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General Information A to Z

Rome is a very exciting city, and even more exciting after the new millennium arrived.  As you may have already guessed, I am so enchanted with every aspect of this ancient and beautiful metropolis and I want to share my experiences with all of those with a like interest.

This General Information A to Z page is broken down into two sections:  General Information concerning Rome, followed by General Information for Italy as a whole.  Before the General Information A to Z begins, there is a discussion on how to get to Rome from the airport(s) and back, as well as tips to help avoid the possibility of getting ripped off during your trip.  Things will be added as time permits to hopefully help you with your trip planning.  My website has become a very popular resource for those interested in Rome or are planning a trip to the Eternal City.

To aid in a more rapid download process for those who have slower computers, I have limited the use of graphics and pictures in this section of my website.  However, there are ample graphics and pictures throughout the rest of my website and I invite you to journey through each page and have fun exploring!  I have a ton of helpful information for you to discover.

Though my first love is Rome, I have quite a bit of knowledge about Florence (Firenze) as well and have gotten many questions regarding Florence.  So, I have added a somewhat smaller page on Florence, accessible through the main page to my All Roads Lead To Roma website, for those of you who wish to include Florence on your itinerary.

If anyone sees my website mentioned in a publication or in newsprint, I would very much appreciate your keeping it and letting me know so I can possibly obtain a copy of it for my files.

I try to visit Rome at least once a year.  I was also very fortunate to have spent 23 days in Rome in February-March 2003.  If anyone is interested in reading a synopsis of this extended trip, I have put it here.

 NOTICE:  I do answer all of my email inquiries in a timely manner.  However, over the course of the recent past, I notice that when I have answered some of my visitor’s questions, the email reply has sometimes been returned to me marked “unknown user” or “undeliverable”.  I don’t want any of you to think I do not try and answer because I do.  So, be sure that your return email address is listed correct so that answers to your email inquiries can be received back by you in a timely manner.  If you do not hear back from me within 24 hours, it means I cannot reply to your e-mail, or my reply to your e-mail was returned to me as “undeliverable” from your host server.  In the event this happens, please try again from another host address such as one of the free web-based services such as Hotmail or Yahoo, if you have a secondary account with them, as I have no way of responding to your e-mail other than replying directly to the e-mail address you originally sent your inquiry from.  Sorry of any inconvenience.  Thanks.

IN TODAY’S WORLD OF TERRORIST ACTIVITY . . .

It is always better to be as aware as one can be while traveling.  I highly recommend that if you are planning a trip, not only to Rome or Italy, but to anywhere, you keep up with the most current information as provided by the Department of State in its travel warnings.  For your convenience, I have provided a link to both the Department of State Travel Warnings section (click on the country you are interested in) and the U.S. Mission to Italy websites on my Links page.  Be sure to check them out.

SOME TIPS ON AVOIDING GETTING RIPPED OFF IN ROME (AS WELL AS IN THE REST OF ITALY, OR WHEREVER YOU MAY BE TRAVELING):  I was very disturbed when I read an article that in early 2005, a tourist visiting Rome and while in the Via Veneto area (a very posh, expensive, and fashionable part of Rome) was ripped off by being charged 990 Euros (yes, 990 Euros!!!) for a glass of beer.  This is a total rip-off.  The article I read said the tourist was finally able to talk the waiter into reducing the price down to 490 Euros, but when the tourist got her credit card statement, it was back to the full 990 Euros!

A friend of mine who lives in Rome (Andrea Pollett) has helped me put together this section to aid with those visiting Rome and other parts of Italy in avoiding the possibility of being ripped off.  Do not consider this as a warning not to visit the Eternal City because that is not the reason why I am posting it here.  I am merely wanting to make everyone aware that this sort of thing goes on, and can happen anywhere you go.

Some establishments such as bars, restaurants, etc. located by important spots rip off customers (you won’t see locals in them very often!).  So one thing should be made very clear:  if you want to sip a beer or have a coffee watching the Pantheon or the Colosseum, you’ll probably pay a lot more for it than in less tourist-oriented areas.  I would call them “PAY PER VIEW” establishments.  My first advice is to go for bars/cafes, etc. located as far as possible away from these famous spots as you can to avoid the possibility of having this happen.  I am not saying that it will happen, but it often does.  Unless one is specifically looking for ‘the dolce vita’-style treatment (including the hefty price that this entails), there are thousands of small, neat, less noisy establishments located throughout the central districts (no need to hit the suburbs for a fair treatment).

Many tourists are also not aware that sitting at a table in most cases is considered an extra entry (i.e., the waiter’s service is considered separately).  So when they get a higher bill than they had expected they fear a rip-off, which is really not the case in this instance.  There is no specific rule concerning service/sitting at a table, which means that some bars (a majority, particularly the ones near important spots) will charge extra for sitting at a table, while others (located in more obscure spots) will let you sit down free of charge, in some cases asking you to take the drinks with you at the table, in other cases providing a full service.  To avoid paying an unwanted additional service fee, the only way is to ask whether sitting is charged extra.

By Italian law, it is not illegal that different establishments charge different prices for the same good, i.e., there are no goods with prices fixed by the authorities.  But:

(1) It is a strict rule for any establishment, yet often not enforced in areas of touristic interest, to inform customers of the price list, by means of a menu, poster, or a wall notice which must be freely accessible BEFORE ordering something.  The price list must include any extras that may be added to the final bill.  By the effect of this rule (which was introduced no later than back in 1932, I think), the customer accepts to pay the price of what he/she is ordering in the very moment he or she does so.

(2) Absurd prices, such as 10 or more times the standard one are usually not tolerated.  But, like with the German tourist who got charged 990 Euros for a glass of beer, it does happen.  When such cases are reported to the relevant authorities (the Guardia di Finanza, i.e., the military dealing with fiscal matters), the establishment usually gets questioned, if not even investigated, mainly for the reason that it is very unlikely for a shop owner to declare such high prices (= earnings/profits) in his or her income taxes.  So this issue is crucial:  it is impossible to be ripped off if the prices are shown.  In the case they are NOT shown, the customer is warmly advised to avoid that establishment.

(3) It is both a duty for the establishment and the right for the customer to issue an official receipt for what is paid.  Should the establishment not issue the receipt or ‘forget’ to give it to the customer, the customer should always insist on having it.  Besides being the only proof of the payment, there is another good reason.  Being unlucky enough, a Guardia di Finanza patrol on duty might question a customer on exiting the premises of an establishment, and failing to produce a receipt usually leads to a very hefty fine for the customer (in the range of thousands of Euro) and both a heftier fine and a temporary license suspension for the establishment.  So, case in point, always get a receipt for anything you have purchased, even for a simple cup of coffee or gelato!

The receipt is the only legal evidence of a purchase, and should be kept with great care when buying goods that might be needy of a replacement, too (such as clothing, electrical appliances, photographic equipment, etc.):  for instance, any guarantee is not valid without the retailer’s receipt (retailers in Rome usually stick it on the the guarantee’s front page with cellotape).  The receipt is indeed the gateway to all the purchaser’s rights, which locals know well, but foreigners may not.

In the first place, if a good sold fails to comply with the buyer’s expectation (i.e., it is damaged, it does not work, parts are missing, etc.), he/she has the right to either have it replaced or to have his or her money back.  This may sound way too obvious, but since it is supported by a specific law, this is not left to the seller’s free choice.  For instance, some shops try to ‘intimidate’ buyers from returning faulty goods during the sales season, by hanging notices that say ‘sold goods cannot be replaced’.  This is clearly overridden by the law, and the shop owner may face legal problems in the case he refuses to comply with it.  The seller (NOT the maker) is always held responsible for faulty goods sold by a retailer:  the claim that the buyer should contact the company for having the good replaced is a pretext used by some dishonest shop owners, obviously contradicted by the law.  (To be fair, my daughter bought a Pentax camera in Florence on one of our visits at a camera shop in Piazza di Signoria.  It was defective and she returned it with a receipt and the shop owner replaced the camera without question.  This does not always happen without problems, though.)

For a 10-day period after the purchase of any good (except food), the buyer has the right to return it, if he/she is no longer satisfied with it (a law known as ‘the right to recede’).  The good should obviously be returned in factory condition, and the whole package too should be returned.  Although many shops would reject the buyer’s claim, or at least try to offer goods of equal value in exchange, according to the law, the buyer has the right to have his money back, and for the lawyer of any consumers association to sue the shop would be an easy job.  Nevertheless, it is advisable for a buyer not to abuse this law, and make well his or her mind before buying, in any case.

Third, many goods such as a TV set, a radio, or any electrical appliance comes with a guarantee.  The buyer should be aware that by effect of a European Community law, enforced in most EEC countries (but not in all of them), every appliance sold comes with NO LESS than a free two-year guarantee, regardless of the maker’s or the retailer’s policy.  Makers are obviously free to offer more than two years, but not less than two years.  The law is known with its number 99/44/CE.  The guarantee only concerns defects that may be due to original faults, not by those which the user may be responsible, due to mishandling, over-usage, improper usage, etc.  In a large city such as Rome, in case some kind of repair is needed, the buyer should better take his appliance to the nearest repairer’s workshop/laboratory officially approved by the maker, rather than to the shop where it was purchased, producing the guarantee and the shop’s receipt.  A list of repairers and the companies they are approved by can be found in the Yellow Pages directory; alternatively, any major retailer has a list of them.

The fact that market stalls (those stalls located on the street or sidewalk) do not issue a receipt should not discourage tourists.  A very large majority of purchases are fully satisfactory, the quality of the goods is not much different from the one offered in standard shops, and the prices are indeed cheaper (because of no shop rent, no shop assistant’s wages, no electricity bill, nor any other extra expense that would affect the final prices).  Particularly when goods sold in stalls bear official brands and labels (not only clothing, but also electric batteries, CD-ROM and DVD recordable disks, film, etc.), they are perfectly safe, provided they are factory-sealed.  For instance, almost all of my friend’s collection of music CDs comes from stalls, and he now also buys DVD movies at the Sunday market:  the very same ones that he pays 5.90 Euro at a stall are priced at 14 Euros or higher at Feltrinelli’s (which is not even expensive compared to other stores!).

Now, Chinese immigrants run many commercial activities in Rome (stores, shops, stalls).  Everybody knows that Chinese goods may not be as refined or as elegant as Western ones, but if one is looking for something special (a camera tripod, a flashlight, etc.) to use over the holiday, why spend a fortune at an ordinary shop.  Their prices are unbeatable:  consider trying their stores in Piazza Vittorio (below Stazione Termini) and surrounding streets.  They are subject to the same laws as local sellers are, so there is no risk.

Legal stalls should not be mistaken with illegal sellers, who usually display their goods over sheets on the pavement (so when a polieman comes in sight they can turn the sheet into a huge bundle a vanish within two seconds).  I have seen this happen all the time!!!  They are typically unregistered immigrants (particularly from Africa), who do this to scrape a living on behalf of sharks who exploit them.  The goods they sell are mostly fakes of trendy brands (garments, purses, sunglasses, perfumes, watches), or music CDs, Playstation videogames, etc.  It is an offense to buy goods from them; however, locals and tourists alike are often tempted all the same, because the prices are good and one can haggle with them for hours, often with amazing results.  It is not my business to syndicate whether a tourist should buy from them or not (I do not myself), but unlike stalls, most of which are regularly located on a given spot, a tourist should bear in mind that illegal sellers are no longer traceable once they’ve vanished, so any good bought from them has no chance of being returned nor changed (unless this is done within minutes after the purchase).  Those sellers that have actual stalls on the streets do not fall in this category and are safe to buy from because they come to the same spot every day.

An important detail is that in order to be valid, the receipt should be a ‘fiscal receipt’, i.e., it should bear data such as the address of the establishment, the name of the owner and his or her fiscal code, the date of the payment, and the full sum paid (possibly with the specification of every entry paid for).  Simply writing figures on a piece of scrap paper is NOT a valid receipt.  A very large majority of shops and stores obviously issue regular receipts.  A receipt is also needed for any V.A.T. refunds (see “Tax-free Shopping” later on this page).

Recently, Rome’s authorities have introduced strict rules also for taxis, who notoriously used to rip off tourists more often than not.  Since 2005, a detailed price list inclusive of all extras, in Italian and English, MUST be hung inside the car, where the customer can easily read it.  Obviously, it is always strongly advised to avoid illegal taxis, as those are not subject to any official rule, and positively always rips off customers, and nothing can be done to get one’s money back.

In case a customer thinks he or she is being ripped off by a regular taxi, there are two things he or she can do BEFORE paying:

(1) Ask to be given an official receipt (it should have the logo of the taxi company, and all of the aforesaid data); taxi drivers MUST do so on the customer’s request.  If the driver fails to issue a receipt (take care, they may claim 100 excuses for not doing so, but THIS IS THE LAW),
(2) ask for the intervention of a policeman, eventually calling it himself.

In any case, this should discourage fraud.  In any case of dispute, it is also very important to write down the company and the number of the taxi (most of the cars now usually have a fantasy name followed by a short one- or two-digit code number, printed on both sides of the car in large letters).

NOTE:  the taxi company’s phone number (usually a four- to six-digit number) should not be mistaken for the number of the car!  (In my friend, Andrea’s, web site transportation section, you’ll find sample pictures of what the taxi names/numbers look like.  You can get to his web site by going to my Links page and clicking on “Virtual Roma” icon.)

Following these instructions, it is virtually impossible to be ripped off.  Enjoy your time in the Eternal City and other cities you plan to visit, but always be as well-informed as you can BEFORE you go.  However, in the unlikely case that this might happen all the same, any fraud should be best reported to the Guardia di Finanza.  It is much better than reporting it to the standard authorities (police, Carabinieri), because the former are much more involved with commercial/fiscal matters, and are also better organized in this field.  At present, I only found the address of the main front office, which acts as a public relations office.  I doubt that they would accept a reported fraud, but surely they would be able to give advice on where to report such fraud, because my friend believes that a report should be made by the office whose jurisdiction includes the street or square where the frauduent establishment is located.  Alternatively, frauds can always be reported by phoning the toll-free number 117, from anywhere in Italy.  Their information is as follows (I will also put a link to their web site on my Links page when I can):

Guardia di Finanza
viale XXI Aprile 55 (just off piazza Bologna, Metro B)
Open from Monday  to Thursday 10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. and 2:00pm-5:00pm and on Friday 10:00am-1:00pm
Telephone numbers:  06-44223726 and 06-44222601; fax:  0644223745
Email address is urp@gdf.it.
Web site is http://www.guardiadifinanza.it/ (I will post a direct link on my Links page soon)

Besides the authorities, there are several customer/consumer organizations that offer legal assistance for a reasonable price (usually, the subscription fee for one year plus a small extra fee in case a lawyer is actively involved).  This might not be very useful for short-stay tourists who get ripped off in a bar, but if somebody is staying on for a longer term, i.e., a foreign student, and the fraud concerns something more expensive (for instance a bimonthly bill), these associations can turn out to be very handy.  I will try and locate some of the names and addresses of these consumer organizations and post them when I get them.

The two main consumer associations are as follows (again, I will also put a pink to their web site on my Links page when I can):

Adiconsum (Associazione Difesa Consumatori e Ambiente)
Rome (and Lazio) branch:  Web site is http://www.adiconsumlazio.org/html/home.html
Front office:  via Baldo degli Ubaldi, 378, open Monday to Friday, from 10:00am to 5:00 pm
Telephone numbers:  06-39674548 and 06-635846l Fax:  06-39380448
Email address:  consulenza@adiconsumlazio.org

Federconsumatori
Rome branch:  Web site is http://www.federconsumatori.roma/it/
Front office:  via del Macao 9 (off Termini Station) open Monday to Thursday in the afternoon.
Legal assistance:  piazza San Giovanni Battista De La Salla 3/a (north-west of the Vatican, off Metro A stops Baldo degli Hbaldi or Cornelia, or terminal of bus lines 490, 495), open Monday/Wednesday/Friday in the afternoon, and Tuesday/Thursday in the morning.
Telephone number:  06-47823341
Email address:  info@federconsumatori.roma.it

My friend indicates that he honestly doesn’t know how much language might represent a problem, i.e., how much chance there is that a tourist may be able to find English-speaking staff, either in the Guardia di Finanza offices or in those of the two associations; however, these three addresses and information are provided here for your convenience should you need them.  I wish to thank my friend, Andrea, for providing me this helpful information.

Now that you have duly educated, continue reading important things to know below and go have a splendid time in Rome!

IMPORTANT NOTICE REGARDING ADDED AIRPORT SECURITY: With all that is going on in the world today, especially after the events of 9/11, airport security has increased substantially, especially in the United States.  If you are a U.S. citizen, you should look under Packing below for brand new information just released by the Transportation Security Administration, just in time for Holiday traveling.  I understand that these new procedures are to be implemented in all U.S. airports by December 31, 2002.  Also, I highly recommend that you check their website listed at the top of my Links page as there is a plethora of valuable information regarding these new procedures, tips on what to do before going to the airport, packing, and what to expect when you arrive at the airport.  A must for anyone even thinking about traveling these days.  I would also check with my air carrier for further information regarding these new security procedures before heading out to the airport (see Packing below for further information).  If you are traveling to Rome from another country, I would recommend using the same procedures to be safe, as international airports around the world may have installed these new security procedures as well.  It is always better to be safe than sorry.

GENERAL INFORMATION FOR ROME VISITORS

Since costs for various services and admissions are subject to change without notice, and I do not live in Rome, it is very difficult to keep up to date with the current charges.  You might want to get a current companion travel guide such as Fodor’s or Eyewitness Travel Guide which will give you the current charges for various services and also admissions into various attractions, museums, and galleries.

Your Arrival in Rome.  Getting into Rome can be a hassle, especially if you have never been there before.  The excitement of finally arriving in Rome is almost too much to bear let alone to know where to go once you arrive.  If you arrive via air from outside Italy, you will most likely touch down at Leonardo da Vinci International Airport (Fiumicino).  For information, tel. +39/06/659.53.640 or 06/659.51; see map on my Neighborhood Locator Maps page).  da Vinci Airport is also called Fiumicino which honors the town so-named located near the airport.  As are most airports, Fiumicino is quite large but seemingly compact compared to some U.S. airports, a lot of it made of glass, and it is located near the termination of the Tiber River.  There are now three terminals:  Terminal A, which is domestic flights; Terminal B, which is international and domestic; and Terminal C, which is international flights only.  It is about 18.5 miles southwest from the center of Rome.

If you arrive via a charter or domestic flight, you may arrive at Rome’s other airport, Ciampino (tel. +39/06/794.941), about a half-hour’s travel time out of Rome.  Chances are, however, you will arrive a da Vinci (Fiumicino).  NOTE:  Because of the terrorist attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001, there is increased security at all airports, including those in Europe.  For further information, please see my Heightened Security section under Additional Helpful Information below.

Substantial Layovers on a Continuing Flight Out of Rome.  If you have a substantial layover for a continuing flight to elsewhere in Italy or beyond, depending upon the amount of time you have for your layover (I would say at least five hours or more), you may wish to trek into Rome and visit one or two sights.  I have been asked this question many times, and it is always difficult to answer, especially now with added security and arrival/departure restrictions.  I would be very careful in doing so, however, because you can really get caught up in all the splendor of Rome and it is easy to lose all track of time, which may cause you to miss your continuing flight.  Remember, traffic most likely will be a major factor.  You may wish to book (in advance) a limo service or tour guide to take you in to Rome to wherever you wish to visit and return you to the airport in sufficient time for you to make your continuing flight.  (Please see Limo and Tour Guidesections below for further details on how to contact them.)

