Capital: Roma (2,775,000 inhabitants)
System of Government: Democratic Republic
Area: 116,303 square miles
Estimated Population: 487/sq. mile
Situated in Mediterranean Europe, Italy has land frontiers with France in the north-west, Switzerland and Austria in the north and Slovenia in the north-east. The peninsula is surrounded by the Ligurian Sea, the Sardinian Sea and the Tyrrhenian Sea in the west, the Sicilian Sea and the Ionian Sea in the south and the Adriatic Sea in the east.
In terms of standard time zones, Italy is six hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time in the USA and Canada. Italy operates on CET (Central European Time) which is one hour ahead of GMT. Daylight saving time in Italy goes into effect each year usually from the end of March to the middle of October.
Italian is the language of the majority of the population but there are minorities speaking German, French, Slovene and Ladino. All of Italy’s regions and cities have their own dialects, usually a version of Italian, although increasingly dialects are only spoken by the elderly. Most younger Italians have a reasonable command of English.
The miracle of Italy is that all its treasures come packaged in a gorgeous country of majestic mountains, placid lakes, idyllic islands, splendid cities and wonderful walled villages. An ideal climate, plus warm and gracious people, make Italy a perfect destination for a business event.
Italy has a temperate climate, due to the moderating influence of the sea and the protection given by the Alpine barrier from northerly winds. The winter is very cold in the Alps, cold and foggy in the Po Plain and the central Apennines; mild and even warm on the Ligurian coast, the Neapolitan coast and in Sicilia. The summer is hot and dry everywhere, but the temperature is mitigated on the coast by sea breezes and in the Apennines and Alps it is pleasantly cool. In mountain areas, winter is ideal for skiing, and summer for excursions, hiking, etc., while the cities that are rich in art treasures are ideal in spring and autumn.
The gentle lifestyle of Italy is partly a product of its civilized eating habits: eating and drinking in tranquility at least once a day are a norm here. Italian culinary tradition makes use of the abundance of excellent native ingredients to produce a cuisine that is world famous, and indeed regarded by many as the best! What better experience than a pizza in Napoli, a foccaccia in Liguria, a seafood pasta in a fishing village, or a gelato while strolling through Florence on a warm Spring evening.
The great artistic legacy of Italy is unequalled anywhere in the world. Not only do the major cities contain their world-famous museums, but even the smallest Italian towns contain and cherish some share of this fabulous art patrimony. Many of these towns are World Heritage Sites, so beautiful and valuable are the works they contain. The artistic riches of Italy’s main cities need no advertisement – one has to think only of Florence’s Uffizi gallery, the Doges Palace in Venice, the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, as well as the piazza of St. Peters in the Vatican City or San Marco in Venice, and the towers of San Gimignano and Siena in Tuscany.
The currency in Italy is the euro (€).
VAT and Tax Refunds
According to Italian law, based on the European Union provisions, as a non-resident visitor you can claim a refund for goods and services tax paid in Italy. You can be granted VAT refund or relief provided that:
* the foreign buyer is a non – EU resident traveler;
* the goods are intended for personal or familiar use and are personally carried in the baggage;
* the overall value of goods exceeds €154.94 (VAT included);
* the purchase is certified by an invoice containing the description of goods, the personal data of the traveler as well as the particulars of his passport;
The goods purchased and the relevant invoice must be shown at the Customs upon exit from Italy. The traveller must then post to the Italian shop/sales outlet the original invoice endorsed by the Customs office, within four months of issuance of the invoice. The refund is made directly by the Italian seller according to the terms agreed with the buyer when the goods were purchased (for example, by credit into a bank account, credit card, cheque, etc.).
Increasingly, there are some TAX-FREE companies that can grant an immediate VAT cash refund when the goods leave Italian territory, i.e. without the traveler needing to return the invoice to the seller. One should watch for the TAX-FREE sign at point of purchase, and be aware that there is a small charge for using this service.
Opening hours extend from 9.30 am to 7.30 pm in all the major towns, with many closing for lunch between 1.30 and 3.30 pm. In the larger towns many shops will stay open during lunch hour. In the South of Italy, shops may stay open until later in the evening, and remain closed for a longer period at lunchtime. Shops are closed on Sundays in Italy, although this may vary according to season. Banks in Italy are open Monday through Friday from 8.30 am to 1.30 pm and from 3.00 – 4.00 pm. In many tourist areas they are open continuously from 8.30 am to 4.00 pm.
The electrical current in Italy is 200 volts, 50 cycles AC. Plugs are of the continental type, with two round prongs. American appliances require a transformer and a plug adapter for use in Italy.