YOU CAN EDIT THIS PAGE! Just click any blue "Edit" link and start writing!

Difference between revisions of "Italy"

From Wikitravel
Jump to: navigation, search
Italy

Default Banner.jpg

(Info on trains and cheap travel)
Line 112: Line 112:
 
==Get in/Get out==
 
==Get in/Get out==
  
 +
==Get around==
 +
; '''Trains''' : The Italian rail system has three levels: [[Eurostar]], [[Intercity]], and Regular ('Linee Urbane'), in decending order, Eurostar being the classiest.  Generally speaking, for a given distance each tier costs twice as much as the one below it.  The train cars used by the Eurostar service are far newer than those used by the other two, but are not necessarily more comfortable.  In fact, the cars used by Intercity trains are split up into distinct, six-seater compartments, which is really nice when you're travelling in groups or with a boyfriend/girlfriend.
 +
 +
The main practical difference between tiers is reliability.  Intercity trains are generally very reliable, but if you need to catch a flight, for example, it might be better to pay extra for the Eurostar.  The "Linee Urbane" are less reliable.  The other big difference between Eurostar and the other two tiers is that Eurostar seating is all by reservation, while seating on the others is not.  On the Eurostar, every passenger is assigned a seat.  This means that the train will never be packed with an impossible number of people, but it also means that if the train you want to be on sells out you are SOL (for desperate measures, see [[Cheap Travel]]).  During commuter hours, on major north-south routes during the holidays, or before and after large political demonstrations, trains on the two lower tiers can become very, very full, to the point where it gets very uncomfortable.  On the plus side, when trains are this full it is normally not necessary to purchase a ticket (again, see [[Cheap Travel]].
 +
 +
The pricier tier is usually faster, but there isn't a consistent speed difference between tiers.  On some routes, the Eurostar will cut the travel time in half, but on others routes all three trains go the same speed, and taking the Eurostar is simply a waste of money.  Just check the [[http://trenitalia.com/ FS website]] or the printed schedule, usually located near the entrance to each platform to see how long the trip will take.  On the train schedules, the Eurostar is listed in blue, Intercity in red, and Regular in green.  The arrival times are listed in parentheses next to the names of each destination.  One thing to watch out for: certain trains only operate seasonally, or for certain time periods (for example, during holidays).  If you see things that look like date ranges in Italian, make sure that train is actually coming before you wait for it.
 +
 +
The lines to buy tickets can be very long, and slow, so get to the station early.  There are touch-screen ticket machines which are very useful, efficient, and multilingual, but there are never that many, and the lines for those can be very long too.  Eurostar trains can fill up, so if you're on a tight schedule you should buy those tickets in advance.  If you are running late and don't have time to buy a ticket, you can just jump on the train, but you will have to pay extra when the conductor ("il controllore") comes around (a flat fee, somewhere around 5-10 euro) and they don't take credit cards.  Technically, if you don't have a ticket you are supposed to find the conductor yourself and buy one (otherwise you have to pay another fee--approx. 20 euro), but for foreigners it's enough to just stammer something about being late and they will almost never hassle you about this.
 +
 +
Also, the way the system works is that, unless you "validate" the ticket by inserting it into one of the yellow boxes on the platform, you could keep using it for months.  The yellow box just stamps a date on the ticket, so the ticket-checker ('il controllore') knows you weren't planning on using that ticket again.  Technically, a ticket that isn't validated is just like not having a ticket: you have to buy another.  In practice, this is not a big deal for stammering foreigner.
 +
 +
 +
; '''Cheap Travel''' : The payment system for most mass transit in Italy (trains, city busses, subway) is based on voluntary payment combined with sporadic enforcement.  Specifically, you buy a ticket which can be used at any time (for that level of service, anyway) and when you use it you "validate" the ticket by sticking it into a machine that stamps a date on it.  Once in a while (with varying frequency depending on the mode of transportation) someone ('il controllore') will ask you for your ticket and if you don't have it you get a fine.  The system is designed such that you'll end up paying more in fines than you would if you just bought the ticket.  However, the fines aren't paid on the spot (since this would be an invitation to corruption) and enforcement depends on a system of national identity cards that all Italians are required to carry with them at all times.  This is a significant point for foreigners on a budget: an Italian transit fine means about as much to you as a Texas speeding ticket means to an Italian.
 +
*City Busses : You can't pay for a ticket on the bus, even if you wanted to.  Various shops sell bus tickets, but for travellers they really aren't necessary.  The fine for a missing bus ticket is quite high (30-50 times the value of the ticket) but the frequency of checks is very, very low (i.e. you could take one bus everyday for a month and only see one or two checks).  The driver will never ask you for you ticket, or care whether or not you stick a ticket in the validator (many people have monthly or yearly passes).  This is how enforcement works: two guys (usually middle aged in denim jackets) get on the bus, and once the bus starts moving they whip out ID cards and ask the people immediately next to them to show their ticket.  The thing is, once they catch somebody, it takes them at least a couple minutes to fill out the paperwork, and by that time everyone but the unlucky two has jumped off at the next stop.  In the highly improbable event that you get asked for your ticket, they'll make some show of writing down your passport number (or European ID), but the fine will never get to you.  It just isn't worth the money or the hassle to pay for bus tickets.
