The weather in Italy
Italy is great to visit year-round due to its temperate climate. Summers bring dry and hot weather, while winters are mild. Temperatures are seldom if ever higher than 40°C (104°F) in summer or lower than 10°C (14°F) in winter. The seasons are quite well-defined: winter is usually colder, spring brings more rains but also lovely sunny days, summer is hot and dry, while fall is occasionally rainy but never severe.
Climate varies depending on the regions and their specific geography. The northern regions tend to have a more continental climate while the regions in the south have a more Mediterranean climate. In particular, the coastal areas have a hot and dry climate in summer while the temperatures in mountain regions (like the Alps and the Apennines) are cooler.
SPRING (from late March through June)
Spring is generally pleasant in most parts of Italy, although rain and even snow in early spring are possible. Most parts of Italy get less rainfall in spring than in fall. Toward the end of spring, temperatures can get quite warm and you can enjoy outdoor dining and swimming in the sea or hotel pool.
SUMMER (from late June through September)
Summer in Italy can be very hot, especially in the south, and temperatures can rise above 100°F for days in a row. It’s generally dry but central and northern Italy can be humid and afternoon thunderstorms are not uncommon.
FALL (from late September through December)
Early fall is still pleasant in many parts of Italy but as the season ends, it gets colder. Fall is milder along the coast but colder inland, especially in the mountains. October generally brings crisp cool mornings and evenings but many sunny days. November is one of Italy’s rainiest months, but still typically with a good number of sunny days. Toward the end of November and into December, snow starts falling in many parts of Italy.
WINTER (from late December through March)
Winter weather in Italy ranges from relatively mild along the coasts of Sardinia, Sicily and the southern mainland to very cold and snowy inland, especially in the northern mountains. Even popular tourist destinations like Venice, Florence and the hill towns of Tuscany and Umbria can get a dusting of snow in winter. For most of Italy, the highest rainfall occurs during November and December, so winter may not be as rainy as fall. Although you’ll probably encounter some rain or snow, you may also be rewarded with crisp clear days.
For real-time updates on the weather in Italy, please visit: www.meteo.it.
How to dress in each season
In SPRING take a sweater, a lightweight jacket (a warmer jacket for mountains in early spring), sturdy water-resistant shoes, a scarf and an umbrella (though when it rains it’s easy to buy a cheap umbrella on the streets in most cities). In late spring, you may want to pack your bathing suit and sandals, too.
In SUMMER take a lightweight sweater and a rain jacket (especially if you’re heading to the mountains), your bathing suit and sandals. Please note that sleeveless tops and shorts are usually not allowed in churches and religious sites.
FALL weather can be unpredictable, so it’s best to pack clothes that can be worn in layers. Even in November there may still be warm days along the coast. Take a versatile sweater, a rain jacket, sturdy shoes that can be worn in rain and a good umbrella. In late fall, you may want a heavier coat, too.
In WINTER take a sweater, a thicker rain or snow jacket, sturdy shoes (or boots) that can be worn in rain and snow, gloves, scarf, winter hat and a good umbrella.
Bring an elegant casual outfit for dinners (no shorts and no sneakers); there’s no need for a formal attire.
Another reminder that sleeveless tops and shorts are not allowed in churches and religious sites, and especially the Vatican.
Italy has been one of the first EU Countries to adopt the EURO (€). The € is available in coins with 8 denominations: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 e 50 cents, €1 and €2. (Any Euro coin has a common side and a national side that represents the issuing country. The eight coins of any country can be used in the whole Euro zone).
Banknotes are available in seven denominations (like in other European countries): €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500. Please note that €200 and €500 banknotes are mainly used for high-value transactions and aren’t usually accepted in shops, restaurants and hotels.
If you are without Euros upon your arrival in Italy, you can change your currency into Euros at any bank, currency exchange offices at airports, ports and railway stations in the main cities. Also post offices in main tourist destinations typically have currency exchange services. You can also withdraw Euros from the BANCOMAT (ATM) located outside any bank through your credit or debit card.
Travelers’ checks can be exchanged into Euros in most hotels, shops and exchange offices.
