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Italy Travel Guide
General Information on Italy TOP

Italy is situated in Europe and attached in the north to the European mainland. To the north, the Alps separate Italy from France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia. Northern Italy: The Alpine regions, the Po Plain and the Ligurian-Etruscan Appennines. Piedmont and Val d’Aosta contain some of the highest mountains in Europe and are good areas for winter sports. Many rivers flow down from the mountains towards the Po Basin, passing through the beautiful Italian Lake District (Maggiore, Como, Garda). The Po Basin, which extends as far south as the bare slopes of the Appennines, is covered with gravel terraces and rich alluvial soil and has long been one of Italy’s most prosperous regions. To the east, where the River Po flows into the Adriatic Sea, the plains are a little higher than the river itself; artificial (and occasionally natural) embankments prevent flooding. Central Italy: The northern part of the Italian peninsula. Tuscany (Toscana) has a diverse landscape with snow-capped mountains (the Tuscan Appennines), lush countryside, hills and a long sandy coastline with offshore islands. Le Marche, lying between the Appennines and the Adriatic coast, is a region of mountains, rivers and small fertile plains.

The even more mountainous regioni (administrative districts) of Abruzzo and Molise are bordered by Marche to the north and Puglia to the south, and are separated from the Tyrrhenian Sea and to the west by Lazio and Campania. Umbria is known as the ‘green heart of Italy’, hilly with broad plains, olive groves and pines. Further south lies Rome, Italy’s capital and largest city. Within its precincts is the Vatican City. Southern Italy: Campania consists of flat coastal plains and low mountains, stretching from Baia Domizia to the Bay of Naples and along a rocky coast to the Calabria border. Inland, the Appennines are lower, mellowing into the rolling countryside around Sorrento. The islands of Capri, Ischia and Procida in the Tyrrhenian Sea are also part of Campania. The south is wilder than the north, with mile upon mile of olive trees, cool forests and rolling hills. Puglia, the ‘heel of the boot’, is a landscape of volcanic hills and isolated marshes. Calabria, the ‘toe’, is heavily forested and thinly populated. The Calabrian hills are home to bears and wolves.

The Climate Of Italy TOP

Summer is hot, especially in the south. Spring and autumn are mild with fine, sunny weather. Winter in the south is much drier and warmer than in northern and central areas. Mountain regions are colder with heavy winter snowfalls.

Required clothing: Lightweight cottons and linens are worn during the summer, except in the mountains. Light- to mediumweights are worn in the south during winter, while warmer clothes are worn elsewhere. Alpine wear is advised for winter mountain resorts.

Getting To Italy TOP

AIR: Italy’s national airline is Alitalia (AZ) (website: A great number of major international airlines operate direct flights to various destinations in Italy from the USA, Canada, Australia and Europe. Owing to the number of flights available, ticket prices vary greatly and there is a wide range of discount fares and special tickets available. Further information can be obtained from the airline or a travel agent.

Approximate flight times: From Rome to London is 2 hours 30 minutes, to Los Angeles is 15 hours 35 minutes, to New York is 9 hours 45 minutes, to Singapore is 13 hours 55 minutes and to Sydney is 24 hours 50 minutes.

