Italy is not an easy country for travellers with disabilities, and getting around can be a problem for wheelchair users. Even a short journey in a city or town can become a major expedition if cobblestone streets have to be negotiated. Although many buildings have lifts, they are not always wide enough for wheelchairs. Not a lot has been done to make life easier for the hearing or vision impaired either.
The Italian National Tourist Office in your country may be able to provide advice on Italian associations for travellers with disabilities and information on what help is available.
If travelling by train, ring the national helpline 199 303060 to arrange assistance (6.45am to 9.30pm daily). Airline companies should be able to arrange assistance at airports if you notify them of your needs in advance. Alternatively, contact ADR Assistance (www.adrassistance.it) for help at Fiumicino or Ciampino airports. Some taxis are equipped to carry passengers in wheelchairs; ask for a taxi for a sedia a rotelle (wheelchair).
Italy's official tourism website (www.italia.it) offers a number of links for travellers with disabilities.
Accessible Italy A San Marino–based company that specialises in holiday services for people with disabilities. This is the best first port of call.
Sage Traveling (www.sagetraveling.com) A US-based agency offering advice and tailor-made tours to assist mobility-impaired travellers in Europe.
Accessible Travel Online Resources
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://shop.lonelyplanet.com/accessible-travel. Another online resource is Lonely Planet's Travel for All community on Google+, worth joining for information sharing and networking.
Gentle haggling is common in markets. Haggling in stores is generally unacceptable, though good-humoured bargaining at smaller artisan or craft shops in southern Italy is not unusual if making multiple purchases.
Dangers & Annoyances
The following government websites offer up-to-date travel advisories.
- Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (www.smartraveller.gov.au)
- British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice)
- Global Affairs Canada (travel.gc.ca/travelling/health-safety)
- New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade (www.safetravel.govt.nz)
- US Department of State (travel.state.gov)
Free admission to many galleries and cultural sites is available to those under 18 and over 65 years old; and visitors aged between 18 and 25 often qualify for a discount. In some cases, these discounts only apply to EU citizens.
Some cities or regions offer their own discount passes, such as Roma Pass (three days €38.50), which offers free use of public transport and free or reduced admission to Rome's museums.
In many places around Italy, you can also save money by purchasing a biglietto cumulativo, a ticket that allows admission to a number of associated sights for less than the combined cost of separate admission fees.
Discount Cards Table
European Youth Card (Carta Giovani)
International Student Identity Card (ISIC)
US$26, UK£12, AUD$30, €10-15
International Teacher Identity Card (ITIC)
US$20, UK£12, AUD$30, €10-18
International Youth Travel Card (IYTC)
US$20, UK£12, AUD$30, €10-15
Electricity in Italy conforms to the European standard of 220V to 230V, with a frequency of 50Hz. Wall outlets typically accommodate plugs with two or three round pins (the latter grounded, the former not).
Emergency & Important Numbers
From outside Italy, dial your international access code, Italy's country code (39) then the number (including the '0').
|International access code||00|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Entering Italy from most other parts of the EU is generally uncomplicated, with no border checkpoints and no customs thanks to the Schengen Agreement. Document and customs checks remain standard if arriving from (or departing to) a non-Schengen country.
On leaving the EU, non-EU citizens can reclaim any Value Added Tax (VAT) on any purchases over €154.94. For more information, visit www.italia.it.
Duty Free Allowances
Visitors coming into Italy from non-EU countries can import the following items duty free:
|spirits & liqueurs||1L|
|wine||4L (or 2L of fortified wine)|
|other goods||up to a value of €300/430 (travelling by land/sea)|
- European Union and Swiss citizens can travel to Italy with their national identity card alone. All other nationalities must have a valid passport and may be required to fill out a landing card (at airports).
- By law you are supposed to have your passport or ID card with you at all times. You'll need one of these documents for police registration every time you check into a hotel.
- In theory there are no passport checks at land crossings from neighbouring countries, but random customs controls do occasionally still take place between Italy and Switzerland.
Generally not required for stays of up to 90 days (or at all for EU nationals); some nationalities need a Schengen visa.
- Italy is a signatory of the Schengen Convention, an agreement whereby participating countries abolished customs checks at common borders. EU citizens do not need a Schengen tourist visa to enter Italy. Nationals of some other countries, including Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland and the USA, do not need a tourist visa for stays of up to 90 days. To check the visa requirements for your country, see www.schengenvisainfo.com/tourist-schengen-visa.
