Essential Guide & Terms

Your booking is extremely important and we have put this together so that you are fully aware of all the facts and how everything works. We try as much as possible to be as clear and as concise as possible with everything we represent throughout Italy but it is important that you are aware of how things work and what decisions we make on your behalf.  We have asked the questions which we are often asked and if you have more questions which you would like us to include please let us know and we will add it to our essential list or FAQs. Because the trips we design are all bespoke, we will send you a form which will provide you with the main conditions of your trip to Italy. This will then form the contract between us. If you are not happy with these conditions, then it is important that you discuss this with your travel consultant.

What criteria do you use to select the properties you represent?

  • Location is very important and the questions we ask are:  Are the properties centrally located or are they located in areas where there is limited accommodation or are they close to a requested area or monument or have access to sea or lake or mountain view. When we select a specific hotel for you, we will provide you with the name and also the web site, so that you can do your own research. We will also provide you with more than one option, so, for example, we will sometimes provide clients with a choice of up to 7 hotels as it will all be subject to what you as the client requires and we do have many options to offer.

 

  • Price – It may be that you have a high budget but it may also be possible that your budget will only truly allow you to stay in small guesthouses or B&B style properties so we recommend places that are within your catchment price range where possible.  If this is not a possibility, we may ask you to compromise and either spend a little more or move locations. Once we have a proposal in place with costs, the only variation of the price of the package will be subject to availability, availability of a specific room type and also whether the special offer is still valid. If for any reason the cost of the package increases, we will not go ahead with the booking without your confirmation.

 

  • The Owners – Some of the properties may not have frescoed ceilings and chandeliers, but the owners bend over backward for their guests allowing them to truly experience Italy in its true form. With some of our properties, we have great relationships with our owners or members of staff so we do also tend to promote these locations to you to ensure you benefit from real Italian hospitality as this is something which at times is left out of the equation. If for any reason, you are not happy with the owners, it is important you talk to them as they can be very busy and even though they would like to spend time with you, it may not always be possible.

  • The Facilities On Offer – Sometimes certain facilities and services are required and not all the properties have these services or facilities so the choice can be limited.  It may be that you require WIFI services or a hotel or property which can provide spa facilities or a villa with barbecue facilities or a heated pool or be completely isolated or within walking distance of a town or village. It is important that you request this and are very clear regarding your needs and requirements. Without this, it is hard for us to ensure that you get what you want. Please also ensure that you confirm these special requirements in writing.

  • The Hygiene Standard – We try to ensure with your help that the properties are clean and follow the relevant guidelines set by us. However, if you find that the properties do not reach your standards of cleanliness then we want to know and it is truly important that when you are on-site that you immediately ask to speak to the manager or the owner of the property and show them your grievance so that the situation can be immediately remedied.  Do not wait to get back to the UK as by this stage it will be far too late to do anything for you. The main thing to bear in mind is that we want you to be happy whilst in Italy.

 

  • When selecting properties, the criteria we use is, would we stay here and that is what makes our selection personal.  It is not about how much commission is provided, it is all about whether we would stay here given the chance.  All the accommodation we propose has either been checked by ourselves or our Italian representatives who follow the same criteria as above and our best judges are our clients and we ask for your feedback in all manners of your trip to Italy to ensure that we get better and better in providing you with the best possible service at all times.

How Does it all work?

It may be possible on occasions that what we would recommend may not be available and this may be due to the fact that you have left your trip to Italy too late and all the places are fully booked, or there could be a festival or major event taking place, but to ensure that you can travel to Italy we do try to provide you with alternatives which may not always be our first choice but may be the only way of providing you with accommodation at that time and in that specific location. At least 80% of all the properties which form part of our portfolio have been visited and checked by us here at the Italian Connection and the remaining 20% are properties that have been checked by our Italian partners.  We try to ensure at all times that the properties fit into the criteria we ourselves hold but this is sometimes not always possible, however, we will advise you of this.

 

Arranging your visit to Italy is trying to understand you as a person and we try to achieve perfection but it is down to personal choice and taste and what one client will love another will hate. We do not just provide you with one choice but a range of choices where possible and it is then up to you to make the final decision and ask all the relevant questions and do your own research. Here, we have tried to be as specific as possible with the various details provided.  Please review the information and ensure that you understand everything.  If there is something you do not understand and require further clarification just drop us an email or you can call us on 01424 728900 and we will do our best to go through everything with you. Our absolute aim is to be as transparent as possible at all times and to provide you with exactly what you are looking for.

 

Once you confirm the proposal, we would have prepared for you and you confirm that you wish to go ahead, the booking process will commence. Before any confirmations take place, we will require your credit/debit details to act as a guarantee as some of the elements of your package may be non-refundable. Ensure that you read the cancellation details and further terms regarding your specific booking which you will find on your booking form. Once we have confirmed your package, we will issue you with a confirmation invoice. 30% is payable on receipt of your invoice, and the final balance is payable up to 8-6 weeks before departure. When the final payment takes place, we will issue you with your vouchers, tickets and also a travel itinerary arranged just for you. Our travel itinerary will suggest places to eat, things to be aware of and much more. Please ensure that you go through all your vouchers as this will be your responsibility to ensure that everything is correct. Any errors or omissions, ensure that you speak to your travel consultant.

 

Local Conditions

When travelling to Italy, it is important to accept that some things can and will be different from the UK. Safety standards and regulations conform to local standards and depending on which region of Italy you are travelling to, standards may be more or less stringent than the UK. The monitoring and enforcement of such regulations is a matter which is solely the responsibility of Italian law and the supplier (the hotel or apartment) not the operator or the agent, so please ensure that you understand this.  We try as much as possible to make sure that the facilities are “acceptable” but a change in management and refurbishments may have some effect on the property so if there is something specific to you please ensure that you discuss this with your travel consultant. Our properties are not governed by British laws but by European legislation/laws and Italian local law. 

