Italian hospitals are public and offer completely free high-standard treatments for EU travellers, although, as anywhere else, you may have a long wait to be served. Emergency assistance is granted even to non-EU travelers. For non-emergency assistance, non-EU citizens are required to pay out-of-pocket, there is no convention with US health insurances although some insurance companies might later reimburse these expenses.
Water in southern Italy might come from desalination and sometimes may have a strange taste, due to extended droughts. If in doubt use bottled water. Elsewhere tap water is perfectly drinkable and very well maintained. Or else, a "NON POTABLE" warning is posted.
For emergencies, call 113 Polizia di Stato - State Police, 112 Carabinieri - Gendarmerie, 117 Guardia di Finanza - Financial police force, 115 Pompieri - Fire Department, 118 Medical Rescue, 1515 State Forestry Department, 1530 Coast Guard, 1528 Traffic reports.
Italy is a safe country to travel in like most developed countries. There are few incidents of terrorism/serious violence and these episodes have been almost exclusively motivated by internal politics. Examples include the 1993 bombing of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence by the Italian Mafia. Almost every major incident is attributed to organized crime or anarchist movements and rarely, if ever, directed at travelers or foreigners.
ElectricityItaly uses 220V, 50Hz. Italy has its own electrical plug design. The standard "European" two-prong plugs will fit, but grounded three-prong plugs from other countries will not. German-type "Schuko" sockets can also be found quite often, especially in the north, and you'll find adapters for that system in virtually all supermarkets. Adapters for other systems including US plugs are not that ubiquitous but can be found at airports or in specialised shops.
If you're using American appliances that were designed for standard US household 110V, 60Hz current, make sure you get a voltage adaptor, not just a plug adaptor. The higher voltage will damage or destroy your appliance, and could injure or kill you as well.
Power surges and power failures are virtually unknown in Italy, even less so than in the States; the energy, water and gas systems are state-run and very well equipped and maintained since even before WW2; the electrical system is fully updated to the latest tech specs and every household is required to comply when renovating. That includes the remote villages in the South, too.
Both the fixed and mobile phone systems are available throughout Italy.Telephone numbers of the fixed system used to have separate prefixes area codes and a local number. In the 1990s the numbers were unified and nowadays, when calling Italian phones you should always dial the full number. For example you start numbers for Rome with 06 even if you are calling from Rome. All land line numbers start with 0. Mobile numbers start with 3. Numbers starting with 89 are high-fee services. If you don't know somebody's phone number you can dial a variety of recently-established phone services, the most used being 1240, 892424, 892892, but most of them have high fees.
To call abroad from Italy you have to dial 00 + country code + local part where the syntax of the local part depends on the country called.
To call Italy from abroad you have to dial international prefix + 39 + local part.Note that, unlike calls to most countries, you should not skip the starting zero of the local part if you are calling an Italian land line.
In case of emergency call the appropriate number from the list below. Such calls are usually free and calls to 112, 113, 115, 118 can be made from payphones for free without the need of inserting coins. 112 standard emergency number in GSM specification can be dialed in any case for free from any mobile phone even if your credit is empty or if you are in an area covered by a different operator
112 Carabinieri emergency number - general emergency
113 Police emergency number - general emergency
114 Blue Phone emergency number - children-related emergency especially various forms of violence
115 Fire Brigade emergency number
117 Guardia di Finanza - for customs, commercial and tax issues
118 Health emergency number - use this if you need an ambulance, otherwise ask for the local Guardia Medica number and they'll send you a doctor.
1515 State Forestry Department
1518 Traffic Information
1530 Coast Guard
803116 A.C.I. Italian Automobile ClubThis provides assistance if your car breaks down if you have a rented car then call the number they provide, This is a service provided to subscribers to ACI or to other Automobile Clubs associated to ARC Europe. If you're not associated to any of them you'll be asked to pay a fee approx. â¬80.
Always carry with you a note about the address and the number of your embassy.
If you are in an emergency and do not know who to call dial 112 or 113 out of major towns, better to call 113 for English-speaking operators.