- All non-EU and non-Schengen nationals entering Italy for more than 90 days or for any reason other than tourism (such as study or work) may need a specific visa. See http://vistoperitalia.esteri.it or contact an Italian consulate for details.
- Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your departure date from Italy.
The European Commission has outlined plans for an electronic vetting system for travellers to the Schengen area.
Under the proposed terms of the European Travel Information & Authorisation System (ETIAS), all non-EU travellers would be required to complete an online form and pay a €5 fee before travelling to the Schengen block.
If approved by the European Parliament, the system may come into force in 2020.
For further details, see www.etiaseurope.eu.
Permesso di Soggiorno
- A permesso di soggiorno (permit to stay, also referred to as a residence permit) is required by all non-EU nationals who stay in Italy longer than three months. In theory, you should apply for one within eight days of arriving in Italy.
- EU citizens do not require a permesso di soggiorno, but are required to register with the local registry office (Ufficio Anagrafe) if they stay for more than three months.
- Check exact requirements on www.poliziadistato.it – click on the English tab and then follow the links.
- The main office dealing with permits is the Ufficio Immigrazione (https://questure.poliziadistato.it).
Italy is a surprisingly formal society; the following tips will help avoid awkward moments.
- Greetings Greet people in shops, restaurants and bars with a 'buongiorno' (good morning) or 'buonasera' (good evening); kiss both cheeks and say 'come stai' (how are you) to friends.
- Asking for help Say 'mi scusi' (excuse me) to attract attention; use 'permesso' (permission) to pass someone in a crowded space.
- Dress Cover shoulders, torso and thighs when visiting churches and dress smartly when eating out.
- At the table Eat pasta with a fork, not a spoon; it's OK to eat pizza with your hands.
- Gifts If invited to someone’s home, traditional gifts are a tray of dolci (sweets) from a pasticceria (pastry shop), a bottle of wine or flowers.
A travel-insurance policy to cover theft, loss and medical problems is a very good idea. It may also cover you for cancellation or delays to your travel arrangements. Paying for your ticket with a credit card can often provide limited travel accident insurance and you may be able to reclaim the payment if the operator doesn't deliver. Ask your credit-card company what it will cover.
Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you're already on the road.
Checking insurance quotes…
- Numerous Italian cities and towns offer public wi-fi hotspots, including Rome, Bologna and Venice. To use them, you will need to register online using a credit card or an Italian mobile number. An easier option (no need for a local mobile number) is to head to a cafe or bar offering free wi-fi.
- Most hotels, B&Bs, hostels and agriturismi (farm stays) offer free wi-fi to guests, though signal quality can vary. There will sometimes be a computer for guest use.
Italy is generally a safe country to travel in. The most likely reason for a brush with the law is to report a theft. If you have something stolen and you want to claim it on insurance, you must make a statement to the police, as insurance companies won’t pay up without official proof of a crime.
Drugs & Alcohol
- If you’re caught with what the police deem to be a dealable quantity of hard or soft drugs, you risk prison sentences of between two and 20 years.
- Possession for personal use is punishable by administrative sanctions, although first-time offenders might get away with a warning.
- The legal limit for blood-alcohol when driving is 0.05% and random breath tests do occur.
The Italian police force is divided into three main bodies: the polizia, who wear navy-blue jackets; the carabinieri, in a black uniform with a red stripe; and the grey-clad guardia di finanza (fiscal police), responsible for fighting tax evasion and drug smuggling. If you run into trouble, you’re most likely to end up dealing with the polizia or carabinieri.
To contact the police in an emergency, dial 112 or 113.
Italian Police Organisations
|Polizia statale (state police)||Thefts, visa extensions and permits|
|Carabinieri (military police)||General crime, public order and drug enforcement (often overlapping with the polizia statale)|
|Vigili urbani (local traffic police)||Parking tickets, towed cars|
|Guardia di finanza||Tax evasion, drug smuggling|
|Corpo forestale||Environmental protection|
- You should be given verbal and written notice of the charges laid against you within 24 hours by arresting officers.
- You have no right to a phone call upon arrest, though the police will inform your family with your consent. You may also ask the police to inform your embassy or consulate.
- The prosecutor must apply to a magistrate for you to be held in preventive custody awaiting trial (depending on the seriousness of the offence) within 48 hours of arrest.