ATM and credit cards
Most shops and restaurants accept major credit cards (Visa, Mastercard and American Express); typically they have a sign at the door that displays the credit cards accepted. ATMs in Italy are called BANCOMAT and are widely available everywhere (in big cities as well as smaller towns). ATM machines work just like in other countries; many of them now offer the option to carry out your transaction in English. Before inserting your card, it is best to check if it is compatible with the ATM machine (the symbol must be visible both on the card and the machine). Cirrus, BankMate and Plus are the most widespread systems.
If you’re not sure your card is usable abroad, it’s best to check with your bank or credit card company before you arrive to Italy. Also check your daily withdrawal limits (remember to convert them into Euro) so that you can accurately calculate your budget.
Usually it is preferable to use a debit card or ATM card for withdrawals because the charges are typically lower than with credit cards.
In Italy, the tipping system is very different than in other countries. There’s no obligation to tip, including the people working with our company. They are well-paid and make a good living. Tipping is an extra, it is not mandatory and whether you tip is entirely up to you. If you really appreciate the service they gave, you can tip them; otherwise don’t. However, in Italy we do appreciate and reward outstanding level of service. Usually customers choose to leave tips as a sign of appreciation for excellent service. So if drivers or guides provide you with outstanding service and make your holiday unforgettable, you may want to show them your appreciation. A general rule of thumb for private guides/drivers: 20-25 Euro for half a day and 20-50 Euro for a full day. The same applies to waiters in restaurants where service is included under the cost titled servizio. When the service is not specified, it’s included in the price of the dishes. Anyhow, when the food and the service have been perfect, Italians leave a tip for the waiter who served them as a sign of appreciation (the amount is at the discretion of customers). In bars and cafes, the same rules apply as in restaurants, though in some areas of Italy, especially in the southern regions, people leave some coins on the counter as a tip. Please note that in some bars prices go up if you eat or drink at a table rather than at the counter.
It’s not necessary to tip taxi drivers (also not that costs are higher compared to those in other countries).
In hotels it is recommended to tip the person who carries your luggage to your room.
Once again, there is no obligation to tip; it’s an extra reward for excellent service and it’s totally up to you.
It is difficult to say how much cash to carry with you, as it depends on your “shopping style.” Take into account that most restaurants and shops accept credit cards. American Express is less commonly accepted in Italy than in the US so you may find some shops don’t take AmEx. You will need cash for small expenses though: cafes, souvenirs, snacks etc. Even though you probably won’t take them often, if at all, most taxi rides need to be paid in cash. You’ll also need cash if you want to tip the guides and the drivers. We suggest taking approximately 500 Euros in cash and carry some USD that you can exchange, if needed. Just to give you an idea of the average cost of meals: a light lunch at a restaurant or a pizza at a pizzeria is approximately €10–15. However, if you eat street food (which is usually tasty and delicious), the cost is much lower. Dinner at a nice local restaurant usually costs €20–35 (more if you take a bottle of wine).
All the hotels we select are very attentive to the quality of service. In every room you will find a private bathroom with a shower or a bath tub, a hairdryer, a courtesy set of towels (though not a face cloth), A/C, telephone and television.
The electrical power in Italy is 220volts, 50Hz. Make sure all the electronics you intend to bring are compatible with this voltage; if not, use the appropriate transformer. Power sockets have three round holes. You can purchase adapters in stores that sell electronics or in specialized shops at the airports.
A typical Italian breakfast is made of a cappuccino (note that Italians drink cappuccino only at breakfast; they tolerate foreigners who drink a cappuccino after lunch or dinner, though they may give you a horrified look because it goes against the tradition) and cornetto or brioche usually stuffed with jam or chocolate. If having breakfast out, Italians typically eat standing at the bar counter. The hotels we select offer big buffet breakfasts, often featuring fresh local products, plus you can order bacon, eggs and the like.
In the past, lunch was the main meal of the day and always eaten at home. Today things have changed and as a result of a fast-paced rhythm of life, people eat lunch outside and often grab a sandwich, a dish of pasta or a salad. Lunch is usually between 12.30pm and 2.30 pm.
Dinner never starts before 7.30-8pm and has become the main meal that brings together Italian families after a busy day.
Most Italian restaurants have opening hours (at lunch and dinner) in line with the country’s traditions. Restaurants that cater to tourists are more flexible with their opening hours and are your best bet if you want to eat outside the typical meal times.
