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Survival Guide

Getting to Italy

Arriving by Air

A plethora of arilines link Italy with the rest of the world. Italy's main intercontinental gateways are Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport (Fiumicino - www.adr.it) and Milan's Malpensa airport (www.seamilano.eu). Both are served by nonstop flights from around the world.

From North America, nonstop flights to Rome originate in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Montreal and Toronto, while in South America, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, San Paulo, Caracas offer direct service. Regular direct flights link Rome (and often Milan) with Asian and Middle Eastern capitals including Bangkok, Dubai, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Beijing and Tokyop. If you're flying from Africa or the South Pacific, you'll generally need to change planes at least once en route to Italy.

Intra-European flights serve plenty of other Italian cities; the leading main-stream carriers include Alitalia, Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa and KLM.

Cut-rate airlines, led by Ryanair and EasyJet, fly from a growing number of European cities to over two dozen Italian destinations, typically landing in smaller airports such as Rome's Ciampino (www.adr.it).

Dozen of International airlines compete with the country's national carrier, Alitalia. The most active are listed here:

Alitalia ( www.alitalia.com )
Ryanair ( www.ryanair.com )
EasyJet ( www.easyjet.com )
Air Canada ( www.aircanada.com )
Air France ( www.airfrance.com )
American Airlines ( www.aa.com )
British Airways ( www.britishairways.com )
Continental ( www.continental.com )
Delta ( www.delta.com )
KLM ( www.klm.com )
Lufthansa ( www.lufthansa.com )
Meridiana ( www.meridiana.com )
Qantas ( www.qantas.com )
Singapore Airlines ( www.singaporeair.com )
TAM ( www.tam.com.br )
Thai Airways ( www.thaiairways.com )

One of the best websites for comparing inexpensive flights is www.skyscanner.net


From & to Italy airports

Fiumicino airport - Trains, Leonardo Express & Buses: every 30 minutes, 6am to 11pm. Night Bus: hourly, 12.30am to 5am. Taxi: €50 set fare - 45 minutes.

Malpensa airport - Malpensa Express & Shuttle: every 30 minutes, 5am to 10.30pm. Night Bus: limited services, 11pm to 5am. Taxi: €79 set fare - 50 minutes.


Border Crossings

Aside from the coast roads linking Italy with France and Slovenia, border crossings into Italy mostly involve tunnels through the Alps (open year-round) or mountain passes (seasonally closed or requiring snow chains).

The list below outlines the major points of entry:

Austria - From Innsbruck to Bolzano via A22/E45 (Brenner Pass); Villach to Tarvisio via A23/E55.
France - From Nice to Ventimiglia via A10/E80; Modane to Turin via A32/E70 (Fréjus Tunnel); Chamonix to Courmayeur via A5/E25 (Mont Blanc Tunnel).
Slovenia - From Sezana to Trieste via SS58/E70.
Switzerland - From Martigny to Aosta via SS27/E27 (Grand St Bernard Tunnel); Lugano to Como via A9/E35.


Travel by Coach

Buses are the cheapest over-land option to Italy, but services are less frequent, less comfortable and significantly slower than the train. Eurolines (www.eurolines.com) is a consortium of coach companies with offices throughout Europe. Italy-bound buses head to Milan, Rome, Florence, Siena, Venice and other Italian cities.

Eurolines offers a low-season bus pass (www.eurolines-pass.com) valid for 15/30 days. This pass allows unlimited travel between 40 European cities, including Milan, Venice, Florence, Siena and Rome. Fares increase in mid-summer.


Travel by Car & Motorcycle

When driving in Europe, always carry proof of vehicle ownership and evidence of third-party insurance. If driving an EU-registered vehicle, your home country insurance is sufficient. Ask your insurer for a European Accident Statement (EAS) form, which can simplify matters in the event of an accident. Every vehicle travelling across an international border should display a nationality plate of its country of registration.

A European breakdown assistance policy is a good investment and can be obtain through the Automobile Club d'Italia.