- You also have the right to a lawyer. If you do not know of any local lawyers, the police should ask the local bar council for a state-appointed lawyer (difensore di ufficio) to be appointed.
- You have the right not to respond to questions without the presence of a lawyer.
- If the magistrate orders preventive custody, you have the right to then contest this within the following 10 days.
The city maps provided by Lonely Planet, combined with the good, free local maps available at most Italian tourist offices, will be sufficient for many travellers. For more-specialised maps, browse the good selection at national bookshop chain Feltrinelli (www.lafeltrinelli.it), or consult the websites of the following organisations:
Touring Club Italiano (www.touringclub.com) Italy's largest map publisher offers a comprehensive 1:200,000, 592-page road atlas of Italy (€54.90), as well as 1:400,000 maps of northern, central and southern Italy (€8.50). It also produces 15 regional maps at 1:200,000 (€8.50), as well as a series of walking guides with maps (€14.90).
Tabacco (www.tabaccoeditrice.com) Publishes an excellent 1:25,000 scale series of walking maps (€8.50), covering an area from Livigno in the west to the Slovenia border in the east.
Kompass (www.kompass-italia.it) Publishes 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 scale hiking maps of various parts of Italy, plus a nice series of 1:70,000 cycling maps.
Stanfords (www.stanfords.co.uk) Excellent UK-based shop that stocks many useful maps, including cycling maps.
Newspapers Key national dailies include centre-left La Repubblica (www.repubblica.it) and right-wing rival Corriere della Sera (www.corriere.it). For the Vatican's take on affairs, L'Osservatore Romano (www.osservatoreromano.va) is the Holy See's official paper.
Radio As well as the principal RAI channels (Radiouno, Radiodue, Radiotre), there are hundreds of commercial radio stations operating across Italy. Popular Rome-based stations include Radio Capital (www.capital.it) and Radio Città Futura (www.radiocittafutura.it).
TV The main terrestrial channels are RAI 1, 2 and 3 run by Rai (www.rai.it), Italy's state-owned national broadcaster, and Canale 5, Italia 1 and Rete 4 run by Mediaset (www.mediaset.it), the commercial TV company founded and still partly owned by Silvio Berlusconi.
ATMs are widespread in Italy. Major credit cards are widely accepted, but some smaller shops, trattorias and hotels might not take them.
- ATMs (known as 'Bancomat' in Italy) are widely available throughout Italy, and most will accept cards tied into the Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus and Maestro systems.
- Beware of transaction fees. Every time you withdraw cash, you'll be hit by charges – typically your home bank will charge a foreign-exchange fee (usually around 1%) as well as a transaction fee of around 1% to 3%. Fees can sometimes be reduced by withdrawing cash from banks affiliated with your home banking institution; check with your bank.
- If an ATM rejects your card, try another one before assuming the problem is with your card.
- Major cards such as Visa, MasterCard, Eurocard, Cirrus and Eurocheques are widely accepted. Amex is also recognised, although it’s less common than Visa or MasterCard.
- Virtually all midrange and top-end hotels accept credit cards, as do most restaurants and large shops. Some cheaper pensioni, trattorias and pizzerias only accept cash.
- Do not rely on credit cards at museums or galleries.
- Note that using your credit card in ATMs can be costly. On every transaction there’s a fee, which can reach US$10 with some credit-card issuers, as well as interest per withdrawal. Check with your issuer before leaving home.
- Always inform your bank of your travel plans to avoid your card being blocked for payments made in unusual locations.
Italy’s currency is the euro. The seven euro notes come in denominations of €500, €200, €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5. The eight euro coins are in denominations of €2 and €1, then 50, 20, 10, five, and two cents, and finally one cent.
- You can change money in banks, at post offices or in a cambio (exchange office). Post offices and banks tend to offer the best rates; exchange offices keep longer hours, but watch for high commissions and inferior rates.
- Take your passport or photo ID when exchanging money.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
Italians are not big tippers. Use the following as a rough guide:
- Taxis Optional, but most people round up to the nearest euro.
- Hotels Tip porters about €5 at high-end hotels.
- Restaurants Service (servizio) is generally included in restaurants – if it's not, a euro or two is fine in pizzerias, 10% in restaurants.
- Bars Optional, though many Italians leave small change on the bar when ordering coffee (usually €0.10 per coffee). If drinks are brought to your table, a small tip is generally appreciated.