There have been a range of changes throughout the years regarding certain requirements: the fire code deadline which affected many Italian hotels, the smoking ban. Italy was the fourth country in the world to enact a nationwide smoking ban. Since 10 January 2005 it is forbidden to smoke in all public indoor spaces, including bars, cafés, restaurants, and discos. However, special smoking rooms are allowed. In such areas food can be served, but they are subjected to strict conditions: they need to be separately ventilated, with high air replacement rates; their air pressure must constantly be lower than the pressure in the surrounding rooms; they must be equipped with automatic sliding doors to prevent smoke from spreading to tobacco-free areas; they may occupy at most 50% of the establishment. Only 1% of all public establishments have opted for setting up a smoking room. Smoking is also forbidden in all enclosed workplaces – this also includes trains and underground stations. It is possible to smoke outdoors, which means that since Italy has sunny weather more than half of the year, people can still smoke at restaurants and bars as long as they sit on the outside tables.

Alternatively, even if YOU are on holiday you must appreciate life in Italy still goes on. Buildings or road works may be in progress in the vicinity, hotels need maintenance and will also require refurbishment from time to time, hot water may not be available one day due to a plumbing problem, there may be an accident on the motorway so you or your service provider may be delayed, because of the heat the ground of the tennis court may be cracked…… there is a list of endless possibilities so do be prepared. This can often occur without prior warning, although the hotel management or service provider will do their utmost to inform their clients so as to cause minimum disruption. In turn, we will always try to let you know in advance if we ourselves have been notified. This does not mean that you will arrive at your destination and the hotel will be a building site or the view from your room will be a motorway congested with traffic, this would be unacceptable to us. However, if you ask for this hotel and want us to book it for you… then you really only have yourself to blame and we cannot accept responsibility for a hotel you have asked us to book on your behalf.! 

Traffic is just another one of those things which most cities and some resorts just have to put up with however the tourist does not believe it. There should be no traffic while I am there, no exaggeration, we have had clients come back and say this to us. So be aware, if you are hiring a car in Italy, there will be traffic, there will be road works, you will have the occasional Italian driver at your bumper scaring you into submission, there will be no go areas and you may need a permit. Do not fret, sit tight and you will get to your destination.   It is also important to note that if you ask to be in the heart of a historical centre like Rome or Florence, Palermo or Naples you must allow for just a hint of noise as this is sometimes the compromise you will need to make.   Even in the wilderness of Calabria or Basilicata work starts early at the farm and the cock crows without notice, streams keep on flowing, water trickles from mountains, dogs bark and even some crickets start early. Unfortunately, we cannot stop this from happening as it is really beyond our control and we, therefore, ask you to please check the descriptions we provide carefully, check the hotel web sites, go onto TripAdvisor and see what other clients say, check our reviews and this will help you identify the right accommodation for you. Do discuss your requirements with us as we can also provide you with information and advice.  If we do not have the answers, we will find out for you, just do not be afraid to ask.  Another thing to remember is that not every area (especially rural areas) will accept credit cards, therefore, having some cash in your pocket is advisable.

Getting to the Location

We try as much as possible to provide you with an itinerary and the best way to access the property but some of the work also needs to come from you.  You need to check your vouchers and the details sent through to you to ensure that everything is correct and it may be a good idea if you organize a SAT NAV/GPS to allow you to get to your destination with ease. This can be organised for you if hiring a car with us, however, you must ask us to arrange this for you. It is possible, but like all things, there is a cost. The same will apply to booster seats, baby seats, extra driver and so on.   All the above are payable on site. There are also different tools available on the internet to allow you to easily find your way to the location and some mobile phones also help. When you get to the destination but you cannot find the B&B or the hotel it may be wise to call the property or the key holder on the numbers we usually provide with your vouchers.  Just call them and advise them where you are. Try finding a good recognizable spot, stay here and wait to be picked up and shown the way, don’t try to find the location as it may take you all day and you really just want to get there and start enjoying your trip.  For detailed maps and assistance get in touch with The Italian State Tourist Board in London, they have all the details and maps you need.  Also, try not to leave this part too late and last minute.

Parking

When arriving at a destination it may state on the itinerary that it is possible to park but it is always essential to make sure that you CAN PARK as parking restrictions do take place and can have changed since the itinerary was issued so when you get to the property ask the key holder whether you can park here or not or if they can provide you with a valid permit or with a ticket.  Always ensure that you check the parking restrictions as if you get fined you will have to pay for it and do you really want a parking fine as this is the whole point of getting away from it all.  Parking can be part of the property’s facility to you but do not take it for granted that it could be free as at least 85% of the time there is a day/weekly fee to pay. This is not because the property is just hoping to make even more money it could well be that space is at a premium and you only need to review our UK capital city to appreciate the cost of parking. Some hotels/venues offer garages.

Checking In

When you check into a property, whatever property it may be, a luxury hotel, an apartment, a villa, a bed and breakfast, the procedure is to arrive at reception or at the designated time and hand over your voucher and you will also need to provide a valid passport.  On occasions, if you arrive too early, it may not be possible to check in straight away due to check in times. Once check in has taken place, you will either be shown to your room or alternatively you are shown how to get to your room and will be provided with the keys.  With all self-catering, we also ask you to go through the property with the owner or representative and ensure that any scratches or marks or any other faults you find are shown to the owner or representative so that they are aware that this is not your fault.  Some self-catering facilities also provide you with a stock list of everything in the villa or apartment which you need to sign.  At this point, you will be asked to pay a deposit or an end of lease or final cleaning bill.  It does not matter how much you are paying for the villa or the apartment, there are always extra costs to pay, with some, all you need to do is to pay for the final cleaning and the deposit which is refundable, while for others you may need to pay for heating and/or air conditioning, electricity and so on. These are all costs which must be paid so ensure that you know all the extra costs before confirming your property.   Please also ensure that you have cash for the deposit and this can either be taken in euros or in sterling equivalent. Some properties do accept cards as a guarantee. Cash is always the best policy.

With hotels and B&B style accommodation, when you get to the property and you are sent off to your room, if you do not like the room allocated to you, please ensure that you advise them at reception as they may need to locate another room for you.  It may not be possible immediately however it may be possible the next day however it is essential that you at least ask as they will not know until you tell them. Any issues must be discussed with the hotel reception or the self-catering owner.