Traditional meals in Italy are made up of various courses. Starters are generally served first, followed by the first course (pasta, rice or soup) and then the main course (meat or fish) with vegetables. A cake or fruit is usually served at the end of the meal; coffee comes only when the cake is finished. Don’t get upset if you can’t complete the three-course marathon feast. Nowadays restaurants are used to serving both Italians and foreign customers who order only one or two courses.
Pizza deserves a special remark: all the Italians – northern, southern, young, old – love pizza. You can eat any time of day: as a snack, a quick lunch or a dinner with friends. You can find pizza by the slice, pizza al taglio, everywhere; you can eat it standing or sitting in a pizzeria.
Here’s an explanation of various dining and drinking establishments in Italy:
- Bar– sells coffee, cappuccino and other hot beverages together with snacks, ice cream and alcoholic drinks
• Gelateria– sells delicious Italian handmade ice cream
• Pizzeria – specializes in pizzas and sometimes simple dishes like pasta or salads
• Trattoria and Osteria – small informal restaurants where you can taste regional dishes at reasonable prices
• Ristorante – a more formal place serving typical Italian menus (starters-appetizers, first courses-pasta or soup, second courses-entree: meat, fish or vegetarian, dessert)
• Paninoteca – fast food eateries that serve almost exclusively sandwiches, toasts, appetizers and beverages (can be found mainly in big cities)
• Enoteca – a popular fusion of a wine bar and an osteria where you can sit and try local wines by the glass while snacking on regional finger food
Just to give you an idea of the average cost of meals: a light lunch at a restaurant or a pizza at a pizzeria is approximately €10–15. However, if you eat street food (which is usually tasty and delicious), the cost is much lower. Dinner at a nice local restaurant usually costs €20–35 (more if you take a bottle of wine).
Italian food is diverse and features a variety of choices. Visitors with special diets are typically catered to well. The owners and waiters of the restaurants we select will do their best to meet your dietary needs while showing you the outstanding variety of Italian food. If you need something particular, please don’t hesitate to talk to us in advance.
Phone and internet
Public phones are quickly disappearing because of the rise of mobile phones. By now you’ll find them only on the main streets in cities, at airports and train stations. Public phones take the following coins: 10, 20, 50 cents or 1 Euro or prepaid phone cards (you can purchase these in tobacco shops and at newsstands; note that in order to use them you have to fold and remove the corner at the left bottom of the card). You can also buy prepaid phone cards to make international phone calls at discounted prices, both from mobile phones and land lines.
To make phone calls in Italy, you need to dial the area code of the city or the town you’re calling. For example, to make a call to a number in Rome even if you’re calling from Rome, it is necessary to dial 06 + the phone number. To call Rome from Florence, you still need to dial 06 + the phone number. If you need to call Florence from Rome, it is necessary to dial 055 + the phone number. The area code is typically listed before any phone number. Note that this area code doesn’t apply to cell phone numbers.
To make international calls from Italy, you must dial 00 before the number; the code for Italy, if you’re calling from abroad, is 39.
In Italy cell phones work through the GSM system. To connect to the Italian network you have to make sure your company has enabled the international roaming service on your number.
Please note that our tour packages include the following unique feature: a welcome pack upon arrival that contains an Italian smart phone with a pre-charged SIM card. That way you can stay in touch with us at all times, get online to use maps etc.
It is very easy to get online in Italy.
All the hotels we select offer either Wi-Fi or PC desks with internet provided by the hotel. Wi-Fi hotspot coverage is great and quickly growing. Nowadays, many public places, such as airports, cafés, restaurants, etc, offer free internet.
Italian is the official language of Italy. Italian derives directly from Latin (the language of ancient Romans). One interesting feature of Italy’s linguistic development is that almost every town and small region has its own distinct dialect. Nowadays, especially in major cities and towns, several dialects closely resemble standard Italian, while others – still practiced in the countryside – are in a league of their own.
Nowadays the vast majority of Italians speak English and many of them also speak a third language (French, Spanish, German, etc). Italians have very good communication skills so it’s typically easy to understand each other even if you don’t speak a common language.