Opening hours vary throughout the year. We've provided high-season opening hours, which will generally decrease in the shoulder and low seasons. 'Summer' times generally refer to the period from April to September or October, while 'winter' times generally run from October or November to March.
Banks 8.30am to 1.30pm and 2.45pm to 4.30pm Monday to Friday
Restaurants noon to 3pm and 7.30pm to 11pm or midnight
Cafes 7.30am to 8pm, sometimes until 1am or 2am
Bars and clubs 10pm to 4am or 5am
Shops 9am to 1pm and 3.30pm to 7.30pm (or 4pm to 8pm) Monday to Saturday, some also open Sunday
Called Poste Italiane, Italy's postal system is reasonably reliable, though parcels do occasionally go missing.
Francobolli (stamps) are available at post offices and authorised tobacconists (look for the big white-on-black 'T' sign). Since letters often need to be weighed, what you get at the tobacconist for international airmail will occasionally be an approximation of the proper rate. Tobacconists keep regular shop hours.
The cost of sending a letter by aerea (airmail) depends on its weight, size and where it is being sent. Most people use posta prioritaria (priority mail), Italy's most efficient mail service, guaranteed to deliver letters sent to Europe within three working days and to the rest of the world within four to nine working days. Using posta prioritaria, mail up to 50g costs €3.50 within Europe, €4.50 to Africa, Asia and the Americas, and €5.50 to Australia and New Zealand. Mail weighing 51g to 100g costs €4.30 within Europe, €5.20 to Africa, Asia and the Americas, and €7.10 to Australia and New Zealand.
Most Italians take their annual holiday in August, with the busiest period occurring around 15 August, known locally as Ferragosto. As a result, many businesses and shops close for at least part of that month. Settimana Santa (Easter Holy Week) is another busy holiday period for Italians.
National public holidays include the following:
Capodanno (New Year's Day) 1 January
Epifania (Epiphany) 6 January
Pasquetta (Easter Monday) March/April
Giorno della Liberazione (Liberation Day) 25 April
Festa del Lavoro (Labour Day) 1 May
Festa della Repubblica (Republic Day) 2 June
Ferragosto (Feast of the Assumption) 15 August
Festa di Ognisanti (All Saints' Day) 1 November
Festa dell’Immacolata Concezione (Feast of the Immaculate Conception) 8 December
Natale (Christmas Day) 25 December
Festa di Santo Stefano (Boxing Day) 26 December
Smoking Banned in enclosed public spaces, which includes restaurants, bars, shops and public transport.
Taxes & Refunds
A 22% value-added tax known as IVA (Imposta sul Valore Aggiunta) is included in the price of most goods and services. Tax-free shopping is available at some shops.
Non-EU residents who spend more than €155 at one shop at a single time can claim a refund when leaving the EU. The refund only applies to purchases from stores that display a ‘Tax Free’ sign. When making the purchase, ask for a tax-refund voucher, to be filled in with the date of the purchase and its value. When leaving the EU, get this voucher stamped at customs and take it to the nearest tax-refund counter where you’ll get an immediate refund, either in cash or charged to your credit card. For more information, see www.taxrefund.it.
National and international phone numbers can be requested at 1254 (or online at www.1254.it).
- Italian telephone area codes all begin with 0 and consist of up to four digits. The area code is followed by anything from four to eight digits. Area codes are an integral part of all Italian phone numbers and must be dialled even when calling locally.
- Mobile-phone numbers begin with a three-digit prefix starting with a 3.
- Toll-free (free-phone) numbers are known as numeri verdi and usually start with 800.
- Nongeographical numbers start with 840, 841, 848, 892, 899, 163, 166 or 199.
- Some six-digit national rate numbers are also in use (such as those for Alitalia and Trenitalia).
- To call Italy from abroad, call your international access number, then Italy's country code (39) and then the area code of the location you want, including the leading 0.
- Avoid making international calls from a hotel, as rates are high.
- The cheapest options are free or low-cost apps such as Skype and Viber, connecting by using the wi-fi at your accommodation or at a cafe or other venue offering free wi-fi.
- Another cheap option is to use an international calling card. Note, however, that there are very few public payphones left, so consider a pre-paid card that allows you to call from any phone. Cards are available at newsstands and tobacconists.
- To call abroad from Italy dial 00, then the country and area codes, followed by the telephone number.
- To make a reverse-charge (collect) international call from a public telephone, dial 170. All phone operators speak English.
