A cyclone and heavy rains have affected the Italian island of Sardinia. The worst-hit area is the north-eastern city of Olbia. The storm caused extensive damage to farms in Sardinia and disrupted a number of flights to and from mainland Italy.
The unstable conditions are expected move across Italy and further east, bringing further downpours and the threat of flooding, particularly in Venice.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are not aware of any involvement of Irish citizens at this time. If you are concerned about an Irish citizen in Sardinia contact the Department on 01 4780822.
The Department of Foreign Affairs strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before travelling to Italy. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.
Irish Citizens should note that the Irish Government does not provide funds for emergency medical repatriation or for repatriation of remains.
Irish citizens do not require a visa to enter Italy. However, you do require your passport, valid for the duration of your stay in Italy.
TRAVELLING WITH CHILDREN
Single parents and those travelling with a child but without one (or both) of the child’s parents may be asked for proof that both parents have given their consent for the child to travel. For further information as to what is required, please contact the Italian Embassy in Ireland.
Under Italian law, you are required to carry photographic ID with you at all times.
You should obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before travelling to Italy. The EHIC card has replaced all old European Health forms, such as the E111. Application forms can be downloaded at www.ehic.ie or by picked up at your local Health Office, Community Care office or Health Centre.
The EHIC will only cover essential emergency treatment (i.e. any medical treatment that becomes necessary because of either illness or an accident.). This is not a substitute for travel insurance.
As an EU citizen you are entitled, upon presentation of your EU Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to be visited by a doctor for a small sum. In case of emergencies, you can go to any Pronto Soccorso (Accident and Emergency Room) free of charge. If the hospital believes that it wasn’t a real emergency, it may charge a small fee. The card gives access to state-provided medical treatment only and treatment is on the same basis as an 'insured' person living in the country being visited. The EHIC also covers treatment needed for a chronic disease or pre-existing illness. Arrangements need to be made in advance for kidney dialysis or oxygen therapy. The EHIC will not cover a person if the main purpose of their trip is to get medical treatment. An EHIC is normally valid for three to five years and is free of charge. See www.ehic.ie for further details.
Cases of Chikungunya Fever, a viral infection carried by mosquitoes, have been reported in recent years around Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna Region of eastern Italy. The clinical features include high fever, headache, myalgia and arthralgia, rash and occasionally, gastrointestinal symptoms. Travellers are advised to take sensible precautions against mosquito bites. Further information on Chikungunya Fever can be found on the website of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre: http://www.ndsc.ie/hpsc/A-Z/Vectorborne/ChikungunyaFever
Cases of H1N1 (Swine Flu) have been reported in Italy. The Ministry of Health has created a website which provides information and advice on the H1N1 virus: http://www.fermailvirus.it/. You can also contact the public information hotline on 1500, Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm.
If you fall ill whilst in Italy and require further advice on how to access healthcare, please contact the Embassy.
Many parts of Italy lie on a major seismic fault line. Minor tremors and earthquakes are almost a daily occurrence.
L'Aquila, in the Abruzzo Region (58 Kilometres north east of Rome) was hit by an earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale in April 2009. Further tremors in that area cannot be ruled out.
Earthquakes measuring between 5 and 6 on the Richter scale hit the Emilia region of Italy in May of 2012 and quakes and aftershocks continued over the following months. There was significant damage to popular tourist destinations including Modena, Mantova and other cities in the Ferrara province. Some buildings are still considered unsafe and there has been extensive damage to infrastructure.
Visitors to Venice should note that parts of Venice are liable to flooding at certain times of year, especially in late autumn and early spring.
Sardinia suffered from wildfires during summer 2009 which are now under control.
SAFETY & SECURITY
Public demonstrations are a relatively frequent occurrence in Italy, especially in the centres of major cities where tourists are likely to find themselves. They are usually well organised and rarely if ever turn violent. However, travellers should exercise common sense if in the vicinity of large public gatherings.
Threat of Terrorism
As in other parts of the European Union, the Italian government is fully aware of the threat of terrorism and is taking measures to combat this threat. In general there is a strong police presence at the major tourist sites, train stations etc.
