Know Before You Go - Italy
Do I need a visa? Is it safe? How do I get around? We cover the essentials so you can travel like a pro, and relax while you do!
PASSPORT & VISA
United States citizens do not need a tourist visa prior to visiting Italy. Ensure your passport is valid up to 6 months after your departure date.
HEALTH & SAFETY
Italy is generally very safe. That said, always be aware of general crime targeted towards unassuming tourists. More commonly, however, Italy may experience strikes and protests or demonstrations, which are typically political in nature. As with all demonstrations, it is best to avoid them due to the risk that they become violent. Additionally, be diligent and aware when in crowded tourist areas due to the heightened risk of crime, as well as the risk of terrorism in recent years in these areas.
METHODS OF PAYMENT
In Italy, euros are used everywhere. Credit cards will often work at most established vendors, though cash is often preferable, particularly at locally owned shops. You can withdraw cash from ATMs at well established banks. Just be sure you’re in a well lit, secure area, and the machine doesn’t appear tampered with, to avoid skimming of your card.
Typically, haggling is not accepted in the established shops in Italy. However, if you're unsure, it is more polite to simply show interest in an item but tell the vendor that the price is simply too high. If they offer to come down slightly, that means the price isn't fixed, and you can begin to haggle. It can also be worthwhile to negotiate in a less dramatic way, such as asking for two items for a discounted price.
You will undoubtedly encounter street vendors selling counterfeit goods in tourist areas. Though you can haggle with these vendors to your heart’s content, we don’t recommend it. Even if these items look enticing, though we can’t imagine why they would, you not only risk being ripped off but also a heavy fine and even being detained by police if you purchase any of these counterfeit items.
Tipping is generally expected and recommended in all of the typical circumstances, but may not be as high as is customary in the United States. For example, a tip of 10% is generally acceptable at a restaurant, and more may be appropriate if the service was superb.
Public transportation is everywhere in Italy. Whether by train, bus, or metro, you can often get where you need to go quickly and easily. It is important to remember that tickets for public transportation must be validated by punching them in validation machines prior to boarding. Failure to do this can result in steep fines.
If you do choose to rent a car, be aware that vehicle traffic in Italy can be erratic, so drive with caution. Read our tips for driving in Italy for more information.
WHEN TO GO
June through September give you the best chance of good weather, but the crowds will be unbearable. In August especially, you’ll have to deal with potentially extreme heat. For our money, traveling in April, May, or October will offer less crowds and a more enjoyable experience, at the acceptable risk of some rain and colder weather
Dress in Italy is casual, though to enter some cathedrals you need to cover your knees and shoulders. It is also advisable to pack a light jacket for cooler evenings along the water.
Don't stress about wondering how you will communicate, learning a new alphabet, or anything else communication related. In Italy, you will also find that most people speak English very well, and most signage is also in English. Still, Italians love to hear and speak their own language, and will likely greet you with a big smile if you begin a conversation in their language. A few basics:
Thank you: Grazie
Good Morning: Buon giorno
Sorry / Excuse me: Scusi