If you’re travelling to Italy, our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information.
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On the night of Wednesday, 18 January, an avalanche struck Hotel Rigopiano, close to Gran Sasso mountain in the Abruzzo region. This followed several strong earthquakes which were felt during the day in central Italy (in Lazio, Abruzzo and Marche). Italian authorities and rescue services are responding to the incident.
Given recent terrorist attacks in European cities, Irish citizens are advised to follow the advice of police and local authorities and to exercise increased vigilance, especially if attending large public gatherings or other crowded locations. Attacks could occur at any time and could target tourist attractions, restaurants, transport hubs or other public areas.
The best help is often close at hand so if you have problems, try talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative or hotel management.
You can contact the emergency services in Italy by dialling 112. Specific emergency numbers are:
Ambulance Service: 118
Our tips for Safe Travels:
- Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities.
- Get a European Health Insurance Card
- Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App.
- Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly if there’s an unforeseen crisis like a natural disaster or a family emergency.
- Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates.
- Read our ‘Know Before You Go’ guide.
Safety and security
Safety and security
The political situation in Italy is stable but public demonstrations can occur frequently, 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, you should avoid them and exercise common sense if in the vicinity of large public gatherings.
Always keep yourself informed of what’s going on around you by monitoring local media and staying in contact with your hotel or tour organiser.
Although the threat from terrorism in Italy is low, there is still a global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by tourists and expatriates.
Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by foreigners. Currently the Italian Government has assessed the level of the threat of a terrorist attack in Italy as “medium/high” (level 2). Visitors to Italy, especially in the larger cities such as Rome and Milan, may see an increased police presence and security checks. This should not impact tourists particularly but you should exercise ordinary caution and follow the security advice of the local authorities.
Crime remains relatively low in Italy but you should take sensible precautions:
- Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place.
- Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home.
- 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. Personal safety
- We have 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. We recommend you exercise vigilance in bars, and be wary of drinks offered by strangers in night spots and areas where tourists congregate in the evenings.
Many parts of Italy lie on a major seismic fault line. Minor tremors and earthquakes are almost a daily occurrence.
Earthquakes measuring between 5 and 6 on the Richter scale hit the Emilia region of Italy in May 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 Ferrara Province. Some buildings are still considered unsafe and there has been extensive damage to infrastructure.
Further information (in Italian) can be found on the following websites:
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.
If you are visiting a ski resort you should take advice on weather and avalanche conditions before you travel and familiarise yourself with local skiing laws and regulations.
Local laws and customs
Local laws and customs
Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or even illegal.
Illegal drug use (no matter what the drug) carries stiff penalties, including fines and long prison terms.
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’s a cultural taboo and intolerance regarding public intoxication and in particular anti-social behaviour as a result of excessive alcohol consumption.
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.
Getting married 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 on our website in the Travel section.
If you’re planning to drive in Italy, you should exercise caution as 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.
If you want to drive:
•Bring your full Irish or international driving licence and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance
•If you are driving and Irish registered car ensure that it is fully insured and carry your logbook, proof of insurance and NCT certificate (if appropriate)
•Be aware 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
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’re 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 on its website in English.
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.
If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.
Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged). You should also carry your rental contract at all times.
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. Airports and seaports often attract unlicensed drivers posing as taxis, which should be avoided as they will generally overcharge tourists. We recommend 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 €48 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 (and validated) 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.
We can’t pay for emergency medical repatriation, repatriation of remains, or for expenses as a result of a personal emergency while you are abroad. If you buy an appropriate travel insurance policy, these costs will be covered, provided you haven’t broken the terms and conditions.
Buying comprehensive travel insurance can save you and your family a lot of money if something goes wrong. It will also ensure that you get the medical attention you need, when you need it. Hospital bills can quickly run into thousands of euro, and a medical evacuation back to Ireland can cost thousands more.
Not all policies are the same, and the cheapest one might be cheap for a reason. Make sure your policy covers all the activities you plan to do on your trip. Insurance Ireland recommend that you purchase a policy that provides a minimum medical cover of €1 million.
Your policy should cover:
- All medical care abroad, including evacuation by air ambulance, or other emergency procedures, and any other costs associated with an unexpected longer stay.
- Your entire trip, from departure to return. Consider an annual multi-trip policy if you’re making more than one trip in the year.
- 24-hour emergency service and assistance.
- Personal liability cover (in case you’re sued for causing injury or damaging property).
- Lost and stolen possessions.
- Cancellation and curtailment.
- Any extra activities you intend to do that are excluded from standard policies (e.g. water sport activities such as jet skiing or other extreme sports).
Exclusions: You should know most insurance policies will not cover drink or drug-related incidents.
European Health Insurance Card
As an Irish resident you are entitled to get healthcare through the public system in countries of the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland if you become ill or injured while on a temporary stay there. Ensure that you get or renew your EHIC (the new name for the E111) before you go, and remember, you need one for every person travelling in your group.
The EHIC is not a substitute for proper travel insurance provided by a reputable insurer. It doesn’t cover medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment or treatment of a non-urgent nature. Also, some private hospitals may not accept the EHIC, so you should check with the hospital administrator beforehand.
Irish citizens will not need any vaccinations for Italy. If you fall ill whilst in Italy and require further advice on how to access healthcare, please contact the Embassy.
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 Health Protection Surveillance Centre website.
H1N1 (Swine Flu)
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. You can also contact the public information hotline on 1500, Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm.