Italy is located in southern Europe and comprises the long, boot-shaped Italian Peninsula, the land between the peninsula and the Alps, and a number of islands including Sicily and Sardinia. Its total land area is 294,020 km². Italy shares its borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, San Marino and the Vatican City. Its coastline stretches for 7,600 km along the Adriatic, Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas. Italy is a mountainous country, with the Alps as the northern boundary and the Apennine Mountains forming the backbone of the peninsula. In between the two lies a large plain in the valley of the Po, the largest river in Italy, which flows 652 km (405 miles) eastward from the Cottian Alps to the Adriatic. In the north of the country are a number of subalpine lakes, the largest of which is Garda (370 km², 143 sq miles). Several islands form part of Italy. The largest are Sicily (25,708 km², 9,926 square miles) and Sardinia (24,090 km², 9,301 sq miles). There are also a few active volcanoes: Etna, located on Sicily, is the largest active volcano in Europe and Vesuvius, is the only active volcano on the mainland of Europe.
Electric Supply and Plugs
Electricity in Italy is 220 volts and 50AC. They use the European round 2 pin plug.
The time in Italy is GMT + 1 hour and GMT + 2 hours in summer time.
The official language of Italy is Italian. In Sicily, Sicilian is also spoken, a dialect of Italian which is sufficiently distinct to be considered a separate language. Both Italian and Sicilian are so-called 'Romance languages' and have their roots in Latin. Your attempts to speak the local language will be well appreciated. Take a pocket phrase book such and learn some common greetings and phrases before you go.
Italy has a largely temperate climate with regional variations. In summer the Northern parts of Italy are warm with occasional rainfall, the central region is somewhat stifled by humidity and the south scorches under the dry heat. Most people visit Italy between June and August, however the best time to visit is in Spring (April-May) and Autumn (September-October) when the weather is good and the tourists are few. The sea is warm enough for swimming between June and September. In winter, conditions in Milan, Turin and Venice are dominated by cold, damp and fog and Tuscany's winter temperatures approach freezing, while temperatures in the south of the country are more favorable averaging 50-60°F (10-20°C). The ski season runs between December and April and the best time to walk in the Alps is between June and September.
The unit of currency in Italy is the Euro. For up to date exchange rates visit: www.xe.com. You should take some euros with you on your holiday to Italy. These are readily available at most banks. If you run out of euros, dollars and sterling can easily be exchanged once you are in Italy, although not every bank will provide this service. Credit and debit cards can be used widely and you will also be able to obtain currency at cash machines (ATM's) in the usual way.
You will need a valid passport. Nationals of the EU, the USA, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia do not require visas to visit Italy as tourists for up to a three month visit. Nationals of other countries should check the visa requirement with the relevant embassy in their own countries.
You should attend your own doctor and dentist for a check-up. No special vaccinations are required. Before travelling UK residents should obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The EHIC is normally valid for three to five years and covers any medical treatment that becomes necessary during your trip, because of either illness or an accident. The card gives access to state-provided medical treatment only, and you'll be treated on the same basis as an 'insured' person living in the country you're visiting. Remember, this might not cover all the things you'd expect to get free of charge from the NHS in the UK. You may have to make a contribution to the cost of your care. You can obtain an EHIC from the Department of Health by phone, online, or at the post office.
Additional Sources of Information
Lonely Planet Italy
Rough Guide to Italy
Walking in Italy. Lonely Planet Walking Guides
The Central Apennines of Italy - Walks, Scrambles and Climbs. Cicerone press. Stephen Fox
Walking in the Central Italian Alps. Cicerone Press. Gillian Price
Walking in Sicily: Short and Long-distance Walks (Cicerone Guide)
Lonely Planet Sicily
The Rough Guide to Sicily
Sicilia. Michelin Regional Map. 1:400,000
Lonely Planet - www.lonelyplanet.com
Rough Guides - www.roughguides.com