International airports: Rome (FCO) (Fiumicino) (website:, 26km (16 miles) southwest of the city (travel time – 30-55 minutes). A new terminal B was recently opened to cater primarily for flights to other European destinations. Airport facilities include outgoing duty-free shop, car hire, bank and 24-hour bureau de change and 24-hour bar/restaurant. There is a direct rail link to Termini Station in central Rome and a bus service every 15 minutes. Taxis are also available to the city.
Rome (CIA) (Ciampino) (website:, 32km (15 miles) from the city (travel time – 60 minutes). Airport facilities include a bank/bureau de change, duty-free shop and souvenir shop and cafe. Buses are available to the underground station Anagnina. Taxis are also available.
Bologna (BLQ) (G Marconi) (website:, 6km (4 miles) northwest of the city (travel time – 20 minutes) has good airport facilities. Buses and taxis are available to the city.
Florence (FLR) (Amerigo Vespucci) (website:, 4km (2.4 miles) north of the city (travel time – 20 minutes) has banks, bureaux de change, left luggage, bars and restaurants and duty-free facilities. Buses and taxis are available to the city.
Genoa (GOA) (Cristoforo Colombo, Sestri) (website:, 6km (4 miles) west of the city (travel time – 20 minutes) has duty-free facilities. Buses are available to the city.
Milan (MXP) (Malpensa) (website: is 45km (29 miles) northwest of the city (travel time – 30 minutes) and has duty-free facilities.
Milan (LIN) (Linate) (website: is 10km (6 miles) east of the city (travel time – 30 minutes). Airport facilities include outgoing duty-free facilities, car hire, bank/bureau de change and bar/restaurant. Taxis and buses are available to the city.
Bergamo (BGY) (Milano Orio al Serio) (website: is 45km (28 miles) east of Milan. Taxis and buses are available to both Milan and Bergamo.
Naples (NAP) (Capodichino) (website: is 7km (4.5 miles) north of the city (travel time – 20-30 minutes) and has good airport facilities. Buses and taxis operate to the city centre.
Pisa (PSA) (Galileo Galilei) (website: is 2km (1.5 miles) northeast of the city (travel time – 10 minutes) and has duty-free facilities.
Palermo (PMO) (Punta Raisi) (website: is 30km (19 miles) west of the city (travel time – 40 minutes).
Turin (TRN) (Citta di Torino) (website: is 16km (10 miles) northeast of the city (travel time – 35 minutes). Airport facilities include bureaux de change, left luggage, restaurants, bars and duty-free shopping. Buses, trains and taxis all run to the city centre.
Venice (VCE) (Marco Polo) (website: is 10km (6 miles) northwest of the city (travel time – 20 minutes) has good airport facilities. Buses and taxi services run to Piazzale Roma and the railway station. Water taxis operate to San Marco.

Note: People travelling to Florence can fly to Pisa and then take the new train service directly from Pisa Airport to Florence (travel time – 60 minutes). The railway station in Pisa is practically inside the airport. Rail services connect with arrivals and departures of all international flights and major domestic services.

Departure tax: None.

SEA: International sailings to Italy run from Albania, Croatia, the Far East, France, Greece, Libya, Malta, Portugal, South America, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey and West Africa. For details, contact shipping agents direct. The quickest route from the UK is via France. The following companies run regular cross-channel ferries from the UK to France: Brittany Ferries from Plymouth to Roscoff, from Portsmouth to St Malo and Caen, and from Poole to Cherbourg; Condor Ferries from Jersey, Guernsey, Poole, Portsmouth and Weymouth to Cherbourg and St Malo; Hoverspeed from Dover to Calais, and from Newhaven to Dieppe; SeaFrance from Dover to Calais; P&O Stena Line from Dover to Calais; and P&O Portsmouth from Portsmouth to Cherbourg and Le Havre. These companies offer a variety of promotional fares and inclusive holidays for short breaks and shopping trips.

RAIL: Travelling from the UK, the quickest way is to travel by Eurostar through the Channel Tunnel to Paris (travel time – 3 hours) and, from there, to Italy. For further information and reservations, contact: Eurostar (tel: (0870) 6000 792 (travel agents) or (08705) 186 186 (public; within the UK) or +44 (1233) 617 575 (public; outside the UK); website:; or Rail Europe (tel: 08705 848 848). Travel agents can obtain refunds for unused tickets from Eurostar Trade Refunds, Second Floor, Kent House, 81 Station Road, Ashford, Kent TN23 1PD. Complaints and comments may be sent to Eurostar Customer Relations, Eurostar House, Waterloo Station, London SE1 8SE. General enquiries and information requests must be made by telephone. Rail travellers not using the Channel Tunnel link need to make some form of sea crossing, usually by ferry or catamaran; for details on sea crossings see also Sea above. The cost of the crossing is usually included in the price of the rail ticket. For information and reservations contact Rail Europe (tel: (08705) 848 848). The main rail connections from London (Victoria) and Paris to Italy are: Artesia (Lyon, Milan, Paris, Rome and Turin); and Simplon Express (Brigue, Domodossola, Lausanne, Milan, Paris, Trieste and Venice).