 +
*Rome Metro :  The system for the Rome's subway ('il Metro') is the same as for city busses, although checks may be more frequent, and these checks are sometimes done by cops, who are more likely to hassle foreigners.  You can still get on and off the trains without a ticket, and you'll probably be fine.  There are turnstyles at the entrances to the stations, but they're really just for show: all they do is stamp your ticket, and anyone who already has a ticket can just walk around the turnstyle.  But given the slightly higher hassle-risk, the ideal approach is to buy one ticket, and then stamp it several times until it becomes unreadable.  Then if somebody asks you for your ticket, just show them the ticket and act stupid.  They get this a lot from unwitting foreigners.
 +
*Trains : The Italian train system is a very fast way to get around, and if you're smart it's easier than any other country in Europe to travel without paying: either by travelling in one-stop chunks or by avoiding 'il controllore' inside the train.
 +
 +
The no-ticket equation changes slightly for trains: you can pay for a ticket on the train, the fines are lower, and checks are much more frequent (you get checked more than 50% of the time).  If you get on a train with no ticket and get checked, they'll ask you for money.  You can pull out a credit card (they can't take credit cards) or you can just say you have no money.  If you were an Italian they'd get your ID number and eventually you'd have to pay the price of the ticket plus a 20 or 30 euro fine, but you can continue to your destination.  If you're an EU national they'll take your identity card, jot down the number, and they'll usually let you ride (this situation is ideal: they think the fine will catch up to you, but it probably never will).  If you're non-EU they're wise to the fact that you'll never end up paying, and so they'll make you get off at the next stop.  But most Intercity and Eurostar trains go very long distances (sometimes hundreds of miles) between stops, so if you time it right you can travel pretty fast this way.  Ticket checks on night trains are even less frequent, so you can often go several stops before you get checked.  One tip for this method: often when you say you have no money and no ticket, 'il controllore' will ask where you're going.  It's a good idea to give the name of a city on the same line that is much farther than you plan to go, for two reasons: First, it's good to make them feel like they're inconveniencing you in some way by kicking you off, otherwise they're much more likely to get angry, since they know you're scamming the system and there's nothing they can do about it.  Second, it's possible they'll let you ride a few more stops (possibly all you need) and tell you to get off at some intermediate destination.
 +
 +
If you need to go long distances and you don't have the time to get kicked off the train and get another train, there are several ways to avoid 'il controllore' while staying on the train.  The obvious one is to hide in the bathroom, but this doesn't work that well, partly because other people will have the same idea (and there aren't many bathrooms) and mostly because the ticket checkers will often knock on the bathroom door and wait for you to come out.  Here are two other approaches that work better:  On the Eurostar just make your way to the snack bar, buy a drink (or hover over an empty glass) and hang out.  They very rarely check the people in the snack bar. 
 +
 +
Most Intercity trains have cars with compartments, and almost all of these have enough room under the seats to hide in.  This sounds really tricky, but it's actually pretty easy.  The seats are like a long bench, and there's plenty of space underneath for a person to stretch out.  If you're shorter than 5 feet 10" (approx) then you can stretch out all the way and it's quite comfortable, though a bit claustrophobic.  If you're taller than that it's much less comfortable, but still manageable, because you have to tilt your head up in order to fit.  Just pull out one of the seats a few inches at one end and that will free up enough room to tilt your head up. 
 +
 +
Of course, you don't want to spend hours under a seat, and you don't have to.  Once the train gets moving, just walk down to the end until you see 'il controllore' in the next car.  If you get to the end of the train, walk back the other way until you see him.  Then just walk back a few cars, find a suitable compartment, hide under the seat, and wait--you are completely invisible down there.  If you lie with your head opposite the compartment door you'll be able to see when the conductor passes by.  Wait a few minutes, and scramble out.  The best thing to do is to find a compartment where there are other people who look like they'll be down with the whole operation.  Second best is to find an empty compartment (make sure you put your bag in an occupied compartment first).  You'll have to do this a few times on long trips, since they often will do a check after each major stop.
 +
 +
*[[Hitchhiking]] :  Italians are generally very friendly and open people, but they're less likely to pick up hitchhikers than anyone else in the world.  It is easier to hitchhike out of the Bronx than it is to hitchhike in Italy.  Hitchhiking in the summer in touristy areas works okay because you'll get rides from Northern European tourists, and it works okay in very rural areas as long as there is consistent traffic (because you're still playing the odds) but hitchhiking near large cities or along busy routes is extremely frustrating.  Also, hitchhiking is not recommended for women travelling alone.
  
