Although Italy did not officially become a country until the same time as the United States was fighting its Civil War, the Italian peninsula has been inhabited for hundreds of millennia and once was the heart of the Roman Empire from whence much of Western Civilization derives. Consequently, the country of Italy is dense with history.
In addition to its rich history, Italy is also the home to rich and exquisite food and wine, a variety of activities, and a climate that, while varied, tends towards the warm and mild, making Italy a prime destination for vacationers.
Getting into Italy
Entry into Italy requires you to have a valid passport that will continue to be valid for an additional 90 days. You can stay in the country legally for up to 90 days without having to get a visa. For any stays of longer than 90 days, you will need to get a visa and do so before your entry into Italy.
In addition to your passport, non-residents of Italy (which includes anyone who is staying there for less than 90 days) must provide what’s referred to as a dichiarazione di presenza (declaration of presence). This amounts to your immigration stamp that you receive on your passport at the airport upon entry to Italy. However Italy is part of the Schengen Group and has open borders without visa requirements for travel to and from other Schengen Group member countries. If you arrive in Italy in that fashion, from another Schengen country such as France, then you have to get the declaration of presence forms from either your hotel or local police station and fill out and submit these forms within eight business days or risk expulsion from Italy.
If you have a visa for a longer than 90 days stay in Italy, then you are considered a resident and will have to apply for a residency permit upon entry into Italy, known as a permesso di soggiorno. You can get the form to apply for this from most post offices, but have to turn it in at specially designated post offices. You will be given a receipt at this point which is important to keep with your visa and passport documentation. Within roughly two months you will receive an official residency permit, known as the Certificato di Residenza.
How much does a vacation in Italy cost?
Like other countries that are part of the Schengen Group, Italy uses the euro as its currency. As of January, 2014, the euro has stably converted to $1.35 US dollars for the past eight to nine months. While it’s a good idea to have some euros on hand, it is better to change most of your money once you are in Italy rather than before. At any rate, it is illegal to bring more than the equivalent of €10,000.00 in cash into Italy.
If you live on a shoestring budget, eat two simple meals a day, spend minimal amounts on sightseeing, and stay in hostels or camp grounds, you can live on roughly €50-60 a day. However money spent on mid-range accommodations and at least one decent meal a day can swell those expenses to €100-150 a day. If you budget for more than €200 a day, you should be able to enjoy a comfortable and enjoyable vacation while taking advantage of many sights and activities.
Italy has a variety of regions, each with their own highlights and climates. When thinking about a vacation in Italy, you may want to pick a specific area to visit and soak that area in. Conversely, there are extensive train systems and motorways if you go by car, which allow you to travel throughout Italy and sample what each region has to offer.
The traveler’s tongue
Italian is the national language spoken in Italy. However, many regions and villages in Italy speak their own dialect. These dialectical differences in Italian amount to nearly separate languages, but almost everyone speaks Italian as well. You may find areas, particularly the areas more suited for tourists, where people speak English or French, but Italian is the main language spoken, and Italians welcome your attempt to communicate with them in their own language. As you move further into more rural areas in Italy, knowledge of Italian becomes much more necessary, since English speakers are less available.
Take your time and take multiple vacations
Italy is a beautiful country with many varied regions, sights to see, and things to do. One vacation is not enough. However, to get the most out of a visit to Italy, you can try to soak in the particularities of one region, get to know it, and save other parts of Italy for future vacations.
C.W. Garay is an alumnus from the University of North Texas, where he received both his BA in psychology and an MA in English, specializing in creative writing, fiction. When not traveling he resides in Denton, TX, rated as the number one small town in which to live in the US according to Business Insider’s 2013 survey. In addition to writing articles on traveling, he also writes fiction under a pseudonym. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.