Incidents of violent crime against tourists in Italy are rare. However travellers should be aware that petty crime (pick pocketing, bag snatching etc) is common, particularly on public transport and in tourist areas. Vigilance should be paid to personal belongings in train stations (particularly Termini Station in Rome) in the public areas of the airports, at all tourist sites and when using bus, metro or tram services, including when unloading baggage from coaches travelling to and from the airports. Pickpockets generally ply their trade on crowded buses in popular tourist areas (especially the No 64 bus which serves St Peters’ Basilica in Rome) , as well as on the street. Thieves often work in a team, with one or more distracting the victim as others commit the crime. It is common for the distraction to be children posing as beggars and asking for money.
Keep all valuables safe, secure and out of sight. Take sensible precautions such as wearing hand- and shoulder-bags with the strap across the shoulder and locking valuables in hotel safes when not required. Usual personal safety rules should be applied when walking in cities at night.
Travellers are advised to carry just one credit card and a small amount of cash. Other money and credit cards should be left in a secure place such as a hotel safe. Leave copies of your passport, travel and insurance details with family or friends in Ireland. You may also want to keep a record of the details in your e-mail account, but check that your account is absolutely secure before you do this.
The Embassy has been made aware of an increasing number of incidents recently where travellers have been drugged through substances being placed in drinks, and subsequently robbed of money, credit cards and mobile telephones. Travellers are advised to exercise vigilance in bars, and be wary of drinks offered by strangers in night spots and areas where tourists congregate in the evenings.
Theft from vehicles is common. Drivers should keep doors locked, windows rolled up and valuables out of sight both whilst driving and when parked.
Illegal traders operate in many of the major cities in Italy. You are advised not to purchase items from these traders; if you do so, you may be fined by the local police.
The Emergency Number for the Police is:
113 or 112
The Emergency Number for the Ambulance Service: 118
As in Ireland, the Euro is the currency of Italy. Irish ATM cards displaying the Maestro and Cirrus symbols can usually be used easily in ATMs displaying those and/or the EC symbol; please check with your bank for further information. When using ATM machines, take the usual precautions, such as checking that the machine has not been interfered with before use and hiding your PIN number from others as you enter it into the machine. Credit Cards can usually be used in ATMs also, though costs may be substantially higher and can involve interest charges. You may find that the use of credit cards is not as extensive in Italy as it is in Ireland. Therefore do not be surprised if some shops and services do not accept credit cards, and where you intend to pay for a meal by credit card it is prudent to check if your credit card/card type can be accepted before ordering.
LOCAL LAWS & CUSTOMS
Consumption of Alcohol
Visitors to Italy should be aware that alcoholic spirits are usually sold in significantly larger measures in bars and restaurants than in Ireland. Whilst Italians will normally drink wine with their meals, there is a cultural taboo and intolerance regarding public intoxication and in particular anti-social behaviour as a result of excessive alcohol consumption.
The Italian authorities take the possession of illegal drugs in any quantity extremely seriously and such activity may result in imprisonment.
In cities such as Florence and Venice, you should observe notices regarding public conduct. In certain areas, near churches and in some piazzas, eating and sitting on steps or monuments is forbidden. Churches and other places of worship, including St Peters’ Basilica, require visitors to dress modestly.
Marriages in Italy
All Irish citizens wishing to marry in Italy must obtain a nulla osta (a certificate of freedom to marry). More information on how to apply is available here.
Taxis in Italy are licensed, with clearly marked signage. They run on a meter, and a list of supplementary charges (late hours, luggage etc) will be listed inside. Air- and seaports often attract unlicensed drivers posing as taxis, which should be avoided as they will generally overcharge tourists. It is therefore recommended that only official taxis be hired.
Please be aware that when you call for a taxi, the meter starts running the minute the taxi is dispatched to your location. So, for example, if the taxi dispatcher or recording tells you that “Taxi X” is arriving in 5 minutes, you should know that there will be 5 minutes’ worth of fare on the meter when it arrives.
For your safety, never get into a taxi when the driver is already
accompanied or agree to the driver picking up another person.
Major cities also have a number of chauffeur companies, which often offer transfer from the airport to the centre and vice versa at competitive prices. Ask at your hotel for further details.
The local Roman authorities have set a flat fare of €30 for journeys to and from Ciampino airport and the centre of Rome (within the Aurelian Walls) and €40 for journeys to and from Fumincino airport and the centre of Rome (within the Aurelian Walls). Before travelling to Rome, check whether your hotel is located in area covered by this agreement. No further charges should be made for luggage, extra passengers etc.