At the airport, there are two information desks available to you.  One is for Rome itself, the other for Italy in general.  Their telephone number is +39/06/659.560.74.  They are open Monday-Saturday from 8:30 a.m. until 7 p.m.  There is also an exchange booth (cambio) nearby that is open every day from 7:30 a.m. until 11 p.m. (cambios are located at several locations throughout the airport).  If you have not checked your luggage through to your final destination and wish to store them while you make this excursion into Rome, there are luggage storage facilities available in the Main Arrivals Terminal which are open daily.  There is a charge per bag.

It is very difficult to tell someone who has very limited time what to see in a situation like this.  Unless I had an enormous layover, I personally would not even attempt to try it.  However, if I did have sufficient time and just had to go into Rome, and could go see one sight, it would definitely have to be St. Peter’s Basilica (a.k.a. the Vatican).  But, again, be very careful because the vastness and beauty is overwhelming and you could be in trouble getting back to the airport in time if you lose track of time.  Again, this can be discussed with the limo service operator or tour guide you wish to hire if this is what you would like to do with your “down time” while awaiting your connecting flight.  I would most definitely take care of all these arrangements before you leave home on your trip.

Arrival by Ocean Liner.  If you arrive near Rome via ocean liner, you will dock at a place called Civitavecchia, which is approximately 90 Km. (60 miles) north of Rome, along via Aurelia on the coast.  I understand there is some sort of bus service which runs from Rome to Civitavecchia, but I do not have any information regarding any timetables or fares to Rome and back to the ship.  Since the buses approach Rome from the northwest, the bus terminal must be somewhere in proximity to Cornelia subway station, which is not far from where the suburban part of via Aurelia starts.  Check my Links page for a link to Civitavecchia’s website.  That being said, I do know that my friend, Sergio Caggia, who has a tour guide business in Rome called Rome Made To Measure and speaks English quite well, provides personalized itineraries and tours of Rome and its vicinity and can make arrangements to pick you up and return you to your ship at Civitavecchia, as well as work with you to provide a personalized tour designed specifically for the time you have to explore Rome and what you want to see.  Please check out his website listed on my Links page under Rome Made To Measure.  You can also email Sergio at nerone@nerone.cc.  Please also check below under Tour Guides for other recommendations if you wish to avail yourself of other English-speaking tour guides.

There is also direct service between Rome’s Termini Station to Civitavecchia (and vice versa).  They have trains running every half-hour.  As of 2005, the price for a first-class ticket was approximately US$20 (compared to the cruise ship lines which tend to charge substantially more for a shuttle from Rome to Civitavecchia).  I do not know the current price structure.  You can check the schedule and fares out by going to the following link:  www.italiarail.com.

Getting Into Rome.  Everything was so foreign to me the first time I arrived at the airport, I really didn’t know which way to go or how to go about getting into Rome.  The first time I ever went, I made the mistake of taking a fake cab driver’s offer, which cost me dearly compared to subsequent trips when I used the train (a lot of these unofficial drivers are in and around the arrivals area trying to get people to think they are authorized taxi’s to Rome).  Authorized taxis have “Taxi” on the roof of the vehicle, and are white or yellow.  Now that I am an old hat at traveling to Rome, there are several options to get into Rome, but the best way to get there as far as I am concerned is by TRAIN (treni).

Train.  Up until a few years ago (around 2000 or 2001), the national railway network that ran in Italy was called Ferrovie dello Stato (FS is the logo).  A couple of years ago, this company changed its name and ownership, so it is now called Trenitalia.  However, it is one and the same, providing the same services and classes of service as before.  It appears that only the name has changed, which can be a bit confusing to the traveler.

As previously stated, as far as I am concerned, this is by far the best way to get into Rome and back to the airport.  The trains run frequently, are efficient, and very relaxing, especially after maneuvering through the terminals with your luggage.  The train station out of the airport runs two trains into Rome, a regionale (or local with multi-stops), and a diretto (direct express).  The diretto is a nonstop express train from the airport direct to Stazione Termini (Track 22) and is the only one I highly recommend using because it takes you directly into Rome’s Central Railway Station (Stazione Termini).  The destination signs at the airport will read Roma Termini.  The regionale takes you to the Tiburtina Station and then you have to transfer railways (see Local Train below for details).

After going through Baggage Claim and Customs (it may take some time to do that, so be patient), it is fairly easy to get to the train station from the International Terminal, but be prepared for crowds of people everywhere.  (Check the map I drew of the train station’s location in relation to the International Terminal on my Neighborhood Locator Maps page.)  Remember, this is a major international airport, so it will be swamped with people scurrying everywhere and in every direction.  Follow the sign marked treni.  When you get to the exit doors to the International Terminal, you can either go outside, walk up the staircase to the overhead walkway and cross over to the train terminal, or just inside the terminal, use the escalator down and go underneath the roadway and up the stairs to the train terminal.  Just follow the sign treni.  Once you enter the train terminal and go down the stairs into it, the train platforms are straight ahead of you and the ticket counters are to the right after you descend the stairs/escalator to the train track level.

There are machines, too, midway in the overhead walkway, that automatically dispense tickets but I never could figure out how to work them.  The train leaves every half-hour between 7:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m.  As you enter the train station from the airport, there are manned ticket counters to your right as well.  The ride is nonstop to Stazione Termini and takes about 30 minutes.  It is a very enjoyable and relaxing way to get to the downtown and see some of the countryside and urban outskirts of Rome as well.  Be prepared for chaos, though!  People push to get on and off first, no matter what, in order to get their luggage on-board and get seats.  As a rule, I found that people will not help you with your luggage, so you are mostly on your own.  There are luggage carts available and they get snatched up very quickly.  Whether you are traveling alone or with someone, NEVER EVER leave ANY luggage or bag unattended even for one minute to go even 10 feet to retrieve an empty luggage cart or you may find that your luggage has been swiped that quickly.  Even so, this is the most convenient mode of transportation to get to and from the airport into Rome.

As stated above, once inside the International Arrival Terminal, you can either take the underground belt and escalator over to the train station, which is across the street from the Terminal, or you can take the overhead tunnel into the train station.  Once in the train station, you have to purchase your train ticket.  The booth is located on the right as you face the train tracks.  Once you have your ticket, you proceed to the row of validation boxes (to the right of each train platform), insert your ticket, and it will validate your ticket with a date and time stamp much like an old-fashioned timeclock.  Then, you proceed with your luggage onto the platform (it is covered) and wait for the next direct train to Roma Termini.

When the train arrives at Stazione Termini, it will let you off at the end of the terminals.  The airport train does not go all the way into the terminal.  You have quite a long way to walk with your luggage once you depart the train.  If you have a lot of luggage or your luggage is heavy, you should get a luggage carrier to carry your luggage on into the terminal area (see photo).  Again, be sure to stay with your luggage at all times!  Do not leave your luggage unattended while obtaining a luggage carrier under any circumstances.  There should be ample ones available at the point where you off-board the train from those passengers who last boarded a train back to the airport.  They are very simple to operate; to release the wheel mechanism, push the level bar on the handle down.  Also, take note of the Information Booth/Ticket Office to the left of the train track just before the long aisleway up the side of the terminal to the main terminal area.  This is where you will have to go to catch the return train to the airport and to purchase your return ticket.  If you are connecting to another train to go elsewhere in Italy, proceed into the main terminal and go to the ticket counter to get your ticket.  The destination boards will tell you what platform (binario) your train will be departing from to different points outside Rome.  Again, be sure you keep close tabs on your belongings you sit by your side and in front of you while you are in line and make sure you take your belongings with you up to the window when it is your turn, keeping all belongings in your sight range while conducting your business at the window. I don’t mean to seem overly paranoid, but it is better to be safe than sorry.  I have seen it happen all too often and it is an ongoing problem.

Local Train.  I have not taken this, so until I learn more about it, if you choose this option, you are pretty much on your own.  But, this is what I do know about this option.  If you are staying at a hotel that is not within the walls of Old Rome, this may be an option for you, depending on the hotel’s location in relation to the Tiburtina Station.  Invest in a map of Rome while you are planning your trip.  It is invaluable.  But you need to check this out before you leave on your trip.  You may want to consult with the hotel you will be staying at for further train information as to the best option to take.  Again, follow the sign marked treni which will take you to the train terminal at the airport (as noted above).  The local train (regionale) has multiple stops, and runs about every 15-20 minutes or so between 6:20 a.m. and midnight, and takes you to the Tiburtina station, and then continues on to Fara Sabina.  From 9:15 p.m. to 11:55 p.m., the last stop is the Tiburtina Station.  Though cheaper, it does not go directly to Stazione Termini.  Once you arrive at the Tiburtina Station, you must off-board and catch the subway Linea B train on to Stazione Termini.  I much prefer taking the diretto nonstop train at the higher price.  I have not taken this option, so I cannot vouch for it’s accuracy or comfort.  I would consider this option only if you are staying somewhere outside central Rome (outside the walls).

Again, you need to be aware that train timetables can vary for Sundays and public holidays so it is best to check the timetables posted that are in effect at the time you need to utilize that particular service.

Buses.  The bus service is run by Cotral.  I understand that buses during the day and early evening hours no longer run from the airport into Rome unless you are scheduled on a charter tour bus line that is scheduled to pick you up at the airport, in which case you will be catching that particular charter bus.  Check with your tour operator for details if this is the option you have chosen.  There is only NIGHT BUS SERVICE that runs ONLY to the Tiburtina Station from 1:15 a.m. until 5 a.m.  The bus stop is outside the International Arrivals Terminal of the airport.  From Rome back to the airport, it is a bit easier because there are two buses running from Rome during the daytime hours.  One runs from near the Magliana subway station stop between 6:15 a.m. and 9:45 p.m..  The other daytime bus to the airport runs from near the Lepanto subway station to the airport from 6:35 a.m. until 9:15 p.m.  The night service only bus stop is close to the Tiburtina Railway Station and the buses run from 12:30 a.m. until 3:45 a.m. to the airport.  On this bus, I understand tickets must be purchased on the bus.  Again, timetables can vary on Sundays and public holidays, so it is best to check the timetables when you arrive.  As further information becomes available on any type of bus service during the day from the airport direct to central Rome, I will post it.  For up-to-date fares, you might want to check with the Cotral website for current fares, or check with a current edition of your favorite travel guide (such as Eyewitness or Frommer’s).

If you arrive at Ciampino, you can take a Cotral bus which departs approximately every 30 minutes and will deliver you to the subway where you will transfer to the Anagnina (Linea A) station on into Stazione Termini.  From there, you can transfer to all other points via train in Italy and the rest of Europe, or take a cab to your hotel.  The length of the trip is about 45 minutes and the cost is a lot less expensive than from Fiumicino.  Ciampino Airport is located some 16 Km. southeast of Rome.  Most air charters and domestic flights arrive at and depart from this airport.

Taxis.  At Fiumicino, there are many ‘drivers’ (unauthorized taxis) there waiting to take you into Rome – and for quite a hefty fee, too (usually double that of a regular taxi fare).  A legitimate taxi fare from Fiumicino to the center of Rome is in excess of 50 Euro.  This does not include the ITL flat rate.  They also charge per piece of luggage.  Unauthorized taxis used to abound at the airport, but I understand that now the situation is very different.  Authorized taxis have been able to combat unauthorized taxis so it is a little more difficult to find an unauthorized taxi at the airport.  That does not mean they aren’t there so you have to be on your toes.  If you do choose the option of taking a taxi from the airport into Rome, only use authorized taxis that are yellow or white WITH meters.  Make sure the meter is running.  If it isn’t, be sure to negotiate the price before getting into the cab.  So, you need to be very careful or you may pay quite heavily as I did the first time I visited Rome.  I now take the diretto train exclusively and allow enough time in both directions in order to do so.  If I need to be at the airport at an early hour, I ask my hotel to arrange for a reputable taxi service that they use to pick me up and I make sure the price is negotiated at the time the reservations are made and not wait until I’m exiting the cab at the airport only to find out the price is different than what was originally quoted.  Most hotels use specific services that they rely on.  A typical taxi fare from the Stazione Termini area (excluding the ITL flat rate, luggage handling and tip).  (See Taxis below for further information.)  Again, since I do not live in Rome, it is difficult for me to keep tabs on current price information as prices tend to change without notice.  You should always consult the Internet for a possible web site that will give you current price information, or check with the current edition of your favorite travel guide for this information.

If you arrive at Ciampino, even though you are a bit closer to the city, you will still pay in excess of around 40 Euro (around $45US).  This does not include the ITL flat rate.  Remember, in addition to the fare on the meter and the ITL flat rate, additional fees apply for luggage, night runs, and Sunday or holiday runs no matter where you take the taxi to or from.  It can all add up to one big bill.  But, if you choose this option and time is more of a problem than money, you can get additional information by calling one of these three numbers:  +39/06/66.45, 06/49.94, or 06/35.70.

Limousine Services.  For those of you who wish to take advantage of limousine-type services, I have included the ones below that I know of for your convenience.

Roma Limousine.  This is a family-run limousine service since 1983, run by the Pagnotta family (Renato, Alessandro, and Massimo), very professional, courteous, and eager to be of help to you with your touring needs.  They are based 15 minutes from the airport.  According to their website (see my Links page), they provide limousine and touring services of Italy and Europe and you can make reservations via telephone or on-line.  They provide guided tours for singles, couples, or groups.  They also go to Rome’s port-of-call for cruise ships, the Port of Civitavecchia.  They have concierge services as well, which includes obtaining theater tickets, special events, and other services.  If this is of interest to you, I recommend you visit their website for further information.  You can also contact them at ROMALIMO@aol.com.  Please help me by telling them you saw them mentioned on my website.

International Limousine Service.  A visitor to my website furnished me with information regarding this limo service between Fiumicino and Rome, so I am including it here.  Appears to be quite expensive.  They quoted (in 2000 dollars) 185.92 Euro (L360,000, approximately $180US) between the airport and Rome based on four people plus luggage.  The rate quoted does not include eventual night surcharges applicable from 8:00 p.m. through 8:00 a.m., which is also added if you take a taxi.  For more information regarding your specific needs if you choose to go via this limo service, or to check what their current price rates are, it is recommended that you email them.  Their email address is giuseppe@limointernational.com.

Euroservice.  Again, in 2000, they quoted 67.14 Euro (L130,000; about $64US) total price.  This is not really a limo, but a minivan with eight seats.  If you have 5-8 passengers, this might be the best way to get into Rome if you don’t want to take the train.  For more information on this option, and to check what their current price rates are, you need to email them directly.  Their email address for further information is euroservice@welcomeinitaly.net.

Your Return to the Airport.  When you need to go back to the airport, and choose the train to do so, you will need to purchase a ticket at the airport train kiosk, which is located at the end of the train station where the train lets you off when you first arrive at Stazione Termini.  Take note of its location so you will know where to return when you are ready to return to the airport.  It is located on the via G. Giolitti side of the station (alongside Track 22).  You will be required to validate your ticket no more than an hour before the train departs for the airport.  Double-check this with the agent you purchase your ticket from to make sure the rules haven’t changed.  Ask the agent where the yellow validation box is to validate your ticket (it should be on the wall next to or near the ticket kiosk).  Once stamped, your ticket is now validated and you are ready to board the train back to the airport when it arrives at Stazione Termini.  Unlike most of the other trains that travel in and out of Stazione Termini to destinations outside Rome, there is no smoking on the train that runs between the airport and Stazione Termini.    When returning to the airport, with new security measures in place, you need to allow yourself ample time to get there.  Check my Neighborhood Locator Maps page, Termini map for a visual of where the track is in relation to the main terminal, the kiosk for tickets back to Fiumicino is located (no. 9 on map), and places in the immediate area of the train station.

The express nonstop FS train (diretto) from Stazione Termini (Track 22) to the airport leaves Stazione Termini approximately every 30 minutes from about 6:50 a.m. until 9:50 p.m.*  The local train (regionale), which makes multiple stops, leaves from the Tiburtina Station (not Stazione Termini) approximately every 15 minutes from about 5:35 a.m. until 9:55 p.m. and costs approximately 5 Euro.  Train schedules can vary on Sundays and public holidays so always check at the point of departure for the current timetable.

*Exchange rates between the Lira and the new Euro dollar are fixed at 1 Euro = L1,936.27; however, international exchange rates between foreign currency and the Euro fluctuate.  All prices quoted on this website are approximate as of mid-2004, and are given as a measure of approximate comparison only.  Please be aware that any price quoted anywhere on my website are subject to change without notice.  Since I do not live in Rome, it is very difficult to keep track of exact price structures.  You may wish to consult your favorite travel guide that contains current pricing for the venues or hotels you are interested in, or check the Internet to see if perhaps they have a website.  Hotels often have websites or central reservations websites that contain current pricing information.  The Internet or your favorite travel guide tends to keep better tabs on current rates for admissions to museums and galleries, various transportation fares, and hotel price ranges.  I cannot do it on this website.

Stazione Termini.  This is Rome’s central point for most arrivals and departures and is chaotic most of the time.  It has been cleaned up a lot and now has a lot more shopping facilities as well.  It is located at Piazza dei Cinquecento and the telephone number is 06/1478.880.881.  It is also the location where the two subway station lines (Linea A and B) cross, which take you to different parts of the city.  Subway stations are marked with a large white “M” in a red square (photo courtesy of Andrea Pollett of Rome).  Check out Stazione Termini’s website on my Links page.  It has interactive maps and quite a bit of useful information for the tourist.  I highly recommend you familiarize yourself with this important station before you leave for your trip.  Waiting until you get there can be rather hectic because it is massive with people and luggage in every direction.  It can be a bit confusing if you don’t know what you are doing.

A note of warning:  Be especially careful as with any tourist arrival and departure point in any major city.  Although the police have cleaned the area up within the last couple of years (especially in preparation for Jubilee 2000 – Holy Year), you need to be on your toes.  Tourists are a major prey of pickpockets and would-be thieves as there are often major distractions in dealing with luggage, figuring out which way to go, getting to the taxi cab queues, etc.  Groups of children wanting to pickpocket you or take your luggage while you are eating at a stand-up snack bar inside are quite prevalent in and around the train station, so be on your toes, especially during the summer months (see Crime in Rome below for further information).  From the train station, you can get in an official authorized taxi cab queue (cars that are yellow or white WITH meters and plainly marked “taxi” on the roof) and go to your hotel.  Go out in front of the Station in Piazza del Cinquecento and get in the queue.  You can take the luggage carts out there as well (see section on Taxis below for further information on fares, tips, etc., and check my Neighborhood Locator Maps page for Stazione Termini for location of taxi stands, bus stops, etc.)

Tips For Travelers Traveling to Other Destinations Via Train.  If you are traveling to another destination from Rome via train or are taking a several-day excursion elsewhere via train, purchase your round-trip tickets when you purchase your airfare at home.  It is usually cheaper than waiting to do it in Rome.  Also, go first-class only.  It only costs a bit more, but it is worth it.  You will have to get into a queue and pay an additional surcharge for reserved first-class seating at Stazione Termini when you get your ticket validated and there are often long lines, so be alert as you do this.  I found this out when I have taken side trips to Florence, for instance.  Be sure when you are standing in line that you keep an alert eye on all your belongings that you have placed to your side and in front of you.  Do not leave your luggage unattended or where someone can easily get to them and take off with them.

