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Country Guides for Europe

Italy

Italy

It's a rare traveler who is content with just one visit to Italy. From the Roman Colosseum to the gondolas of Venice, from Florence's Ponte Vecchio and breathtakingly beautiful David, to the splendor of the Amalfi Coast and historic Sicily, there is a wealth of history, art, architecture, great food and wine, and glorious scenery everywhere you turn.

Language: Italian (official), German (parts of Trentino-Alto Adige region are predominantly German speaking), French (small French-speaking minority in Valle d'Aosta region), Slovene (Slovene-speaking minority in the Trieste-Gorizia area).

Major International Airports Include:

City

Airport
Airport
Code
Distance
From City
RomeFiumicino Int'lFCO16 miles NE
MilanMalpensa Int'lMXP28 miles NW

The preventive measures you need to take while traveling in Western Europe depend on the areas you visit and the length of time you stay. For most areas of this region, you should observe health precautions similar to those that would apply while traveling in the United States.

Travelers' diarrhea, the number one illness in travelers, can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, which can contaminate food or water. Infections may cause diarrhea and vomiting (E.coli, Salmonella, cholera, and parasites), fever (typhoid fever and toxoplasmosis), or liver damage (hepatitis). Make sure your food and drinking water are safe.

The CDC recommends the following vaccines as appropriate for age (See your doctor at least 4-6 weeks before your trip to allow time for shots to take effect):

  • Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG). You are not at increased risk in Northern, Western, and Southern Europe, including the Mediterranean regions of Italy and Greece.
  • Hepatitis B, if you might be exposed to blood (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, stay longer than 6 months in Southern Europe, or be exposed through medical treatment.
  • As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria.
  • Hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 11-12 years who did not complete the series as infants.

All travelers should take the following precautions, no matter the destination:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water.
  • Because motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury among travelers, walk and drive defensively. Avoid travel at night if possible and always use seat belts.
  • Always use latex condoms to reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Don't eat or drink dairy products unless you know they have been pasteurized.
  • Don't share needles with anyone.
  • Eat only thoroughly cooked food or fruits and vegetables you have peeled yourself. Remember: boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it.
  • Never eat undercooked ground beef and poultry, raw eggs, and unpasteurized dairy products. Raw shellfish is particularly dangerous to persons who have liver disease or compromised immune systems.


Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Ticks are the primary source of insect-borne disease in Italy, often carrying Lyme disease, encephalitis and Mediterranean spotted fever.

There is also a slight risk of leishmaniasis infection from sandfly bites. Travelers should use topical insect repellent and wear insecticide-treated clothing in wooded and rural areas.

Download Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by CountryDownload Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by Country

The urban municipal water supplies in major cities, and from Rome northward are considered safe for drinking. The water supplies to the south, and on the southern islands of Sicily and Sardinia may not be treated adequately, and water should be treated before drinking to avoid potentially serious health problems.

Download Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by CountryDownload Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by Country

There have been occasional episodes of politically motivated violence in Italy, most often connected to Italian internal developments or social issues. At various times, Italian authorities have found bombs outside public buildings, have received bomb threats and were subjects of letter bombs. Firebombs or Molotov cocktails have been thrown at buildings or offices in the middle of the night. These incidents have all been attributed to organized crime or anarchist movements. Americans were not targeted or injured in these instances.

Demonstrations may have an anti-American character. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful have the potential to turn into confrontational situations and possibly escalate into violence. U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Italy should take common sense precautions and follow news reports carefully in order to avoid demonstrations and to be aware of heightened security and potential delays when they occur.

Italy remains largely free of terrorist incidents. However, like other countries in the Schengen area, Italy's open borders with its Western European neighbors allow the possibility of terrorist groups entering/exiting the country with anonymity.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/safety/safety_1747.html.

CRIME: Italy has a moderate rate of violent crime, some of which is directed towards tourists, principally for motives of theft. Some travelers have been victims of rape and beatings. There have also been incidents of drinks laced with drugs being used by criminals to rob, and in some cases, assault tourists. Many of these incidents have occurred in the vicinity of Rome's Termini train station and at major tourist centers such as Campo de Fiori and Piazza Navona, as well as in Florence and Naples. Criminals using this tactic "befriend" a traveler at a train station, bus stop, restaurant, café or bar in tourist areas, then eventually offer a drink laced with a sleeping drug. When the tourist falls asleep, criminals steal the traveler's valuables. There have also been instances where the victim was assaulted, either physically or sexually.