Italy's scenic road are tailor-made for motorcycle touring, and motorcyclists swarm into thr country every summer. With a motorcycle you rarely have to book ahead for ferries and can enter restricted-traffic areas in cities. Crash helmets and motorcycle licence are compulsory.


Travel by Train

Regular trains on two western lines connect Italy with France (one along the coast and the other from Turin into French Alps). Trains from Milan head north into Switzerland and on towards the Benelux countries. Further east, two main cities in Central and Eastern Europe. Those crossing the Brenner Pass go to Innsbruck, Stuttgart and Munich. Those crossing at Tarvisio proceed to Vienna, Salzburg and Prague. The main international train line to Slovenia crosses near Trieste.

Depending on distances covered, rail can be highly competitive with air travel. Those travelling from neighbouring countries to northen Italy will find it is frequently more comfortable, less expensive and only marginally more tome-consuming than flying.

Those travelling longer distances (say, from London, Spain, northen Germany or Eastern Europe) will doubtless find flying cheaper and quicker. Bear in mind, however, that the train is much greener way to go - the same trip by rail can contribute up to 10 times less carbon dioxide emissions per person than by air.

Reservations on international trains to/from Italy are always advisable, and sometimes compulsary. Some international services include transport for private cars. Consider taking long journeys overnight, as the supplemental fare for a sleeper costs substantially less than Italian hotels.


Travel by Boat

Multiple ferry companies connect Italy with countries throughout the Mediterranean. Many routes only operate in summer, when ticket prices also rise. Prices for vehicles very according to their size.

The helpfull website www.traghettionline.com (in italian) covers all ferry companies in the Mediterranean.


Getting Around Italy

Italy's network of train, bus, ferry and domestic air transport allows you to reach most destinations efficiently and relatively affordably.

With your own vehicle, you'll enjoy greater freedom, but benzina (petrol) and autostrada (motorway) tolls are expensive.

By Air

The privatised national airline, Alitalia is the main domestic carrier. Its many cut-rate competitors within Italy include:

Meridiana ( www.meridiana.com )
Air One ( www.flyairone.com )
Ryanair ( www.ryanair.com )
EasyJet ( www.easyjet.com )


By Car or Train?

By train or by car? Each has pros and cons. Public transportation (trains and buses) is one of the few bargains in Italy. Trains give you the convenience and economy of doing long stretches overnight. By train, you arrive relaxed and wellrested - not so by car.

Cars are best for three or more traveling together (especially families with small kids), those packing heavy, and those scouring the countryside. Trains and buses are best for solo travelers, blitz tourist, and city-to-city travelers; those with an ambitiuos, multicountry itinerary; and those who don't want to drive.

While a car gives you more freedom - enabling you to search for hotels more easily and carrying your bags for you - trains and buses zip you scenically from city to city, usually dropping you in the center, often near a TI.

Considering how handy and affordable Italy's trains and buses are (and that you're likely to go both broke and crazy driving in Italian cities), I'd do most of Italy by public transportation. If you want to drive, consider doing the big, intense stuff (Rome, Naples area, Milan, Florence and Venice) by train or bus and renting a car for the hill towns of central Italy and for the Dolomites. A car is a worthless headache on the Riviera and in the Lake Como area.


Train

Trains in Italy are relatively cheaper compared with other European countries, and the better train categories are fast and comfortable. Don't forget your train tickets before board or pay a penality on the train.

There are several types of trains:

Regionale or interregionale trains stops at all or most stations.
InterCity ( IC ) trains, and their international counterparts known as Eurocity (EC), are faster services that operate between major cities.
Eurostar including Alta Velocità (High Speed) trains capable of reaching speeds of 250km to 300km per hour and variously known as Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, AV.

High Speed rail in Italy consists of two lines connecting most of the country's major cities. The first line connects Milan to Salerno via Bologna, Florence, Rome and Naples, the second runs from Turin to Venice via Milan. The AV (Alta Velocità trains) cost almost twice as much as traditional Intercity express trains, but get you to your destination nearly twice as fast.