Opening hours for shops, banks & pharmacies
Shops are typically open from Monday through Saturday 8am–8pm. The opening hours do change according to the type of store as well as the location/region. In big cities and in tourist areas, shops typically have longer hours and are sometimes open on Sundays. In more remote areas, shops sometimes close for lunch during the week.
Banks in Italy are open from Monday to Friday 8.35 am–1.35 pm and 3–4 pm; they’re closed on weekends and during festivities.
Opening hours for pharmacies are similar to those of any other shop (from 8.30/9am–12.30 pm/1pm & from 3.30/4pm–7.30/8pm Monday–Saturday). In bigger cities pharmacies are open all day. Every city has at least one pharmacy that’s open during the night and on holidays (the hours, the shifts and the addresses of these are displayed on the shop window of any pharmacy).
Post offices are open Monday to Friday 8.30am–1.30pm and on Saturdays till 12.30 pm. In every medium-sized town and larger city there is a central post office that keeps longer opening hours, typically from 8am–6.30pm Monday–Saturday). You can find the list of all the post offices in Italy on the Poste Italiane website. Stamps can be purchased at the post offices but also in tobacco shops. When buying stamps, always specify the country you’re sending mail to, as the fees vary. Mailboxes are red and you can find them in every post office, near tobacco shops and along the main roads.
If you have a medical emergency during your stay in Italy, call 118 or go to the nearest hospital. Hospitals in Italian cities are well-equipped and organized. In towns and in more remote areas, you’ll find a doctor on duty, guardia medica, and medical services available round the clock. Even railway stations and airports are equipped with emergency medical services.
If you have any special medical needs, we advise that you bring your medical prescription with all the information about the treatment and the medicine you take regularly, including the dosage.
EU citizens have free access to public healthcare services in Italy, providing they are traveling with the appropriate European insurance card issued by the national health organizations in their own country. We suggest all other visitors purchase travel insurance that covers medical.
No vaccinations are required for travel to or around Italy.
Our tours are all non-smoking. If you are a smoker, you are welcome to participate – if you respect some basic rules. We can book a hotel room specifically designed for smokers, and you can smoke in any designated common area of the hotel. Smoking in restaurants during meals is not allowed; you can have a cigarette outside. Smoking inside the minivans is also not allowed.
The requirements and procedures for entering Italy depend on your nationality. For precise information in regard to visas, maximum stay time and other regulations, check the website of your closest Italian embassy or consulate. Please note that it is your responsibility to obtain all the documents required to enter Italy as a tourist and to take part in our tours.
(For purchases made in Italy by EU non-residents)
In Italy, prices you’ll see in shops already include VAT (tax). For the most part, the VAT rate is 20%. In compliance with EU legislation, non-resident travelers can request a VAT refund on any product purchased in Italy for personal usage or as a gift. The value of these products has to exceed 154.94 Euro, they must be purchased in a single shop and the goods must leave the EU zone within three months of the purchase.
Remember to keep a copy of all the receipts for any goods you buy, as the customs office at the airport will check both the goods and the receipts. After that, the receipts and the required stamped forms are sent to the shop which will refund the VAT; it will be refunded in cash (Euro) or as a credit on your credit card. For further information concerning the procedure regarding the refunds, please visit the customs agency website. There are also companies that specialize in VAT refunds. They take a commission but in exchange take care of the above procedure.
Italy is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
The time difference between Italy and some major cities is as follows:
London: -1 hour
New York: -6 hours
Chicago: -7 hours
Denver: -8 hours
San Francisco: -9 hours
Ottawa: -6 hours
New Delhi: +3.5 hours
Beijing: +6 hours
Canberra: +8 hours
Wellington: +10 hours
Daylight Savings Time is observed from the end of March to the end of October.
Below is a list of national holidays in Italy, when you’ll find offices, banks and shops closed. Museums are usually open, except on Christmas and New Year’s Day.
1 January (New Year’s Day)
6 January (Epiphany)
Easter and Easter Monday (varies every year)
25 April (Liberation Day)
1 May (Labor Day)
2 June (Republic Day)
15 August (Assumption)
1 November (All Saint’s Day)
8 December (Immaculate Conception)
25 December (Christmas)
26 December (Boxing Day)