ROAD: Travelling by car from the UK, the quickest way is via Eurotunnel trains which carry all types of vehicles through the channel tunnel (travel time – 35 minutes). For further details, see also Travel - International in the France section. For information and reservations, contact Eurotunnel in the UK (tel: (08705) 353 535; website: Routes from the UK to Italy run through France, Austria, Switzerland and Slovenia and most routes use the tunnels under the Alps and Apennines. Italian State Railways run regular daily services called autotreni (trains carrying cars), especially during the summer holiday season. The main routes covered are: Milan–Genoa–Naples–Villa San Giovanni; Bologna–Naples–Villa San Giovanni; Milan–Rome–Naples–Villa San Giovanni; Turin–Bolzano–Bari; and Bologna–Catania. These services operate from special railway stations and are generally bookable at the departure station. Owners must travel on the same train. The documents required are the log-book, valid driving licence with Italian translation, Green Card insurance and national identity plate fixed to the rear of the vehicle. For more information on routes, contact the Italian State Tourist Board (see Contact Addresses section). For more information on required documentation and traffic regulations in Italy, see Travel – Internal section. Coach: Eurolines run coach services from the UK to the following destinations: Ancona, Bologna, Cattolica, Florence, Genoa, L'Aquila, Mestre, Milan, Montecatini, Naples, Padua, Parma, Pesaro, Pisa, Riccione, Rimini, Rome, Siena, Teramo, Turin, Venice and Verona. For information on timetables and fares, call Eurolines in the UK (4 Cardiff Road, Luton, Bedfordshire, L41 1PP; tel: (08705) 143 219; fax: (01582) 400 694; website: or

Travelling Around Italy TOP

AIR: Alitalia (AZ) and other airlines run services to all the major cities. There are over 30 airports. For details, contact the airlines direct or ENIT, the Italian State Tourist Office (see Contact Addresses section).

SEA: Italy’s principal ports are Ancona, Bari, Brindisi, Cagliari, Catania, Civitavecchia, Genoa, La Spezia, Livorno, Messina, Naples, Palermo, Pescara, Trieste and Venice. A number of car and passenger ferries operate throughout the year linking Italian ports. Ferries: Regular boat and hydrofoil services run to the islands of Capri, Elba, Giglio, Sardinia, Sicily and the Aeolian Islands. There are also some links along the coast.

RAIL: There are nearly 16,000km (9400 miles) of track in the country, of which more than half is electrified. The Italian State Railways (FS) (website: runs a nationwide network at very reasonable fares, calculated on the distance travelled, and there are a number of excellent reductions.
A new rail pass, the Trenitalia Pass, is now the only pass available to people resident outside of Italy (it supersedes the old Italy Flexicard, Railcard and Kilometric ticket). This allows from 4 to 10 days of unlimited travel within a 2-month period. Any train in Italy can be used, although a small supplement is payable on Eurostar Italia services. The pass also entitles the holder to a discount on some Italy-Greece ferry routes. Both first and second class passes are available. Children aged from 4 to 11 pay half the adult fare, and there is a reduced-rate Youth Pass for travellers aged under 26.
For further information, contact Trenitalia (website: or Railchoice (tel: (020) 8659 7300; fax: (020) 8659 7466; e-mail:; website:; or Freedom Rail (tel: (0870) 757 9898; fax: (01253) 595151; e-mail:; website:

ROAD: There are more than 300,000km (185,500 miles) of roads in Italy, including over 6000km (3700 miles) of motorway (autostrada) which link all parts of the country. Tolls are charged at varying distances and scales, except for the Salerno–Reggio Calabria, Palermo–Catania and Palermo–Mazara Del Vallo stretches which are toll-free. Secondary roads are also excellent and require no tolls. Road signs are international. Many petrol stations are closed 1200-1500. Visitors are advised to check locally about exact opening times. More information on the Italian motorway network is available from the Società Autostrade (website:

Traffic regulations: Traffic drives on the right. Speed limits are 50kph (30mph) in urban areas, 90/110kph (55/65mph) on country roads, 130kph (80mph) on motorways. Undipped headlights are prohibited in towns and cities, but are compulsory when passing through tunnels. All vehicles must carry a red warning triangle, available at border posts. Note: Fines for speeding and other driving offences are on-the-spot and particularly heavy. Breakdown service: In case of breakdown on any Italian road, dial 116 at the nearest telephone box. Tell the operator where you are, your plate number and type of car and the nearest Automobile Club of Italy (ACI) office will be informed for immediate assistance.