Checking Your Luggage and/or Lost Luggage.  If you have ever traveled abroad and gotten to your destination but your luggage went somewhere else, it can be very frustrating.  One thing when checking your luggage, you should also make sure that each bag has been correctly tagged with the destination airport’s three-letter code (for Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, it is FCO) at your departure airport.  Make sure the tags show the final destination as FCO.  In case your bag doesn’t arrive when you do, or they arrive damaged, you need to file a written report with the airline before leaving the airport.  This is a must.  It is also wise to insert inside each piece of luggage a copy of your itinerary showing where you will be staying, address, phone number, etc.  If you have tags on the outside of your luggage and put your home address on the tag, I would cover it so that would-be thieves won’t readily see it.  (See also Medicine below for additional important information.)

For international flights, as a rule, the airlines do not determine baggage allowances by the number of pieces but, rather, by weight.  These are (generally):  88 pounds (40 kg) for first-class, 66 pounds (30 kg) for business-class, and 44 pounds (20 kg) for economy.  Your air carrier may have slightly different requirements so you might want to double-check when you make your reservations.

Airline Liability for Luggage.  You should note that for international flights, airline liability for luggage is usually limited to $9.07 per pound, or $20 per kg. for checked luggage (approximately $640 for a 70-pound bag) and $400 per passenger for carry-on luggage.  You can purchase additional coverage at the airline check-in point for about $10 per $1,000 of coverage, but the coverage can exclude a whole host of items (shown on your airline ticket).  Price quotes are in U.S. dollars.

Substantial Layovers at the Train Station.  If you have a major layover at the train station to another destination via the train, if there is enough layover time, you may wish to sightsee around the immediate area.  There are luggage storage facilities available at the train station located along Tracks 1 and 22 that are open daily from 5 a.m. until 1 a.m.  For every 12 hours worth of storage, there is a charge per bag.  Sights that are very near the train station include Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, one of the four major churches of Rome located some four blocks from the station; Santa Maria degli Angeli Basilica, which was built by Michelangelo utilizing part of the ruins of the Baths of Diocletian, which are located across Piazza dei Cinquecento adjacent to Piazza della Repubblica; next to this Basilica is the National Museum of Rome.  Located behind the station away from Piazza dei Cinquecento along via G. Giolitti is a very small church called Santa Babiana.  Just up from Piazza della Repubblica are the churches of Santa Maria della Vittoria, Santa Susanna (the American Parish in Rome), San Bernardo alle Terme, and the famed Moses Fountain, all at the same intersection at Piazza San Bernardo.  Not far from Stazione Termini (down via Cavour) is the Coliseum, the Foro Romano (Roman Forum), Trajan’s Marketplace, and in Piazza Venezia, the gigantic Altar to the Fatherland, better known as the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument.  The locals do not like this monstrosity, calling it a gigantic typewriter, or wedding cake.  But, it is something to behold.

Seeing Rome.  The best way to see Rome, especially within the walls, is good old-fashioned walking if you are able.  In fact, if you really want to appreciate all this wonderful city has to offer, walking is the only way to see it.  So, get some really good, comfortable walking shoes, a good map, and head out.  You will not be disappointed, I guarantee it.  There are a few sights that are, in my opinion after walking them myself, too far out to warrant getting there on-foot.  These include the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano (one of the four patriarchal churches of Rome), the Scala Sancta (the Holy Stairs), Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (which houses many relics from the time of Christ), Basilica di San Paolo fuori le Mura (St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, another of the four patriarchal churches of Rome), the Pyramide of Caio Cesto, Protestant Cemetery, etc.  However, a quick subway ride is the way to get to these further-out destinations (with the exception of the catacombs, which require a bus ride from the Colosseo subway station – I have walked it though, and from my hotel at the Spanish Steps – never again!).  Other than that, Rome is quite walkable and I guarantee you that you will be thrilled!  As I said previously, get a good map showing all the points of interest, fountains, buildings, monuments, and churches, and lay out an itinerary so that you will not be constantly backtracking, which takes a lot of time, especially if you do not have the extra time.

What To See With Very Limited Time in Rome (i.e., One, Two, or Three Days).  One thing for sure is that Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Likewise, it is literally impossible to see Rome in a day, either.  I get asked all the time what I would recommend seeing on a one- or two-day stay in Rome.  That is very difficult to answer from my perspective because (1) everyone’s priorities such as churches, museums, fountains, architecture, etc. are different; and (2) I’d want to see literally everything, which is not humanly possible in this short period of time.  For instance, on my first trip to Rome, I spent 25 glorious days, and I would estimate I saw only about 25 percent of what Rome has to offer even though I thought I had really seen a lot.  However, below, I have tried to put together my personal recommendations for “must-see” sights if I only had one, two, or three days in Rome.  They are not listed in any order of preference or priority.  Also, with this much of a limited time schedule, you really need to plan ahead, get a good map and guide book of Rome, and check the times things are open and closed and plan your time wisely.  Be especially mindful that churches are open in the mornings from about 7 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and then again in the late afternoon usually after 4:00 p.m. until about 7 or 7:30 p.m.  Museums and galleries have different times of operation and are often closed on different days of the week, so you should always check these out when you are trying to figure out what you want to see and how best to plan your trip without backtracking.  Backtracking is wasted steps when you have only a certain amount of time to see what is on your “wish list” to see.  Here goes.

One Day in Rome.  This is the most difficult to answer.  I would suggest any combination of the following: St. Peter’s Basilica; Spanish Steps and Trinita dei Monti atop the Spanish Steps; Piazza Navona and Sant’Agnese in Agone in the center of the Piazza; the Pantheon in Piazza della Rotonda and, possibly, Sant’Ignazio di Loyola just down the street on via del Seminario for its beautiful ceiling; Trevi Fountain; and if you have the time, the Coliseum and Roman Forum area.  If you are so inclined and want to take the time for the approximately 45-minute tour and can get on one, I highly suggest trying to get tickets/reservations to see the Pre-Constantinian Necropolis (“City of the Dead”) which lies underneath St. Peter’s Basilica (see my Vatican and Environs page for more information on how to obtain tickets).  This special journey will transport you back in time some 2,000 years to ancient Rome’s Pagan cemetery, leading up Vatican Hill to where the Tomb of St. Peter is located, which also lies directly underneath Bernini’s Canopy inside the present Basilica.  It is well worth the time in my opinion.  Also, while at the Spanish Steps, if you have 30 minutes extra, you might want to take a quick walk down via della Croce, which is one of the most unique shopping streets in the center of Rome.  Via della Croce is the street at the far end of Piazza di Spagna at the bottom of the Spanish Steps to the left as you face the Spanish Steps.  This is a very intense schedule to see all of this in one day, but is doable if you plan correctly.

Two Days in Rome.  Same as above, adding the Vatican Museums when visiting St. Peter’s Basilica.  I would also try to add San Pietro in Vincoli (close to the Coliseum), Santa Maria Maggiore near the train station, and Piazza Campidoglio, including Santa Maria d’Aracoeli and Michelangelo’s Cordonata (Grand Staircase) which is at the opposite end of the Roman Forum behind the gigantic Vittorio Emanuele II Monument.

Three Days in Rome.  Same as one and two days, plus Gesu just off Piazza Venezia, and Piazza del Popolo with its three churches (twin churches of Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria Montesanto, and across the piazza, Santa Maria del Popolo with its pyramid crypts inside).

Again, it is very difficult for me to say what would be the best things to see with a limited period of time.  This is just my personal recommendation.  Quite frankly, since I have been to Rome many, many times and STILL have not seen everything, I would hate to go to Rome for less than seven full days at the least.  But, if one or two days are all you have and you want to make the most of it, the above is the best that I can recommend.

Tickets for Buses, Trams, and the Metro.  Whenever I go to Rome, I always prefer to get a weekly bus ticket, which allows you to ride the buses, trams, and the Metro as much as you want during that week period.  There are also daily bus tickets available.  You can get them at tobacchi shops throughout Rome and at the magazine shops and tobacchi shops at the Central Railway Station.  I find them very convenient and they are not that expensive.  Much better than having to carry a lot of extra change around for buses, trams, and Metro rides.

Now, on with General Information A to Z.

ADDITIONAL HELPFUL INFORMATION

Admission Fees to Museums, Galleries, and Other Places of Interest.  Unfortunately, since I do not live in Rome, it is difficult to monitor admission fees charged by different facilities such as museums, galleries, and other places of interest that have entrance fees.  Those noted on my website are given solely as a tool to help the reader get a feel for an approximate cost.  It is highly recommended that you check a current edition of your favorite travel guide to Rome that notes admission charges for the latest price information.  Some travel guides have this information and others don’t list admission charges.  Again, you might also want to see if the place you want to visit has a web site.  Those that do will indicate their current rates.

Air Carriers.  There are many air carriers with service to Rome.  Those from the U.S. include Alitalia, British Airways, Canadian Airways, Philippine Airlines, Qantas, U.S. Airways, and Delta, among others.  Check with your travel agent, the Internet, or the airlines directly for the best fares and timetable for the time you wish to travel, and for those who might provide direct nonstop flights as they continually changing.  Personally, I prefer arriving in Rome early in the morning at around 10 a.m.  That way, I don’t waste an entire day of sightseeing.  I then choose an airline with an arrival time around that time, and with a round-trip airfare that I feel comfortable with.

American Express.  The American Express office is located between the Spanish Steps and McDonalds at Piazza di Spagna 38 (tel. 06/67.641).  Hours for help with your travel needs are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.  Hours for financial and mail services are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. until noon.

Apartments.  Prices for apartments in Rome vary in price according to location, as in any city.  You will find two levels of prices (applicable in Rome and Italy in general):  one is set up by the government and is called the “fair rent” prices; the other is what you will pay a landlord who has advertised in local papers.  Any way you look at it, if you plan on renting an apartment for anything more than a normal one- to two-week stay typical vacation time period), you better be loaded with money.  Check my Links page for websites that offer apartments, villas, etc. for rent in Rome.

ATMs.  ATMs are becoming popular all over the world, especially in Europe.  Most U.S. banks belong to a network that allows their credit card holders to withdraw money from any ATM displaying that network’s symbol.  However, be forewarned that you may be charged extra for each transaction at an ATM that is not your specific bank’s.  The two most popular networks are PLUS and CIRRUS.  Cirrus is a MasterCard network (www.mastercard.com/atm/; tel. 1.800.424.7787), and PLUS is Visa’s version (www.visa.com/atms; tel. 1.800.843.7587).  You can easily find out which network(s) your specific bank card belongs to by looking at the back of your credit card.  Before leaving on your trip, you should check with your bank to see what ATMs are available in the cities you will be visiting, charges for cash advances, etc.  They should be able to provide you with a list.  Also, before you leave on your trip, you should make sure to double-check what your daily withdrawal limit is.  NOTE:  In Italy, some cards have to be programmed with a four-digit PIN for use there.  Be sure and ask your bank if you will need a new PIN number (personal ID number) before you leave on your trip.  Taking care of these items before you leave will help insure less trouble once you get there and try to use them.  (See also Credit Cards.)

August in Rome.  The month of August is probably NOT a very good time to visit Italy, especially Rome (and south) because of the heat.  Usually beginning August 15th, a lot of Rome’s citizens that are not directly involved with the tourist trade take a two-week vacation, so many places are closed, including a lot of restaurants.  Some take the entire month off and go on vacation, often to the beach resort areas, or out of the country.  If you must travel to Rome in August, be prepared for the possibility that some things may be closed.  You should check with the different places before traveling to make sure they will be open — chances are, most will not be.  Often times, nightclub owners will lock their doors during August and open up clubs closer to the coast.  Believe it or not, postal services are also generally slower in August as well.  (See Climate below for further information.)

Babysitters.  If you are traveling with children and wish to secure the services of a babysitter, most hotel concierges will assist you in obtaining one.  Be sure to ask for an English-speaking sitter if there is one available, if English is your principal language.  There is a list of reliable English-speaking babysitters available through AWAR (tel. 06/482.52.68).  You can also check with the American Embassy, which have reliable babysitter listings available.

Banks.  For the most part, banks are generally open from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., then after the afternoon rest period (siesta) from 3 to 4 p.m., and closed all day Saturday and Sunday and on national holidays.  Some of the banks keep afternoon hours ranging from 2:45 to 3:45 p.m.  The American Service Bank is at Piazza Mignanelli 5 (tel. 06/678.68.15).  The other two popular American banks are Chase Manhattan, via Michele Mercati 39 (tel. 06/866.361), and Citibank, via Boncompagni 26 (tel. 06/47.13), and via Abruzzi 2 (tel. 06/478.171).

Bargaining.  Bargaining is very common, especially at the flea market (outdoor markets), street vendors, and with unmetered taxis (remember to settle on your price before you get into an unmetered cab).  Other than these few places, bargaining is considered very inappropriate.

Best Time to Travel to Rome.  In my opinion, the best time to travel to Rome is in the spring (mid-May/early June) and early fall (mid-September/early October).  I have actually gone in mid-February/early March and found it fairly nice as well, though, you must remember, this time of the year is winter in Rome.

Bowling.  For those who have to bowl to unwind, there is a bowling alley in Rome called Bowling Team Alley located at Viale Regina Margherita 181 off via Nomentana (tel. 06/855.11.84).

Cambios (Money Exchange Booths).  There are many cambios all over Rome.  The best cambio I have found is just outside the entrance to St. Peter’s Square on the Via della Conciliazione on the left as you face St. Peter’s Square.  It is the Maccorp Italiana S.P.A. Roma Conciliazione (see Vatican Area map on my Neighborhood Locator Maps page).  They are very courteous and helpful.  Their exchange rate was always better than most anywhere else, including Banco di Roma.  It is near Thomas Cook (another exchange on the same side of the street in the same block) and has a blue board written “Exact. Change.”  The address is via della Conciliazione 43/A (tel. 06/687.24.62).  They have several other outlets throughout Rome, including Piazza Navona, 102 (tel. 06/689.24.02), Interno Stazione Termini (tel. 06/482.57.82), and Via Frattina (tel. 06/678.67.71).

At the Piazza di Spagna, there is one on a small street between via della Croce and via Condotti (via del Carrozze) between the Piazza and via Mario de’Fiori.  Also, at the far end of the Piazza di Spagna on via della Croce bordering the Piazza is a bank (Banco di Napoli) that will also exchange your money.  I have found that this particular bank gives you more for your dollar than a lot of the cambios in the area (or hotels, for that matter).  Cambios have different exchange rates and commissions, so read the fine print on their boards.  Travelers cheques can be exchanged for Euro at most hotels, banks, and at the foreign exchange offices in main railway stations and at the airports, but the exchange rate will more than likely be less.

There are a few banks (Banco di Napoli and Banco di Roma) on Vittorio Emanuele II Boulevard near Campo de’Fiori as well.  Banks are only allowed to exchange up to 516.46 Euro (L1,000,000) at any one time, so if you need more than that, you will have to split your transactions and go to two separate banks or cambios to do so.  For your convenience, I have included a Universal Currency Converter website on my Links page.  It is updated every minute and is excellent for up-to-the-minute foreign exchange rates for the currency of your country.

Again, be prepared to pay commissions for exchanging currency at all cambios and banks, usually with at least a 1.5% rate.  Depending on what type of currency you are converting (i.e., cash, travelers cheques, etc.), commissions can go as high as 11.90%, so always read the fine print on the currency boards for the current commission rates for the type of currency/transaction you are converting before you make the transaction.  It is recommended that you do not accept currency conversion from people on the street because these people are often passing counterfeit money.  Your best bet is to exchange money at either a reputable cambio, bank, or your hotel.

Some banks and cambios require several pieces of ID, including one with a photo, in order to cash traveler’s cheques.  One thing you should never do, however, is carry all of your ID together.  Have them in several places in case you get pickpocketed or they become lost.  I usually take my passport and my driver’s license, which have photos on both, when cashing traveler’s cheques.  I then return to my hotel and deposit my passport in the safety deposit box and only keep my driver’s license with me.  Sometimes, I take an old driver’s license that has expired for the picture in case someone decides to lift it from me.  That way, they don’t get the valid one in case something happens.

When cashing traveler’s cheques or converting money, it is best to convert more than less since each time you complete a transaction, you are essentially losing money because of the commissions the cambios and banks charge each time you use their services.  You can always put any excess money in the hotel’s safety deposit box and get into it, as needed.

Need Some Money from Home?  Let’s face it.  Sometimes, we over-spend, or do not budget properly and run out of money or, in cases where you have been ripped off or have lost your money, you find yourself broke and in need of additional funds from home.  There are several things you can do.

If you are a U.S. citizen, and in an emergency situation only, you can contact the U.S. State Department and they can forward money within hours to the consular office in the city where you are located.  The consular office will then give you the money that was sent in your name, but be prepared to pay a $15US fee for this service.  Here is the contact information for those who find themselves in this type of emergency situation and need their people back home to send money.  Overseas Citizens Service, American Citizens Service, Consular Affairs, Room 4811, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20520, Tel. 202.647.5225; nights, Sundays, and holidays, 202.647.4000.  Their website is http://travel.state.gov.  You may want to become familiar with the process before leaving for your trip and make sure that your relatives/friends back home are, too, in case you need to use this service.

If the person that you are requesting money from resides in the United States, the United Kingdom, or Canada, they can wire money to you through an international money order at Western Union.  Here are important Western Union numbers:  U.S. 800.325.6000, U.K. 0800.833.833, Canada 800.235.0000, and in Italy, the number is 800.22.00.56.  If the person sending the money sends cash instead of charging it on a credit card to send it to you, it will generally be cheaper for them because of the bank charges involved.  The time it takes from sending to receiving the funds is about an hour, which is very quick considering.  To find Western Union’s nearest location to you, visit their website at www.westernunion.com.

If you have an American Express card and find yourself in dire need of funds, cardholders can withdraw cash from their checking accounts at a major office of the American Express up to $1,000US every 21 days with no service charge and no interest.  It is called the AmEx “Express Cash” withdrawal.  Withdrawals from an American Express ATM machine in Italy are automatically debited from the cardholder’s line of credit or checking account.  To enroll or get more information, you should call to find out about the American Express “Express Cash” withdrawal program, call 800.227.4669 in the U.S., or outside the U.S., call collect at +1 (336) 668.5041.  The American Express national number in Italy is 06.622.82 (in Rome).  American Express in Rome is located in Piazza di Spagna (see above under American Express).

Car Seats for Children.  See below under General Information for Italy in the section entitled “Getting Around Italy” for information on this subject.

Carrying Cash.  This is a kind of Catch-22 situation.  For safety, one shouldn’t carry a lot of cash around with them.  On the other hand, a lot of places will not accept traveler’s cheques and trying to pay for something using a personal check is almost totally out of the question.  I would only carry as much cash as you feel comfortable with and that you think you will need for the day, including museum or gallery admissions, food, transportation, souvenirs, etc.  You can always go to a cambio and get some traveler’s cheques cashed if you find you need additional money on any given day.  I also would not carry all my cash in the same place on my person.  If you get pickpocketed and all your cash is in one place, you’ve lost it all.  Spread it out.  I always use a jacket with an inside zippered or velcro pocket, or use a money belt.