==Get around==
 
  
  

Revision as of 08:23, 31 January 2004

Flag
It-flag.png
Quick Facts
CapitalRome
Governmentrepublic
Currencyeuro (EUR)
Areatotal: 301,230 sq km
note: includes Sardinia and Sicily
water: 7,210 sq km
land: 294,020 sq km
Population57,715,625 (July 2002 est.)
LanguageItalian (official), German (parts of Trentino-Alto Adige region are predominantly German speaking), French (small French-speaking minority in Valle d'Aosta region), Slovene (Slovene-speaking minority in the Trieste-Gorizia area)
Religionpredominately Roman Catholic with mature Protestant and Jewish communities and a growing Muslim immigrant community


This article is an import from the CIA World Factbook 2002. It's a starting point for creating a real Wikitravel country article according to our country article template. Please plunge forward and edit it.

Destinations

  • Rome (Roma): The capital, both of Italy and the historical Roman empire.
  • Florence - (Firenze) : History, art, architecture. Uffizzi's gallery, David of Michelangelo Buonarroti. Rinascimental city.
  • Venice - (Venezia) : History, art. S. Marc plaza. The city is built on a laguna, filled with canals, no roads for cars. Very poetic and romantic.
  • Milan - (Milano) : Shares with Paris the title of fashion capital of the world.
  • Verona
  • Naples
  • Cinque Terre
  • Padova
  • Trento
  • Turin (Torino): The first capital of modern Italy. Host of the 2006 Winter Olympics.


Know

Italy became a nation-state in 1861 when the city-states of the peninsula, along with Sardinia and Sicily, were united under King Victor EMMANUEL. An era of parliamentary government came to a close in the early 1920s when Benito MUSSOLINI established a Fascist dictatorship. His disastrous alliance with Nazi Germany led to Italy's defeat in World War II. A democratic republic replaced the monarchy in 1946 and economic revival followed. Italy was a charter member of NATO and the European Economic Community (EEC). It has been at the forefront of European economic and political unification, joining the European Monetary Union in 1999. Persistent problems include illegal immigration, the ravages of organized crime, corruption, high unemployment, and the low incomes and technical standards of southern Italy compared with the prosperous north.


Geography

It-map.png
Map of Italy
Location 
Southern Europe, a peninsula extending into the central Mediterranean Sea, northeast of Tunisia
Map references 
Europe
Area 
total: 301,230 sq km
note: includes Sardinia and Sicily
water: 7,210 sq km
land: 294,020 sq km
Area - comparative 
slightly larger than Arizona
Land boundaries 
total: 1,932.2 km
border countries: Austria 430 km, France 488 km, Holy See (Vatican City) 3.2 km, San Marino 39 km, Slovenia 232 km, Switzerland 740 km
Coastline 
7,600 km
Climate 
predominantly Mediterranean; Alpine in far north; hot, dry in south
Terrain 
mostly rugged and mountainous; some plains, coastal lowlands
Elevation extremes 
lowest point: Mediterranean Sea 0 m
highest point: Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco) de Courmayeur 4,748 m (a secondary peak of Mont Blanc)

People

Population 
57,715,625 (July 2002 est.)
Nationality 
noun: Italian(s)
adjective: Italian
Ethnic groups 
Italian (includes small clusters of German-, French-, and Slovene-Italians in the north and Albanian-Italians and Greek-Italians in the south)
Religions 
predominately Roman Catholic with mature Protestant and Jewish communities and a growing Muslim immigrant community
Languages 
Italian (official), German (parts of Trentino-Alto Adige region are predominantly German speaking), French (small French-speaking minority in Valle d'Aosta region), Slovene (Slovene-speaking minority in the Trieste-Gorizia area)