Customs regulations: Visitors must carry their logbook, which must either be in their name as owner or must have the owner’s written permission to drive the vehicle. Customs documents for the temporary importation of motor vehicles (also aircraft and pleasure-boats) have been abolished. Bus: Good coach services run between towns and cities and there are also extensive local buses, including good services on Sicily and Sardinia. In more remote areas, buses will usually connect with rail services. Taxi: Services are available in and between all cities. Car hire: Self-drive hire is available in most cities and resorts. Many international and Italian firms operate this service with different rates and conditions. With the larger firms, it is possible to book from other countries through the car hire companies, their agents or through the air companies. Generally, small local firms offer cheaper rates, but cars can only be booked locally. Many car hire agencies have booths at the airport or information in hotels. Avis has offices in Rome at 38 Via Sardegna (tel: (06) 4282 4728; fax: (06) 4201 0282) or 1231 Via Tiburtina (tel: (06) 413 0812; fax: (06) 413 1414 or 413 1778). Hertz are located at Ciampino Airport (tel: (06) 7934 0616; fax: (06) 7934 0095). Many special-rate fly/drive deals are available for Italy.

Documentation: Visitors must either carry an international Green Card for their car or motor vehicle (also for boats) or other insurance. A UK driving licence and EU pink format licences are valid in Italy but green-coloured licences must be accompanied by an International Driving Permit. Motorcycles no longer require customs documents, but refer to the customs regulations above. A driving licence or a motorcycle driving licence is required for motorcycles over 49cc. Passengers are required by law to wear seat belts.

URBAN: All the big towns and cities (Rome, Milan, Naples, Turin, Genoa and Venice) have good public transport networks. Underground: In Rome there are two underground lines – Metropolitana A from Via Ottaviano via Termini station to Via Anagnina and also connecting with the new Ottaviano-San Pietro link; and Metropolitana B, which runs between Termini Station, via Exhibition City (EUR) (Via Laurentina) and then onwards to Rebibbia. Both day and monthly passes are available. Line B was expanded considerably at the beginning of the 1990s, when ten new stations were added to its network. Line A has been expanded much more recently to include five new stations via the Ottaviano-San Pietro connection. Milan also has a three-line underground system, with tickets usable on both underground and bus. Tram: There is a 28km (17-mile) network consisting of eight routes in Rome; Milan, Naples and Turin also have tram services. Bus: Services operate in all main cities and towns; in Rome, the network is extensive and complements the underground and tram systems. The fare structure is integrated between the various modes. Flat-fare tickets and weekly passes can be bought in advance from roadside or station machines or from tobacconists (tabacchi). Information is available from the ATAC booth in front of the Termini station. Trolleybuses also run in a number of other towns. In larger cities, fares are generally pre-purchased from machines or tobacconists (tabacchi). Bus fares – generally at a standard rate per run – can be bought in packets of five or multiples and are fed into a stamping machine on boarding the bus. Taxi: Available in all towns and cities. Government-regulated taxis are either white or yellow. Visitors should avoid taxis that are not metered. In Rome, they are relatively expensive, with extra charges for night service, luggage and taxis called by telephone. All charges are listed on a rate card displayed in the cab with an English translation. Taxis can only be hailed at strategically located stands or booked by telephone. A 10 per cent tip is expected by taxi drivers and this is sometimes added to the fare for foreigners.

City tours: Rome: Run by many travel agencies, these tours allow first-time visitors to get a general impression of the main sights and enable them to plan further sightseeing. Information is available from the local tourist office. Horse-drawn carriages are available in Rome. Charges are high. Venice: Privately hired boats and gondolas are available, as well as a public ferry service.

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