Children and Rome.  Now, the hard part.  Rome may not be the ideal place to bring babies or children under the age of seven.  Check out this section if you plan to travel with children.

Churches and Synagogues.  There are many, many places of worship in Rome (over 900) and most are closed during the long lunch hour(s) (between noon and 3:30 p.m.), with the exception of St. Peter’s and a few other major churches and Basilicas.  The best rule-of-thumb is to visit the churches early in the morning (between 7:30 a.m. and noon) or in the evening between 4:30 and 7 p.m.).  The times will vary with each church, but you will find most of them open during these hours.  Check my Churches and Basilicas page for the hours of operation each of the churches listed are open.  All are subject to change without notice, however.  The larger or more famous churches are more apt to be open longer.  Always remember when visiting a church, Mass may be underway or people may be inside in prayer, so be as quiet during your visit as possible so as not to disrupt people inside.  For a partial listing of houses of worship, and ones with English-speaking services, click on the link above.

Cigarettes.  For smokers, some bars sell cigarettes, but your best bet is to look for shops called tabacchi.  You will pay more for a U.S. brand than an Italian brand, so be prepared.  Also, very few U.S. brands are available in Rome.  You may want to bring the limit the government will allow you to import with you (400 cigarettes/2 cartons).  The most popular U.S. brand I noticed is Marlboro.

Climate.  The climate in Rome varies from about 49 F. in January to 85 F. in July.  (See Weather in Rome below for a link to the current weather and five-day forecast in Rome.)

Temperature Conversion.  The temperature in Italy is measured in Celsius.  Converting to Fahrenheit from Celsius:  take the temperature in Celsius times 1.8 and add 32.  To convert Celsius into Fahrenheit:  take the temperature in Fahrenheit and subtract 32 and times that by .55.  Examples would be:

0 degrees Celsius converts to 32 degrees F.
5 degrees Celsius converts to 41 degrees F.
10 degrees Celsius converts to 50 degrees F.
15 degrees Celsius converts to 59 degrees F.
20 degrees Celsius converts to 68 degrees F.
25 degrees Celsius converts to 77 degrees F.
30 degrees Celsius converts to 86 degrees F.
35 degrees Celsius converts to 95 degrees F.
38 degrees Celsius converts to 100 degrees F.

Average Rainfall.  Below are the average rainfall estimates, in inches, that Rome usually receives:

Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May June July Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
3.6 3.2 2.9 2.2 1.4 0.7 0.2 0.7 3.0 4.0 3.9 2.8

Average Temperature (Fahrenheit).  Below are the average temperatures, in Fahrenheit, per month in Rome.  You might say, “Well, 78 in August is not very hot.”  Believe me, it is stiflingly hot!  What makes it so is the extreme high humidity during that month.  I have been there as the month changes from August to September when the temperature in the daytime reached only 75 and it was almost unbearable.  I was always dripping wet and miserable.

Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May June July Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
49 52 57 62 70 77 87 78 73 68 56 47

Clothing.  Whatever you would wear in New York during most any season you can probably get away with wearing in Italy during the same season.  The further north from Rome you go, the cooler it gets; the further south, the warmer it gets.  For women, neat casual clothes are sufficient for most places except for Papal audiences; check Dress – Etiquette below for proper wear for Papal audiences and churches.  Summertime calls for lightweight clothing, and wintertime requires warm clothing.  It rains a lot in the fall and winter, so bring an umbrella or plan on getting soaked (watch out for that camcorder – my Ricoh got ruined from the moisture of the rain and the mist of the fountains).  Of course, if it rains, you can bet there will be street vendors selling inexpensive temporary slickers and/or umbrellas that you can get by with, but don’t expect them to last long.

Consumer Protection.  It has been my experience that if you buy expensive items or travel services in Rome, it is best to pay with a major credit card so that you can get reimbursed or cancel payment if there is a problem later on.  If you are purchasing a packaged tour, it is highly recommended that you consider purchasing travel insurance (see Insurance below) that includes default coverage.

Credit Cards.  We all seem not to be able to live without a credit card, and they are more and more recognized the world over, especially Visa and MasterCard.  It is also a way to get cash if you run low as well while on your trip, but remember that you will most likely be charged a stiff fee for cash advances with higher percentage rates, usually starting from the day you get the cash advance (unlike charging something to your credit card).  Most ATMs are now hooked up to a network (such as PLUS, CIRRUS, or STAR) where your credit card will work (see also ATMs).  Also, be aware that most banks charge extra for currency conversion, so you should do a little homework and find this information out before you leave for your trip.  I hate to mention this but, as you all know, credit card theft is at an all-time high.  If you have the unfortunate experience of having your credit card stolen, or you lose it accidentally, you need to report itimmediately.  The U.S. numbers for the three major credit card companies are:

Visa:  1.800.336.8472
MasterCard:  1.800.307.7309
American Express:  1.800.221.7282 (American Express office in Rome is at Piazza di Spagna, 38)

If in Rome, report credit card losses to:

Visa (800.821.001 toll-free within Italy)
American Express (tel. 06/72282) or 336.668.5110 (international collect)
MasterCard (800.870.866 toll-free within Italy)
Diner’s Club (tel. 1678.640.64 or 702.797.5532 collect)

A valuable suggestion is to photocopy all of your valuable documents, including your credit cards, passports, list of your traveler’s cheque numbers, driver’s license (if you take it), etc. and keep the originals in the hotel safe where you are staying.  Some visitors have told me that they have carried a photocopy of their passport with them and left their original passport in their hotel’s safe for safekeeping.  Note, however, that you will need your original passport whenever you wish to exchange money.  The most common credit cards that are accepted at most places in Rome (and Italy in general) are American Express, MasterCard, Visa, and Diner’s Club.  Discover Card is generally not one that is accepted.

Crime in Rome.  This is a rather large section.  Whenever you travel to unfamiliar territory, using common sense and staying alert to your surroundings is essential.  As it is with all large cities, Rome is no exception.  Be aware of your immediate surroundings and do not act paranoid — a dead giveaway you are probably carrying something valuable.  Leave expensive jewelry at home.  Wear a money belt or zippered inner pocket in a jacket and don’t sling your camera or purse over your shoulder.  Wear the strap diagonally across your body.  This will minimize the chance of your being singled out for theft or pickpocketing.  I feel very safe in Rome and other Italian cities, but I am always alert.  Violent crime is not the norm.  For a city in excess of three million people, Rome only averages some 15-20 murders per year which is a very small amount.  The most common crimes in Rome are purse-snatching from young men on Vespas, and pickpocketers, usually on buses, and by bands of children around famous tourist attractions and subway stations, as well as young adults.

One thing to really watch for are pickpocketers (mostly groups of children and some well-dressed teens and young people), especially on the bus lines (No. 64 and 660 are especially target lines – see below – and on the Metro).  When walking on the sidewalk, it is a good idea to keep your camera, purse, or shopping bag(s) on the building side of the sidewalk and do not walk close to the curb if you are carrying these items.  I have seen this happen and it happens very quickly.

Groups of children used to be a gigantic problem in Italy (mainly Rome and in cities south of Rome) that carry a newspaper or piece of flat cardboard for distraction trying to pickpocket tourists.  The police have tried to get this problem under somewhat control and when I was there in September 2001, I did not see any of these bands of kids lurking around tourist spots, except for three at the Stazione Termini inside (see below).  Nor did I see them in March 2002, but they are less likely to be around in the winter than in the late spring, summer, and autumn months.  But, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be careful, especially around the Forum from the Coliseum to the Campidoglio up to the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument, and the Stazione Termini vicinity.  I used to notice these small groups of kids at Piazza Pia (the corner of Castel Sant’Angelo where via della Conciliazione makes its way to St. Peter’s Basilica), but not much anymore.  Still, be aware that they could return.  As stated above, these bands of children use newspaper or cardboard to hold waist-high in front of them so you cannot see their hands when they are close to you.  Some of these children are as young as four or five and as old as their early teens.  They can surround you very quickly and you have been had before you know it.  I understand the further south you go, the more likely you will run into these children (the more north you go, the less likely due to the climate).  For instance, I never saw them in Milan, but did see a few in Florence a number of years back, and many in Rome.  Since Holy Year, the police have swept the city and seems to be in much better control of the problem.

When I was in Rome in  September 2001, I saw only three, and that was inside Stazione Termini, working the sandwich bars and running off with people’s bags and luggage.  Since then, I haven’t noticed to much of this kind of activity going on.  This does not mean that it doesn’t continue to happen and you have to be on your toes when in crowds and in these types of situations.   I must include the fact that these are not typically Italian children that are doing this but, rather, children from immigrant families such as from Romania, the former Yugoslavia, and other eastern European countries that have found their way to the cities of Italy.  They are a big problem for the Italian people, but it does look like the police have tried to clean this problem up quite a bit from other times that I have been in Rome and Florence.

I recently received this additional notice from a friend who lives in Rome that I want to share with all of you planning a trip there.  Since the streets have been patrolled for quite a while now, these groups of kids have often moved into the subway system (Metro) and trains, where no police see them.  A new technique used is one of the girls, dressed more decently, pretends to be a tourist (holding a map of Rome and pretending to read it, etc.), clinging onto her own handbag as if she were protecting it, while actually she uses it as a cover for her other hand (or hands of the other girls and/or kids with her, who might be surrounding you if they have picked you as their proposed prey).  Beware of parties made up of 3-4 small kids and 2-3 girls, standing close to each other and holding ANYTHING in hand which might conceal one hand or act as a cover (a map, a piece of cardboard, a newspaper, a clumsy handbag – ANYTHING), trying to push themselves into other people taking advantage of the train’s jerks and swaying motion.  You can tell these groups because they usually enter the train by rushing in (from elsewhere in the subway) often being chased by other people whose wallet has just been lifted.  The Metro system gets very hectic several times a day and the subway trains very crowded.

I understand the same technique is used on the buses.  If you are in doubt, always keep a certain distance from any of these people if at all possible, and simply keep staring at them with a stern expression as if you know what they are going to do.  In 95 percent of the cases, they will turn away.  If ragged girls or small kids come up to you, trying to touch you, pull your jacket, surround you, or anything like that, no matter where you are, send them off in any possible way (dodge them, push them away, etc.).  If they keep coming, show them a fist – that is universal (though I do not like that idea, it works better than anything else).  Shouting at them will not usually deter them if they are determined.  As soon as they have made contact with you, in even a small way, it may already be too late.  They are slick and quick.  Tourists are their main goal because they are likely to have money and documents on them, and because they are more often unaware of these ‘techniques’.  If you are carrying luggage and/or a camera, or a map/guide, you will be their preferred prey.  If you are out in the open, pretend you are taking pictures in their direction.  Most times, they will move on.

For riding buses (especially No. 64 between Termini-Vatican and No. 660 to the catacombs on via Appia Antica, which are used mostly by the tourists), or the subway, the general rule would be from the moment you enter the subway station or a bus (especially around Termini Station and the Coliseum Metro station), to the moment you get back on the street again, keep your valuables and documents WELL HIDDEN (under a pullover, inside an inner zippered pocket, etc.), and you probably won’t have any problems.  But at all times, be aware of the risk.  Do not let this make you think twice about traveling to Rome, though.  Every society has its criminal element, however petty.  It is your responsibility to be aware and alert even in the most heavily touristed areas of any destination.  But, don’t let it get you so paranoid that you miss out on all the fun sights Rome or any other city you are visiting has to offer.

Ironically, the bus that takes you to the Vatican is usually loaded with pickpockets, both young and adults, so be very aware if you choose to take this mode of transportation to visit St. Peter’s.  I have always walked or taken the subway to Ottaviano, not necessarily to avoid such an occurrence but, rather, to see all the sights and sounds Rome has to offer along the way.

You should be familiar with where you are going before you set out.  If you have to look at a map to make sure you’re going in the right direction, it is advisable to not do it on the street.  Pop inside a shop to do so.  It is also advisable to never tell anyone you are traveling alone.

Another bit of advise regarding your passport, do not ever hand your passport over to anyone you feel uncomfortable with.  If they insist on taking it, ask to accompany them to the nearest police station and then hand your passport over to the police.  The same goes with your luggage or bags, especially at train stations.  Never trust a so-called “station porter”.  These are con artists that pose as porters and will often try to insist on carrying your baggage or stowing it in the baggage compartment for you, or who offers to watch your belongings while you purchase a train ticket, go to retrieve a luggage carrier, or offer to watch them while you go to the restroom.  These are definite no-nos.  Never ever let your luggage or bags out of your sight – ever!

Currency.  Effective January 1, 2002, the Lira was replaced by the Euro (coin and banknotes).  Please see below under Currency in the General Information on Italy section for pictures and further information.

Disabled Access.  Unlike places like the United States where accessibility to public places for people with disabilities are required, Italy is trying but still lags way behind in providing proper accessibility.  It has only just begun to provide such things as ramps, lowered telephones, and restroom accessibility for the disabled/handicapped.  With regard to transportation, according to Italian law, people with wheelchairs must be transported free of charge.  The problem with this is getting on and/or off trains, buses, etc. because a lot of places do not provide such easy access yet.  So, in essence, this law becomes quite irrelevant at the present time.  On buses, there are seats reserved for people with disabilities but, again, buses are frequently not equipped with lifts to enable wheelchairs and people with disabilities to board and off-board the vehicle.  With regard to boarding trains, high and narrow steps create an obstacle that totally prevents use of them in most cases.  Few stations have elevators for disabled persons and/or wheelchair access, so riding the Metro can be a problem as well.

Access to the majority of museums, galleries, monuments, churches, and, in a lot of cases, hotels and restaurants, become prohibitive because of architectural barriers.  Most buildings that have stairways for access into the building do not have ramps for disabled access.  It is improving but it is still not the rule.  Places like St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums provide ramps for access by the disabled and the latter provides elevators to the admissions area of the Museums for the disabled.  There are special routes through the Museums for wheelchair-bound visitors and people with disabilities that avoid the tons of staircases between and within galleries.  Very few churches and monuments are without at least a certain amount of stairs at the entry.  The Pantheon is one monument that has no stairs to climb in order to gain access and is completely disabled- and wheelchair-friendly.

Seeing Eye Dogs.  There are certain requirements you need to know about when bringing a seeing-eye dog into Italy.  First, you have to have an import license, a letter from the dog’s vet certifying the dog’s health, and a current certificate of the dog’s vaccinations.  You need to contact the nearest Italian Consulate to where you live as far in advance of your proposed visit as possible to make sure all requirements for bringing in a seeing-eye dog have been met.

Dress (Etiquette).  Women in sleeveless dresses or sleeveless blouses and men with bare chests are not welcome in the best bars and restaurants and may be refused service.  Also, persons so attired are ordered to cover up when they visit museums and churches.  Dress accordingly when you visit churches, as if you were attending your own.  For women:  no sleeveless blouses, tank tops, or sleeveless dresses or shorts.  You must wear dresses that are down to at least the knee, or wear pants.  Tee-shirts with short sleeves and jeans are okay.  For men:  no sleeveless shirts, tank tops, or shorts are allowed.  Also, shoes are required everywhere, naturally.  I have tattoos on my arms, so a long-sleeved shirt may be in order for those who also have extensive ones, or drape your jacket over visible ones so they cannot be seen when going into places of worship.  If you are sightseeing for the day and are wearing shorts, miniskirts and/or vests with no shirt/blouse underneath, and wish to go into a place of worship, especially St. Peter’s or any of the other larger basilicas, you will most likely be stopped by the wardens and will not be permitted inside.  These wardens have the right to refuse people who, in their opinion, are dressed inappropriately for entering a house of worship.  One way to get around this is to carry appropriate attire (pants and shirts/blouses with sleeves) in a backpack or bag so that you can slip them on over your shorts and sleeveless tops before you enter a church.  Be aware, however, that due to increased security, all backpacks, purses, and bags will most certainly be searched thoroughly.  NOTE:  according to a municipality law, men are actually not allowed to go around shirtless, not even in the streets, so even though this rule is often overlooked by municipal policemen, a shirtless man might be fined at any time.  This would not apply in certain areas, such as while sunbathing on the banks of Tiber Island.  But many tourists do so on the Spanish Steps or in similar spots and, if caught, they will most likely be told to put back on their shirt, tee-shirt, vest, etc. by a policemen, and may also get a hefty citation.

Drugstores.  In Rome, the best pharmacy is Farmacia Internazionale at Piazza Barberini 49 (tel. 06/362.996), which is open day and night except from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. (yes, siesta time).  As a rule, most pharmacies are open from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and again from 4:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.  They usually also follow a rotation system so that several are always open on the weekend.  They are easily recognizable; look for the green illuminated cross.  Most drug stores have a list of those open at night and on Sundays.  First Aid Service (Pronto Soccorso) with a doctor on duty is found at airports, ports, railway stations, and in all hospitals.  There is also a fairly good pharmacy on the lower level of Stazione Termini as well as one across the street from Stazione Termini on Via Marsala. (See Medical and Dental below for further information.)  Ironically, if you see a sign saying ‘drug store’, it does NOT sell drugs or medicine.  These are what we here in the U.S. call grocery stores.  Stores that dispense drugs and medicine are called ‘Farmacia’ and are indicated by a green neon cross outside the shop.

Another good international chemist shop is in Piazza Risorgimento, on the corner opposite the Vatican wall, just where via Cola di Rienzo starts.  Another one is inside the Vatican walls, reachable from Porta Sant’Anna, but a visitor’s permit must be asked for by the same gate in order to visit that store.  Again, take note that, in Italy, “drugstore” is the term which describes a store or small supermarket open 24 hours a day (some of these have opened in recent years).  These are equivalent to grocery stores in the U.S. and do not carry pharmaceuticals or medicine.  Drugs would only be sold in a chemist shop (Farmacia).  A chemist shop, though, will only sell drugs or related articles such as bandages, toothbrushes, thermometers, syringes, etc.), but no photographic stuff such as film or stationery, as they do in other countries.  Most shops’ stock is limited as well, and not like you will find in the United States.

Electrical Appliances (including battery rechargers for camcorders and cameras).  Electrical current in Italy varies considerably.  The current is usually AC, the cycles varying from 42 to 50.  The voltage can be from 115 to 220.  It is highly recommended that visitors carrying electrical appliances such as shavers or hair dryers, or camcorders/cameras requiring batteries for recharging obtain an international transformer/converter and adapter before leaving on your trip.  You can find these items in most electrical appliance shops in Italy as well.  I would suggest you get these converters/adapters before you leave on your trip.  I didn’t the first time, and spent an enormous amount of time looking for one in different electrical shops in Rome.  Not fun!  You need these converters and adapters or you WILL burn out your appliance(s) or camcorder.  It happened to me, and at the beginning of my trip, too, the first time I went in 1988.  Anyone working in a hardware/electrical store will be glad to help you find the correct converter and adapter for whatever you need them for.  If you choose to wait until you get to Italy to purchase one, check the exact local current with the hotel where you are staying before you venture out to obtain one.  Plugs have prongs that are round, not flat (see illustration below); therefore, an adapter plug is needed in addition to the converter.

Since the electrical current in Italy is 220 volts AC, if you are coming from the U.S. or Canada, you should be sure and take along an adapter (which will change the shape of the plus so your appliance will fit into the electrical sockets) and a converter (which changes the voltage).  You cannot just use an adapter unless the instructions for the appliance you are going to use specifically state otherwise.  Since South Africa and New Zealand both use 220V, and Australia at 240/250V, you won’t need a converter, but you will still need a set of adapters in order to use anything electrical or it won’t work.

