These general tips apply to wherever you may travel to in Italy including Umbria.
Etiquette – Not all places allow picture taking. Museums, especially, often retain sole rights to photograph their works. Flash photography is especially frowned upon as being disruptive.
Many churches and museums require appropriate dress and in fact have guards on the door who will turn you away if you do not follow their rules. Very short shorts, miniskirts and sleeveless tops will often mean you are not allowed in. Carry a long sleeved blouse or light sweater with you to use if needed. It is generally considered rude to walk around town in bikinis, beach attire, short shorts, and skimpy outfits. These items are made for the beaches so are best left there.
Returning or exchanging an item, even if it is flawed is uncommon in Italian stores. It is also usually frowned upon to pull clothing items off of store shelves to look them over unless you are shopping in a large department store. Instead, ask the store clerk for your size and choice of color and they will find it for you. As well, most produce stores and market stands frown on you touching the fruit and vegetables and expect to do this for you.
Italian Currency And Spending In Italy- Italy now uses the euro instead of the lira as currency. It is usually possible to use local ATM’s to withdraw cash from your bank back home if needed. Carry only enough cash on your person to last a couple of days, and carry it in a small purse or fanny pack against your body. There are many pickpockets who frequent the larger cities across Italy.
To check the daily currency exchange between the EURO and your country click here!
Visa still seems to be the most widely accepted credit card. Do keep a photocopy of your credit cards and passport in a safe place separate from the originals.
Electrical Appliances – Italy is 220v compared to 125v in North America. You can purchase inexpensive adapters in electrical stores back home before you arrive to use in Italy if needed. Many of the newer appliances, hair dryers, camcorders, etc. will also accept the higher voltage. Please refer to your owners manual to ensure that they are “dual-voltage”. Even if it is compatible, you will need a small adapter plug to ensure that the prongs fit into an Italian outlet. These adaptors can also be bought at most major airports.
Dining Out – If you are looking for really good Italian cuisine, avoid restaurants that advertise tourist menus. These all inclusive meals are often poor imitations of good Italian cuisine. Instead, watch where the locals go to eat, and follow them! Lunch is usually served from 12:30 to 3, and dinner from 8 until about 10:30 or 11, but some restaurants stay open later, especially in summer, when patrons linger at sidewalk tables. Italians usually take their food as it is listed on the menus, seldom making special requests, and it is usually considered rude to request a “doggy bag”.
Cappuccino and a brioche, or cornetto is the standard Breakfast in Italy, and a cappuccino is considered a breakfast drink and is not ordered after noon.
Tipping is usually done with cash, and although service or servizio is included in the bill, a small tip is always appreciated if the service was good.
Nice sit-down restaurants usually expect you to order two courses, not counting dessert. If you are wanting a light meal, or a simple plate of pasta, go to a pizzeria instead.
Although Italians love children and are generally very tolerant and patient with them, they provide few amenities for them. In restaurants and trattorias you may find a high chair or a cushion for the child to sit on, but rarely do they offer a children’s menu. Order a mezza porzione (half-portion) of any dish, or ask the waiter for a porzione da bambino (child’s portion).
Driving In Italy - You will need to rent a car to travel much of the Umbrian countryside, and in Italy you must be 21 to rent an economy or subcompact car, and most rental companies require that those under 23 pay by credit card when picking the car up. If are interested in choosing a larger car, you may be required to show two credit cards.
Expressways in Italy are free, but travel on the autostradas or highways require payment of a toll. Upon entering a toll highway, you first take a ticket, and depending on where you exit the highway will determine the price you pay.
Parking spaces are often at a premium in crowded Italian cities. Fines for violations are high and strictly enforced. Towing is common. As a result, it is best to leave your car in a guarded parking area.
Driving is on the right. Right turns on red lights are illegal. Headlights are mandatory when driving on all roads outside city limits. Seatbelts and children’s car seats are now compulsory in Italy. Using a cell phone while driving is also illegal.
Italian traffic police can charge on the spot-fees for infractions, so be prepared to pay. Penalties for drinking and driving are especially harsh, and the blood-alcohol in Italy is much stricter than in the United States.
Miscellaneous Info – Avoid the intense heat and crush of summer tourists if at all possible by going to Italy early spring or in the fall. Most cities empty out in August when the locals flee for their vacations, so if you can’t avoid summer travel, do try and avoid being there the last two weeks in August.
Heading to Umbria and are not sure what to pack? This site is a great one to determine usual month by month weather trends in Umbria. Weather In Umbria
See a doctor and dentist before your trip, and carry both enough prescriptions to last your entire trip, as well as a list of your prescriptions if your medication were lost, or if you became ill.
English books and magazines are very expensive in Italy. If you expect to need some reading material for your trip, pack a few light paperbacks in your suitcase.
Italian Holidays – When planning your trip to Italy, it is best to be aware of the following holidays.
Jan 1 New Year’s Day
Jan 6 Epiphany
Mar 19 Feast of St. Joseph (Festa dei’ Papa’) or Father’s Day
Varies Easter Monday
Apr 25 Liberation Day
May 1 Labor Day
Varies Mother’s Day
Aug 15 Feast of the Assumption (or Ferragosto which can last two weeks)
Nov 1 All Saints (Ognissanti)
Dec 8 Feast of the Immaculate Conception
Dec 25 Christmas
Dec 26 St. Stephen’s Day