When checking in please remember this general rule of thumb and it may not apply to every single property but just remember this as a baseline. 

 

  • Hotels & Guesthouses - check-in is between 1400 and 1700

  • Self-catering villas and apartments - check-in is between 1700 and 1900

 

With self-catering, contact the key holder when you arrive in the country by phone and advise them that you have arrived and if it would be possible for you to go to the property and leave your bags on site.  The main reason why check-in takes place so late in the day is due to the fact they have to ensure that the property is completely clean before you take over the accommodation.

Checking Out

When checking out of a hotel you need to ensure that you go to the reception area and pay for any extras, minibar, telephone calls, meals, services arranged for you by the hotel concierge, while for the self-catering villa or apartment ensure that you ask when checking in what the procedures are. If any damage has been caused to your villa or to the apartment you will lose part or all of your deposit if you do not pay for any damage caused.  It is important that you resolve this on site with the owner and if you are unable to, you will need to contact the local representative who will advise you of the procedure.  Your contract when you arrive at the property regarding the deposit and other costs payable on site is between you and the owner and/or local representative and the damage caused also is between you and the owner.

When checking out please remember this general rule of thumb and it may not apply to every single property but just use this as a baseline.

 

  • Hotels & Guesthouses - checkout is between 1000 and 1200

  • Self-catering villas and apartments - checkout is between 0900-1000

The Accommodation

All the information we provide regarding the accommodation has been compiled as accurately as possible. Again, please also ensure that you read the hotel web site and check the different reviews which are now available. If there are any questions about the accommodation, please ask. If we do not have the answer straight away, we will check and get back to you. It is important to note that at times the facilities confirmed may not be available while you are there, for example, swimming pools. It may be that you are visiting at a time when the pools are closed. Most venues close their pools at the end of September, and this is often due to the weather. Others may keep the pools open until the end of October; electrical equipment and lifts may break down, some of the shops, restaurants and night clubs may not be in full operation. Such situations may be dictated by local circumstances, weather conditions, local licensing regulations etc. We cannot accept responsibility for any such “situation”. It is also important at this stage to fully understand what is meant by certain facilities and below is an example of this.  Also, with the internet now there are many ways of ensuring that the accommodation proposed has all the facilities you require and you can check out a range of sites which provide you with information regarding the property but you can also ask us.

 

Here are the main criteria to be aware of:

…..The Hotel has parking

This means that the hotel does have parking facilities which could mean a garage, off-street parking, secure parking on the grounds, unsecure parking.  About 80% of the hotels charge for the use of their garage and private parking and this is not always a free facility.  If you are on a specific budget please ensure that you ask us and we will be able to provide you with full details and even confirm your parking as if parking is at a premium at times it is best to pre-book if possible. Do not assume that the property has parking if this is an important element of your booking.

…… Has a Swimming Pool

Where a hotel or a villa has a swimming pool, the period when the pool is available is at the hotelier’s or villa owner’s discretion and may also be affected by weather conditions. Where a hotel or villa has a swimming pool it will be clearly stated in the description. In early season bad weather or necessary maintenance may delay the opening of a pool, and in late season may bring forward its closure. Even if the sun is shining on the day of your arrival you should bear in mind that the weather may have delayed maintenance in the previous weeks. These situations can occur although if a pool is expected to be out of use for a considerable period, we will always endeavor to inform you as soon as possible. If a swimming pool is an essential part of your holiday please state this in writing when booking. It must be noted that usually swimming pools are available for guests from May to the end of September.  It is also important at this point to advise you that some properties do not offer Olympic size pools but small pools which can sometimes look as if they are more decorative based than exercise-based.  Please bear this in mind when selecting properties with swimming pools.  Swimming pools can either be saltwater pools, chlorine pools, above ground pools, in the ground pools, infinity pools, and others are also available. Also do not assume that pools are heated.

 

It is also always advisable to keep a close watch on small children around swimming pools, especially those which do not have professional lifeguards, as pools present a significant risk of infant and toddler death due to drowning.  The best way to ensure safety around swimming pools is to be educated. Knowing how a swimming pool works greatly improves safety. For instance, long-haired individuals must avoid water inlets. These inlets, also known as "skimmers", are rectangular holes on the wall that are sometimes partially or completely underwater. In private swimming pools, there can be one to two inlets or five to twenty "skimmers". Another thing to avoid is the "main drains" which are usually identified as round mesh-covered objects on the pool floor, as a poor design can occasionally result in a safety problem. Building codes and product standards have eliminated these hazards for current designs, but not all pools are up-to-date or up to standard so please bear this in mind.  Also the bigger the body of water, the greater "force" it needs to have the water circulating. Stronger water pumps are used on large bodies of water to keep the swimming pool healthy so extra care must be taken when swimming along the sides or floor of the swimming pool. 

 

Some properties will insist that you wear a swimming cap when swimming and others will insist on children being accompanied at all times when using the swimming pool as there are many things to look out for, slippery surfaces, deep ends etc.  Most of the properties do not keep the swimming pool cordoned off in any way and the pools are open for use at all times, therefore, it is essential that your children are encouraged not to use the pool without adult supervision.  If for any reason you are not happy with the condition of the pool, it is essential that you advise the owner of the self- catering villa or apartment or the hotel reception.  

​…..Is there any air conditioning?

This is a facility, which is often not free however we have identified that over the years more and more hotels are providing air conditioning at no extra cost and included in the room rate. If you request air-conditioning, you may have to pay for it and this will be a cost which you will need to pay directly to the hotel. Some hotels do provide a supplement for air-conditioning while others do not.  It must also be noted that the period and hours of operation are at the hotelier’s discretion and may also be affected by weather conditions. The same theory also applies to heating. The provision of heating and air-conditioning and hours of operation are at the hotelier’s/villa owner’s discretion, in compliance with fuel-saving requirements current in Italy which normally restricts heating to the period from November to March and air-conditioning to the period from July 1 to August 31.  Heating will, however, be operational in April and October if severe weather conditions prevail.  For the purposes of saving energy, each Italian region applies different local regulations governing air conditioning usage owing to the different climates in the various regions. The use of air conditioning is also subject to local regulations, so keep this in mind when in Italy as this is beyond our control as tour operators.

