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Fact on Italy - Answers to Facts about Italy before you Travel

Fact on Italy. Get your facts about Italy straight before you travel. What kind of money do they use in Italy? Can you use credit cards and traveler's checks? Who can you phone if your credit card is stolen? Who is the leader of Italy? What countries share a border with Italy? What type of government exists today?

Basic Facts About Italy

Fact on Italy  - Where is Italy?

Italy is in Central Europe where it is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea on one side and the Adriatic Sea on the other. Italy is shielded from the rest of Europe by the Alps. The Po River, Italy's longest river, arcs across the industrial north. It is part of the continent of Europe.

Fact on Italy - What Countries share a Border with Italy?

Italy shares its borders with four countries. In the northwest Italy borders France. In the north Italy borders Switzerland. In the northeast, Italy borders Austria and finally Slovenia.

Fact on Italy - What Languages are Spoken in Italy?

It really depends on where you are. In the southern parts of Italy and in the countryside people only speak Italian. Very few people will be able to speak English. However, in the cities like Rome, Florence, Venice, Sienna etc. people are more likely to speak English. In the areas bordering Switzerland and France, people will also speak French, and those that border Austria often can also speak German.

Fact on Italy - What Time is it in Italy now?

Italy is 1 hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). The clocks are put forward 1 hour in March and back in September. London is 1 hour behind Italy, Sydney is 10 hours ahead and Ottawa is 6 hours behind.

Fact on Italy - What is the Capital of Italy?

The capital of Italy is Rome. Rome is home to 2.7 million people,  and it has been home to the Papacy since the 2nd century AD.

Fact on Italy - What is the largest City in Italy?

The largest city in Italy is Rome followed by Milan.

Fact on Italy - What is the Population of Italy?

At present the population of Italy is 60.4 million people which makes it the 4th most heavily populated country in the EU. With almost half of those numbers living in the north, northern Italy is the most densely populated in the country.

Fact on Italy - What Electricity Voltage to they use in Italy?

Italy uses 220V, 50 Hz. All electrical appliances have 2 round prongs, and so inevitably if you are visiting Italy from overseas, your electrical appliances won't fit into the electrical sockets. You will have to buy an adapter which can be purchased at any electrical appliance store in Italy.

These days, you can also buy what is known as a
Universal Adapter , which is very handy to have if you are traveling all around the world, and this type of adapter will cover most plug variations.

Italian Politics

Fact on Italy - What Type of Government does Italy have?

Italy is a constitutional parliamentary republic. The President, who is the head of the state, serves a 7 year term of office and may be reelected. Italy is divided administratively into 20 regions, of which 15 have an ordinary statute ( a statute approved by parliament) and the other 5; Aosta Valley, Trentino-Alps, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Sicily and Sardinia have a special statute approved by a constitutional law. There are 103 provinces, each with its own administrative center. Italy also has 8,104 communes (municipalities).

Regions, provinces and municipalities are the layers of local government, each of which is responsible for certain administrative, judicial, legislative and social functions as well as general services. In addition to administrative and judicial offices, the provincial capitals also contain the police headquarters, the prefect's office and the USL (Unita Sanitarie Locali, the local health authorities.

Since 1948 there has been a Constitution of Italy (parliament), an executive branch (cabinet), headed by the President of the Council (prime minister), and a independent judicial branch headed by the 'Consiglio Superiore della Magistratura'. The President is the head of state, though his position is separate from all branches.

Fact on Italy - Who is the Leader of Italy?

Italy has 2 leaders , there is a Prime Minister and a President who is the Head of State.
The Head of State at present (2014)  is Giorgio Napolitano . He is given many duties that used to be given to the King of Italy. He is elected by the lawmakers, he appoints the executive, and is the president of the judiciary. The president is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

Currently, (2014) the Prime Minister of Italy is
Matteo Renzi and is the most powerful person in the Italian government. However, the way his position was set up, he does not have as much power as other Prime Ministers around the world.

Fact on Italy - Who are the Cabinet Members of the Italian Government?

List of Italian Ministers

The current Italian government is led by Matteo Renzi . As of February 2014, the government has 17 Ministers, of whom four are without portfolio

Party key Democratic Party
New Centre-Right
Civic Choice
Union of the Centre
Ministry Minister Party
President of the Council(Prime Minister) Matteo Renzi PD
State Secretary to the Prime Minister Graziano Delrio PD
Ministers with portfolio
Minister of the Interior Angelino Alfano NCD
Minister of Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini PD
Minister of Defense Roberta Pinotti PD
Minister of Justice Andrea Orlando PD
Minister of Economy and Finance Pier Carlo Padoan Independent
Minister of Economic Development Federica Guidi Independent
Minister of Infrastructures and Transports Maurizio Lupi NCD
Minister Agriculture, Food and Forestry Policies Maurizio Martina PD
Minister of Education, Universities and Research Stefania Giannini SC
Minister of Labour and Social Policy Giuliano Poletti Independent
Minister of the Environment, Protection of Land and Sea Gian Luca Galletti UdC
Minister of Heritage and Cultural Activities and Tourism Dario Franceschini PD
Minister of Health Beatrice Lorenzin NCD
Ministers without portfolio
Minister for Constitutional Reforms and Parliamentary Relations Maria Elena Boschi PD
Minister for Regional Affairs Maria Carmela Lanzetta PD
Minister for Simplification of Public Administration Marianna Madia PD

Italian Money Matters

What Type of Money do They use in Italy?

