The dominant religion is Roman Catholic with mature Protestant and Jewish communities and a growing Muslim immigrant community.
Italian is the official language. German is also spoken (parts of Trentino-Alto Adige region are predominantly German speaking), as well as French (small French-speaking minority in Valle d'Aosta region) and Slovene (Slovene-speaking minority in the Trieste-Gorizia area). It is worth brushing up on some Italian before you visit and remember to bring your Italian language guide book.
Area (sq. km):
301,230 square meters
GMT +1 ( GMT +2 from 29 March to 26 Sept)
In the spring, the 'sirocco', a hot wind from Africa, may bring quite high temperatures to southern and central parts of Italy. Average daily maximum temperatures range from about 15 C (59 F) in March to 23 C (74 F) in May. In summer, average daytime maximum temperatures reach about 30 C (86 F), but southern areas are mostly dry on average, with 29-30 dry days expected. Between 10 and 11 hours of sunshine per day are typical. As in the spring, the 'sirocco' wind may well bring very high temperatures to parts of Italy during the autumn, accompanied by some high humidity. Daily average maximum temperatures are still pleasantly high in September (typically 26 C - 79 F), but they have fallen back to about 15 C (59 F) by November. The number of dry days varies from 24 or 25 in September to about 19 in November.
In general, Italy has a temperate Mediterranean climate, with warm summers and cool winters in the north and hot summers and mild winters in the south. The main tourist season runs from April to October, the busiest and hottest time is July and August.
Rome: Rome Leonardo da Vinci (Fiumicino) International Airport is located 26 kilometres (16 miles) southwest of Rome. There is a Leonardo Express train service to Rome’s Termini Station (journey time is 35 minutes and should cost around 9 euros). Metropolitan Trains FM1 stop at local stations on the way to Tiburtina. Services also run to Fara Sabina, Poggio Mirteto and Orte. Taxis to the centre are readily available; passengers should only take a licensed metered taxi, this should set you back around 50 euros. Pisa: Pisa International Airport Galileo Galilei is located only 1.5 kilometres (1 mile) north of Pisa. The railway station is next to the terminal and can be accessed via a covered walkway. Services run to Lucca via Pisa Centrale. There are also trains to Florence (Firenze SMN) via Pisa Centrale, Pontedera and Empoli; a service also operates to Florence via Montecatini and Pistoia. Alternatively bus number 3 runs from the airport to the city centre. Due to the short distance to the city centre, a taxi will not set you back much. Naples: Naples Capodichinio International Airport is located 7 kilometres (4 miles) northeast of Naples. A taxi will cost around 30 Euros to the centre of the town, a cheaper option is the ANM buses, which run to Napoli Centrale railway station, arriving at the port of Naples (Piazza Municipio). Alibus shuttle buses also run to Napoli Centrale railway station and then to Piazza Municipio in the centre of Naples. Milan: Milan Malpensa Airport is located 45 kilometres (29 miles) northwest of Milan. Malpensa Express trains run from Terminal 1 to Milano Cadorna Station (journey time is 40 minutes), in the centre of Milan. Buses run from both terminals to Milano Centrale Station. There are also services to Linate Airport, Sesto and Torino. The Malpensa Shuttle runs from both terminals to Milano Centrale Station. Venice: Venice Marco Polo Airport is located 12km (7.5 miles) from Venice by land, 10km (6 miles) by water. Water: Alilaguna runs waterboat service between the airport docks and Venice, Murano and Lido. Water taxis and ATVO motorboats also run from the airport docks to Venice; a 24-hour motorboat service is available from Consorzio Motoscafi Venezia. Taxi: Traditional taxis are available from Radiotaxi. Taxis to Padua and shared taxis area also available. Bus: There are scheduled bus services to Padua, Mestre and Venice. Venice-Mestre railway station is connected to the airport by the ATVO Fly Bus and the ACTV bus no.15. Bus no.5 also runs to Piazzale Roma.
The international dialling code for Italy is +39. Telephone calls, especially international ones, can be expensive when made from a hotel. We suggest you check the price first. If you have a mobile phone it should be a relatively simple procedure to arrange ‘global roaming’ with your service provider, however charges are generally very high so be sure to check this option thoroughly.
The electricity supply is standard throughout Europe, at 220 volts, and appliances requiring 240 volts will all work normally. Most European countries use plugs with two round pins. A set of adaptor plugs is recommended.
The food in Italy is amazing! The cuisine has distinct regional features and seasonal variations. For example, Tuscan cooking is very simple, has fresh flavours and uses local produce. The further south you head, the more the dishes become heavier and more complex with more spice. If you are going for the full meal option, expect a few courses, starting with antipasto such as bruschetta (grilled bread, usually with a topping of chopped fresh tomatoes, garlic and olive oil), followed by the primo piatto, a pasta dish, and the secondo piatto, meat or fish. Next comes the insalata (salad) or contorni (vegetables), before finishing with dolci (sweets) and caffe (coffee). Make sure all these delectables are washed down with a bottle of local wine such as Chiani, sangiovese or brunello if you like reds, if you prefer white, try vernaccia.
Getting around in Italy is quite easy, there is a good network of train, planes, boats, autostrade (freeways) and buses. Trentalia is the partially privatized state-run train system.
Many Italian products are world-famous for their style and quality. Prices are generally fixed and bargaining is not general practice, although a discount may be given on a large purchase. Florence, Milan (elegant shops of Via Montenapoleone) and Rome are famous as important fashion centres, but smaller towns also offer good scope for shopping. Some places are known for particular products, eg Carrara (Tuscany) for marble, Como (Lombardy) for silk, Deruta (Umbria) and Faenza (Emilia-Romagna) for pottery, Empoli (Tuscany) for the production of bottles and glasses in green glass and Prato (Tuscany) for textiles. Vietri sul Mare (Campania) is one of the most important centres of ceramic paving-tiles, and Ravenna (Emilia-Romagna) is famous for mosaics. Cremona (Lombardy) is famous for its handmade violins. Two small towns concentrate on producing their speciality: Valenza (Piedmont), which has a large number of goldsmith artisans, and Sulmona (Abruzzo), which produces ‘confetti’, sugar-coated almonds used all over Italy for wedding celebrations. Castelfidardo (Marche) is famous for its accordion factories, and for its production of guitars and organs. Venice is known for its glassware made on the island of Murano and it’s lace, however, most of the lace sold is no longer made locally (only lace made on the island of Burano may properly be called Venetian lace). Florence boasts some of the finest goldsmiths, selling from shops largely concentrated along both sides of the Ponte Vecchio bridge. Florentine jewellery has a particular quality of satin finish called satinato. Much filigree jewellery can also be found. Cameos are another speciality of Florence, carved from exotic shells. It is advisable to avoid hawkers or sellers on the beaches.
Visas are currently not required for Australian, New Zealand, US, Canadian or UK/EU passport holders wishing to visit Italy.
Some EU nationals may travel in Europe using only an identity card, however it is your responsibility to check with the relevant authorities if this applies to you.
The House of Medici-Christopher Hibbert A Small Place In Italy-Eric Newby Love And War In The Appennines-Eric Newby Italian Lessons-Tim Parks An Italian Education-Tim Parks A Room With A View-Edward Forster Under The Tuscan Sun-Frances Mayes The Hills of Tuscany-Ferenc Maté