Classes & Costs:

Prices vary according to the class of services, time of travel and how far in advance you book. Most Italian trains have 1st and 2nd class seating; a 1st class tickets typically costs from a third to half more than the 2nd class ticket.

Travel on InterCity, Eurostar and Alta Velocità trains means paying a supplement, determined by the distance you are travelling and included in the ticket price. If you have a standard ticket for a lower train and end up hopping on an IC train, you'll have to pay the difference on board. (You can only board a Eurostar or Alta Velocità train if you have a booking, so the problem does not arise in those cases.)

Reservations:

Reservations are obligatory on Eurostar and Alta Velocità trains. Otherwise they're not and, outside of peak holiday period, you should be fine without them. You can make reservations at railway station counters, travel agents and, when they haven't broken dow, at the automated machines sprinkled around most stations. Reservations carry a small extra fee.


Driving in Italy

Italy boasts an extensive privatised network of autostrades, represented on raod signs by a white "A" followed by a number on a green background. The main north-south link is the Autostrada del Sole (the Motorway of the Sun), which extends from Milan to Reggio Calabria (called the A1 from Milan to Rome, the A2 from Rome to Naples, and A3 from Naples to Reggio Calabria).

There are tolls on most motorways, payable by cash or credit card as you exit. For information in English about distances, driving times and fuel costs, see en.mappy.com. Additional information in Italian, including traffic conditions and toll costs, is available at www.autostarde.it.

There are several additional road categories, listed here in descending order of importance:

Strade statali (state high-ways) Represented on maps by S or SS. Vary from toll-free, four-lane highways to two-lane main roads. The latter can be extremely slow, especially in mountainous regions.
Strade regionali (regional highways connecting small villages) Coded Sr or R.
Strade provinciali (provincial highways) Coded Sp or P.
Strade locali Often not even paved or mapped.

Automobile Associations:

The Automobile Club d'Italia (ACI; www.aci.it) is a driver's best resource in Italy. For 24-hours roadside emergency service, dial +803116 from a landline or +800116800 from a mobile phone. Foreigners do not have to join but instead pay a perincident fee.

Driving Licences:

All EU member states's driving lincences are fully recognised throughout Europe. In practice, many non-EU licences (such as Australian, Canadian, New Zealand and USA licences) are accepted by car-hire outfits in Italy. Travellers from other countries should obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) through their national automobile association.

Fuel & Spare Parts:

Italy's petrol prices are among the highest in Europe and vary from one service station (benzinaio, stazione di servizio ) to another. Spare parts are available at many garage or via the 24-hours ACI motorist assistance number, +803116.


Renting a Car & Motorcycles

Pre-booking via Globe Trotter Travel always costs less than hiring a car in Italy. Renters must generally be aged 25 or over, with a credit card and home country driving licence or IDP. Consider hiring a small car, which will reduce your fuel expense and help you negotiate narrow city lanes and tight parking spaces.

Check with your credit card company to see if it offers a Collision Damage Waiver, which covers you for additional damage if you use that cards to pay for the car.

Agnecies throughout Italy rent motorbikers, ranging from small Vespas to larger touring bikes.


Road Rules

Cars drive on the right side of the road and overtake on the left. Unless otherwise indicated, you must always give way to cars entering an intersection from a road on your right. Seatbelt use (front and rear) is required by law; violators are subjest to an on-the-spot fine.

In the event of a breakdown, a warning triangle is compulsory, as is use of an approved yellow or orange safety vest if you leave your vehicle. Recommended accessories include a first-aid kit, spare-bulb kit and fire extinguisher.

Italy's blood-alcohol limit is 0.05%, and random breath tests take place. If you're involved in an accident while under the influence, the penalties can be severe.

Speeding fines follow EU standards and are proportionate with the number of kilometres that you are caught driving over the speed limit, reaching up to €2.000 with possible suspension of your driving licence.