 

Some tips on how to stay cool

 

  • The way the Italians do this is to close the windows and the window shutters when you go out in the morning. This stops the sun and the hot air from coming in and keeps the house cool. 

  • On very hot days take a siesta. Usually, in the villages and the towns and cities in the height of summer, everyone rests from about 1400 through to 1700.   If you really need air conditioning but the property you have selected does not have it, just let us know and we will try to arrange portable air conditioning units at an extra cost.  If you have a special request, make sure that you confirm these details to us in writing, and we will, in turn, confirm it to you in writing too so that everybody is aware of what your specific requests may be and there is no confusion or misinterpretation. Therefore, if the description states bathroom, do not assume that it has a bathtub as the Italians really go in for showers since they are more of a shower nation.

  • Another way of staying cool is to head to the ancient buildings, the cathedrals, and the churches and sit in here as the buildings do help with the cooling down and last but not least have a nice cool shower!

…..Do we Get Breakfast?

The final price provided will state whether your price includes breakfast. Some hotels provide a wonderful breakfast while others will just provide you with a croissant and a cup of coffee. Some hotels also offer a full English Breakfast which should always be open to interpretation. There is continental breakfast and then there is American breakfast, there is buffet breakfast and then there is just a simple breakfast. It is sometimes extremely difficult to provide you with complete details regarding what you will receive for breakfast but if you are not wholly satisfied, you need to advise the hotel as it will also help them to be a little more adventurous.  Some extras, for example, a cooked breakfast, scrambled or fried eggs, bacon, more toast, may incur a charge so before going all out make sure you know what will be extra. Also, be advised that most breakfasts in Italy are self-service. The vegetarian range breakfast is quite minimal but here again just let us know what your requirements are and we will bring this to the attention of the hotel provider.  Italian breakfast is mostly sweet but hotels have cottoned on to their overseas clientele so there should now be more variety on offer.  

 

Wikipedia states that Italian breakfast is: The traditional breakfast in Italy is simply Caffè e latte (hot coffee with milk) with bread or rolls, butter, and jam — known as prima colazione or just colazione. Fette biscottate (a cookie-like hard bread often eaten with butter and jam) and biscotti (cookies) are commonly eaten. Children drink hot chocolate, plain milk, or hot milk with very little coffee. If breakfast is eaten in a bar (coffee shop), it is composed of a cappuccino and brioche (frothed hot milk with coffee, and a pastry). Occasionally (rarely) Italians have a quick breakfast snack during the morning (typically a panino, or bread roll).

……Tell us about the Bathtubs and Showers

Usually all properties as far as hotel accommodation have ENSUITE FACILITIES.  This means that your bathroom/toilet is within your room so you do not have to leave your room to access the bathroom.  Where the hotel description states that rooms have ensuite facilities, do not assume that this means bathtub.  If you require a bathtub it is important that you request this in writing.  Bathtubs are definitely not common in Italy, a little like bidets being completely uncommon here in the UK.  It is not uncommon for showers to have no cubicle or shower curtains, and it is not uncommon for the 2-3 stars to just have showers and toilets and no bathtubs. For the hotel with the bathtub, always consider looking at 4 or 5-star hotels, but if there is a bathtub out there, we will find it for you, just bear in mind that this may reduce the options available to you.

…..Double Beds

Double beds most often than not consist of two single mattresses within a double frame or two singles linked together with a double sheet. As for triple rooms, unless specifically stated, a three or four-bedded room is a twin with one or two extra beds in it (which may be of the folding type or may be a sofa bed). Even when the rooms are larger than normal, this will reduce the amount of space available per person. The term suite is used for a double bedroom or twin with a separate lounge and a junior suite for a double or twin bedroom with a sitting area. Single rooms are available but they are more than often double rooms for single occupancy.

 

Here is a breakdown of how it should all work. Please bear in mind that this is indicative and may be different in some places.

Twin Room: With two single beds in the same room. Suitable for two people. In Europe, Twin and Double rooms may either consist of two separate single beds pushed together or one double bed. 

Double Room: Contains one double bed. Suitable for two people. In Europe, Twin and Double rooms may either consist of two separate single beds pushed together or one double bed which can come in the form of a French bed or a king-size bed. Beds are slightly narrower. Also, a standard "double room" in Italy comes with a single double bed, sometimes a queen. Here is a little more information:

 

In Italy, beds are classified by name and use the term Piazza as in "one place" Standard sizes are:

 

  • Una piazza or singolo ("single"): 80 cm (31.5 inches) wide by 190 cm long

  • Una piazza e mezza (1½): 120 cm (47.2 inches) wide by 190 cm long

  • Due piazze or letto matrimoniale: 160 cm (62.99 inches) wide by 190 cm long

  • Less common:

  • Piazza Francese or "Piazza e Mezza Francese": 140 cm x 190 cm

 

Due to the popularity of imported beds (especially from IKEA), the 200 cm length is becoming more common.

Other Rooms & Details:

For double rooms for single occupancy these are possible and you will need to add a supplement to the overall cost.

Triple room - Contains twin or double bed/s + extra bed, or two double beds. Most hotels do not have one full-size bed for each guest in their triple rooms. On occasions and very rare, sofa beds will be provided.

Twin room for sole use - Contains two single beds or one double bed in the same room, to be occupied by one person.

Quadruple room - Contains twin or double bed/s + extra bed's), or two double beds. Most hotels do not have one full-size bed for each guest in their quad rooms.

Twin/Double + child - Twin or Double room with an extra bed suitable for a child aged between 2-16 years.

Cot/cradle or crib - Suitable for a child under the age of 2 years.  This needs to be pre-booked and on occasions, there is a supplement to pay on a daily basis.

……I Want a Room with a View

When we describe a room or a villa or other accommodation as having sea, lake, canal or other views, this means that the view may be obtained from the accommodation, or its balcony, terrace or garden. If a side view only is obtainable, we usually state it in the special requirements and if no view is available, we will inform you of this, only of course if a view is requested. There are often supplements to pay for a view but here again, you will be advised of this at all times.  Usually, rooms with a view are more expensive than a standard room and all view rooms are sold at a premium. 