Local SIM cards can be used in European, Australian and some unlocked US phones. Other phones must be set to roaming.
- Italian mobile phones operate on the GSM 900/1800 network, which is compatible with the rest of Europe and Australia but not always with the North American GSM or CDMA systems – check with your service provider.
- The cheapest way of using your mobile is to buy a prepaid (prepagato) Italian SIM card. TIM (www.tim.it), Wind (www.wind.it), Vodafone (www.vodafone.it) and Tre (www.tre.it) all offer SIM cards and have retail outlets in most Italian cities and towns. All SIM cards must be registered in Italy, so make sure you have a passport or ID card with you when you buy one.
- You can easily top up your Italian SIM with a recharge card (ricarica), available from most tobacconists, some bars, supermarkets and banks.
Payphones & Phonecards
Although public payphones still exist across Italy, their numbers continue to decrease. Those that are still working take telephone cards (schede telefoniche), which are available from tobacconists and newsstands.
- All of Italy occupies the Central European Time Zone, which is one hour ahead of GMT. When it is noon in London, it is 1pm in Italy.
- Daylight-saving time (when clocks move forward one hour) starts on the last Sunday in March and ends on the last Sunday in October.
- Italy operates on a 24-hour clock, so 3pm is written as 15:00.
Beyond museums, galleries, department stores and train stations, there are few public toilets in Italy. If you're caught short, the best thing to do is to nip into a cafe or bar. The polite thing to do is to order something at the bar. You may need to pay to use public toilets at some venues (usually €0.50 to €1.50).
Four tiers of tourist office exist: local, provincial, regional and national.
Despite their different names, provincial and local offices offer similar services. All deal directly with the public and most will respond to written and telephone requests for information. Staff can usually provide a city map, lists of hotels and information on the major sights. In larger towns and major tourist areas, English is generally spoken, along with other languages, depending on the region (for example, German in Alto Adige, French in Valle d'Aosta).
Main offices are generally open Monday to Friday; some also open on weekends, especially in urban areas or during peak summer season. Affiliated information booths (at train stations and airports, for example) may keep slightly different hours.
Types of Tourist Office
Azienda di Promozione Turistica (APT)
Main provincial tourist office
Information on the town and its surrounding province
Azienda Autonoma di Soggiorno e Turismo (AAST) or Informazione e Assistenza ai Turisti (IAT)
Local tourist office in larger towns and cities
Town-specific information only (bus routes, museum opening times etc)
Local tourist office in smaller towns and villages
Similar to AAST and IAT
Regional Tourist Authorities
Regional offices are generally more concerned with planning, budgeting, marketing and promotion than with offering a public information service. However, they still maintain some useful websites. In some cases you'll need to look for the Tourism or Turismo link within the regional site. (Note: Campania currently has no official regional tourism website.)
- Abruzzo (www.abruzzoturismo.it)
- Basilicata (www.aptbasilicata.it)
- Calabria (www.turiscalabria.it)
- Emilia-Romagna (www.emiliaromagnaturismo.it)
- Friuli Venezia Giulia (www.turismo.fvg.it)
- Lazio (www.visitlazio.com)
- Le Marche (www.le-marche.com)
- Liguria (www.turismoinliguria.it)
- Lombardy (www.turismo.regione.lombardia.it)
- Molise (www.regione.molise.it/turismo)
- Piedmont (www.piemonteitalia.eu)
- Puglia (www.viaggiareinpuglia.it)
- Sardinia (www.sardegnaturismo.it)
- Sicily (www.regione.sicilia.it/turismo)
- Trentino-Alto Adige (www.visittrentino.it)
- Tuscany (www.turismo.intoscana.it)
- Umbria (www.regione.umbria.it)
- Valle d'Aosta (www.lovevda.it)
- Veneto (www.veneto.eu)
Travel with Children
Be it kid-friendly capital, smouldering volcano or beach-laced coast, Italy spoils families with its rich mix of historical and cultural sights, staggering portfolio of outdoor activities and stunning natural landscapes. To get the most out of exploring as a family, plan ahead.
Best Regions for Kids
- Rome & Lazio
Ancient Roman ruins and world-class museums make Rome interesting for older children.
- Naples & Campania
Gold for every age: subterranean ruins in Naples, gladiator battlefields in Pompeii and Herculaneum, and natural high drama – think volcanoes, thermal pools and coastal caves.
