Before you begin working your way to foreign language fluency, it helps to understand the culture behind the language you’re learning. After all, language exists to help a group of people express their ideas and beliefs. Italy is an old country with a rich history and culture. As you begin your Italian language program, gaining a strong grasp on this history, the values, and the etiquette will help you rapidly achieve success. In particular, if you plan on visiting Italy, you should know how to get there and what to do once you arrive.
International travelers arrive in Italy primarily by air, although many also come in by cruise ships at Italy’s many ports. When traveling by air to Italy, the main points of arrival are Rome and Milan. Leonardo da Vinci and Ciampino airports are the international arrival points in Rome, while Malpensa and Linate are where travelers come into Milan. If travelling directly to Venice, visitors will enter via Marco Polo Airport on the mainland, after which water taxi transport will be required to reach the popular visitor areas and hotels of Venice. If traveling to any part of Sicily, travelers will want to fly direct or make transfer to Palermo Airport.
Citizens of all European Union countries can travel freely into and out of Italy, as it is part of the EU and Eurozone. While EU citizens will not need their passports to enter, it is always advisable to carry identification acceptable in the country one is visiting. Canadians and Americans will need their passports, but will not need visas to visit. All others will want to check visa requirements specific to their country of residence.
Alitalia is the principal airline bringing in international visitors. Domestically, ATI is the main carrier. For both international and domestic flights, using a travel agent is advisable. Fares are commonly discounted, but rarely advertised, so a knowledgeable travel agent can be a great asset. It is important to ask about discounts in case they are not proactively offered. To check published schedules and fares for Alitalia or to book directly, go to www.alitalia.it.
During the warmer months, Italians spend much of their time outdoors. The bustling open-air market is a vibrant scene of outdoor life in every large city and town in Italy. Florence’s public markets open at different parts of the city every day of the week.
On Sunday evenings in southern Italy and Sicily, young people dress in their finest clothes and stroll arm-in-arm through main streets and public squares to see and be seen. This ritual is called the “passeggiata,” or leisurely walk. For most young Italians, showing off their best at the weekly “passeggiata” is more crucial to attend than Sunday mass.
During the summertime, families also spend Sundays together on the beach. Beaches are most crowded during July and August when Italian families and tourists alike trek to the sea to escape the heat. The Sunday after the school year ends is also a popular day for families to go to the beach together.
Camping is an activity enjoyed by many Italians from April to September. There are over two thousand campsites and holiday parks in Italy, all graded from one to five stars according to their facilities. Enjoying the outdoors doesn’t have to mean forfeiting modern conveniences in Italy. Higher-end holiday parks may have their own supermarkets, swimming pools, and cinemas; some even have permanent cabins fitted with private bathrooms on-site. Hostel-style campgrounds are often equipped with their own restaurants, shops, laundry facilities, volleyball courts, and jacuzzi pools.
There is so much to see in Italy that it can be intimidating for a first-time visitor to decide where to go first. A good place to start is the national Italian Tourist Board, Ente Nazionale Italiano di Turismo (ENIT). The ENIT has offices around the world to promote tourism in Italy. If there is not an office in your area, the ENIT website Italia.it hosts valuable information for travelers including maps, popular destinations, and travel ideas. The state travel agency, Compagnia Italiana di Turismo (CIT), also provides information to tourists and offers a train-booking service.
In addition to the larger agencies, visitors should take advantage of the services provided by local tourist offices, which can be found in each of Italy’s twenty provincial capitals. Regional tourist offices Ente Provinciale di Turismo (EPT) and Azienda di Promozione Turistica (APT) provide a wealth of information to visitors about their provinces’ unique regional events and attractions. Ufficio Informazione e Accoglienza Turistica (IAT) and Azienda Autonoma di Soggiorno e Turismo (AAST) are useful information centers for maps and public transit guides. These regional offices are usually open from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
When receiving event information at a local tourist office, check whether the town is holding an annual “festa” (festival) during your stay. Italian festivals are lively celebrations that one should not miss given the opportunity. In Florence, for example, June 24 marks a day of celebration of Saint John the Baptist, whom they honor with a three-day sixteenth-century costume parade among other festivities.