Embassies and Consulates.  It is best when traveling to know where the Embassy or Consulate representing your country of origin is located in case of emergencies or if you need information.  The American Embassy in Rome is at via Vittorio Veneto, 119A (tel. 06/46.741; fax 06/488.26.72) and their hours are 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. and from 2:00 p.m. until 4:30 p.m.  If you are from the following countries, Consular and passport service offices are also in Rome:  Canada:  via Zara, 30 (tel. 06/445.981; fax 06/445.987.54), and are open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.  United Kingdom:  offices in Rome are at via XX Settembre, 80A (tel. 06/482.54.41; fax 06/487.33.24), and are open Monday through Friday between 9:15 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Australia:  Offices in Rome are at via Allessandria, 215 (tel. 06/85.27.21; fax 06/852.723.00), and are open Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to noon and from 2:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. and on Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 1:15 p.m. New Zealand:  The office in Rome is at via Zara, 28 (tel. 06/441.71.71; fax 06/440.29.84) and hours are Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. and 1:45 to 5:00 p.m.  In case of emergency, embassies have a 24-hour referral service.  For other countries, check with the concierge at your hotel.  He/she can possibly help you find what you need in the Italian Yellow Pages.  Hours are subject to change, so it is wise to call before you try and visit one of the embassies or consulates and be sure to reconfirm their current address and phone number.  Most embassies now have websites so you might be able to get the information directly off the Internet by going to your favorite search engine and typing in “(name of country) Embassy Rome Italy”.

E-mail and FAX Service.  Quite a few of the better hotels throughout Italy have a computer set up for checking your e-mail and most have FAX machines for the guests’ use.  There is also an Internet Cafe at via dei Marruccini, 12 (tel. 06/44.59.53), which is in the San Lorenzo District.  Their email address is info@internetcafe.it.  There is also another called Internet Point located next to Planet 29 on via Gaeta near Stazione Termini.  These facilities sell computer time by the half-hour and hour and are quite reasonable.

Entertainment.  Below are some of Rome’s entertainment options.  You can check on the Internet or through local papers, or contact each venue directly to find out dates, what is playing, ticket information, etc.

Teatro dell’Opera.  This is Rome’s most popular venue.  You can contact them at Piazza Beniamino Gigli, 1, which is off Via Nazionale.  Tel. 06/481.601.  Depending on the performance schedule, tickets range from a low of about 12 Euro (about $13-14US) to in excess of 136 Euro (about  $140US).  You can get further information about current events and rates from their website, which is located on my Links page.

Rome’s Ballet Program. Tickets for ballet programs are handled through Teatro dell’Opera (see above).

RAI Symphony Orchestra/Classical Music.  There is no symphony hall in Rome where classical music is played.  However, concerts by the RAI Symphony Orchestra are usually performed at the Academy of St. Cecilia (tel. 06/688.01044).  Tickets usually range from around 15 Euro (around $16US) up to in excess of 43 Euro (around $45US), depending on the performance schedule.  In the summer, the concerts are usually performed at Villa Giulia in Piazza di Villa Giulia (where the famed Etruscan Museum is located); in winter, they are performed inside at the Academy’s via della Conciliazione 4 address.  Some concerts are also performed at various historic churches.  Typical evening performances are either on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday.  Friday nights are usually reserved for chamber music performances.  Weekly entertainment guides distributed throughout the City list current performance schedules.

Rock Concerts.  Most of Rome’s rock concerts are held at the Palazzo dello Sport in the EUR district.  Some concerts are also held at other locations such as Foro Italico, Stadio Flaminio, and in the EUR at the Palazzo della Civilita del Lavoro.

Miscellaneous Information.  Once you arrive in Rome, you can find out what is happening entertainment-wise from the various entertainment guides that are distributed free at your hotel or on the street, or you can check the local newspaper’s entertainment section.

Euro Dollar.  See Currency under General Information on Italy below.

Film.  I always take my film with me from the States.  Film is more expensive if bought in tourist areas.  However,  with the new security regulations going into effect at all U.S. airports, I am taking more precautions in doing so.  I have found that the one- and two-hour photo processing labs cost about the same as U.S. processing centers if you can’t wait and their film tends to be inexpensive as well.  Below is also a list of some shops that sell film in Rome at quite reasonable prices, usually less expensive than in shops around tourist areas.  With the advent of tougher security measures put in place after the September 11th attack on the United States, and the new procedures in effect, the Transportation Security Administration advises that you never put undeveloped film in your checked luggage as the new x-ray machines will destroy them.  Put them in your carry-on bag in a Ziploc clear baggie and ask that they be checked manually by the security personnel.  You really need to visit their website (listed on my Links page) and become familiar with all the new regulations with regard to packing as it will save you misery when you actually leave for your trip.  If there is any question, you may want to wait and purchase your film once in Rome and have it developed before you return home to make sure the pictures you take are safeguarded against erasure by the new security/x-ray equipment found at the various airports.  I will now be more prone to have my film developed while in Rome at a one-hour facility rather than wait until I return home, chancing damage to my precious memories caught on film.  I cannot stress the importance of your going to the TSA’s website and read it.  With the new security procedures and x-ray equipment in place, the Transportation Security Administration is advising travelers to “place undeveloped film in carry-on bags (not in check luggage), as bomb detectors will injure it.”  So, it is better to be safe than sorry.  If you have any questions, you should always check with your airport, travel agent, or air carrier for further information regarding this.

Russomando s.a.s. (which has all types of film, including Kodak).  They are located near Stazione Termini at via Marsala, 12 (Galleria Caracciolo) (tel. and fax are 06.4463634), and also down the street on via Volturno, 28 (tel. 06.4881088, 00185 Roma.  Via Marsala turns into Via Volturno one you cross the street in front of Stazione Termini.  I get all of my film developed at their Via Volturno store because it is around the corner from where I stay at Planet 29 Accommodation on Via Gaeta.  I also buy additional rolls of film, as needed.  They are very reasonable, very courteous, and also have one-hour developing as well as next-day.  When you get your film back developed, you get a complimentary handsome photo book with each roll of film you had developed.

Mondoradio, via Candia 46 (close to Ottaviano subway stop).  This is a small shop selling hi-fis, calculators, watches, tapes (but no photographic equipment except for film) and, maybe a few compact cameras.

DS Elettronica, viale delle Milizie 114 (also close to the Ottaviano subway stop).  They also have another location at Largo Frassinetti, which is along via Tuscolana, close to Re di Roma subway stop, but this is outside the walls of Old Rome.  This store sells general electronic equipment and some computer stuff, but no photographic equipment except for film.  I would not recommend going all that way to the Largo Frassinetti location unless you are out there anyway.

Di Salvo, via Sforza Pallavicini 12 (not far from Castel Sant’Angelo and the Vatican).  They also have a second location on via della Lungara (leading from the Vatican area toward Trastevere, by the Tiber’s western bank).  This store sells all sorts of hi-fis, photographic equipment, television sets, tapes, microwave ovens, refrigerators, washing machines, etc.

Tonel, via di Porta Cavalleggeri just off the southern edge of St. Peter’s left colonnade (as you face the Basilica), opposite the tunnel under Janiculum Hill.  It is a rather big shop selling hi-fi equipment, photographic and optical items, etc., and is surely the best place for quality and price.  They have a smaller and more “glamorous” shop in via della Convertite, by Piazza San Silvestro (off via del Corso near Piazza Colonna).

Fotoforniture Sabatini, via Germanico 168A (not far from the Vatican and Castel Sant’Angelo in the Prati neighborhood).  A store selling wholesale photographic equipment to professional studios, but also single items.  It has a good selection of any kind of photographic equipment (except cameras), and the availability of both standard and high-quality film (for professionals especially) which are not found at the other shops.

Flea Market.  By far, the best and most famous in Rome is the Mercato di Porta Portese (called mercato delle pulci by the locals), which runs along the Tiber in the Trastevere district for about a mile.  It is crowded with vendors (around 4,000 stalls and is the largest flea market in all of Europe) that sell anything and everything, both new and second-hand.  You can bargain as well.  The best entrances are on Viale di Trastevere and via Ippolito Nievo.  They are open every Sunday from about 5 a.m. until 2 p.m.  You need to watch your pockets and belongings, however, because pickpocketers abound here (and at other flea markets).  For the best selection of merchandise, it is better to get there earlier rather than later.  Another flea market is located at via Sannio (near Porta S. Giovanni), which is open daily except Sunday until sundown.

Getting Around Rome.  As I stated before, in my opinion, and providing your are physically able, the best way to get around and see Rome is to walk it because there is literally something around most every corner of interest.  But, sometimes, visitors are unable to walk everywhere, or have time restrictions, etc.  Please continue down this page to the Transit in Rome section for valuable information on getting around Rome via public transit.

Getting Married in Rome.  See Weddings below.

Golf Courses Around Rome.  For you golfers that just cannot stay away from the fairways, even on vacation, there are two golf courses near Rome: Golf Club Olgiata (19 Km. from Rome), and Circolo del Golf di Roma (12 km. from Rome).  There are no nine-hole courses near Rome.

Graffiti.  With each trip I take, I see more and more graffiti.  This has become an almost uncontrollable problem in Rome, as well as in most cities around the world.  Rome’s buildings are old enough; adding graffiti everywhere tends to make one feel as if you are in a huge ghetto.  Try to overlook this as much as you can and enjoy Rome for being the city that it is.

Health Service and Insurance Policies.  Italy has no medical program covering tourists.  Therefore, tourists are advised to take out an insurance policy before traveling.  If you already have insurance through your employer, it may be wise for you to check with your insurance carrier about insurance coverage while traveling abroad.  (See also Insurance below for further information.)

Heightened Security.  After the terrorist bombings that occurred within the United States on September 11, 2001, increased violence around the world, and all the news that has been forthcoming afterward, as one can imagine, security has been ‘beefed up’ all around the world, including Europe, against any possible additional terrorist attacks.  I actually traveled to Italy six days after the World Trade Center and Pentagon terrorist attacks in 2001, and security was really tight at the airports.  Security has been severely increased at the Vatican as well, so be prepared for lines waiting to be searched before entering St. Peter’s Basilica.  As far as flying is concerned, I really am not too concerned about it as I believe it is quite safe to do so.  However, each would-be traveler needs to assess their own priorities in this regard.  With me, I am not going to let any terrorist group win by making me fearful to live my life, so I go ahead with my plans.  I am just more cautious about my surroundings now when I do.  The main rule-of-thumb if you intend on air travel is to allow yourself plenty of time (double the normal time you would normally allow), remembering there will be heavy security, long lines, and frayed nerves.  Rules for carry-on luggage as opposed to check-in luggage has dramatically changed as have curbside check-in at most airports around the world.  You need to check with your travel agent, the airport you are flying out of, and/or the air carrier you are using for the current restrictions with regard to carry-on vs. check-in luggage.  See Packing below for further information on new security procedures that are in place at all U.S. airports.  I highly recommend that you visit the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s website (listed on my Links page) for valuable information on how to pack, what to do before going to the airport, and what to expect once you get to the airport.  It will save you in the end.  I cannot stress this enough.  Also, if you are planning on taking along manicure items such as nail files, nail clippers, nail scissors, and the like, put them with your check-in luggage and not your carry-on as they will most likely be confiscated at the security checkpoints in the airport check-in lines.  Be sure to also check Film above as well as under my Packing section and the TSA’s website for valuable information on safeguarding undeveloped film.  Things have dramatically changed!

In Rome, there is heightened security, police and military personnel with guns were all around, though I didn’t notice any uneasiness amongst travelers.  At Stazione Termini, additional police with guns were everywhere, too.  Around the Vatican, the street that provides access through Porta Angelica and around Vatican City’s wall (around Bernini’s colonnade to the right of St. Peter’s Square) has been blocked off to traffic, partly because of the Jubilee Year preparation of 2000, and continued because of the terrorist attacks on America in 2001.  Vehicles can no longer drive through Porta Angelica and down via Porta Angelica to Piazza del Risorgimento.  This street has been totally closed to vehicles and has become a quite enjoyable walking promenade for pedestrians.  There still are a few street vendors with their carts and wares, but not nearly as many as there used to be.

Holidays.  Offices and shops in Italy are closed on the following dates:  January 1 (New Year’s Day); January 6 (Epiphany); Easter Sunday AND Monday; April 25 (Liberation Day); May 1 (Labor Day); August 15 (Assumption of the Virgin); November 1 (All Saint’s Day); December 8 (Day of the Immaculate Conception); December 25 (Christmas Day); and December 26 (Santo Stefano).

I do not live in Italy, so I am going solely on my reference books and resources for the most current information.  However, a friend of mine who resides in Rome tells me that, in the case of Easter, the Monday which follows Easter day is a national holiday as well as Easter Sunday.  My resources regarding the opening times of the Vatican Museums, for example, states:  “The Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel are closed all national and religious holidays (except Easter week) and the first three Sundays of the month.”  This was taken directly from Frommer’s 2000 Jubilee (Holy Year) edition, so it may be that the “except Easter week” only applied to the Jubilee Year 2000.  You may wish to contact the Vatican Museums directly for more information regarding their opening times for the Easter and Christmas holidays.  Their number is +39 06/6988.3333.  The time to call is between 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. local time.  For holiday schedules of other museums and galleries, it is best to call if you cannot plan to visit them other than the actual day of the holiday to see what their opening schedules are.  It is always recommended that you have the most current edition of your favorite travel guide that contains current phone numbers and open hours for all the attractions.  Even though I know quite a lot about Rome, whenever I go, I ALWAYS invest in the most recent edition of my favorite travel guide, one that shows the current costs and especially times everything is open, as all of this is subject to change at the discretion of each establishment without notice.  A current guide is invaluable.  I always choose a guide that has times of operations and, hopefully, current admission charges noted.  Some do and some don’t.

As for tourist highlights in Rome, you should always refer to the most current issue of your favorite travel guide or call the museums/galleries you wish to visit if you are still uncertain, because the opening timetables of museums and galleries on national and/or religious holidays may vary.  In the past, they all tended to be closed, but the policy carried out by recent mayors is to keep museums open as much as possible, so many of them might actually be open (at least in the morning), especially places such as the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, the Capitoline Museums, Castel Sant’Angelo, etc.  Consult websites or the weekly local entertainment guides for special exhibitions.

As for shops, they would definitely be closed, except establishments such as bars and restaurants, which would probably be open in the morning (they would likely close around 2-3 p.m.).  But, once again, there is no standard timetable for national or religious holidays, so in the central districts, there would be a better chance to find them open than in other parts of Rome.  I know whenever I have been in Rome, very few establishments have been open on Sunday except for the churches and shops around major tourist attractions, including around the Vatican, and some restaurants.  Only the Sunday market (flea market at Porta Portese) should be held as any other Sunday, without any substantial change.

The transport network should be working all day on national and religious holidays but, obviously, buses and subways might be slightly less frequent than on ordinary Sundays.  I would suggest that if you are visiting Rome during a major holiday such as Christmas or Easter, you plan ahead.  It is more enjoyable on the actual holiday from the outside (no traffic nor crowded streets) than from the inside (museums and galleries).  You might wish to concentrate on going to museums and galleries and/or shopping during the days before and after the national and/or religious holiday involved, and keep the holiday itself (and in the Easter weekend, the Monday following Easter Sunday) for walking around the city.  The churches and basilicas, however, are most likely open all year-round during the mornings and late afternoon/early evening hours as usual.

See also my section on traveling to Rome during Lent (Easter) and during the Christmas holiday seasons.  You can also view my award-winning Holiday webpage during the Holiday season between mid-November and January of each year by clicking on the link at the top of this page next to the flying angel.

Offices and shops are also closed in the following cities on the local feast days honoring their patron saints:  Venice (April 25 – St. Mark); Florence (June 24 – St. John the Baptist); Genoa (June 24 – St. John the Baptist); Turin (June 24 – St. John the Baptist); Rome (June 29 – Sts. Peter and Paul); Palermo (July 15 – Santa Rosalia); Naples (September 19 – St. Gennaro); Bologna (October 4 – St. Petronio); Cagliari (October 30 – St. Saturnino); Trieste (November 3 – San Giusto); Bari (December 6 – St. Nicola); and Milan (December 7 – St. Ambrose).

Hours of Operation Listed.  Please be aware that hours of operation listed on my website and days open and/or closed can change at any time at the discretion of the establishment.  It is highly recommended that you either call the establishment (especially restaurants) or have your concierge do so before you take off for it, if you are worried about whether or not it is open.  Consulting the most current edition of a travel guide is useful as well, as previously stated.

Again, some of the major churches, such as St. Peter’s Basilica, Santa Maria Maggiore, San Paolo fuori le Mura, San Giovanni in Laterano are open all day but most others are open in the mornings and again in the late afternoon/early evening.  Always check with one of your current travel guides for posted times they are open.  Also, churches frown on sightseers invading their walls when they are in the middle of a religious service, so going in during one of these occasions is somewhat discouraged.  Use your better judgment.  If you enter and notice there is a service going on, take steps so as to not interfere with the service while viewing the different niches, altars, etc.  TIP:  wear tennis shoes when visiting churches as they do not make sounds on the marble flooring, thus, echoing throughout the church and disturbing those there for prayer or attending Mass.

As far as museums go, the days that each are closed vary as well as the times that they are open during the day.  They all pretty much have slightly different time schedules during the winter months than in the summer months, and some are often closed on different days than others.  Again, check the most current issue of your favorite travel guide for the current hours of operation before you head out for a visit.  Though I have tried to put all of the times as best I can, it is best to confirm the hours of operations with whatever facility you are wishing to visit before you go there.

For shops, most are closed on Sunday (except for those around major tourist attractions and the Vatican area), but Monday through Saturday are generally open from 9 a.m. until about 1 p.m., and then re-open from about 3:30 or 4:00 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. or later.  It is interesting to note that, in general, clothing stores are usually not open on Monday mornings.  However, shops that rely mainly on tourism may be open all day and also on Sunday, such as those around major churches. Barbers and hairdressers are generally closed on both Sundays and Mondays.

Insurance.  There are many reasons to consider purchasing travel insurance.  These include in case you have to cancel or postpone your trip, delays in your trip, default situations, and medical expenses (with a waiver for pre-existing conditions).  With some tickets, if you cancel your trip for any reason, you will most likely lose all or a large portion of your money.  One exception may be if there is a death in your immediate family, but even under these circumstances, it may prove very difficult to get a refund for all or a portion of your money.  If the latter should happen, you will need to furnish a letter and proof of death with your request, but do not expect to be reimbursed for the cancellation just in case.

When your tour operator, cruise line, airlines, or charter company goes out of business or cancels, this is called a “default”, so when you get insurance, be sure that it includes default insurance.  Trip delays refer to mechanical delays with the airline or other mode of transportation, bad weather, etc. and trip delay insurance covers expenses which you would incur in those situations.  As with any legal document, before you sign the dotted line and accept the conditions of the service being offered, it is highly recommended that you read the document’s limitations and coverage in its entirety.  In other words, read the fine print.