……Balcony or Terrace

I would opt for a terrace only because terraces are usually much bigger than a balcony. There are also French balconies available here, however you really cannot use them as they have a railing which does not allow you to sit outside.

……Local Functions and what it means

Nowadays many hotels offer facilities for local weddings or birthdays, anniversaries or similar celebrations and also small conventions. Hotel Management tries to minimise disturbance to their regular guests but sometimes this may be unavoidable. There are also a range of events taking place throughout the year with fireworks and bands and crowds etc so do bear this in mind. 

…….What is an Agriturismo?

This became the in-word a few years ago and we went through a period where everyone wanted to go to an Agriturismo.  This started as a simple idea of boosting home income for small farmers by letting rooms cheaply. The choice of accommodation offered is wide and ranges from simple rooms in a farmhouse where you eat with the family to the Squire’s mansion at the upper end of the range. So far, the agriturismo is not categorised as hotels are. However good they may be, and many offer swimming pools, tennis, and horse riding, they do not usually have the staff, public facilities, and services normally found in conventional hotels, but they do have their own unique style.  Please also be advised that some agriturismos are quite basic.

…….The Hotel Restaurant

When booking a hotel and the main reason for choosing the hotel is because it has a restaurant, please ensure that you follow these guidelines. A hotel restaurant has the same opening and closing times as most restaurants, therefore if you are arriving late, the restaurant may be closed therefore we would ask you to let us know whether you would require us to advise the hotel to have some sandwiches or a cold buffet ready for you, so that you are not completely starved.  For smaller properties, we suggest that we book a place for you at the restaurant on the night of arrival so that you have a place at the table as most of the properties also open their dining to the general public so if you do not pre-book you may not get a table. 

 

Usually restaurants open from 1200 until 1500 and then close and reopen at 1900 and remain open until 2230/2330 but the serving of food may finish at 2030/2100 unless you know the cook!!!!  Restaurants also have their own closing times and some close on a Sunday, others on a Monday and others on a Wednesday, there is no set rule so I would say call before you turn up and ensure that the restaurant is open.

….Restaurants

Lunch - Traditionally in the countryside and small towns, lunch is the big main meal. Restaurants are usually open for lunch between 1230 and 1500 hours and lunch can take over two hours. It is best to arrive between 1300 and 1400.  If you are seated and order before 1400, you can linger as long as you wish, but if you arrive after 1400, you risk being turned away.  If however, you want a lighter lunch, you can find small places that sell pizza by the slice in some of the bigger towns or alternatively you can stop off for a panino.  

Dinner - Most small restaurants have only one sitting for dinner. You can book for any time between 1930 and 2130 (sometimes even later).  In some restaurants in the big cities, they have two seatings: An early one at 1830 and a later one at 2100. Dinner can take over two hours. Dinner is usually the same type of menu as lunch, except that if a restaurant serves pizza, it is usually available only at lunchtime.

Closing days – Beware when reading reviews and make sure that you have the number so that you can call in advance.  Just imagine driving for miles and then arriving and the restaurant is closed. All restaurants close at least one day a week so bear this in mind. Also, ensure that you check the opening and closing times.

Reservations – Always book your table in the morning, this is good etiquette and also guarantees you a table.  Do not take it for granted that just because you have arrived at the restaurant which is empty that they will give you a table as these tables could be reserved for others.

The Menu – Here is a simple guide which will help you in your Italian adventure.  Here are the sections you need to be aware of: Antipasti – these are starters.  Primo this is a first course and usually comprises of soup, pasta or risotto. Secondo, this is your main dish and can include meat and fish.  It is important to understand that this course does not come with any vegetables, these are ordered and served separately. Contorni means side dishes.  Order more than one contorno and this will be served with your Secondo.  Dolci, this is your dessert.  You can accompany your meal with water – con gas or senza gas which means sparkling and non-sparkling and wine is either served by the glass or by the bottle.   After your dessert you may want to finish it off with a coffee or digestivo which is purely medicinal, they told me!!! The fact is that a good digestivo will allow you to elegantly finish off the meal.

Service – Usually the waiter will come to you as these guys all have catering qualifications hence why they are here.  When ordering, work your way from the antipasto to the dessert. You will either find the bread or your breadsticks already on the table or this will be served as soon as you have ordered.  Butter is not served with bread and you do not get olives to dip your bread in.  The bread is consumed with the meal.  Don’t ask for butter just try it Italian style. Also, take note that coperto may be included but it also may not be and it is common to leave a tip for the waiter, often 10% of the total bill.

….The Wheelchair User

Italy has been a little slow in getting to grips with the requirements of the wheelchair user although it is not through a lack of trying. It must be noted that the ergonomics and structure of most of Italy’s cities, towns and villages are not really adaptable for the wheelchair user. There are cobblestones, traffic and flights of steps which are not very welcoming, and most of the hotels are in ancient palaces located in historical centres, therefore building protection legislation makes for a very limited supply of suitable facilities. Modern hotels are now much more aware of this and have been built with the wheelchair user in mind, in fact by law all new hotels must provide a proportion of their rooms with full facilities for wheelchair-bound guests. The wheelchair user must accept that they are not spoilt for choice regarding accommodation but it is far better than it used to be. 

……. The Car Hire

We as your tour operator will book your car for you. When we send you your vouchers, please ensure that you read it all and any questions, please let us know. Make sure that the details are correct, for example, car type (or similar), name of the driver, dates and times of pick up and make sure that you read the small print and one very important factor is that you have your debit card in the driver’s name as credit cards will not be accepted. We also recommend that you get extra cover only because it will protect you. Also, if any ancillary extras are required, please ask us to book this for you.  We suggest that you do this in advance, only because if you leave it until you get to Italy, there may be the possibility that they may not have it available.

