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The best time to go to southern Italy seems to be May to early June and late September to early October when you can still enjoy good weather but will be able to avoid the large holidaying crowds and won’t have to book too far in advance to get flights or accommodation. Obviously it is best to base your itinerary on the region you will be visiting as there may be particular festivals you want to attend (such as Easter which in particular is widely celebrated and every second town has a festive Saint's day), or a certain sport which only takes place in one season (particular regional festivals and sports will be covered in the relevant chapters later on in the book).
Travelling Tip: When travelling in Italy in August, particularly in areas such as the Amalfi coast, reservations are a matter of necessity. It is the peak holiday month, and besides tourists, many Italians, especially from the north, take their holidays in the hotter south during this time.
On entering Italy it is probably best in order to be safe to make a list of any valuable items that you are bringing in with you and then register them with customs to avoid any import duty on your return. Otherwise when going into Italy do NOT attempt to carry any firearms, explosives, ammunition, fireworks, controlled drugs, most plants or animals or pornographic material. Any prescription drugs should be clearly marked, and you should carry a copy of the prescription with you.
Overseas tourists arriving in Italy after visiting other countries are allowed to carry with them souvenirs purchased in other countries up to a total value of $500 and only a verbal declaration is required. Purchases may include up to a half litre of perfume.US residents are allowed to bring back $400 worth of goods (both duty-free and otherwise) from Europe, including one litre of alcohol. A flat rate of 10% is assessed on the next $1,000 worth of goods purchased. Parcels containing gifts may be sent from abroad to the US duty-free, providing the total value of such parcels received by one person, one day does not exceed $50. Each package should be marked "Unsolicited Gift". The amount paid and the contents of the package should be declared. For more information, look in the front of your local phone book under "Federal (or US), Customs" or check the following website for information: www.customs.ustreas.gov .
In all major Italian cities and tourist areas traveller's checks are accepted. The rate of exchange is calculated on the daily rate of exchange shown on the newspapers.
ATMs and Debit Cards
Most reputable establishments will accept major credit cards. Those establishments accepting credit cards will post the logos in their front windows to make the tourists aware of this. The ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) in Italy are known as Bancomat , and they are found both in the larger cities and smaller towns. The machines operate similarly to ATMs worldwide, and at the beginning of the transaction you will be prompted for your preferred language. So don’t worry it is not necessary to be able to speak Italian is to withdraw money!
You can use either a debit card or a credit card at the ATMs, as long as either the Cirrus or BankMate symbol (on the Bancomat and on your card) matches that on your card. Cirrus and BankMate are the two most popular and widespread banking systems in the world so they are the best to have. Of course, in Italy the money will be dispensed as Euros, but your bank will convert the Euros into your own currency.
Helpful tip: Be careful when using credit cards at ATMs, as many banks are now charging large fees of 2.5% to 4% for cash advances, which obviously negates any advantage of using the Bancomat in the first place. One's best bet is to use your regular ATM card and simply withdraw money from your account just as you would do at your local bank.
Banks in Italy are open Monday through Friday from 8:35 am to 1:35 pm and from 3 to 4pm; in many tourist areas they are open non-stop from 8.30 am to 4pm and closed all day on Saturday, Sunday and national holidays. The afternoon one-hour opening may vary from city to city. Although banks are the most reliable places to change traveller's cheques (and generally offer the best rates) traveller’s checks can also be exchanged for euros at most hotels, shops and foreign exchange offices in main railway stations and airports.
General costsItaly is by no means one of the cheaper destinations on the Mediterranean , but it is still fairly priced, especially if you stay away from the more popular tourist towns and cities and just visit them during the day. The tables below give a general indication of the prices of accommodation and lodgings.
A room in a pensione or hotel, one restaurant meal per day and occasional visits to museums will cost close to US$50 per day. If you want to stay in comfortable hotels, eat out regularly in restaurants and visit lots of museums and galleries, you should budget at least US$100 a day, and hiring a car will double your expenses. When eating in restaurants, service charges are usually included in your restaurant bill, so you are not expected to tip. It is common practice, however, to leave a small amount. In bars, Italians will usually leave any small change as a tip, but this is by no means obligatory. Prices in Italian bars and cafes double (sometimes even triple) if you sit down, so just be aware of that. You will be expected to tip your hotel porter, but tipping taxi drivers is not necessary.