Another insurance you should consider is coverage for medical expenses incurred if you become ill during your travels.  When you are out of the country, most policies and/or Medicare will not cover such expenses while abroad.  If you are traveling from the U.K., you can buy a travel insurance policy that will cover most vacations, but it will most likely only be valid for the year in which the policy was purchased.  For instance, if you are going to travel in February 2002 and want to purchase medical insurance for your trip, you need to wait until after January 1, 2002 in order to purchase the coverage.  Otherwise, if you purchase it when you buy your tickets in 2001, you may not be covered.  Again, read the small print and always check the pre-existing conditions coverage clauses on any policy you are considering purchasing.  British and Australian citizens need extra medical coverage when traveling outside their respective countries.

I would only purchase travel insurance directly from an insurance company that issues such travel policies.  One major risk when purchasing insurance from the airline, cruise operator, or tour operator is that if they go out of business (known as a “default”), you will most likely not be covered.  Before purchasing any additional insurance, be sure to check your existing homeowners’ insurance policy and your health insurance policy to see what, if anything, they cover when traveling abroad.

To find out more about travel insurance needs and information, below are some helpful addresses:

Travel Insurers in the United States:

Access America, 6600 W. Broad St., Richmond, VA 23230
904.285.3300; fax 804.673.1583

Travel Guard International, 1145 Clark St., Stevens Point, WI 54481
715.345.0505 or 800.826.1300; fax 800.955.8785

In Canada:

Voyager Insurance, 44 Peel Center Drive, Brampton, Ontario L6T 4M8
905.791.8700; in Canada, 800.668.4342.

In the United Kingdom:

Association of British Insurers, 51-55 Gresham St., London EC2V 7HQ
020.7600.3333; fax 020.7696.8999

In Australia:

Insurance Council of Australia
03.9614.1077; fax 03.9614.7924.

Language.  The official language in Italy is — you guessed it — Italian.  While most shops, hotels, and restaurant personnel speak some English, Romans are delighted when visitors at least try to speak a few words or phrases in Italian, however badly.  Even if only a few words are exchanged, an instant feeling of friendship is created when two strangers can converse in the same language.  Letters to hotels or to local information offices may be in English and should be typewritten, if possible.  Click on the link the check out some common words and phrases.  For an excellent website on Italian, check out Andrea Pollett’s website on my Links page entitled “Teach Yourself Italian” for an excellent resource with extended lessons.

Laundry and Dry Cleaners.  Most deluxe, first- and second-class hotels have laundry and dry cleaning facilities at moderate prices.  If a hotel does not provide these services, the desk clerk can usually direct you to the nearest shop (tintoria) or you can look in the Classified Telephone Directory under Tintorie (Cleaning and Pressing) and Lavanderie (Laundry).  Finding a laundromat inside the walls of Rome is quite an endeavor, as few exist.  The majority of them are around and behind the Stazione Termini district, which are only a handful.

Lost Property.  This is almost a lost cause because once your lost article(s) have disappeared, you can almost guarantee never to see them again (same in most places you visit, not just Rome).  However, you can check on the off chance that the lost item(s) have been turned in to Oggeti Rinvenuti at via Nicolo Bettoni, 1 (tel. 06/551.60.40), which has the hours of 9 a.m. until noon daily.  There is also a branch office at Stazione Termini off Track 1 (tel. 06/473.06.82), with the hours of 7 a.m. until midnight daily.

If you are going to make an insurance claim for any lost property, always report your loss to any police station and get a signed form!  For lost passports, go to the embassy of your respective country as soon as possible and report it; for traveler’s cheques (and I hope you choose American Express), go to the issuing company’s office.  Stazione Termini has a police station on Platform 1, or contact the Ufficio Stranieri at via Genova, 2 (tel. 06/4686.2987) which is open 24 hours daily and English is spoken.

For lost property on buses, good luck, but you can try calling 06/581.6040 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. daily, and for lost property on the Metro subway system, telephone 06/73.89.58.  But, chances are if you find all of a sudden you don’t have something you had five minutes ago, it is probably gone for good.

Medical and Dental.  For U.S. citizens, contact the U.S. Embassy to get a doctor or dentist who speaks English.  The Embassy is located at via Vittorio Veneto, 119A (tel. 06/46.741).  As in the U.S., you may have a problem getting an immediate appointment and will have to make numerous calls to different offices. For medical emergencies, all hospitals have a 24-hour first aid service, and there are English-speaking doctors at Salvator Mundi International Hospital, viale Mura Gianicolensis, 67 (tel. 06/588.961).  For medical emergencies, 24-hour service is at the International Medical Center, via Amendola, 7 (tel. 06/462.371).  Other notable hospitals include: Rome American Hospital (tel. 06/225.51), Policlinico Gemelli (tel. 06/301.51), Casa di Cura Mater Dei S.P.A. (tel. 06/323.33.73), and Paideia (tel. 06/323.3373).

U.S. travelers should take note that Medicare and Medicaid programs do not allow payment for services outside the United States and, most often, hospitals and doctors will expect cash payment for any health services at the time they are rendered.  I highly recommend that if your insurance carrier does not provide coverage while you are abroad, that you seek to obtain sufficient insurance that will cover a stay in a private clinic or hospital in Italy.  Most U.S. insurance companies require itemized bills before they can make any sort of payment.  You should be aware that it is next to impossible to obtain an itemized hospital bill from an Italian hospital because the Italian national health service charges rates that are called “all in one” (which include care, emergency services, board and bed).  Also, remember that the public hospitals will most likely be inferior as far as standards to those in the United States.  According to the U.S. Department of State Consular Information, “Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost from between $350 to $1,500 per day to $40,000 or more for air evacuation for private air ambulance.”

Medicine.  If you are on medication, be sure to take enough to last your entire trip.  If you have prescription coverage through an insurance company or a PPO/HMO and you will be on vacation when it comes time for your medication to be refilled, be sure to notify your insurance carrier in plenty of time so that you can get pre-authorized for early refills (sometimes called an “override”) because of your vacation.  Sometimes, all it takes is a letter from your doctor or simply a phone call from you to your insurance carrier.  You can also speak to your local pharmacist as to how best to go about making sure you are taking sufficient medication with you.  Make sure all medication you take are carried in your carry-on and never in any luggage that will be checked.  Also, to avoid Customs delays, carry all medications in their original packaging.  You might also want to ask your doctor for a spare prescription for medication you may be taking using the drug’s generic name, as brand names can vary between countries.  I would highly recommend taking over-the-counter medications such as cough drops, Tylenol or other headache/fever suppressors, from home because trying to find these items in Rome is a joke.  I was sick on my last trip and even though I finally found cough drops and aspirin at the pharmacy, the strength was very low and did not help me much.  I also highly recommend that if you wear glasses or contact lens that, when traveling abroad, you carry a second pair in your carry-on luggage as spares.

Nightlife.  Nightlife in Rome is great but nightclubbing (if you can stay up that late after sightseeing all day), is very expensive!  Check out this link.  Also, clubs come and go all the time so, again, it is best to consult the most current issue of your favorite travel guide for the most up-to-date club information.  You can also check the current editions of local entertainment guides in Rome when you arrive to see what is happening at any particular time period. Note of warning:  If you go nightclubbing, as I said before, it is very expensive.  Also, most of the “in” places are located in the Testaccio district, which is out by the Pyramide of Caio Cestio.  This is one of the hottest areas in which to “party”, but it is not a place one wants to venture alone at night.

Packing.  If you are a U.S. citizen, you need to be aware of the newest security regulations in place at all U.S. airports (and possibly at international airports around the world).  One of the things I am not happy with is leaving your luggage unlocked so that inspectors will not have to possibly break the lock to look inside.  But, with security the way it is, this is what the Transportation Security Administration is now advising.  The deadline for these new security procedures are December 31, 2002.  I highly recommend that before your trip, you contact your particular air carrier to make sure you will be able to lock your luggage after your checked luggage has been checked through security.  Please go to the TSA’s website (listed on my Linkspage) for a ton of very valuable information regarding these new procedures, how to pack, what to do before going to the airport, and what to expect once you get to the airport.  Since my luggage is of the heavy cloth type and have double zippers, I intend to use the plastic ties to secure the zippers as these are strong enough to keep the luggage closed and are easy for the security personnel to cut open if it needs to be hand-searched.  Then, after it is hand-searched, I plan on taking a luggage lock and requesting that after it has been inspected, I am permitted to put a lock on it for transport to the checked-in baggage area for boarding onto my flight.  If I am not allowed to put a lock on it after it has been hand-searched, once I reach Rome and retrieve my luggage and pass Customs, before I go any further, I will put the lock on it at the Rome airport before traveling on into Rome.

Tips on How to Pack Your Luggage.  Below are some tips from the Transportation Security Administration on new security procedures and how best to pack your luggage.

Bags should be left unlocked so screeners will not have to “forcibly open” them during searches.  According to the Transportation Security Administration, they will soon be providing travelers with free, padlock-like seals that inspectors can snip open; until then, hardware stores carry cable ties or zip ties, which can be cut off easily.  I spoke to my air carrier that I am taking and they told me that if my checked luggage is to be searched, I can request that it be done in my presence.  After it is checked and passed through, I can then lock it.  This, of course, will require additional time and will also require standing in a different line, if your luggage is chosen to be hand-searched, so you will need to allow additional time to do so if this is what you want to do.

Put toothbrushes and other personal belongings in plastic bags so screeners don’t have to touch them.

Spread out books and magazines.  Densely stacked objects can trigger bomb-detection alarms.

Wait to wrap any gifts you are taking until you reach your destination.  All gifts that are wrapped are subject to being opened at the airport before you pass the security gates.  This not only covers Holiday gifts, but any other types of gifts you may be taking at other times of the year.

Place undeveloped film in carry-on bags (not in checked luggage; bomb detectors will injure it).  Place them in clear Ziploc bags.

Don’t put food in checked bags because bomb detectors can confuse some foods such as chocolate and cheese for explosives.

Pack shoes on top to speed inspections.

Put scissors, pocket knives and other sharp items in checked bags and do not carry any type of manicure utensils in your carry-on as they will be confiscated.

Avoid wearing jewelry, shoes, belt buckles, and clothing with metal parts that will trip metal detectors.

Be sure to put identification/contact information inside all luggage, both carry-on and checked.

Again, you really need to visit the TSA website and become familiar with all of these new regulations.  If you have further questions, I would contact the airport you are traveling out of, your air carrier, your travel agent, or the TSA website on my Links page for further information.  Remember, the more bags you have, the more time it will take to get through security, so be prepared for additional time and longer lines.

According to a recent newspaper article, “The new procedures have raised theft concerns, as both airline workers and federal screeners will be handling unlocked bags.  The airlines can’t get a straight answer yet from TSA about who is going to be responsible when a passenger says, ‘Hey, something is missing from my luggage.’  TSA officials are still developing antitheft procedures.  If screeners open a lag, they are supposed to insert a note informing the passenger.  Passengers with lost items can call the agency’s Consumer Response Center at (866) 289-9673 or email them at TSA-ConsumerResponse@tsa.dot.gov.

Papal Audiences.  Please check my Vatican and Environs page for where to write for free tickets for the Wednesday Papal audience before leaving on your trip.  You can also check the Church of Santa Susanna’s website on my Links page as they can get Papal audience tickets for you (except for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and Easter services).  If you have not applied for tickets before arriving in Rome, you can go to the North American College at Via dell’Umilta 30 (tel. 06/679.0658, or fax them at 06/679.1448).  You can also go to the Church of Santa Susanna at Piazza Bernardo to see if they can request tickets for you.  If you have written for them in advance of leaving for your trip, a Vatican Page can deliver the tickets the afternoon (Tuesday) prior to the Wednesday audience, or you can pick them up at the Vatican on Tuesday afternoon.  If you plan on applying for and picking them up once in Rome, ticket pick-ups are Tuesday afternoons at the Bronze Door (Bernini’s right colonnade; tell the Swiss Guard you are there for Papal Audience tickets and he will let you through).  It is highly recommended that to insure getting tickets, you request tickets in advance of your trip by writing to the address on my Vatican and Environs page under “Papal Audience”, as far in advance as possible is the best option, giving the Wednesday date(s) available, where you will be staying, the number of tickets you wish, and the language you speak.  The Pope may also be seen briefly during the Sunday noon hour when he addresses crowds assembled in St. Peter’s Square from the Papal Apartments above Bernini’s right colonnade (look for the window on the top floor covered with a red drape).  This is where he will appear.  For the blessing participation, click here.

Parking in Rome.  After a lot of trips to Rome, I cannot figure out why anyone would want to have a rental car in Rome.  Bus and Metro travel is an excellent way to get around for those who do not like my preferred way of seeing Rome, which is on-foot.  Street parking is at a premium, not to mention the traffic congestion in the center of Rome makes the Los Angeles freeway system look like a piece of cake.  However, if you still want to have a rental car, there must be a very good reason for you to want to.  Sometimes, the more expensive hotels may offer what is called parcheggio convenzionato, which means that the hotel has guaranteed parking spaces for guests at private parking garages located near the hotel.  They may or may not have special rates, but I would certainly check it out thoroughly before going ahead with your plans on having a car.  The cost may be prohibitive to your pocketbook.  You need to make sure what the charges will be and what hours you will have access to your car, including what days of the week.  If you have a car, going through the hotel you are staying at is the easiest way to find parking for it.  (See also Rental Cars below.)

There are also public parking structures, and all have different hours of operation, and rates vary according to the area in which you are parking.  Below is a list of the public parking structures I know of.  Rates have not been given because they are subject to change without notice and it is too difficult for me to know them when I do not live in Rome.

Stazione San Pietro (which is near St. Peter’s Basilica).  Open Monday-Saturday, 6 a.m.-10 p.m.  I do know that this is more inexpensive than the one at Terminal Gianicolo.  This is right next to the Metro Line A subway station which goes to the Spanish Steps and the Vatican.

Terminal Gianicolo  (which is not far from St. Peter’s Basilica).  Open daily from 7 a.m.-1:30 a.m.  The entrance is in Piazza della Rovere/Via Gregorio VII.  For convenience sake, this is probably the most convenient of the parking structures because there is bus #116 that has its terminal inside this structure and travels approximately every seven minutes to Via Giulia, Campo de’Fiori, Corso Vittorio Emanuele, the Pantheon, Via del Tritone, and Piazza Barberini.  If you want to park your car in this structure and utilize the bus system, stop in at a tabacchi or newsstand before you enter the garage to purchase bus tickets.

Auditorium Car Park (located in the Parioli District).  Open daily 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m.  The entrance is at Via G. Gaudini.  It is a five-minute walk to Piazza Euclide, where the Metro is available to Piazzale Flaminio (which is across the Square from Piazza del Popolo).  Their telephone number is +39 06/808.1646.

Villa Borghese (which is near Via Veneto).  It is open all day and the entrance is on Piazza Brasile.  You can take either bus 116 or 95 to Piazza Venezia and Via del Corso near the Roman Forum, or use the underground passageway to the Metro Line A subway station (Piazza di Spagna) which takes you to St. Peter’s (Battistini direction) or towards the central railway station (Anangina direction).

Parcheggio Ludovisi (above the Spanish Steps).  Open 5:30 a.m.-1:30 a.m.  The entrance is on Via Ludovisi.  It is a five-minute walk to Piazza di Spagna or Via del Tritone and Piazza Barberini.  Their telephone number is +39 06/322.5934.

Passeggiata (Strolling).  This is a wonderful custom in Rome that happens mainly on the weekends where the streets of Old Rome are blocked off to traffic (usually until the midnight hour) to allow thousands of people to take evening strolls.  The streets are blocked off between Piazza del Popolo and Piazza Venezia along Via del Corso, and Via del Corso up to Piazza di Spagna.  Passeggiata literally means “promenade”.  It is especially popular during the warmer months.

Passports.  If you are a citizen of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, or South Africa, you will need a valid passport to enter Italy and to re-enter your own country.  Returning to your home country with an expired passport is illegal.

Lost Passports.  If your passport becomes lost or stolen, contact the local police as soon as possible as well as the nearest Embassy or Consulate of your country of residence.  To get a replacement, you will also need to know all of the information that was on the lost passport.  That is why it is very important to have a photocopy of it with you as well.  You will also be required to show proof of citizenship and an ID.  Any visas stamped in your old passport will be obviously lost as well.  In emergency situations, you need to ask for immediate temporary traveling papers so that you can re-enter your home country.

Pets.  If you are planning on taking Rover with you, before traveling to Italy, you need to have a veterinarian’s certificate of good health for all dogs and cats.  Dogs must be muzzled or on a leash at all times.  Other animals have to go through an examination at the border or at the port of entry.  If you are traveling with a parrot or birds that are subject to psittacosis, a certificate must state that the country of origin is free of disease.  All documents must first be certified by a Notary Public, and then by the nearest office of the Italian Consulate to your residence.

Phone Numbers Listed On This Website.  Phone numbers change faster than the speed of sound and it is most difficult to keep up with.  You should verify the phone numbers of any place you wish to call with the most current edition of Rome’s telephone directory once you arrive in Rome, as I cannot guarantee that the phone number now listed is the one that will still be current at the time you wish to use it.  Also, remember that you MUST dial 06 (Rome’s city code) even within Rome to another number in Rome or the phone call will not go through.  You might also check the most current issue of your favorite travel guide, or see if the place you wish to reach has a web site as well.

Postal Service.  The Central Post Office is behind the Rinascente Department Store across from Piazza Colonna at Piazza San Silvestro (tel. 06/672.225).  It is open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday for mail service, to 1:50 p.m. for money services.  Both are also open on Saturday from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.  Most smaller post offices are open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.  There is also a large Post Office on Via di Porta Angelica to the right of Bernini’s colonnade off St. Peter’s Square on the way to the Vatican Museums.  On the last day of the month, all post offices close at mid-day.  You can also have mail sent to you in care of the Central Post Office.  The words Fermo Posta needs to be written after your name and address to the Central Post Office.  Such mail will be given to you after showing your passport for identification (or ID with a photo) and paying a small fee.

Example, in Rome:

Mr. John Doe
c/o Ufficio Postale Centrale
FERMO POSTA
00187 Roma ITALIA

American Express also has a General Delivery service.  There is no charge for those who are using their travelers’ cheques, those who are American Express cardholders, or for those who booked a vacation with one of their offices.

Tabacchi’s also sell postage stamps; however, be aware of how much postcards to whatever country you wish to send them cost because the operators of tabacchi’s do not always know the current or correct amount needed.  Suggestion:  there are two post offices inside St. Peter’s Square.  Try to mail your letters and postcards from the Vatican City post offices (see my Neighborhood Locator Map page Vatican and Environs Map to see the locations) as they will reach home much sooner than if mailed elsewhere in Rome for some reason.  I have found that mail is quicker if mailed from a Vatican Post Office or a post office box that is blue (which is the Vatican’s post box color – marked Poste Vaticane).  Also, remember, letters and/or postcards bearing Vatican City stamps need to be mailed from the Vatican Post Office, and not from a post office in Rome proper.  Remember that Vatican City is a nation unto itself and is not part of Italy.  Also, letters and postcards seem to take longer when mailed in the month of August (go figure).  Rome’s post boxes (which are red) have two depository slots.  The one on the left are for “Rome” letters, the one on the right are for “Other Destinations”.

Public Emergency Assistance and Immediate Action Service:  Telephone “113” and “112”.  The Public emergency Assistance afforded by the State Police and the Immediate Action Service performed by the police (Carabinieri) can be reached by telephoning 113 and 112, respectively, wherever you may be in Italy.  These numbers and their services operate on a 24-hour basis.

In particular, the Public Emergency Assistance is for persons in danger or faced with natural calamities.  Number 113 in these principal localities will answer in the main foreign languages, thanks to the interpreters who work for the Foreigner’s Bureau at police headquarters.

The above numbers can be used for many emergencies, but use them only in cases of real need such as medical and ambulances or help needed after an accident.  If necessary, you can also call 116 to solicit immediate help.

Public Toilets.  Public toilets or restrooms are often referred to as water closets (WC) and can be found near some of the major sites, most with attendants.  However, I have found them to be very scarce, especially when I really need one!  I can always find one at a fast food establishment, though.  Again, keep change because if there is an attendant, they will expect you to leave at least .10 Euro cents (L200) or more.  It depends on where you go.  Watch out at the Vatican restrooms on the right colonnade side facing the Basilica.  Why?  I don’t want to be crass, but it is because of a less-desirable type of public toilet apparatus that are called ‘facilities’.  There IS NO TOILET but, rather, a porcelain square on the floor about 2-3 inches high that you stand in the middle of and . . . well, it can prove very difficult to use if you are not familiar with how to go about it.  I understand these toilet-less contraptions are also used in Japan.  The restrooms on the left side of St. Peter’s Square have regular toilets that we are more familiar with here in the States.  If you are just passing through Rome and are waiting at Stazione Termini to board a train to another destination, you can take advantage of the Albergo Diurno, which is a “hotel without beds”.  It has baths, showers, and quite clean toilet facilities.  Of course, bars, nightclubs, restaurants, cafes, and hotels also generally have restroom facilities (ask for the servizi or the toilette).

Indeed, Rome is the city with the least number of public toilets in the world I think, but tourists should be aware of the fact that, by law, no public establishment such as a bar or a restaurant can refuse the use of their toilet to a person (theoretically, you could even walk into a bar just to use the toilet), but that would be looked at as rather impolite behavior).  I have done so at fast food places, though, and not thought twice about it.  So, if you find yourself in ‘dire need’, just make a small investment such as a coffee or soft drink at any bar, and feel free to ask where the toilet is located.

Rental Cars. If you are going to have a rental car, be sure to only park your car in a parking structure or in well-traveled areas and use a steering wheel locking device in the larger cities.  It is also noteworthy to state at this point that sleeping in your car is most often illegal.  Besides that, it can be a very dangerous practice, one that I would never suggest you doing.

Restaurants.  Italian cuisine is famous the world over.  There are thousands of restaurants of international renown throughout Italy as well as an infinite number of trattorie and rosticceriewhere excellent meals are offered at somewhat moderate prices.  Many pizzerie serve a variety of other foods in addition to the popular pizza (be aware, however, pizza in Italy is quite different in texture and taste from that prepared in the United States) and they are usually open later than the other eating places.  Check out more information under my Dining, Shopping, and Lodging page.

Most deluxe, first- and second-class hotels have restaurants serving international as well as local cuisine.  Restaurants are sometimes also found in third- and fourth-class hotels and in pensiones.  Most will post their menus in front of their establishments.  If you are budgeting, look for “fixed price” menus.  You get ample food at a reduced price.  The main meals are served between noon and 3 p.m. and between 8 and 11 p.m., but they may also be available at other hours.  Most Italians do not dine until late in the evening (9 to 9:30 p.m., so you may find quite a wait at some of the more popular establishments during those times).

Vegetarians can obtain information from the Societa Vegetariana Italiana at Via de Piatti 3, 20123 Milano.  They are not very well known in Rome, but most restaurants serve pasta or rice dishes that include vegetables that are without meat.  Last I knew, there was a vegetarian restaurant called Centro Macrobiotico which was near Piazza di Spagna.  There is also a vegetarian restaurant on Via Margutta near the Spanish Steps.  Actually, the McDonalds (believe it or not!) off Piazza di Spagna has a wonderful pasta bar.  Snack bars in Italy are open from early morning to late at night.  They usually serve drinks, refreshments, and a variety of snacks, pastries, and sandwiches at reasonable prices.  However, you should be aware that there is an extra charge for drinks and food served at the tables as opposed to standing at the bar or counters.  Be sure to check out my Dining, Shopping, and Lodging page for more information on restaurants.  New restaurants crop up all the time.  A current issue of your favorite travel guide will most likely have good current information.

Shopping in Rome.  Just like Mexico, Rome has a siesta time, usually from around 1 p.m. to about 3:30 or 4 p.m., where most everything closes down (except some tourist shops located around tourist attractions such as St. Peter’s).  Most stores are open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday throughout the year, re-opening at either 3:30 or 4 p.m. and doing business until 7:30, 8:00, and some 9:00 p.m. or later.  Most shops are closed on Sunday except for some barbershops that are open in the morning only.  Again, barbers and hairdressers are closed both Sunday and Monday (sounds like life in the U.S., doesn’t it!).  Keep this in mind when you are planning your itineraries.  Remember, though, August is a month that a lot of Italy closes for vacation because of the heat.  A lot of the religious souvenir shops, especially on the Via di Porta Angelica, Borgo Pio, and Via del Mascherino areas just outside Bernini’s right colonnade are open all day for shopping.

Saving Your Receipts.  It is also a good practice when in Rome to save all receipts for purchases. This helps you fill out your re-entry Customs form before re-entering your country for duty-applicable items.  Books and religious articles are usually not counted as part of your re-entry allotment (in the United States, you can re-enter with purchases that are not gifts that do not exceed $400 without paying a duty, usually 10% over the $400 limit).  You will need to be ready to show a Customs officer what you have purchased while abroad.  Sometimes they will ask to see your purchases, other times they will not, but be prepared to do so.  If you have a problem with a Customs officer and feel you were ill treated or the duty imposed was incorrect, be sure to get the Customs officer’s badge number and ask to speak to their supervisor.  If that doesn’t resolve the dispute, it is highly recommended that you write to the appropriate authorities at your point of entry as soon as possible after the incident.  (See also Taxes below for further helpful information.)  Sometimes, price limits and percentages change, so you might want to also refer to a current edition of your favorite travel guide to make sure things haven’t changed.

Sightseeing.  It is very difficult to coordinate between galleries, museums, churches, shopping, restaurants, and excavation site visits because of the afternoon closures of most and days each are closed.  The best thing to do – and I find this quite useful when traveling to any larger city – is to put those places you wish to see on 3×5 cards, write down the hours open and the day(s) that particular establishment is closed.  Then make your itinerary according to what you really want to see with the time you have.  I always break up the City into quarters (in Rome, into districts) so I will know what sights are in what sector of town so I won’t be backtracking, which takes a lot of time away from seeing the sights you want to see.

Sightseeing Tours In and Around Rome.  Though I personally much prefer to see Rome on my own and walking, City sightseeing tours via motorcoach are available.  Please check this subpage out for further information.  Also, check out my Links page for a wonderful service provided by Sergio Caggia called Rome Made To Measure.  Sergio specializes in personalized tours in and around Rome as well as transportation to ports of call outside the city.  (See also Tour Guides for additional information.)  You can also check with the concierge of the hotel you are staying at for sightseeing tours that may be available.

For a wonderfully guided tour of Rome’s Jewish Ghetto and Synagogue, one of the oldest districts in Rome, I highly recommend you contact Micaela Pavoncello, a native Roman (see also Tour Guides).

Snack Bars.  You will find a different price for whatever you order when standing at the counter as opposed to sitting at a table.  Before making yourself comfortable in a chair, you may wish to check the posted prices first.  If you choose to be seated, you can stay there as long as you wish, and a waiter will bring you your check, but it will cost you more to be seated than just standing at the counter as most locals do.  If you choose counter service, you will be required to pay first at the cashier station.  They will give you a receipt which you will then take to the counter person who will give you your order.  Strange, but that’s the way it works in Rome.

Strikes.  Well, let me say this about that.  Italy is notorious for its strikes, some without warning.  They can affect the trains, airports, or city buses and/or Metro.  So, be prepared.  Usually, there is a one- to two-day warning before such a strike, but sometimes, there is no warning at all.  Sometimes, there will be a four-hour strike on the Metro but not the bus lines.  Inconvenient, but one learns to live with it.

Taxes.  There are three main taxes in Rome:  restaurant, hotel, and value-added tax.

Hotels.Upon departure, you need to be aware that there will most likely be a service charge and a nine percent IVA, or VAT tax, included in your rate. In five-star or luxury hotels, the IVA rate is usually 18% and may be shown as a separate item on your bill.

Restaurants.  Fifteen (15) percent service is added to all restaurant bills as a rule.  However, in some cases, the menu will state that the price shown for the meal already has the service charge included.  This does not include any tips to the waiters.

Value-added Tax. As mentioned under hotels above, value-added tax (IVA, or VAT) is between nine and 12% depending upon the quality accommodations you have.  For clothing, wine, and luxury goods, it is 20%.  On consumer goods, the IVA/VAT is generally already included in the purchase price shown.  For services, however, it is not.

You can get a refund for the IVA tax you have paid for purchases when you leave Italy.  To get a refund, take the goods and the invoice/receipt to the Customs office at the point of departure (airport, cruise line office), and have the invoice stamped.  If you are returning directly to the United States or Canada from Italy, go through this procedure at the Italian Customs, not the point of re-entry into your own country.  If you do not return on a non-stop flight and, say, have a stop in Britain, you need to take the purchases and invoice to British Customs.  The reason is, under Italy’s IVA-refund system, if you are a non-EU resident, you are entitled to a VAT refund.  Always shop with your passport and ask the store for an invoice which will list all the articles you have purchased, their individual price, and the taxes you have paid for each.  Once you have returned home, you have up to 90 days from the date of purchase to mail the stamped invoice back to the store where you purchased the merchandise, and they will send the IVA rebate to you.

Tax-free Shopping System.  This is confusing, but here is my attempt at explaining the Tax-Free Shopping System.  Many European stores, including a growing number in Italy, are members of this system, which will speed things up by providing an invoice that is called a Tax-Free Cheque for the amount of the refund.  You need to ask for the E.T.S. refund form (which is called a Shopping Cheque).  In order to qualify, your purchase must exceed 154.94 Euro (L300,000; about $139US) before taxes.  Be sure to note whether the price tag includes or excludes the IVA.  If your purchase does not exceed 154.94 Euros, be sure they are all put on the same receipt because different receipts (even if issued by the same store on the same day) cannot be accumulated.  Once Customs stamps the Shopping Cheque, the Cheque can be cashed at the Tax-Free Cash refund window at all major airports and border crossings.  You can also request to have the refund put on your credit card, bank account, or sent directly to you at your home address.  HINT:  You can save a step at the border or airport; you can send the Cheque to a Tax-Free Shopping address.  In order to calculate the price without the IVA, you do not subtract 20% from the price on the label, because it already includes the IVA.  Rather, you will need to subtract about 16.5%.  There are transaction fees, of course, for handling this service and they range from between three and four percent.  So, when all is said and done, only expect to get back about 13% of the purchase price.  Still confused?  Contact the address below for more information.

Address for VAT Refunds is:

Europe Tax-Free Shopping, 233 S. Wacker Dr., Suite 9700, Chicago, IL 60606-6502
312.382.1101

Taxis.  The taxi industry is quite expensive from the airport to downtown Rome and I don’t recommend it unless you last name is Rockefeller or you like to burn money before getting a chance to spend it on museums and delicious Roman food.  You can take a cab from the Stazione Termini to your hotel.  Tourists need to be very careful at the Stazione Termini (as well as at the airport) where there are some unauthorized taxis, especially during the night.  Again, it is recommended you only use authorized taxis that come to the taxi stands in front of Stazione Termini in Piazza dei Cinquecento and are white or yellow with “taxi” on top of the vehicle.  Some stop to let people off at the Via G. Giolitti and Via Marsala entrances to Stazione Termini as well, but be sure they have the “taxi” on top of the car and the autos are white or yellow.

When you take taxis, use smaller bills as the drivers tend to “not have change”.  Drivers will also expect a 15% tip.  Don’t count on getting a cab to stop and pick you up off the street.  If you are at the Stazione Termini, there are an overabundance of them waiting, so get in the queue, or if it is late at night, call 06/66.45, 06/35.70, or 06/49.94 and ask for one; if you are at your hotel, have your concierge or desk clerk call for one, or if at a restaurant, have your waiter/maitre d’ call one for you.  Of course, you will need to have spare change to tip whomever calls a cab for you, too.  Again, only take an authorized cab.  They will be marked “taxi”.

Again, prices at the start of a taxi meter and the price per km. charged change with time.  Please check with the current edition of your favorite travel guide for the most current rate information.  Back in 2003, the tax meter started at 2.32 Euro (L4,500; $2.70US) for the first three km., and then went up by .67 Euro cents (L1,300; $.80US) for each km. thereafter.  Be aware that every suitcase is extra (in 2003, it was about 1.10 Euro; about $1.20US), and on Sunday you will have to pay a supplement (again, in 2003, it was about 1.10 Euro (about $1.20US) plus an additional 2.75 Euro (about $3US) from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m (2003 prices).

Time.  Daylight savings time is in effect in Italy during the same time periods as in the U.S.  Rome is six hours ahead of Eastern time in the U.S., nine hours Pacific time.

Tipping.  This is a must custom in Italy, whether the tourist likes it or not and it is practiced literally everywhere, including public toilets, as mentioned above.  In hotels, up to 20% service charge is added to your hotel bill.  Additionally, it is customary to tip chambermaids per day; the doorman for calling a cab; and the bellhop or porter per bag.  A concierge will expect a tip for extra services he/she may perform for you like making reservations for dinner at a restaurant or obtaining opera or theater tickets for you, obtaining newspapers, or arranging long-distance or international calls on your behalf.  The current edition of your favorite travel guide will have a range of prices.

In restaurants, 15% is usually added to your bill to cover most charges.  An additional tip for good service is always expected.  It is customary in certain high-quality restaurants throughout Italy to leave an additional 15% tip.  When added to the 15% service charge, the tip itself is rather steep.  To avoid tips, stick to the fast food joints like McDonalds (ha).  And, the sommelier expects 10% of the cost of the wine as a tip.  Checkroom attendants expect a tip as well as washroom attendants.  Tipping will be more in deluxe and first-class establishments.  Restaurants are also required by law to provide customers with official receipts.

In cafes and bars, tip at least 15% of the bill (note that some cafes and restaurants automatically include this as a “service charge” but an additional tip is expected for good service by a waitor or waitress.  If you go to the theater, a theater usher is tipped as well.  Taxi drivers expect at least 15% of the fare as a tip.  By the time you have tipped everyone, there is no money left for food or a way back to your hotel.  But, you have made several people happy and a bit richer along the way!  I guess that is why you saved all year long to be able to go in the first place!

Tour Guides.  As stated above, I know of two people who serve as excellent English-speaking tour guides and provide personal itineraries designed especially for what you wish to see while in Rome and its vicinity.  They are listed below as well as on my Links page.  I have also been in contact with a young woman born in Rome that serves as an excellent guide to Rome’s Jewish Ghetto area and Synagogue (see below).  I highly encourage you to email any of these individuals for further information should you wish the services of a tour guide during your stay in Rome.  Direct links can also be found on my Links page.

Sergio Caggia
Nerone and Rome Made To Measure
Piazza jan Palach, 32 – 00197 Roma, Italia
email address:  nerone@nerone.cc
website:  Rome Made To Measure (http://www.nerone.cc/romemtm/index.htm)
Tel. +39 06/808.1250
Fax +39 06/806.63.484
Mobile +39 339.6253905

Alan Epstein (author of As the Romans Do)
email address:  alan@astheromansdo.com
website:  As The Romans Do (http://www.astheromansdo.com)

For tours of the Jewish Ghetto area and Synagogue, and for other excellent
walking tours, I encourage you to contact:
Micaela Pavoncello
email address:  info@jewishroma.com
website:  http://www.jewishroma.com

Tourist Office Addresses.  The official government tourist office of Italy is E.N.I.T. (Italian National Tourist Office).  They have offices in several cities in the United States, as well as other countries such as Canada and England.  They also have a website (which is on my Links page).  They can provide you with general information you may need for planning your trip to Italy, along with maps. You can call or write to them for a free copy of Italia:  General Information for Travelers to Italy, which is a very helpful publication, and can also get map(s) for the various cities you wish to visit in Italy.   Some of the addresses are:

In the United States:

12400 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Los Angeles, CA 90025
Tel. 310.820.0098; fax 310.820.6357

401 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611
Tel. 312.644.0990; fax 312.644.3109

630 Fifth Ave., Suite 1565, New York, NY 10111
Tel. 212.245.4822; fax 212.586.9249; email:  enitny@italiantourism.com
Website: www.italiantourism.com

In England:

1 Princes St., London W1R 8AY
Tel. 0171.408.1254; fax 0171.493.6695

In Canada:

1 place Ville-Marie, Suite 1914, Montreal, PQ H3B 2C3
Tel. 514.866.7667; fax 514.392.1429

In Australia:

ENIT, c/o the Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Australia
Level 26, 44 Market Street, Sydney NSW 2000 Australia
Tel. 02 9262 1666; Fax 02 9262 5745

There is also the Italian Cultural Institute, 686 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10021, Tel. 212.879.4242, Fax, 212.861.4018, email segr@italcultny.org, or their website at www.italcultny.org.  A response is more often more quick than through ENIT.  This website is also great for tourists seeking information on the less-popular destinations in Italy.

Train Service to Other Parts of Italy.  As mentioned at the top of this page, up until a few years ago (around 2000 or 2001), the national railway network that ran in Italy was called Ferrovie dello Stato (FS is the logo).  A couple of years ago, this company changed its name and ownership, so it is now called Trenitalia.  However, it is one and the same, providing the same services and classes of service as before.  It appears that only the name was changed, which can be a bit confusing to the traveler.

Transit in Rome.  The buses and Metro in Rome are always very crowded, but you can travel anywhere inside the walls for 1 Euro (about $1.00US), which lasts for 75 minutes.  The price went up from .77 Euro cents effective November 1, 2003, the first raise since 1997.  Not a bad deal at all.  And, trains arrive at one- to two-minute intervals of each other so you don’t have to wait very long either.  A word of warning:  if you are going to travel on the bus or the Metro, be alert, as buses and the Metro are a pickpocket’s haven, like in most every major city (see Crime in Rome above).  This is especially true during peak commute periods which, in Rome, is almost all the time.  I rarely ride the bus but available myself of the Metro all the time and have had no problems.

Bus stops are marked Fermata and are in service from 6 a.m. until midnight.  The main-line routes operate 24 hours per day, but there are not many of those.  If you find yourself stuck far away from your hotel late at night, you might have to take a taxi back to your hotel and avoid the buses.  For further information on Rome’s various bus alternatives, visit my friend Andrea Pollett’s website page on transit, shown on my Links page).

The buses are run by ATAC (Azienda Tramvie e Autobus del Commune di Roma), tel. 06/46.951.  There are two subway lines, called the Metropolitana (Metro).  (Metro map courtesy of Andrea Pollett, Roma.)  The original Line B (colored blue) of the Metropolitana begins at the Rebibbia subway station and crosses Line A at Stazione Termini, and out to the EUR district.  Another train line does run to Ostia Antica.  Line A (colored red) is the newer line and it runs in two directions from Stazione Termini.  One goes to the eastern part of Rome, with stops at San Giovanni (in Laterano) and continues east to Anagnina station, while the other goes west to Battistini station, well beyond the Vatican.  The two stops relevant to St. Peter’s are Ottaviano Station-San Pietro and Cipro-Musei Vaticani on Line A.  The price for anywhere inside the wall is 1 Euro (L1,936; about $1.00US), but you will have to pay more for destinations outside the walls.