 

You will find on occasions especially in high season that your flight lands and so do many other flights and everybody is queuing at the car hire desk waiting to get their car.  You just need to be patient as a series of paperwork has to be undertaken.  Woe betides he who arrives at lunchtime, you will only have one person dealing with a queue of 100 people all waiting politely in line. When picking up your car from a city depot, try to arrive at the time indicated on your voucher as they may not have your car ready. On occasions, they may want to give you a car which you are not happy with however if you wait and some of our clients have waited for up to 2 hours, you may even get a better car. (however, this is not always guaranteed). Our responsibility to you is to provide you with the car. All car hire companies will never confirm or guarantee the actual car, so if you ask for example for a Ford Focus, just bear in mind that they state Ford Focus or similar, so expect either a Ford Focus or similar car. The similar car should be in the car group booked or should be a higher group. Once you have signed the paperwork, the contract is between you and the car hire company. If you are not happy with the car provided do not accept the car and ensure that you are provided with another car, however, this may not be a possibility.

 

When you get your car keys ask where the car is and in some locations, there is a small shuttle service that takes you to where the cars are parked.  Make sure that you know how the car works, where the alarm is, do you use diesel or petrol, is the car in good order or is there a dent in the side etc. Do not leave until this has all been sorted and any queries or grievances answered. Make sure that you have all the relevant numbers in case of an accident or if you require assistance. Your contract is with the car hire company who will have an imprint of your card therefore if you do not show them the dent when you return the car, or discuss the condition of the car, any refund, for example, will not take place, We also suggest that you ask the name of the person dealing with you at the counter.  Any damage will be charged to your debit card.  The other thing to also bear in mind is that often the car is provided with a full tank, therefore, make sure that there is also a full tank when you return the car.  When you return your car after your break to Italy, make sure that you park the car in the designated area and that you return the keys and your contract to the car hire company so that they can close it. The car company will have your address and any extra costs will be sent to your UK address and payment will then need to take place. If you are not happy with the car company, it is your responsibility to write to the car hire involved with your booking on your return. Be aware that there is a designated time to do this, so within 28 days or with some even less.

 

…..Driving in Italy

What can we say? Italy has probably one of the best motorways in Europe – well-maintained and extensive, and it also has some of the most hair-raising roads! To drive your car you must have insurance, which covers you for Italy and a valid driving license. Driving in Italy is quite a feat and we do highly recommend it as it is an exhilarating feeling.  There are some places we would recommend you avoid driving and we will tell you all about this when you call to confirm your car hire.  Be aware that like the rest of the world, Italy also suffers from traffic, congestion and road works and if the trip should take less than 1 hour it could end up taking more than 3 hours.  Also, beware of Italian drivers when driving the motorway, they always tuck up behind you before overtaking, Italian drivers are completely out of character when behind the wheels of a car, just take it easy.

Some general information to be aware of:

  • Be especially careful when setting off from service stations or restaurants on the left side of the road.

  • Take care when overtaking - allow more space between you and the car in front so you can see further down the road ahead.

  • Italy has a stricter drink driving laws than the UK, only allowing 0.5 milligrams of alcohol per millilitre of blood (UK 0.8).

  • Seat belts front and rear are obligatory everywhere.

  • Speed limits, shown below, are implemented rigorously. Radar traps are frequent.

  • Remember - Speeding and other traffic offences are subject to extremely heavy on-the-spot fines.

  • A replacement bulb set is recommended.

  • In all countries, a full UK driving license is required. As in the UK, seat belts should be worn front and rear. Below are motoring regulations relating to Italy.

  • Children in cars: children under four cannot travel unless they use a suitable restraint system. Children between four and 12 cannot travel in the front unless using a suitable restraint system.

  • Documentation: always carry your driving license, vehicle registration document (V5), and certificate of motor insurance. If your license does not incorporate a photograph ensure you carry your passport to validate the license. If the vehicle is not registered in your name, carry a letter from the registered owner giving you permission to drive.

  • Drinking and driving: Don't do it. Over 0.05 percent and you could face anything up to imprisonment.

  • Fines: On the spot, fines are issued. Ensure an official receipt is issued by the officer collecting the fine.

  • A first-aid kit is advised, but not compulsory.

Fuel: All grades of unleaded petrol (benzina), diesel (gasolio) and LPG are available as well as lead substitute additive. Leaded no longer exists.  Credit and debit cards are widely accepted, although they probably won't work at automatic pumps, which are often the only pumps open out-of-hours and at lunch-time (from noon to 3pm) away from the Autoroutes. It's a good idea to let your card issuer know you will be travelling abroad. This ensures they don't suspend your card if they spot it being used in unfamiliar places which they sometimes do as an anti-fraud measure. Make sure that before setting off with your car hire, that you know what fuel is required

  • Headlamp converters are compulsory.

  • Horns are widely used to warn other vehicles of your approach, although they are officially banned in built-up areas.

  • Lights: dipped headlights must be used in poor daytime visibility, and in all tunnels at all times. They must also be used when on motorways, dual carriageways, and on all out of town roads. Motorcycles must use dipped headlights during the day at all times.

  • The minimum age for driving, provided you hold a full UK license, is 18 for a car and for a motorcycle over 125cc. If you've got an old-style all-green license you might find the police will not understand them, so either get them updated or take an International Driving Permit as well. It may be a good idea to check this with the car hire company or with your tour operator as some car hire firms have their own rules and age group..

  • Motorcycle drivers and passengers must wear crash helmets.

  • Motor insurance: third-party insurance is compulsory. A green card is not required but your insurer should be advised of your trip.

  • Seat belts: are compulsory for front and rear seat occupants, if fitted.

  • Speed limits: From 1 January 2003 some three-lane motorways with emergency lanes may have a speed limit of 93mph (150km/h).

  • Visibility Vests are now compulsory in Italy, Austria, Belgium, Norway and Spain (and likely to become compulsory throughout the EU). The rules vary from country to country concerning a number of vests required and whether they should be carried in the car or boot. Common sense suggests that there should be a vest for every occupant and that the vests should be carried in the car. Do this and you will not have a problem.

  • Warning triangle: is compulsory.

The thing to bear in mind when driving in Italy is:

  1. The Italian driver is comfortable driving as close to you as possible, it is just how they drive, do not panic just take it easy as the 10mph rule re one car length is something which will never happen here

  2. You will notice that you will get cut off constantly, this is how they fill the space and get in front…

  3. Parking here is becoming problematical and usually large parking areas are located outside the city centres. And within cities, you will find that they often park their cars in the middle of the street or on pavements!

……General Precautions

Firstly away with any or all preconceptions as this is not a great way to start your Italian adventure….

1.  Organised crime, wolf-whistling and bottom pinching may have been a past element of life in Italy, but it is a long way from the whole picture.  Italy is now a relatively crime-free country but the fact is that Italy suffers from some stereotyping as much as most and the Goodfellas image perpetuated by Hollywood bears a large part of the blame. There is some organised crime in Italy, but it tends to be domestic, rather than directed at tourists. Italy is a safe place to be, though (in the big cities especially) pick-pocketing has been developed into a fine art of which I am sure the Artful Dodger would be more than proud!

2. Theft from parked cars and purse snatching can be a problem in large cities. Predictably, most thefts occur at crowded tourist sites or on public transport, or at the major rail stations. The worst places are the station areas in Italy, a little like all the countries in the world.  If you need to go to the station to get a train or pick up your car or for whatever reason and you have suitcases with you make sure that someone waits with the luggage while the other goes to buy the tickets and that the suitcases are never left unattended.  Keep your belongings as close to you as possible at all times as stealing them takes place very quickly without your even noticing it.  Be prepared, guard your possessions and look confident.

3. Don't carry your wallet or purse in your hand; you may think you have a tight grip on it, but you’re just making it more visible and easy to snatch. Take that bag off your shoulder and pin it tightly under your arm with the opening facing inward. Wear money belts or bum bags with the goods at the front, where you can see and feel them (but ideally with a layer of clothing over the top). And don’t have an expensive camera swinging from your neck. Remember to split up your finances and keep cards, cash, and cheques in separate places, so if the worst happens you only lose one source of money. While you’re at it, make a list of all the emergency numbers for your bank, credit card issuer and others.  Also, take photocopies of your passports and financial documents, and carry these separately. Only carry the cash you need for that day. Extra money, credit cards, travel documents, and passports are far better left in the hotel safe or your apartment or villa. 

….Dress

Dress appropriately when travelling and going on tours. Remember that those fabulously picturesque medieval churches and cathedrals are not simply tourist tick-offs, they’re places of worship. Wandering into St Peter’s dressed for the beach will not be well looked on (in fact they won’t let you in). Flash photography is not acceptable while people are attending Mass; if you want a picture of the interior of the Basilica di San Marco, buy a postcard.  Do not talk loudly. If there is a mass going on, wait until it is finished to examine the art near the altar. If there is a mass going on usually just creep in and look from the back. When there is no mass, you are at liberty to explore.  Some churches have signs telling you what type of clothing is acceptable, some have people at the doors turning people away who are not appropriately dressed. It is best to dress appropriately just in case they are turning people away because of inappropriate dress. Usually, both men and women must not wear sleeveless tops. If a woman carries a light shawl, she can use this to cover her shoulders and upper arms. Shorts are not acceptable.

…..The Italian Police

Should you need to contact the police, be aware that there are a number of different forces. The rough equivalent to British bobbies is the Carabiniere, who wear military-type uniforms and handle general crime, drug offences, and public order.  Next, comes the Polizia Statale, to whom assaults or thefts should be reported. Traffic is handled by the Vigili Urbani, who direct traffic and issue parking fines in the cities, with the Polizia Stradale taking care of the motorways. The Guardia di Finanza deal with smuggling and tax evasion and you are unlikely to have any major encounter with them.  Your first call should be at the local Questura, the police station, which also deals with lost passports and other red tape. Emergency phone numbers are as follows. 112 for the Carabinieri, 113 for general emergencies, 115 for the fire service, 116 for roadside assistance and 118 for an ambulance.

…..Women Travelling Alone

Italy had a bad reputation for sexual harassment of women, and it’s largely unfair. Don’t get angry and don’t be tempted to respond with abuse. One thing a woman is unlikely to be subjected to is drunken and leery male behaviour you’re far more likely to have to contend with persistent chatting up! Anyway still ensure that you take care. 

….Terrorism

Like every country, Italy has had to respond to the threat of terrorism.

….Travelling about by Taxi

All taxis are official taxis with meters in their taxi and they charge in the same way as Black Cabs in the UK, so before you get into the taxi there is a charge of x amount when they take you round you are being charged and you need to pay them when they drop you off.  On occasions, you could try to establish a price before you get into the taxi and see if any discounts can be applied even though quite unlikely. You may think the fare is too high but you have not realized how far it was due to the speed you were driven.  Also never ask a driver to hurry.

….Transfers organised by Us

We can organize transfers and our service providers ensure that their drivers are always courteous and helpful at all times and if they are not, you must let us know.  You will find that some of the drivers can be quite chatty especially the ones on the Amalfi Coast as they are so in love with the area and want you to share in its beauty.  If you need a little bit of peace and quiet just speak to each other and ignore the driver and he will get the message, or just ask him to stop talking, he will understand!

..... Tours and Excursions

Once a tour has been confirmed for you it will not be possible to cancel it, only because guides would have already bought the tickets, or not taken on other tours, or reached the given numbers but due to your dropping out, the tour is no longer possible for others.  When going on a tour, ensure that you have the necessary clothing, shoes and do not forget your camera.

….Tipping

Tipping is customary in Italy and 10% of the bill is acceptable in restaurants (unless a service charge has already been included). Hotels add a service charge of 15-18%, but it is customary to tip the service staff extra. Italians rarely tip taxi drivers, but 5-10% is usual or even 5 to 10 euros.  Most other services expect some small change.  We often advise all our clients to tip and we will provide you with full details in your itinerary.  This is what Fodor’s suggest:

  • In restaurants a 15% service charge is usually added to the total; it's customary to give the waiter an additional 5%-10%, depending on the service and on the quality of the meal.