- Puglia, Basilicata & Calabria
Beautiful seaside scapes and towns, islands loaded with swashbuckling adventure and an unembellished cuisine most kids love.
Volcano climbing for sporty teens and beachside fun for sand-loving tots, alongside ancient ruins, hilltop castles and traditional 18th-century puppet theatre to inspire and entertain all ages.
Alfresco paradise overflowing with dazzling beaches, water-sports action, horseriding and scenic hikes suitable for all ages and abilities.
- Trento & the Dolomites
Ski or snowboard in some of Italy's best family-friendly winter ski resorts. Summer ushers in mountain hiking and biking for all ages.
Italy for Kids
Italian family travels divide into two camps: urban and rural. Cities in Italy are second to none in extraordinary sights and experiences, and with the aid of audio guides, smart-phone apps and some inventive guided tours, parents can find kid-appeal in almost every museum and monument.
Away from urban areas the pace slows and good, old-fashioned fresh air kicks in. Sandcastles, sea swimming and easy beachside ambles are natural elements of coastal travel (beach-rich Puglia, the Amalfi Coast, Sardinia and Sicily sizzle with family fun on and off the sand), while mountains and lakes inland demand immediate outdoor action from kids aged five and over – the older the child, the more daredevil and adrenalin-pumping the activity gets.
Museums & Monuments
When it comes to learning about art and history, Italy's wealth of museums beat school textbooks hands down. Few organise specific tours and workshops for children (there are dazzling exceptions in Florence), but an increasing number cater to younger-generation minds with multimedia displays, touchscreen gadgets and audio guides.
In Rome, time visits to the Vatican to coincide with the weekly papal address – kids love guessing which of the many windows the Pope will pop out of. Kill queue time for St Peter's Basilica by penning postcards home complete with a rare Vatican City postage stamp.
Feature: Discounts & Free Admission
Discounted admission for children is available at most attractions, although there is no fixed rule as to how much – or not – children pay. State-run museums and archaeological sites usually offer free entry to EU citizens under the age of 18. Otherwise, museums and monuments offer a reduced admission fee (generally half the adult price) for children, usually from the ages of 6 to 18. Many offer money-saving family tickets covering admission for two adults and two children or more.
Planning a family visit to museum-laden cities such as Rome and Florence on the first weekend of the month cuts costs dramatically: admission to state-run museums and monuments countrywide is free for everyone on the first Sunday of each month.
Children are welcomed in most eateries, especially in casual trattorias and osterie – often family-owned with overwhelmingly friendly, indulgent waiting staff and a menu featuring simple pasta dishes as well as more elaborate items. A menù bambini (children’s menu) is fairly common. It's also acceptable to order a mezzo piatto (half-portion) or a simple plate of pasta with butter or olive oil and Parmesan.
Italian families eat late. Few restaurants open their doors before 7.30pm or 8pm, making pizzerias – many open early – more appealing for families with younger children. High chairs are occasionally available; if your toddler absolutely needs to be strapped in, bring your own portable cloth seat.
In cities look out for branches of sustainable Slow Food champion Eataly (the impressive, hugely creative force behind Italy's dazzling new food theme park in Bologna), which serves meals all day using local, organic produce.
Pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice), panini from delicatessens and gelato are tasty on-the-run snacks. Markets everywhere burst with salami, cheese, olives, bread, fruit and other inspiring picnic supplies.
Baby requirements are easily met (except on Sundays when most shops are closed). Pharmacies and supermarkets sell baby formula, nappies (diapers), ready-made baby food and sterilising solutions. Fresh cow's milk is sold in cartons in supermarkets and in bars with a 'Latteria' sign.
Sardinia Albino donkey spotting, horse riding, water sports on some of Italy's top beaches (including excellent bubblemaker diving courses for kids), rock climbing and caving adventures.
Aeolian Islands Seven tiny volcanic islands off Sicily with everything from spewing lava to black-sand beaches.
Venice Glide across Venetian waters on a customised sailing or kayaking tour, or learn to row standing up like a bona fide gondolier.
Colosseum, Rome Throw yourself into Ancient Rome with tales of brave gladiators and wild beasts in the Roman Empire's biggest, mightiest stadium.
Palazzo Comunale & Torre Grossa, San Gimignano Slip on augmented-reality glasses in this Tuscan town to learn about frescoes and its medieval past.
Matera, Basilicata One of the world's oldest towns with epic biblical scenery peppered with sassi (habitable caves).