Speed limits are as follows:

Autostradas: 130km/h to 150km/h
Other main highways: 110km/h
Minor, non-urban roads: 90km/h

Built-up areas: 50km/h. On all two-wheeled transport. helmets are required. The speed limit for mopeds is 40km/h. You don't need a licence to ride a scooter under 50cc but you should be aged 14 or over and you can't carry passengers or ride on an autostrada. To ride a motorcycle or scooter up to 125cc, you must be aged 16 or over and have a licence (a car licence will do). For motorcycle over 125cc you need a motorcycle licence. Do not venture onto the autostrada with a bike of less than 150cc.

Motorbikes can enter most restricted traffic areas in Italian cities, and traffic police generally turn a blind eye to motorcycle ro scooter parked on footpaths.

Headlights are compulsory day and night for all vehicles on the autostradas, and advisable for motorcycles even on smaller roads.


Getting around by ferry

Navi (large ferries) services Sicily and Sardinia, while traghetti (smaller ferries) and aliscafi (hydrofoils) service the smaller islands. Most ferries carry vehicles; hydrofoils do not.

The main embarkation points for Sicily and Sardinia are Genoa, Livorno, Civitavecchia and Naples. Ferries for Sicily als leave from Villa San Giovanni and Reggio Calabria. The main points of arrival in Sardinia are Cagliari, Arbatax, Olbia and Porto Torres; in Sicily there're Palermo, Catania, Trapani and Messina.

The comprehensive website www.traghettionline.com (in italian) includes links to multiple Italian ferry companies. On overnight ferries, travellers can book a two-to four-person cabin or a poltrona, which is an airline-type armchair. Deck class (which allows you to sit/sleep in lounge areas or on deck) is available only on some ferries.


By Bus

Numerous companies provide bus services in Italy, from meandering local routes to fast and reliable InterCity connections. Buses are usually priced competitively with the train and are often the only way to get to smaller towns.

It's usually possible to get bus timetables from local tourist offices. In larger cities most of the InterCity bus companies have ticket offices or sell tickets through agencies. In village and even some good-sized towns, tickets are sold in bars or on the bus.

Advance booking, while not generally required, is advisable for overnight or longhaul trips in high season.


Bicycle

Cycling is very popular in Italy. Bikes are prohibited on the autostrada, but there are few other special road rules.

If bringing your own bike, you'll need to disassemble and pack it for the journey, and may need to pay an arlines surcharge. Make sure to include tools, spare parts and for safety's sake, a helmet, lights and a secure bike lock.

Bikes can be wheeled onto any domestic train displaying the bicycle logo. Simply purchase a separate bicycle ticket, valid for 24 hours (€3.50). Certain international trains, listed on Trenitalia's "In treno con la bici" page, also allow transport of assembled bicycles for €12. Bikes dismantled and stored in a bag can be taken for free, even on night trains. Most ferries also allow free bicycle passage.


Local Transport

Major cities all have good transport systems, including bus and underground-train networks. In Venice, the vaporetto (small passenger ferries).

Bus & Underground Trains

Purchase bus and metro tickets before boarding and validate them once on board. Passengers with unvalidated tickets are subject to a fine (up to €50 in most cities).

There are extensive metropolitane (metros) in Rome, Milan, Naples and Turin, plus smaller metros in Genoa and Catania and the space-age Minimetrò in Perugia connecting the train station with the city centre. As this book went to press, Turin, Naples and Rome were all significantly expanding their metro system.

Every city or town of any size has an efficient urbano (urban) and extraurbano (suburban) system of buses. Services are generally limited on Sunday and holidays.

Tickets can be bought from tabaccaio (tobacco-nist's shops), newsstands, ticket booths or dispensing machines at bus stations and in metro stations, and usually cost around €1 to €1,50. Most cities offer good-value 24-hour or daily tourist tickets.


Taxi

You can catch a taxi at the ranks outside most train and bus stations, or simply telephone for a radio taxi. Note that radio taxi meters start running from when you've called rather than when you're picked up.

Charges vary somewhat from one region to another. Most short ciyu journeys cost between €10 and €15. Generally, no more than four people are allowed in one taxi.