As a result of the Jubilee Year 2000, many things have changed (for the better) in Rome, including transit.  The stations have been repainted and are no longer dark and dingy, but you have to remember, this system is old.  The trains themselves inside are neat and clean (as trains go) but the outside of most subway cars are scarred with graffiti so bad that you cannot see out the windows.  It kind of reminds me of Chicago’s subway system.  During the daytime hours, trains run quite often, one to two minutes apart.  Be prepared for crowds of people during the peak hours, especially early in the morning when people are on their way to work, during the 1:00-1:30 p.m. period when people are leaving for the afternoon, 3:15-4:00 p.m. when people are returning to work in the afternoon, and again between 7-8:30 p.m. when the evening commute hour is in effect.  All in all, the subway system has greatly improved since the 1990s in my opinion.

Since about 1995, you can purchase tickets using an automatic machine where you have to just select the language (5) you want, insert the money and select the ticket or the pass you want.  These automatic machines are all over.  The ones colored green are on the streets, and the blue ones are in or near the Metro stations.  You can also get tickets and passes at most any tobacco shop (called tabacchi) and in the terminal stations themselves.  I stayed near the Stazione Termini so it was very convenient to get my daily passes from one of the tabacchis inside the station.

When I know I am going to have to use the Metro or bus system more than once per day, I usually purchase a daily pass which cost 4 Euro (about $4.30US) and was well worth the price paid, especially if your itinerary for that particular day takes you from one end of Rome to the other.  Sometimes, if you wait until mid-day to get a daily pass, they may be all gone, though.  It just depends.  It is very convenient.  They also have weekly passes available.  For a weekly card. ask for a C.I.S. (Carta Integrata Settimanale, which is an Integrated Weekly Card) which costs about 16 Euro (about $20US).  They also have a new ticket called “integrated touristic ticket”, or BTI.  It is valid for three days at a cost (in 2004 dollars) of 11 Euro.  The only lines it does not cover (as well as the daily ticket), are the “J” lines (the new ones opened for the Jubilee) which are run by a different company.  There are very few of these cars around, however.  I noticed that most of the stations have people manning the Information Booths and are quite helpful.  I also noticed this last trip (2003) that, since the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001, police security are usually found in every Metro station now for commuter safety.  The Metro is open from 5:30 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. daily, and on Saturdays it is open until 00.30 a.m. (12:30 a.m.).

A word about traffic in Rome – horrible!  Be alert at all times;; cars do not stop for anything but a red light (sometimes).  Congestion and fumes are abundant everywhere.  And, you may get run over by a speeding moped rounding a corner.  Be very careful throughout Rome.  Any foreigner wanting to drive in Rome is crazy as far as I am concerned.  You need to be a very seasoned driver and very familiar with every street in order to safely maneuver Rome, that’s for sure.  I consider myself a very safe and sane driver and I would NEVER think about driving in Rome, period!  But, that’s just me.

Again, as mentioned above, for further information on getting around Rome via public transportation, my friend, Andrea Pollett, who lives in Rome, has a wonderful website page which has fantastic graphic and pictures regarding transit as well as an Italian glossary.  Please be sure to visit this site for more information on transit in Rome.  It is listed on my Links page toward the top of the page.


Weather in Rome.
  For your convenience, I have provided a link to current weather forecasts for Rome which also includes a five-day forecast.  When through, just hit your “Back” button to return to my website.

Weddings in Rome.  Getting married in Rome is a wonderful experience, but there is a lot involved before that can possibly happen.  Getting married at St. Peter’s Basilica will probably not be an option.  However, there are many other beautiful churches in which your wedding might be able to be held.  Also, the Papal audiences held on Wednesdays have a special section for newlyweds to attend, in their wedding attire, to be blessed by the Holy Father.  If you are Catholic, one way to start the ball rolling might be to contact your local priest and coordinate between your parish and the church you choose in Rome.  For non-Catholics, you may wish to go to my Churches and Basilicas page, go to the bottom and click on the partial listing of churches.  Toward the bottom of that massive list are Protestant and non-Catholic-faith churches you might wish to contact for further assistance.  While you cannot be married at St. Peter’s Basilica, you can, with special permit, be married at St. Anne’s Church just inside Vatican City.  You will have to have connections to do this, though.  You might start by contacting the Paulist Fathers of the American Parish of Rome, the Church of Santa Susanna, and click on “Weddings”.  They are very helpful.  Their website is listed on my Links page for your convenience.

For Catholics, again, I would highly recommend you visit the above website for valuable information.  I will quote below a few paragraphs from their website to give you basic information about what is involved in planning your wedding in Rome.  There is a lot to do.

“The following information is provided as a service.  It does not obligate the Paulist Fathers or the Church of Santa Susanna to arrange, provide specific services, or perform your wedding.  This occurs after a direct consultation and agreement between a priest at Santa Susanna and the wedding couple.  Until a contract has been arranged, the Paulist Fathers and the Church of Santa Susanna do not assume any responsibility for your wedding.

Many Catholics are interested in being married within the city of Rome . . . Various travel agencies state that they can “make all necessary arrangements for your wedding.”  Be most careful with these claims.  While travel agencies can make flight, automobile, hotel and restaurant reservations for you, they cannot serve as an agent of the Vatican, the Diocese of Rome, the Church of Santa Susanna, or the Paulist Fathers.  Church weddings can only be planned and prepared through appropriate church institutions and not commercial services.

The Paulist Fathers of Rome are pleased to provide information explaining how Catholic marriages occur in Rome for non-Italians.  If you have any additional questions, you can telephone us at 011.39.06/4882748 or fax us at 011.39.06/474.0236.  Please note that there may be as much as a six- to nine-hour time zone distance (from the U.S.), and it is most difficult for us to answer the phone after 7:30 p.m. Rome time.  We appreciate your courtesy in this regard.  It might be easier to telephone us in the early morning your time!  If you wish, you can contact us by email.”  (Their email address is listed on their website.)

“Many Catholics are interested in being married within the city of Rome, at the beautiful Church of Santa Susanna.  The Paulist Fathers have been providing pastoral assistance to couples for many years.  When a couple is married in Rome, the marriage requires both civil and ecclesiastical authorization.  We believe that this maze of paperwork can be much less intimidating if it is approached systematically.  We have prepared a full information packet, that follows at the end of this section.  It must be read and followed carefully, in order to prevent the dream wedding of a lifetime from becoming a nightmare of complication and frustration.

The most important steps couples need to take is that couples need to begin the process at least six months before the intended wedding date.  A date for the wedding cannot be established until the couple has gone through an extensive interview with a priest, usually their proper pastor or the priest performing the wedding.  The interview with the priest will determine whether there may be impediments to the marriage, and whether it is appropriate for the couple to be married in a Catholic ceremony.”

This gives you the basic information.  if you wish to proceed with your intended plans to be married in Rome, I highly suggest that you visit the Paulist Fathers’ website located on my Linkspage for the remainder of the text and steps that need to be taken before a date can be made for your wedding to take place.  This is very important stuff!  Also, be prepared because the couple may have to travel to Rome before the wedding in order to meet with the priest that will perform the wedding ceremony.  You need to find out as much information as possible beforeyou proceed with your plans to be married in Rome, and this website is an excellent source.  The Paulist Fathers can help you answer any questions you have regarding procedures and the paperwork needed.  The website covers the following, besides what I have quoted above:  Basic Paperwork Package; Nulla Osta; The Atto Notorio; Approval From the Vicariate of Rome; Wedding Costs (basic and other).  The process seems lengthy and very involved, so you need to give yourself plenty of time if this is where you wish to be married.

General Information for Italy

Getting Around Italy.  This portion of the General Information A to Z page talks about getting around Italy by rail, bus, and car.  It also gives information on the Autostrade, information on Alpine Border Passes, and talks about driving in Italy and things such as gasoline, insurance, and the Italian Highway Code.

Casinos.  There are four casinos in Italy:

San Remo (Italian Riviera): open year-round.
Campione (Lake Lugano):  open year-round.
Venice:  open from October 1st to March 31st at Palazzo Vendramin and from April 1st to September 30th at Venice Lido.
St. Vincent (Aosta Valley):  open year-round.

No person under 18 years of age may be admitted to the casinos, and entry is permitted only upon presentation of a passport.  No exceptions!

Currency.  You can take any amount of foreign currency into Italy (you should declare the amount brought in, though).  However, amounts of Italian currency allowed to be brought in or taken out may not exceed 207 Euro (L400,000).  This may have changed with the advent of the Euro dollar back on January 1, 2002, but I am not sure.  As of January 1, 2002, the official currency of Italy is the Euro, both coins and banknotes.

For your convenience, I have installed a link to a Universal Currency Converter on my Links page that is updated every minute and is an excellent source for up-to-the-minute exchange rates.

Introduction of the Euro.  On January 1, 2002, Europe’s new coins and banknotes (called Euro) became effective in the 12 participating countries.  It is easy to figure out in relation to U.S. dollars because one Euro dollar is equal to approximately $.90 US cents.  The only European Union countries that opted not to join this new monetary system are Britain, Sweden, and Denmark.  The Euro conversion to the former Italian Lira is fixed at L1,936.27 to one Euro dollar.  However, the Euro may still fluctuate against other international currencies such as the U.S. dollar.  The following conversion rates for the 12 participating nations that have conversion rates fixed by the European Council back on December 31, 1998 are:

Currency One Euro Equals:
Austrian schilling 13.760.30
Belgian franc 40.33990
Finnish markka 5.94573
French franc 6.55957
German mark 1.95583
Greek drachma* 340.75000
Irish punt 0.787564
Italian lira 1,936.270000
Luxembourg franc 40.339900
Netherlands guilder 2.203710
Portuguese escudo 200.482000
Spanish peseta 166.386000

*Fixed rate set on June 19, 2000.
SOURCE:  European Economic and Monetary Union

The fronts of all coins and banknotes are the same in all 12 countries, but each country chose the design for the backs of each of the coin denominations only representative of their individual countries.  Banknotes are uniform on both front and back.  For pictures (front and back) of all Euro cents (coins) and dollars (banknotes) issued in Italy, click here.  Due to graphic images of each of the coins and banknotes, front and back, download time is about two minutes, so please be patient.

The Euro dollar symbol looks like this (a capital C with an equal sign through the middle; whenever used on my website, I will use “Euro” after the amount because I do not have this symbol available on my keyboard):

For your convenience, you might wish to go to the International Trade Administration’s Trade Information Center website for an article on Euro-c:  Italy’s Transition to the Euro.  I would post it here, but it is protected by international copyright so I must refer you to their website in order to read this.  Please check my Links page for a link to this website.  Also for your convenience, I have posted a Euro calculator on-line link as well as a link to Euro Currency Mini-FAQ listed on my Links page for those interested in more information on the transition from Lira to the Euro.  Be sure to hit your “Back” button to return to my website to continue your visit with me.

Customs Regulations.  Luggage is subject to examination upon entering and leaving Italy.  Free entry is allowed for personal effects:  clothing (new and used), books, camping and household equipment, fishing tackle, one sporting gun and 200 cartridges for those intending on hunting, one pair of skis, two tennis racquets, portable typewriter, record player with 10 records, tape recorder or dictaphone, baby carriage, two still cameras with 10 rolls of film, binoculars, personal jewelry, portable radio set (subject to a small license fee), 400 cigarettes and a quantity of cigars or pipe tobacco not exceeding 500 grams (1.1 pounds).  A note about guns and ammunition:  you need to check with the Consulate and Customs about current regulations regarding the transportation of firearms and/or ammunition in light of increased security.

All items mentioned above may be imported duty-free only on condition that they are for personal use and are not to be sold, given away, or traded.  A maximum of two bottles of wine and one bottle of hard liquor per person may be brought in duty-free.  The bottles must be opened.  A maximum of 4.4 pounds of coffee, 6.6 pounds of sugar, and 2.2 pounds of cocoa are allowed duty-free.

Overseas tourists arriving in Italy after visiting other countries are allowed to carry with them souvenirs purchased in other countries up to a total value of $500 and only a verbal declaration is required.  Purchases may include up to a half-liter of perfume.  A word of recommendation, however, save all your receipts just in case they are needed for proof of purchase or for some other reason when you try to re-enter your home country!

U.S. Regulations on Purchases Abroad.  Each U.S. tourist may bring back to the U.S. duty-free $800 worth of goods purchased abroad (this does not include printed material such as books, museum or gallery catalogues, most religious items, etc., I don’t think).  Parcels containing gifts may be sent from abroad to the U.S. duty-free, providing the total value of such parcels received by one person on one day does not exceed $50.  Each package should be marked “Gift Enclosed”.

You are encouraged to check with U.S. Customs before you leave on your trip for a list of items that you will not be allowed to bring into your country from abroad.  Otherwise, you may find you will have to sit there and eat all the cheese like Lucy Ricardo did when she tried to pass a hunk of cheese off as a baby trying to get it back into the U.S.  U.S. Customs’ number is 06/467.41.

Exports From Italy.  There are no restrictions on gifts purchased in Italy except for antiques and works of art.  These require the authorization of the Ufficio Esportazione di Oggetti d’Arte d’Antichita, Ministero Pubblica Instruzione, Via Cernaia, 1, Roma.  Check before you try to export that beautiful artifact, antique, or work of art or you may find you may have to leave it behind and come back to visit it.

Moving To and/or Working in Italy.  You must check with the nearest Office of the Italian Consulate for information regarding moving to and/or working in Italy.  You may also wish to contact an ENIT (Italian National Tourist Board) office listed above for possible help.  It may not be as easy as you might think.  (There is also an excellent resource website listed on my Links page.)

Overseas Telegrams.  ITALCABLE transmits messages abroad by radio or cable.  Both internal and foreign telegrams may be dictated over the telephone.

Packing for Your Trip.  One suitcase and an overnight bag should be sufficient.  I take one suitcase and a second empty or nearly empty suitcase to bring home tee-shirts, scarves, calendars, books, and other souvenirs.  Remember to include facial tissues, a bar of soap, a pair of comfortable walking shoes, a light raincoat and overshoes and a small collapsible umbrella.  When taking one-day or two-day side trips in Italy, pack what you need in your overnight case and check the rest at the hotel or station.  As stated under Medicine above, never pack needed medication for checked-in luggage; always put it in your carry-on just in case your luggage and you don’t arrive at the same destination.

Passport Regulations.  For U.S., Canadian, and British citizens holding a valid passport, a visa is not required to visit Italy unless you expect to stay for more than 90 days and/or to study or seek employment.  If after entering Italy you decide you would like to stay more than 90 days, you can apply, only once, at any police station (questura) for an extension of an additional 90 days.  You will be asked to prove that you are a bona fide tourist with adequate means of support and that you do not request the extension for study or employment.  As a rule, permission is granted immediately.  Non-U.S., Canadian, or British citizens should check with the nearest Office of the Italian Consulate for possible visa requirements.

Registration for Tourists.  The formality of registering with the police within three (3) days of your arrival in Italy is attended to by the management of your hotel.  You will be asked to surrender your passport upon registering.  Your passport(s) will be returned to you within a few hours.  If you are staying with friends or in a private home, you have to register in person at the nearest police station within a three-day period of arriving in Italy.  In Rome, there is a special police information office to assist tourists (interpreters are available).  The telephone number is 06/461.950 or 06/486.609.  All visitors are required to have a permit to stay in Italy (permesso di soggiomo).  The fee for this permit is around 12 Euro.  If you are staying in a hotel or hostel, the management will take care of registration and the fee is waived.  If you are going to stay longer, you must register at the Questura, Via Genova 2, or at their other location at Via San Vitale, 15.  What you will need to bring with you is (1) your passport and a photocopy of the first three pages); (2) 3 passport photos, and (3) either around 8.50 Euro or carta bollata of the equivalent amount (bought at a tabaccaio) and some proof of income (which can be in the form of a letter from your employer on company letterhead).  Remember that lines may be long and you may not succeed on your first attempt, so patience is a must.  If you by chance forget the photos, they do have a machine on the premises.  Your hotel should have the current price information.

Taxes.  Italy is a member of the European Common Market, and imposes a tax on most goods and services.  It is called a “value-added tax”, or I.V.A., in Italy.  For example, the tax affecting most visitors is that imposed at hotels, which ranges from nine percent in first- and second-class hotels and pensiones to 12-18% in deluxe hotels.

Telephones.  Public telephones are available throughout Italy.  They no longer accept coins.  You have to purchase a phone card.  There are several types of cards, including local and international.  The lowest-priced card value is around 5 Euro.  There is a perforated corner that you have to remove before your card is activated.  As of October 1998, you need to dial the area code even if you make a call from the same city, i.e., from Rome to another number in Rome, you have to dial 06 before the telephone number or the call will not go through.

Long-distance Calls.  Long-distance calls (interurbano) between major cities can be dialed directly on the public telephone by using the area code number.  Calls from Italy to the United States can be dialed directly by dialing 01 plus the area code plus the telephone number.  You cannot, however, use an Italian phone card to dial the U.S.  You need an international phone card.  These can be purchased at any tabacchi or newsstand.

Area Code (Prefisso Telefonico).  Following are the area code numbers for some of the principal cities in Italy.  When dialing direct, the 0 should be left out.  Example:  a call from New York to Rome would be dialed as follows:  011 + 39 + 6 + phone number.

Bari 080 Naples 081
Bologna 051 Palermo 091
Brescia 030 Perugia 075
Brindisi 0831 Pisa 050
Cagliari 070 Rome 06
Florence 055 Siena 0577
Genoa 010 Turin 011
Livorno 0586 Trieste 040
Messina 090 Venice 041
Milan 02 Verona 045

Useful Telephone Numbers.

15 – available 24 hours a day for reserving and making telephone calls to European countries.

112 – available 24 hours a day for calling for urgent action by the Police (Carabinieri).

113 – available 24 hours a day for medical first aid, Red Cross Motor Ambulance, Police for emergencies of all kinds.

115 – nationwide telephone number for the fire department.

116 – available 24 hours a day for A.C.I. (Italian Automobile Club) for urgent assistance on the road.

170 – available 24 hours a day for reserving and making intercontinental telephone calls.

4212 – (prefix 06 for calls outside Rome) – available 24 hours a day for A.C.I. (Italian Automobile Club) – all information in foreign languages connected with the caller’s stay in Italy (traffic, conditions of snow, weather, motorway tolls, petrol coupons, legal assistance, etc.).

5454 – available 24 hours a day for Alitalia – reservations on domestic flights.

5455 – available 24 hours a day for Alitalia – reservations on international flights.

5456 – available 24 hours a day for Alitalia information.

6982Vatican City.

Vaccination Certificate.  No vaccinations are required to enter Italy or to re-enter the U.S.  Non-U.S. citizens should check with the nearest Office of the Italian Consulate for possible requirements from the country they are entering from.

Didn’t find what you were looking for?
Please visit the rest of my website as there is a lot of information still left
to discover.  Check back often as this page is always getting new things added.

 

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