Language: Italian is the official language however, dialects are spoken in different regions.
Time Zone: Central European Standard Time = GMT+1, Central European Summer Time = GMT+1
Tpping: Tips are not compulsory and there are no established rules, although it is common practice to leave a sum amounting to around 10% of the bill if you are satisfied with the service you have received.
Italy - An Introduction
Many believe that the world famous boot of Europe is full of nothing else but pizzas, pastas and Piazzas but if you delve a little deeper into coach holidays to Italy, you'll discover a nation that has a little bit of everything from amazing art to sumptuous food, stunning countryside and flamboyant fashion.
If you're looking to soak up history and culture then a visit to Rome is a must. The city itself is a huge open-air museum where you can really discover what the Romans did with mighty monuments such as the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, The Spanish Steps and the Panthenon to admire. You can see some of this formidable art in Vatican City where Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and created the masterpiece David at the East End of Florence Cathedral. No tours of Italy would be the same without gliding along the famous waterways of Venice in a gondola or experiencing the fantastic Venice Carnival consisting of 10 days and nights of masquerade madness from the beautiful Grand Canal Flotilla to the Calcio Storico fancy-dress football match in the Piazza San Marco.
Fans of Shakespeare on an Italy tour should visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Verona, the setting for the legendary tale between star-crossed lovers Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet. Verona is referred to by locals as piccolo Roma (Little Rome) as it has a perfectly preserved Roman amphitheatre, The Arena, which hosts the annual summer opera festival. Whilst in Verona you will find medieval terraces, Renaissance gardens and the famous 14th century balcony of Casa di Giulietta. Many consider this to be Juliet's Balcony and to this day, lovers from across the world graffiti their hopeful pleas on the courtyard walls.
Escape from the hustle of the cities and head north to the beautiful Italian Lakes. Authors such as D H Lawrence and Hemingway have all lavished praise on this tiny treasure of Italy but no words can properly describe its beauty from Lake Orta (Lago d'Orta) in the west to Lake Maggiore (Lago Maggiore) in the east and not forgetting Lake Garda (Lago di Garda) all providing perfect picture-postcard scenes.
Other sights not to be missed as you visit Italy include the curving bay with pine-covered mountains and pastel-coloured villas of Portofino in the Cinque Terre. Travel to Padua and you'll find Italy's second oldest museum among other treasures. Discover Caribbean blue seas that are coral rich in Sardinia. Cross the famous medieval Ponte Vecchio Bridge, have your photograph taken outside the Duomo (cathedral) and see masterpieces of art in the Uffizi Gallery when your Italy tour takes you to Florence. See the
mighty Leaning Tower of Pisa, understand how the Romans went about their daily lives when you see the remains of Pompeii and Herculaneum and before your Italy tour is finished, visit Sicily with its remarkable catacombs containing thousands of mummified bodies!
The choice available to you can make planning your Italy tour a little overwhelming but take the advice of the locals, sit back, relax with a gelato and see as much of the country as you can with the promise that you can always come back to discover more when you next visit Italy.
Find out more
Thinking of travelling to Italy? Check out the average temperatures for when you plan to visit courtesy of BBC Weather
For further information about Italy you can vsiit the official tourism website at italia.it
Tips & Advice
To help you have an enjoyable holiday in Italy take a look at these useful tips and advice provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO):
Health and Travel Insurance
When visiting Italy, you should always obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) prior to departing from the UK. The EHIC isn't a substitute for medical and travel insurance, however it entitles you to state provided medical treatment should it become necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is given on the same terms as Italian nationals. The EHIC does not cover medical repatriation, on-going treatments or non-urgent medical treatment, so in addition to having an EHIC you should ensure you have adequate travel insurance and accessible funds which will cover the cost of any medical treatment and repatriation should you need it.
Crime levels are generally low in Italy but there are increased levels of petty crime in the larger city centres. Take care when riding on public transport and when visiting crowded areas in Rome, especially close to the main railway station ‘Termini' and when riding the number 64 bus, which goes to St Peter's Square and back. Be vigilant if getting the train to or from the major airports in Italy (especially Fiumicino airport) and also be careful when unloading your luggage from coaches and trains. Thieves have been known to rob sleeping passengers on overnight trains, so do take necessary precautions.
Alcoholic beverages served overseas are often stronger than those in the UK. Never leave food or drink unattended at any time. Victims who have had their drinks spiked have been robbed or even assaulted in the past.
If you hire or drive your own car to Italy be aware that rest stops and motorway service stations are ideal targets for robbers. Be cautious of any offers for help with flat tyres, particularly on the motorway which stretches between Naples and Salerno. Make sure you always lock your vehicle, avoid leaving valuables on display and never leave luggage in your car for any length of time.
European police forces have issued warnings about counterfeit Euro notes being in circulation. Ensure notes you receive, from sources other than banks, are genuine.
Local Laws and Customs
Italian law states that you must be able to show identification at all times. It is sensible to carry a photocopy of the data page from your passport, but be aware you might be asked to collect the original document to show to the police officers or you may be asked to produce it within twelve hours. If you are stopped by Police, whilst driving, you will most likely be asked to present your full passport.
In Rome and the surrounding area, restaurants have to display a menu outside, only if the customer specifically requests it can they charge for bread and they must inform the customer of the prices that are being charged when he/she orders it. They must also give a proper receipt and must not make any cover charge (coperto).
In Venice and Florence, you may be fined should you drop litter. In Florence, in the vicinity of the main public buildings and churches, it is an offence to eat and drink or to sit on steps/courtyards.
Illegal traders often operate on the streets of major Italian cities, particularly Florence and Rome. Do not purchase anything from the illegal street traders. You may be stopped by the local police and fined.
British nationals don't need a visa to visit Italy. Your passport must be valid for the duration of your stay when under three months. Italy does not insist on your passport having an additional period of validity beyond this.
Any other nationality looking to visit Italy must contact the local embassy to check visa requirements.
Things to do
Italy is a great place to visit, with so many well-known and well-loved cities you are sure to be immersed in the Italian way of life:
Known as one of the most romantic cities in the world, Venice is a must-do for anyone visiting Italy. You can explore this timeless city either by foot or boat, hopping on and off a water bus or even taking a ride on a Gondola. St Mark's Square is bound to be bustling so be sure to pay it a visit. Be sure not to miss St Mark's Basilica and for a birds-eye view of the city, take a trip to the top of the nearby Bell Tower.
The Capital city is a great place to explore Italy's history. With several recognisable monuments such as the Colosseum, St John's Basilica and the Trevi Fountain, you will fall in love with this historic city. Whilst in Rome, you'll need to explore the Vatican City, just a stone's throw away, where millions of visitors have been to see the home of the Catholic Church where the Pope resides.
A popular destination for the British Upper Class during the 1920s and 1930s and it still hasn't lost its appeal today. Located in the South of the country, this town on the seafront makes for spectacular views. Visit the Duomo de Amalfi and the Chiostro del Paradiso in between gorging on delicious gelato and of course pizza!
Traditionally known for its spectacular landscapes and heritage, Tuscany is the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. The region incorporates a number of World Heritage Sites: Florence, Siena, Pisa, San Gimignano, Val d'Orcia and Pienza. The Tuscan Hills are also world famous for their wine production with the area of Chianti a particular favourite among tourists visiting the wine region.