Italy is part of the European Union and as a result they use the Euro as their currency. Notes are in denominations of  €500, €200, €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5.  The coins are  in denominations of €2 and €1, and 50, 20, 10 , 5,  2 and 1 cents. There are 100 cents in a Euro.

Where can I Exchange my Money in Italy?

The best place to exchange your dollars for euros  is at banks and post offices. Both banks and post offices offer the best rates. Try and avoid money exchangers known as Bureau de Change found in cities and airports as you will inevitably get less of your dollars at these facilities.

What Time do Banks open in Italy?

Banks are open in Italy Monday - Friday only from 8:35 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.  They also close for an hour for lunch which is usually from 1:00 p.m - 2:00 p.m. In some major cities, some banks may stay open over the lunchtime period. Banks are not open on Saturdays or Sundays.

ATM Machines in Italy

There are ATM machines in Italy but be prepared to see the screen directions only in Italian. If you have no knowledge of Italian you are going to be in big trouble. I laughed at my husband who spent about 20 minutes trying to get money out of an Italian ATM once as he speaks no Italian at all. Even though I can speak some Italian now, some of the directions were even beyond me at the time and eventually we had to find some kind Italian soul to help us draw out the cash.

The ATM machines are called
Bancomat and can be found in most small villages, towns and cities throughout Italy. Look for ATMs that have the Cirrus of Bankmate symbol as it is these ATM machines that will accept foreign debit cards only.

Can we use our Credit Cards when we Travel to Italy?

When you travel to Italy you certainly can use your credit cards, especially if you have a Visa, Mastercard or Amex credit card but credit cards in Italy are not as widely used as in the USA. Italy is more a cash-based society, so don't think that you will be able to purchase items like train tickets, groceries or travel books with your credit card, because you probably won't be able to do so.

It is always best to ask first, especially before making a purchase, staying at a hotel, or ordering a meal. There is nothing worse than finding out,  after the fact, that credit cards are not accepted and you don't have enough cash on hand to pay the bill.

If your credit card is stole in Italy, and pick-pocketing is high, especially in large cities like Rome, particularly, then you can
phone the following numbers to report your stolen credit card:

Visa : 800 874 155
Mastercard: 800 870 866
Amex: 800 914 912

Can we use Travelers Checks when we Travel to Italy?

Traveler's checks are still accepted in Italy although these days the use of credit and debit cards are becoming more popular. If you are going to use traveler's checks make them out in large denominations so that when you cash them you are not losing too much money on commission charges. You will also need to produce some form of photo identification when you cash them.

Do you Tip in Italy?

In general, tipping in Italy is not expected, but definitely appreciated. If you have had a good meal it is acceptable to leave a 10% tip.

If you are booking into a hotel, then the porter will expect a small tip.

If you are traveling in an Italian taxi, tipping is not expected.

What are the Shopping Hours in Italy?

Normal trading hours in large cities and tourist destinations are usually from 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. Shops then close for 2-3 hours for lunch when trading then resumes from 3:00 p.m./4:00 p.m. - 7:30/8:00 pm.

You may find that some shops close at 12:30 p.m. There are also special closing days for certain stores. For example, clothing stores are usually closed on Monday mornings or even the whole day. Some grocery stores may close on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. Restaurants also close one day a week, usually either Mondays or Tuesdays. Stores are closed on Sundays, except for large tourist areas.

Is there Tax in Italy?

There is tax on purchased goods in Italy, and it is very high. This is mainly to balance out the fact that it is a national pastime for Italians to avoid paying tax wherever they can, especially when it comes to declaring their annual earnings.

For income from 0 to 26.000 Euros: 23%
For income from 26.000 to 33.500 Euros: 33%
For income from 33.500  to 100.000 Euros: 39%
For income above 100.000 Euros: 43% (39% plus a 4% solidarity tax)

Many Italians will declare that they have earned less that 26.000 Euros per year in order to minimize their tax burden. Tax fraud, is huge in Italy.

As a tourist in Italy, you will pay 20% GST or VAT on most purchased goods and services, just like the locals do. This is known in Italy as IVA (
Imposta de Valora Aggiunto ).

Italian Public Holidays

What public holidays does Italy celebrate?

There are 18 scheduled public holidays in Italy. See our page on Italian Holidays for details.

Italian Weather

Fact on Italy - What Kind of Weather does Italy Have?

Italy is a large country and of course they have milder weather in the southern areas than those that border the Alps.  

There are 3 distinct climatic zones the cold Alpine winters and warm,wet summers characterize the northern regions.  In the extensive Po Valley they have dry summers contrasted by freezing, damp winters. The rest of Italy has a pleasant climate with long, hot summers and mild winters. However snow is not uncommon in many areas of Italy. See
weather in Italy for a more detailed report.

Italian Icons

Fact on Italy - What is Italy Famous For?

It is famous for being the center of the Renaissance era,  under the patronage of the di
Medici family.  Italy is also famous for having at one stage one of the largest Empires of the world in the Roman Empire.

In the past Italy was famous for its many inventors, scientists, artists and explorers. People like Marco Polo, Marconi, Galileo, Christopher Columbus, Leonardo di Vinci, Michelangelo and Archimedes to name just a few.

Italy today is famous for being the center of luxury and fashion in Gucci, Prada, Valentino, Armani as well as the place where cars such as Fiat  and Ferrari and built. The Lamborghini factory can be found in Bologna.

It is famous for such landmarks as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Vatican City and the Colosseum in
Rome , and the beautiful countryside of Tuscany .

Finally, Italy is famous for its
Italian food and wine.

Books on Travel Italy

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