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Besides the renowned cities of Venice, Florence, Siena and Naples, each with its own unique identity and architecture, Italy features romantic medieval hill towns, such as San Gimignano in Tuscany, and unspoilt fishing villages, like Positano on the Amalfi coast. Operatic productions are staged in Verona’s ancient amphitheatre, while the influence of Federico Fellini is celebrated in Turin’s museum of cinema. Italy combines art, history and contemporary fashion with stunning natural landscapes: the turquoise waters of the Costa Smeralda offer one of Europe’s most beautiful stretches of sand, sea and sunshine, while the snow-covered slopes of the Dolomite mountains are a haven for winter sports enthusiasts. Throughout the country visitors can find vineyards and cellars to taste the very best regional wines, workshops where crafts are produced by hand, and friendly trattorie where simple but superb dishes are served.

Practical Information

Area: 301 338 km² (116 346 miles²)

Capital: Rome. Population: 2.6 million

Population: 58.1 million

Currency: Euro (EUR symbol Eur) = 100 cents

Government: Kingdom of Italy declared in 1861. Republic since 1946.

Tipping: Service charges and state taxes are included in all hotel bills. It is customary to give up to 10% in addition if service has been particularly good.

Legal drinking age: 16

Time zone: GMT + 1 (GMT + 2 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October)

Languages: Italian

Additional descriptions

Italy: Social customs

The social structure is heavily influenced by the Roman Catholic church and, generally speaking, family ties are stronger than in most other countries in Western Europe. Normal social courtesies shouldRead more be observed. Dress is casual but smart in most places, and beachwear should be confined to the beach. Conservative clothes are expected when visiting religious buildings and smaller, traditional communities. Formal wear is usually indicated on invitations. Smoking is prohibited in public buildings, transport and cinemas.

Italy: Food and local specialties

Pasta and pizza plays a substantial part in Italian recipes, but there are many regional specialities. Tuscany, for example, is noted for its bean dishes, the Po Valley for its rich risottos. Cheeses includeRead more mozzarella, pecorino (hard, sheep’s cheese) and gorgonzola. The national specialties are: Rome: Gnocchi alla romana (semolina dumplings). Piemonte: Bagna caoda (an anchovy dip, served with vegetables). Lombardy: Panettone (Christmas cake with sultanas and candied fruit). Liguria: Pesto (sauce of basil, pine nuts and pecorino cheese ). Emilia-Romagna: Parmigiano (parmesan cheese). Wines are named after grape varieties, village or area of origin. The most widespread is the Chianti group of vineyards in Tuscany. Roman wines include Albano and Frascati (whites), Barolo in Valle d’Aosta, Valpolicella in Veneto, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Grigio (whites), Cabernet and Pinot Nero (reds) in Friuli-Venezia, and Chianti, Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello in Tuscany. Vermouths are popular in Piemonte. Aperitifs such as Campari and Punt e Mes are excellent appetisers. Italian liqueurs include Amaretto, Limoncello, Grappa and Strega.

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