Payphones are widely available, especially in stations and airports. However, the number of payphones has consistently been reduced after the introduction of mobile phones. Some payphones work with coins only, some with phone cards only and some with both coins and phone cards. Only a limited number of phones just a few in main airports directly accept credit cards.
Italians use mobile phones extensively, some might say excessively. The main networks are TIM Telecom Italia Mobile, part of Telecom Italia, formerly state controlled, Vodafone, Wind, and 3 only UMTS cellphones. Note that cellphones from North America will not work in Italy unless they are Tri-band. Nearly all of the country has GSM, GPRS and UMTS/HDSPA coverage. If you arrive from abroad and intend making a lot of calls, buy a pay-as-you-go SIM card termed prepagato for "prepaid" and ricaricabile for "rechargeable" and put it in your current mobile if compatible and if your mobile set is not locked. You need to provide a valid form of identification, such as a passport or other official identity, to be able to purchase the SIM card. Unless you already have one, you will also be required to obtain a Codice Fiscale a tax number - the vendor may generate one for you from your form of identification. Subscription-based mobile telephony accounts are subject to a government tax, to which prepaid SIM cards are not subject. Sometimes hotels have mobile phones for customer to borrow or rent.
Call costs vary greatly depending on when, where, from and where to. Each provider offers an array of complex tariffs and it is near impossible to make reliable cost estimates. The cost of calls differs considerably if you call a fixed-line phone or a mobile phone. Usually there is a difference in cost even for incoming calls from abroad. If you can choose, calling the other party's land line could be even 40% cheaper than mobile. Many companies are shifting their customer service numbers to fixed-rate number prefix 199. These numbers are at the local rate, no matter where are you calling from.
According to national regulations, hotels cannot apply a surcharge on calls made from the hotel as the switchboard service should be already included as a service paid in the room cost, but to be sure check it before you use.
Calls between landlines are charged at either the local rate or the national rate depending on the originating and destination area codes; if both are the same then the call will be local rate. Note that local calls are not free.
By law all public-access internet points must keep records of web sites viewed by customers, and even the customer's ID: expect to be refused access if you don't provide identification. Hotels providing Internet access are not required to record IDs if the connection is provided in the guest's room, although if the connection is offered in the main public hall then IDs are required.
Publicly available wireless access is forbidden unless the provider has a special government license. This has caused only major phone companies to be able to afford that, so wireless access is generally expensive.
respect, meet and greet
Italy has a reputation for being warm and welcoming and Italians are uncommonly friendly and laid back, as well as very used to interacting with foreigners. If you are polite and civil you should have no problems, but don't expect that the average Italian speaks or even understands English except for young people. Also, it is not typical in Italy for people to introduce themselves to newcomers: you will have to introduce yourself to others. It is not rude: simply isn't customary, just like the habit of keep on talking Italian even if the foreign guest does not understand. Don't assume the other understands English by saying "English please!".
Italians greet friends with two light kisses on the cheek. Males do, too. To avoid ending up kissing on the lips note that you first move to the right i.e. kiss the other person on their left cheek and then to the left. Even if you're merely acquaintances, this form of greeting is usual, both on arrival and departure. When groups are splitting up, expect big delays as everyone kisses everyone else. On first introduction a handshake is usual, although not necessarily the firm businesslike shake other nationalities may be used to. In general, when joining or leaving a group, you will shake hands individually with or kiss, depending on the level of familiarity each member of the group. In the South, it is considered bad luck for four people to shake hands two and two at the same time, forming a cross. You will see Italians, especially older ones, pull back from a handshake and wait to shake your hand until the other handshake is finished, to avoid this.
If your cultural reserve makes you feel uncomfortable with this, don't worry too much. The British in particular have a reputation for being reserved, so you can always play up to this expectation, and Italians will understand you don't mean to be rude. Handshakes are also accepted greetings, and some Italians will kiss compatriots and offer their hand to the awkward Brit.
To make friends, it's a good idea to pay some compliments. Most Italians still live in their town of origin and feel far more strongly about their local area than they do about Italy in general. Tell them how beautiful their town/lake/village/church is - and possibly add how much you prefer it to Rome/Milan/other Italian towns. Residents can be fonts of knowledge regarding their local monuments and history, and a few questions will often produce interesting stories.