Buses, trains, trams and the metro all require valid tickets. These must be purchased in advance and validated in a validating machine either in the station or on the bus/tram. Failure to have a valid ticket will result in an on-the-spot fine of around €50 to €60 per person. Inspectors will make no exceptions for tourists.
Tickets can often be purchased in small cafés, especially those which also sell cigarettes (look out for the blue T sign which signifies Tabaccheria (Tobacco shop).
Public Transport strikes occur relatively frequently in Italy, with reduced services or complete suspension. They are generally advertised in advance, and tourists should keep informed of possible strikes and how these may impact on their plans.
You must hold a full driving licence to drive in Italy. Ensure that you have a valid Irish or international licence. If driving an Irish registered car, ensure that it is fully insured and that you carry your logbook, proof of insurance and NCT certificate (if appropriate). If you rent a car, you should also carry your rental contract at all times. If you are driving a car belonging to someone else, you may be asked to present written permission from the owner.
Caution and vigilance should be exercised when driving abroad. Traffic can be faster-paced than in Ireland and driving customs are different. In cities and towns, the widespread use of motorbikes and mopeds require drivers to be extra alert and cautious.
It is important to note that when turning right at junctions, even if there is a green signal, pedestrians crossing the road into which one is turning have precedence. All drivers are required to wear a reflective vest and to use a reflective triangle warning sign if they need to stop at the roadside. Dipped headlights must be used at all times when driving on the motorways (Autostrada) and major roads
Drive within the speed limit and do not drink and drive. The blood alcohol limit is 0.5 grams per litre. As in Ireland, there are severe penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol. Driving violations can lead to heavy on-the-spot fines, imprisonment or immediate confiscation of your driving licence.
Restricted Access to Italian City Centres
Many Italian city centres operate restricted driving zones to which only cars with permits have access. Fines will be issued to all cars entering this zone without a permit. The boundaries of such restricted areas will be marked by signs stating “ZTL” (Zona Traffico Limitato / Limited Traffic Zone). As signage can be limited, it may not always be clear if a restricted zone is in operation. In addition, car license plates are read electronically so you may not be aware that you have incurred a fine until you receive notification via post some months later. Tourists are advised to seek local advice on whether restricted traffic zones are in operation, and to respect all regulations. If your hotel is in the centre of the city concerned, you may be able to obtain a temporary pass for that city; please contact your hotel for further details.
Fines for road traffic offences
Fines may be issued up to one year after the offence was committed and can be increased if they are not then paid within 60 days.
The Italian Highway Code also makes provision for a number of “on the spot” fines. If you are unable to pay, the fine will be sent to your home address and may be increased.
The authority responsible for the Italian motorway system provides useful information, in English, on the following website: http://www.autostrade.it/en/index.html
Pedestrians should remember that traffic will be coming from the opposite direction to traffic in Ireland. They should pay particular heed to the additional danger at night when walking along roads without a proper pavement and when crossing roads even at a designated crossing place. Most pedestrian crossings are not controlled by signals, but rather are similar to zebra-crossings in Ireland; however drivers, especially on motorbikes and mopeds, sometimes do not respect these, so particular care should be taken.
COMMUNICATIONS / MOBILE PHONES
The international code for dialling Italy from Ireland is 0039. For example, if calling the Irish Embassy in Rome from Ireland dial: 00 39 06 5852381.
To call Ireland from Italy, use the prefix 00353. For example, to call the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin dial: 00 353 1 408 2000.
If using your mobile phone while in Italy, you should ensure that it is equipped for roaming before you travel. If you use a pre-paid mobile ensure that you top it up with plenty of credit before you leave home. You may wish to register with your provider to allow you to top-up via the internet, through your mobile, or by text.
TOURIST INFORMATION SOURCES
Italian State Tourist Board: www.enit.it
Rome Tourist Board: http://www.romaturismo.it
Trenitalia (intercity rail services): http://www.trenitalia.com
Airports in Rome: http://www.adr.it
Public Transport in Rome: http://www.atac.roma.it
DIPLOMATIC AND CONSULAR MISSIONS IN ITALY
The Embassy of Ireland to Italy is located in Rome.Top