittle and many Italians desperately disillusioned with his cavalier approach to politics, the ever disunited left wing snatched power in a neck-and-neck election in 2006. Romano Prodi was named the new Prime Minister.
- Religion: 84% Roman Catholic, 6% Jewish, Muslim and Protestant
- Travel Insurance: Since Italy for most of us is far from home, and a number of things could go wrong — lost luggage, trip cancellation, a medical emergency — consider the following types of insurance.Check your existing insurance policies before you buy travel insurance to cover trip cancellation, lost luggage, medical expenses, or car-rental insurance. You’re likely to have partial or complete coverage. But if you need some, ask your travel agent about a comprehensive package. The cost of travel insurance varies widely, depending on the cost and length of your trip, your age and overall health, and the type of trip you’re taking, but expect to pay between 5% to 8% of the vacation itself. Insurance for extreme sports or adventure travel, for example, will cost more than coverage for a European cruise. Some insurers provide packages for specialty vacations, such as skiing or backpacking. More dangerous activities may be excluded from basic policies.
- Trip-Cancellation Insurance — Trip-cancellation insurance helps you get your money back if you have to back out of a trip, if you have to go home early, or if your travel supplier goes bankrupt. Allowed reasons for cancellation can range from sickness to natural disasters to the Government declaring your destination unsafe for travel. In this unstable world, trip-cancellation insurance is a good buy if you’re getting tickets well in advance — who knows what the state of the world, or of your airline, will be in 9 months? Insurance policy details vary, so read the fine print — and make sure that your airline or cruise line is on the list of carriers covered in case of bankruptcy. Protect yourself further by paying for the insurance with a credit card — by law, consumers can get their money back on goods and services not received if they report the loss within 60 days after the charge is listed on their credit card statement.
GETTING TO TUSCANY
International flights come in to Pisa, Milano or Rome. From there either a car can be rented or Tuscany be reached by either bus or train.
Florence and Pisa have important airports. Every major city has a railway station.
Pisa International Airport Galileo Galilei is located 1.5km (1 mile) north of Pisa city centre.
Florence Airport Amerigo Vespucci is located four kilometers from the center of Florence.
Delta Airlines (US Carrier) now has a direct flight from New-York JFK to Pisa, offering a cheaper, alternative to flying into Florence.
Florence, Pisa and Grosseto are important rail destinations. Florence has two major rail stations, Santa Maria Novella (SMN) in the city centRE and Campo di Marte (CdM) a bit further away.
Connections from Florence to the rest of Italy by train are generally fast and frequent and EuroStar Italia services are available.
From the central station of Florence you can easily reach most places in Tuscany, including:
Siena (1.5 to 2 hours)
Pisa (1 to 1.5 hours)
San Gimignano (by train to Poggibonsi, 1 hour ride, and then a bus that runs every 30-40 minutes, 25 minute ride)
Volterra (also reachable by bus from Poggibonsi)
All of the above can be reached by bus so it’s really a question of convenience.
On offer are tours and private pick-ups which can be booked before your holiday.