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It is illegal for non-EU citizens to work in Italy without a permesso di lavoro (work permit), but trying to obtain one can be time-consuming. EU citizens are allowed to work in Italy but, like Italian citizens, require a codice fiscale (tax-file number).

Immigration laws require non-EU workers to be ‘legalised’ through their employers, and this applies even to cleaners and babysitters. The employers then pay pension and health-insurance contributions. This doesn’t mean there aren’t employers willing to take people without the right papers.

Work options depend on a number of factors (eg location, length of stay, nationality and qualifications) but, in the major cities at least, job possibilities for English speakers can be surprisingly plentiful. Go armed with a CV (if possible in Italian) and be persistent.

Jobs are advertised in local newspapers and magazines, such as Rome’s Porta Portese (weekly) and Wanted in Rome (fortnightly) or Secondamano in Milan, and you can also place an ad yourself. A useful guide is Living, Studying and Working in Italy by Travis Neighbor Ward and Monica Larner.

The most easily secured jobs are short-term work in bars, hostels, on farms, babysitting and volunteering (in return for accommodation and some expenses paid). An obvious work source for English-speaking foreigners is teaching English. Most of the reputable language schools will only hire people who hold a work permit. The more professional schools will require you to have a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate.

Some useful organisations to start the job hunt:

Au Pair International (051 26 75 75; www.au-pair-international.com ; Via Sante Vincenzi 46, Bologna) Organises au pair jobs in Italian families for women aged 18 to 30. EU citizens are preferred, but citizens of countries such as Australia, Canada and the USA can be placed for

up to three months.

British Institutes (Map pp256-7; 02 720 94 595; www.britishinstitutes.it ; Via Giosué Carducci 5, Milan) Recruits English-speaking teachers. Italian essential.

Cambridge School (045 800 31 54; www.cambridgeschool.it ; Via Rosmini 6, Verona) Another major employer of English teachers.

Center for Cultural Exchange (866-684 9675; www.cci-exchange.com ; 746 North LaSalle Dr, Chicago, IL 60610, USA) A nonprofit cultural-exchange organisation that offers short-term internships in Italy.

Concordia International Volunteer Projects (01273 422218; www.concordia-iye.org.uk ; 19 North St, Portslade, Brighton BN41 1DH, UK) Short-term community-based projects covering the environment, archaeology and the arts. You might find yourself working as a volunteer on a restoration project or in a nature reserve.

European Youth Portal (europa.eu.int/youth/working/index_eu_en.html) Has various links suggesting work and volunteering options across Europe. You can narrow down the search to Italy, where you will find pages of general work links and more specific links on things like au pair opportunities, seasonal work and volunteering.

Italian Association for Education, Exchanges & Intercultural Activities (AFSAI; 06 537 03 32; www.afsai.org ; Viale dei Colli Portuensi 345, Rome) Financed by the EU, this voluntary programme runs projects of six to 12 months for those aged between 16 and 25 years. Knowledge of Italian is required.

Recruitaly (www.recruitaly.it) For graduates looking for long-term employment in Italy, this useful website links up to professional employers.

World Wide Organisation of Organic Farming (www.wwoof.it) For a membership fee of €25 this organisation provides a list of farms looking for volunteer workers.

Business hours

Generally shops open from 9am to 1pm and 3.30pm to 7.30pm (or 4pm to 8pm) Monday to Saturday. Many close on Saturday afternoon and some close on a Monday morning or afternoon, and sometimes again on a Wednesday or Thursday afternoon. In major towns most department stores and supermarkets have continuous opening hours from 10am to 7.30pm Monday to Saturday. Some even open from 9am to 1pm on Sunday.

Banks tend to open from 8.30am to 1.30pm and 3.30pm to 4.30pm Monday to Friday. They close at weekends but exchange offices usually remain open in the larger cities and in major tourist areas.

Central post offices open from 8.30am to 6.30pm from Monday to Saturday. Some main branches close at 12.30pm on Saturday, while most smaller branches only open Monday to Friday. All close two hours earlier than normal on the last business day of each month (not including Saturday).

Farmacie (pharmacies) are generally open 9am to 12.30pm and 3.30pm to 7.30pm. Most shut on Saturday afternoon, Sunday and holidays but a handful remain open on a rotation basis for emergency purposes. Closed pharmacies display a list of the nearest ones open.

Many bars and cafés open from about 8am to 8pm. Others then go on into the night serving a nocturnal crowd while still others, dedicated more exclusively to nocturnal diversion, don’t get started until the early evening (even if they officially open in the morning). Few bars remain open anywhere beyond 1am or 2am. Clubs (discoteche) might open around 10pm (or earlier if they have eateries on the premises) but things don’t get seriously shaking until after midnight.

Restaurants open noon to 3pm and 7.30pm to around 11pm or midnight (sometimes even later in summer and in the south), although the kitchen often shuts an hour earlier than final closing time. Most restaurants and bars close at least one day a week.

The opening hours of museums, galleries and archaeological sites vary enormously, although at the more important sites there is a trend towards continuous opening from around 9.30am to 7pm. Many close on Monday. Some of the major national museums and galleries remain open until 10pm in summer.

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