Americans are urged to exercise caution at train stations and airports, and when frequenting nightclubs, bars and outdoor cafes, particularly at night, because criminals may make initial contact with potential victims in such settings. Individuals under the effect of alcohol may become victims of crime, including robbery, physical and sexual assault, due to their impaired ability to judge situations and make decisions. This is particularly a problem for younger Americans visiting Italy, where the age limit on the sale of alcoholic beverages is lower than in most U.S. states. If you are a victim of such a crime, please file a police report and contact the U.S. Embassy or nearest Consulate. There are also in-country organizations, which provide counseling, medical, and legal assistance to certain crime victims.

Petty crimes such as pick pocketing, theft from parked cars, and purse snatching are serious problems, especially in large cities. Pickpockets sometimes dress like businessmen so tourists should not be lulled into a false sense of security by believing that well-dressed individuals are not potential pickpockets or thieves. Most reported thefts occur at crowded tourist sites, on public buses or trains, or at the major railway stations: Rome's Termini; Milan's Centrale; Florence's Santa Maria Novella; and Naples' Centrale and Piazza Garibaldi. Travelers should also be alert to theft in Milan's Malpensa Airport, particularly at car rental agencies. Clients of Internet cafes in major cities have been targeted. Tourists who have tried to resist petty thieves on motor scooters have suffered broken arms and collarbones.

Thieves in Italy often work in groups or pairs. Pairs of accomplices or groups of street urchins are known to divert tourists' attention so that another can pickpocket them. In one particular routine, one thief throws trash, waste or ketchup at the victim; a second thief assists the victim in cleaning up the mess; and the third discreetly takes the victim's belongings. Criminals on crowded public transportation slit the bottoms of purses or bags with a razor blade or sharp knife, then remove the contents. Theft of small items such as radios, luggage, cameras, briefcases, and even cigarettes from parked cars is a major problem.

Carjackings and thefts have also been reported from occupied vehicles waiting in traffic or stopped at traffic lights. Vehicles parked near beaches during the summer have been broken into and items stolen. Robbers take items from cars at gas stations often by smashing car windows.

In a scam practiced on the highways, one thief signals a flat tire to the driver of another car and encourages the driver to pull over. Often, the tire has been punctured by an accomplice, while in other instances, there may, in fact, be nothing wrong with the vehicle. When the driver stops, one thief helps change the tire, while the other takes the driver's belongings. Use particular caution driving at night on highways, when there may be a greater incidence of robbery attempts. There have been occasional reports of break-ins of rental cars driven by Americans when the precautions mentioned above were not followed during stops at highway service areas.

On trains, a commonly reported trick involves one or more persons who pretend to befriend a traveler and offer drugged food or drink. Also, thieves have been known to impersonate police officers to gain the confidence of tourists. The thief shows the prospective victim a circular plastic sign with the words "police" or "international police." If this happens, the tourist should insist on seeing the officer's identification card (documento), as impersonators tend not to carry forged documents. Tourists should immediately report thefts or other crimes to the local police.

Organized criminal groups operate throughout Italy, but are more prevalent in the south. They have occasionally resorted to violence to intimidate or to settle disputes. Though the activities of such groups are not generally targeted at tourists, visitors should be aware that innocent by-standers could be injured.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Lost or stolen credit cards present risk of identity theft and should be cancelled immediately. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.



Source: U.S. Department of State

Summer in northern Italy is warm with occasional precipitation and thunderstorms, and winters are cold and humid. As you move southward, the weather is dryer and warmer and occasional warm Sirocco winds can raise the temperatures in spring and fall. Heavy winter snowfalls can be expected in the northern mountainous areas.


City
Annual
Precip. Days
Annual
Precip. Totals
Florence9236"
Naples8940"
Rome7429"
Venice8332"

Italy's electrical current is 230/50 (volts/hz) and uses the plug adaptors listed to the right under Related Items. Many North American appliances are designed to operate only within the 100-125 volt range. These appliances will suffer damage if plugged into 220-250 volts without the proper transformer or converter.

To determine which plug adaptors you'll need and if you'll require a transformer or converter, use our Electrical Connection Wizard.