  • Charges for service are included in all hotel bills, but smaller tips to staff members are appreciated. In general, in a 3-star hotel, chambermaids should be given about €.75 per day, or about €4-€5 a week; bellhops should get €.50-€1.

  • Tip a minimum of €.50 for room service and valet service. Tip breakfast waiters €.25 per day per table (at end of stay). These amounts should be increased by 40% in reasonably expensive hotels, doubled in luxury hotels.

  • Give the concierge about 15% of the bill for services. Tip doormen about €.25 for calling a cab.

  • Taxi drivers are happy with 5%-10%, although Italians rarely tip them.

  • Porters at railroad stations and airports charge a fixed rate per suitcase; tip an additional €.25 per person, more if the porter has been very helpful.

  • Tip service-station attendants €.50 if they have been especially helpful.

  • Tip guides about €1 per person for a half-day tour, more if they are very good.

….Public Holidays

During National Holidays sightseeing tours, shops, banks, museums and galleries may be closed therefore if your trip is based on seeing and visiting make sure that you have allowed yourself the right number of days for your trip. Also note that most museums and some galleries are often closed on a Monday. Here are just some dates to keep in mind when nearly everything closes down:

 

January 1st - New Year’s Day;

January 6th - Epiphany

April 25th - Liberation Day

Easter Sunday

Easter Monday

May 1st - Labour Day

2nd June - Festival of the Republic

August 15th - Assumption (Ferragosto)

November 1st - All Saints’ Day

December 8th - Immaculate Conception;
December 25th – Christmas

December 26th – Santo Stefano

The month to avoid in our opinion if possible is AUGUST.  This is the busiest month of the year for everybody as this is also Italy’s holiday time. Cities are less busy (but very hot) while the roads ad places like the Lakes and the Amalfi Coast as well as many seaside resorts can get very busy.

….Health

There are no specific health risks associated with travel to Italy. EU citizens can make use of Italy's health services provided they have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) – this card now replaces Form E111 which is no longer valid. At the time of publication, no inoculations are necessary for travellers to Italy from the UK. The Department of Health’s Leaflet T5 gives general health information for travellers inside the EEC. This leaflet is available from 0800 555 777. We strongly advise clients to take adequate insurance cover when travelling to Italy. If you decide to be covered by your credit card company, please check the small print to make sure that you have adequate insurance cover whilst in Italy. Medicines and doctors in Italy are very expensive and if you work out the total cost of travel insurance, it is minimal compared with what you could end up paying.

.Some Health Considerations

  • Food and Drink - Tap water is generally safe to drink. Bottled water is available. The inscription ‘Acqua Non Potabile’ means water is not drinkable. Milk is pasteurised and dairy products are safe for consumption. Local meat, poultry, seafood, fruit, and vegetables are considered safe to eat.

  • Water - Ensure you protect yourself adequately against the heat and sun and drink a lot of water as dehydration can sometimes be a problem.

  • Mosquitoes can be a problem, though a nuisance rather than a danger. There are any number of ingenious answers, from nets, to repellent creams and sprays, to little devices that deliver an electrical charge thus removing the swelling. When you keep all the windows open for that nice cool breeze in the evening, you will find that they fly right in. Keep the lights off and those windows shut. 

  • Chemist - Take a trip to your local FARMACIA where they will be happy to give advice. In fact, a trip to the FARMACIA is good for a range of minor ailments, with Italian pharmacists qualified to make diagnoses and hand out prescriptions for a limited range of complaints. If they can’t help, they will be able to refer you to the local doctor (medico).

  • Dentists – Mostly private

….Time

Local time is GMT +1 (GMT +2 between the last Sunday in March and the Saturday before the last Sunday in September).

….Language

Italian. English is understood and more and more people speak and write in English.

….Electricity

As in the rest of Europe, it comes out of the wall socket at 220 volts alternating at 50 cycles per second. A variety of plugs are in use including the European-style two-pin plug. You can buy these converters at the airport or at your local UK chemist.

….Opening & Closing Times

Opening and closing times vary from region to region. Italy seems to shut down at 13h00 until 15h00-16h30. This is just to help the digestive system since so much has been eaten or to take a break from the heat. In the summer some shops stay open until 20h00. Bars stay open in the early afternoon and it must be noted that major cities like Milan actually seem to close down for the entire month of August. The Milanese say that this is because of the air quality as Milan is in a valley and the air is so still. During Ferragosto (15th August) you will also find all the major cities empty as this is a public holiday. During the summer Italians are usually away on holiday either in Italy or abroad and that is why most of the cities during the summer months are mainly inhabited by the tourist. Try to do most of your excursions in the morning as the afternoon may be too hot. During the national holidays as mentioned above, everything shuts down however some restaurants and bars remain open.  There are also many local festivities with processions and fireworks where the whole town or village shuts down however here again restaurants and bars and some shops may remain open.

 

Banks are usually open Monday to Friday inclusive 08h30-13h30 and 14h45-15h45. Shops are open from Monday through to Saturday 09h00-12h30 or even 13h00 and 15h30-19h30. Usually, shops are closed on Monday morning and Saturday afternoon in the summer. In some tourist locations, shops even open on Saturdays. Restaurants open 12h30 for lunch and then again at 19h30 for dinner. There are an array of markets throughout Italy that are open between 8h30 and 13h30. We would suggest that clients who are booking self-catering villas or apartments try to arrive in Italy before midday in order to stock up for at least the Saturday and the Sunday, the other alternative we can offer you is to allow us to inform the owner to stock up on your behalf so at least you have something to eat in the evening. Most of our owners are actually very good cooks and will prepare a meal for you when you arrive. The monies will then be deducted from your deposit. PLEASE NOTE Some museums and art galleries close on Mondays.

If there is anything we have not mentioned which you think may be worth a mention just let us know or if you want us to feature your comments and your own Italian experiences with a view to assisting future clients just send your comments. Take into consideration that these details may change and if there is anything you need to know or are not sure of when booking your trip to Italy, just let us know and we will be more than happy to assist. Also, be advised that all cancellation details or any important information will either be on your booking form or your confirmation invoice.

 

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