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Italy Guide & Travel Advice

Getting there

British Airways fly direct from London to many Italian cities including Rome, Florence, Milan, Venice, Pisa and Verona. They also offer flights to the Italian islands Sardinia and Sicily. Regional flights with British Airways are available with a connection at Heathrow. Budget airlines such as Ryanair and EasyJet also have a wide range of flights available between the UK and Italy. Alternatively take the luxurious Venice Simplon-Orient Express between London and Venice, or self-drive is also an option.  

Flying times

Flight times take between 2-4 hours depending on where you are flying into in Italy. It takes two and a half hours to fly between the UK and Rome.

Time zone

Italy is +1 hour ahead of GMT. 

Visa requirements

British Citizens do not require a visa for travel to Italy. Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. 

Do’s and don’ts

When taking photographs, permission should always be asked before taking someone’s picture. 

Make sure you pack suitable clothing so that you can dress respectfully for visits to religious venues. Knees and shoulders should be covered when entering Catholic Churches such as St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City or St Mark’s Basilica in Venice.  

If you manage to learn a few words in Italian it will be greatly appreciated. 

Money

The local currency is the Euro which is easily exchanged before you leave the UK or once in Italy. ATMs are reliable and commonplace throughout the country and nearly all major credit cards are accepted. Some restaurants may include an extra service fee for payments made with a credit or debit card so this is always worth checking first. Changing foreign currency is an easy process in Italy which is possible at banks, hotels and post offices. 

Tipping

There is no set rule for tipping in Italy, but 10% for good service is appreciated. In some restaurants service charge is added to your bill automatically so ensure you check this. Tips in cash are preferred.  

Food and drink

Italian food is one of the world’s most loved and accessible cuisines and is very much focused on simplicity, flavours and local produce. Like many destinations, food is very regional in Italy, and each area has its own speciality, many boasting recipes that have been passed from generation to generation. Renowned for its incredible pizza and pasta, Italy also offers dishes which use some of the continent’s best ingredients including Tuscan truffles, fresh seafood from Liguria, cured meat from Parma, Sicilian lemons, buffalo mozzarella from Campania and Modena’s famous balsamic vinegar. Italy is also known for its excellent coffee, and the culture surrounding this, which is ingrained into daily life. Other popular drinks include limoncello, a lemon-based liqueur, the strong spirit of grappa and, of course, wine.  

Holidays, festivals and celebrations

With such a rich culture and compelling history, the Italian calendar is packed with events and festivities throughout the year ranging from international opera, film and arts festivals and religious processions to food and drink celebrations and various sporting events. One of the country’s most well-known festivals is Venice Carnival, which runs ten days before the beginning of Lent. Venice comes alive during this festivity that dates back to the 11th century as locals and visitors don carnival masks and costumes and enjoy the opulent balls, processions and pageants. Additionally, the annual Verona Opera Festival is an iconic celebration of classical music and opera held at the city’s beautiful outdoor Roman amphitheatre between June and September. As Italy is a predominantly Catholic country holidays such as Christmas and Easter are also very important.  

Shopping

The Italians are renowned for their fashion and high-end clothes, shoes and bags. Florence, Milan and Rome are excellent places to shop for both Italian and international designers. Traditional craft items such as pottery, jewellery, ornaments and leatherwork can be found at local markets and craft shops throughout the country in both the big cities and more rural villages.Food markets are an excellent way to sample Italian street food and also buy produce including olive oil, truffles, fresh seafood and meat, cheese and vegetables, whereas local wine or spirts can be shipped back to the UK.  

Suggested reading

Rough Guides, Lonely Planet and DK Eyewitness have excellent guide books on Italy and also offer regional or city variations. For books on the history of Italy try ‘The Pursuit of Italy: A History of a Land, Its Regions, and Their Peoples’ by Sir David Gilmore, ‘House of Medici’ by Christopher Hibbert and ‘Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’ by Edward Gibbon. ‘The Italians’ by Luigi Barzini deeply explores the Italian character and psyche and for a brilliantly comprehensive A-Z guide on Italian food, try ‘The Oxford Companion to Italian Food’ by Gillian Riley. There are also a number of excellent biographies and fictional reads set in Italy that include: 

‘The Merchant of Prato’ by Iris Origo 

'Christ Stopped At Eboli' by Carlo Levi

‘The Borgias: Power and Fortune’ by Paul Strathern  

‘The Leopard’ by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa 

‘Death in Venice’ by Thomas Mann 

‘A Farewell to Arms’ by Ernest Hemmingway  

‘The Land Where Lemons Grow’ by Helena Atlee 

‘A Room With a View’ by E. M. Forster 

‘Pompei’ by Rober Lustrum 

Health

Your doctor is the best person to advise you on staying healthy whilst abroad but current recommended vaccinations are Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Tetanus and Diphtheria. Yellow Fever is compulsory, but only if you have visited an affected Yellow Fever area within 5 days prior to your arrival. In some instances anti-malarial tablets may also be needed. For current information on health advice you may wish to visit the Medical Advisory Services for Travellers Abroad (MASTA) Web Site on www.masta.org.  The NHS ‘Fit for Travel’ website (http://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/home.aspx) is also a useful resource. 

Travel advice

For current information on Italy the best resource is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice)which is a comprehensive resource and updated regularly.We would also recommend visiting the Safer Tourism Foundation website (https://safertourism.org.uk/before you travel and will be happy to address any questions or concerns you may have. 

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