For a detailed discussion of international electrical standards, see our related article on Electrical and Phone Adaptation.

Download Magellan's Guide to World Electrical ConnectionsDownload Magellan's Guide to World Electrical Connections

A valid passport is required. Italian authorities may deny entry to travelers who attempt to enter without a valid passport. A visa is not required for tourist stays up to three months. However, for all other purposes, such as work, study, etc., a visa is required and must be obtained from the Italian Embassy or Consulates before entering Italy. For further information concerning visas and entry requirements for Italy, travelers may contact the Embassy of Italy at 3000 Whitehaven St NW, Washington, DC 20008, via telephone at (202) 612-4400 or via the internet: http://www.italyemb.org, or Italian Consulates General in Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, or San Francisco, accessible through the above Internet site.

Under Italian law, tourists are required to register with a local police station and obtain a "permesso di soggiorno" (permit of stay) within eight working days of their arrival, regardless of the intended length of stay. Visitors may be required to show police that they have sufficient means of financial support. Credit cards, ATM cards, travelers' checks, prepaid hotel/vacation vouchers, etc. may be evidence of sufficient means. Additional information may be obtained from the Italian Government Tourist Board via Internet at http://www.italiantourism.com or telephone at: 212-245-5618.

The time zone for Italy is 1 hours offset from GMT, which means that if it is 12:00 noon in New York, the time in Italy would be 6:00 pm

The unit of currency in Italy is the euro (EUR).

Look up the current exchange rate using XE.com's Universal Currency Converter

Traveled to Italy?

If you have visited this country recently and have ideas, thoughts, or suggestions to share with other travelers, we'd love to hear from you! Share your travel experiences and we'll post them on our website.

Share Your Travel Experiences

Other Travelers' Experiences in Italy

"I lived in Italy for 7 years and I have gone back at least once a year for the last 20, and nothing bad has ever happened to me. I am moderately careful, and I do not dress like a tourist.
But do go ahead and tell everyone how dangerous Italy is. Maybe they will go elsewhere. There are too many tourists in Italy as it is!"

"I visited Italy this past year and I loved it! It was an incredible experience and every minute was an adventure. The best attitude to have is to go in with an open mind and willing to try new things. Of course, there are always the places you have to be careful with, as with any place you go. Just be mindful of your surroundings and everything will be fine. I recommend going again and again. It is a place full of history, culture and a wonderful learning experience."

"In Roma: If your sitting near the outsides of an open air restaurant, watch out for small children entering asking for money because he/she may well be a decoy for an adult who is watching for tourist sitting handbags or backpack at their feet. The bandit will pass by and snatch the item and is gone. I saw this happen in Roma last year. The toursit lost passport, car keys & euros."
- John Sharp, Grand Bay, AL,

"My wife and I went to Northern Italy and Rome last February with a tour group. While the people, culture and food were great, it's really cold in Venice in February! Also, while the Carnival there is great, be prepared for thousands of people in the shops, restaurants,etc. Otherwise, it was worth a few small inconveniences, and we'll go again."
- Frederick Cornman, West Islip, NY,

"I am an elderly American woman who has lived in Italy for nearly 2 years, and traveled here many times in the past 30 years. I just laugh if anyone talks about Italy being dangerous. I have lived and worked all over the USA, and the USA is much more dangerous than Italy. You are physically safer in any Northern or Central Italian city than in any US city. Only in Naples and Calabria are you in physical danger equal to that in a major US city. Certainly there is more purse snatching in Europe than the US, but there is virtually no chance of being stabbed or shot in Italy, as often happens with street crime in the US."

"I've traveled to Italy over 20 times in the past 30 years and have never had a bad experience. The history and culture of Italy is a unique experience. As far as it being dangerous, I think that many tourists walk around like they are in the clouds, unaware of their surroundings. Being a New Yorker, I'm always aware of what's happening around me. Why would I be any different while travelling? Italy is the best.....just keep your eyes and ears open and you will have the best experience ever."

"I toured Italy in Sept. 2007. It was trip of a life time. We toured from north to southern italy. The history, wine, food, outstanding. As with any tourist attraction
you must be careful with your belongings. One member had her wallet stolen from her purse, but she had it open. I plan to go back and maybe stay an extended length of time, it is a beautiful country."