Palazzo del Podestà, Bergamo High-tech gadgetry, animated maps and interactive gizmos bring Bergamo's Venetian age vividly to life.
St Peter's Basilica, Rome Climbing up inside the dome of Italy's largest, most spectacular church is undeniably cool.
Duomo, Florence Repeat the dome-climbing experience with Brunelleschi's dome in Italy's favourite Renaissance city. (For kids over five years of age.)
Catacombe dei Cappuccini, Palermo Climb down to Palermo's creepy catacombs, packed with mummies in their Sunday best. Find more catacombs beneath Via Appia Antica in Rome and Naples. (For kids over 12 years.)
Napoli Sotterranea, Naples A secret trap door, war-time hideouts, sacred catacombs and ghoulish cemeteries make this guided tour of subterranean Naples gripping. (For kids over eight years.)
Leaning Tower, Pisa The bare interior of this pearly-white icon is accessible to children from ages eight and up; otherwise snap your kids propping up the tower.
Torre dell’Orologio, Venice Climb inside the world’s first digital clock to examine its Renaissance mechanisms and the two bronze Moors hammering out the hour. (For kids over six years.)
Stromboli, Aeolian Islands A guided ascent to the firework-spitting crater of this volcano is a total thrill for active teenagers.
Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia, Milan Italy's best science and technology museum makes budding inventors go gaga.
Museo Nazionale del Cinema, Turin Multimedia displays and movie memorabilia make this museum a winner for kids and adults alike.
Museo Archeologico dell'Alto Adige, Bolzano Drop in on Iceman Ötzi, Europe's oldest natural human mummy.
MAV, Ercolano Multimedia installations at this virtual archaeological museum bring famous ancient ruins back to life.
Palazzo Vecchio, Florence Theatrical tours for children and families through secret staircases and hidden rooms, led by historical figures.
Pasta Challenge your child to taste different shapes and colours of pasta while in Italy: strozzapreti ('priest strangler' pasta) is an Umbrian highlight, while in southern Italy Puglia's orecchiette con cima di rape (small ear-shaped pasta with turnip greens) is the perfect way of ensuring your kids eat some vegetables.
Gelato Museum Carpigiani, Anzola Gelato-themed tours with lots of tasting, or make your own with masters from the neighbouring Gelato University; 30 minutes from Bologna in Anzola.
Cook in Venice Kid-friendly food tours and cooking classes by Venetian mamma of two, Monica Cesarato.
Casa del Cioccolato Perugina, Perugia Wonka-esque chocolate-making workshops and tours at the Baci Perugina chocolate factory.
Eataly Torino Lingotto, Turin Dining with Italy's biggest champion of sustainable and Slow Food dining allows every member of the family to dine on a different cuisine.
Florence Town, Florence Gelato classes or pizza-making with a professional pizzaiolo for all the family.
When to Go
Travelling in Italy with children involves little extra pre-departure planning. Your most important decisions will be about which seaside resort to pick (Cala Gonone, Stintino and Santa Teresa di Gallura are Sardinian favourites; on Sicily consider Cefalù, Taormina, the Aeolian or Egadi Islands) and when to visit (perhaps timing your Italian caper with one of the country's vibrant kid-appealing festivals such as Siena's famous Palio, carnival in Venice or Viareggio, or Florence’s Easter-time Scoppio del Carro). Beware July and August when prices soar and the country broils, even more so in the sizzling hot south
For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.
Italy's inspirational, down-to-earth agriturismi (rural farmstays) are perfect for families: think self-catering facilities, mountains of green space to play around in and stacks of outdoor activities (swimming, tennis, horse-riding and mountain biking) alongside traditional rural pastimes such as olive picking, feeding the black pig, making bread in ancient stone ovens and cultivating saffron. In southern Italy, kids enjoy accommodation in circular, whitewashed trulli and quiet, often luxurious masserias (farm stays like family-friendly Masseria Torre Coccaro near Alberobello in Puglia).
In cities and towns countrywide, family and four-person rooms can be hard to find and should be booked in advance. Increasingly, boutique B&Bs like Arco del Lauro in Rome, Palazzo Belfiore in Florence and Palazzo Puccini in Pistoia offer family rooms and/or self-catering apartments suited to families with young children.
Italia Kids (www.italiakids.com) Family travel and lifestyle guide to Italy, packed with practical tips and accommodation listings.
Context Travel (www.contexttravel.com) Superb guided walks for families in Rome, Naples, Milan, Venice, Florence and other Tuscan cities.
Ciao Bambino (www.ciaobambino.com) Tours, activities, recommendations, and planning advice, put together by a group of travel-avid mums.
Baby Friendly Boltholes (www.babyfriendlyboltholes.co.uk) Search for the Italian holiday property of your pre-schooler's dreams.
Concordia International Volunteer Projects (www.concordiavolunteers.org.uk) Short-term community-based projects covering the environment, archaeology and the arts.
European Youth Portal (http://europa.eu/youth) Has various links suggesting volunteering options across Europe. Navigate to the Volunteering page.
Legambiente (http://international.legambiente.it) Offers numerous environmentally focussed volunteering opportunities.
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (www.wwoof.it) For a membership fee of €35 this organisation provides a list of farms looking for volunteer workers.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures Italy uses the metric system.
Italy is not a dangerous country for women to travel in. That said, in some parts of the country, solo women travellers may be subjected to a high level of unwanted attention. Eye-to-eye contact is the norm in Italy's daily flirtatious interplay. Eye contact can become outright staring the further south you travel.
If ignoring unwanted male attention doesn't work, politely tell your interlocutor that you're waiting for your marito (husband) or fidanzato (boyfriend), and if necessary, walk away.
If you feel yourself being groped on a crowded bus or metro, a loud 'che schifo!' (how disgusting!) will draw attention to the incident. Otherwise take all the usual precautions you would in any other part of the world.
You can report incidents to the police, who are required to press charges.
Citizens of the European Union (EU), Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein are legally entitled to work in Italy. Those wanting to stay in the country for more than three months are simply required to register with the local anagrafe (Register Office) in their Italian municipality of residence.
Working longer-term in Italy is trickier if you are a non-EU citizen. Firstly, you will need to secure a job offer. Your prospective employer will then need to complete most of the work visa application process on your behalf. If your application is successful, your employer will be given your work authorisation. Your local Italian embassy or consulate will then be informed and should be able to provide you with an entry visa within 30 days. It’s worth noting that Italy operates a visa quota system for most occupations, meaning that you will only be offered a visa if the relevant quota has not been met by the time your application is processed. Non-EU citizens planning to stay in Italy for more than 90 days must also apply for a permesso di soggiorno (permit to stay) within eight working days of their entry into Italy. Applications for the permit should be made at their nearest questura (police station). General information on the permit is available on the Italian State Police website (www.poliziadistato.it).
Italy does have reciprocal, short-term working-holiday agreements with a handful of countries, including Canada, Australia and New Zealand. These visas are generally limited to young adults aged between 18 and 30 or 35 and allow the visa holder to work a limited number of months over a set period of time. Contact your local Italian embassy (www.esteri.it) for more information.
Popular jobs for those permitted to work in Italy include teaching English, either through a language school or as a private freelancer. While some language schools do take on teachers without professional language qualifications, the more reputable (and better-paying) establishments will require you to have a TEFL (Teaching of English as a Foreign Language) certificate. Useful job-seeker websites for English-language teachers include ESL Employment (www.eslemployment.com) and TEFL (www.tefl.org.uk/tefl-jobs-centre). Au pairing is another popular work option; click onto www.aupairworld.com for more information on work opportunities and tips.
Homosexuality is legal (over the age of 16) and even widely accepted, but Italy is notably conservative in its attitudes, largely keeping in line with those of the Vatican. Overt displays of affection by LGBT couples can attract a negative response, especially in smaller towns.
There are gay venues in Rome, Milan and Bologna, and a handful in places such as Florence and Naples. Some coastal towns and resorts (such as the Tuscan town of Viareggio or Taormina in Sicily) are popular gay holiday spots in the summer.
Online resources include the following (mostly Italian-language) websites:
Arcigay (www.arcigay.it) Bologna-based national organisation for the LGBT community.
Circolo Mario Mieli (www.mariomieli.org) Rome-based cultural centre that organises debates, cultural events and social functions, including Gay Pride.
Coordinamento Lesbiche Italiano (CLR; www.clrbp.it) The national organisation for lesbians, holding regular conferences, literary evenings and other cultural special events.
Gay.it (www.gay.it) Website featuring LGBT news, feature articles and gossip.
Pride (www.prideonline.it) Culture, politics, travel and health with an LGBT focus.