Government

Country name 
conventional long form: Italian Republic
conventional short form: Italy
local long form: Repubblica Italiana
former: Kingdom of Italy
local short form: Italia
Government type 
republic
Capital 
Rome
Independence 
17 March 1861 (Kingdom of Italy proclaimed; Italy was not finally unified until 1870)
National holiday 
Republic Day, 2 June (1946)
Constitution 
1 January 1948

Economy

Economy - overview 
Italy has a diversified industrial economy with roughly the same total and per capita output as France and the UK. This capitalistic economy remains divided into a developed industrial north, dominated by private companies, and a less developed agricultural south, with 20% unemployment. Most raw materials needed by industry and more than 75% of energy requirements are imported. Over the past decade, Italy has pursued a tight fiscal policy in order to meet the requirements of the Economic and Monetary Unions and has benefited from lower interest and inflation rates. The current government has enacted numerous short-term reforms aimed at improving competitiveness and long-term growth. Rome has moved slowly, however, on implementing needed structural reforms, such as lightening the high tax burden and overhauling Italy's rigid labor market and over-generous pension system, because of the current economic slowdown and opposition from labor unions.
Currency 
euro (EUR)
Currency code 
EUR
Exchange rates 
euros per US dollar - 1.1324 (January 2002), 1.1175 (2001), 1.0854 (2000), 0.9386 (1999); Italian lire per US dollar - 1,688.7 (January 1999), 1,736.2 (1998), 1,703.1 (1997)

Communications

Internet country code 
.it

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international 
Croatia and Italy are still trying to resolve bilateral property and ethnic minority rights dating from World War II
Illicit drugs 
important gateway for and consumer of Latin American cocaine and Southwest Asian heroin entering the European market; money laundering by organized crime and from smuggling

Understand

Talk

  • Italian


See also: Language Expedition

Get in/Get out

Get around

Trains 
The Italian rail system has three levels: Eurostar, Intercity, and Regular ('Linee Urbane'), in decending order, Eurostar being the classiest. Generally speaking, for a given distance each tier costs twice as much as the one below it. The train cars used by the Eurostar service are far newer than those used by the other two, but are not necessarily more comfortable. In fact, the cars used by Intercity trains are split up into distinct, six-seater compartments, which is really nice when you're travelling in groups or with a boyfriend/girlfriend.

The main practical difference between tiers is reliability. Intercity trains are generally very reliable, but if you need to catch a flight, for example, it might be better to pay extra for the Eurostar. The "Linee Urbane" are less reliable. The other big difference between Eurostar and the other two tiers is that Eurostar seating is all by reservation, while seating on the others is not. On the Eurostar, every passenger is assigned a seat. This means that the train will never be packed with an impossible number of people, but it also means that if the train you want to be on sells out you are SOL (for desperate measures, see Cheap Travel). During commuter hours, on major north-south routes during the holidays, or before and after large political demonstrations, trains on the two lower tiers can become very, very full, to the point where it gets very uncomfortable. On the plus side, when trains are this full it is normally not necessary to purchase a ticket (again, see Cheap Travel.

The pricier tier is usually faster, but there isn't a consistent speed difference between tiers. On some routes, the Eurostar will cut the travel time in half, but on others routes all three trains go the same speed, and taking the Eurostar is simply a waste of money. Just check the [FS website] or the printed schedule, usually located near the entrance to each platform to see how long the trip will take. On the train schedules, the Eurostar is listed in blue, Intercity in red, and Regular in green. The arrival times are listed in parentheses next to the names of each destination. One thing to watch out for: certain trains only operate seasonally, or for certain time periods (for example, during holidays). If you see things that look like date ranges in Italian, make sure that train is actually coming before you wait for it.

The lines to buy tickets can be very long, and slow, so get to the station early. There are touch-screen ticket machines which are very useful, efficient, and multilingual, but there are never that many, and the lines for those can be very long too. Eurostar trains can fill up, so if you're on a tight schedule you should buy those tickets in advance. If you are running late and don't have time to buy a ticket, you can just jump on the train, but you will have to pay extra when the conductor ("il controllore") comes around (a flat fee, somewhere around 5-10 euro) and they don't take credit cards. Technically, if you don't have a ticket you are supposed to find the conductor yourself and buy one (otherwise you have to pay another fee--approx. 20 euro), but for foreigners it's enough to just stammer something about being late and they will almost never hassle you about this.

Also, the way the system works is that, unless you "validate" the ticket by inserting it into one of the yellow boxes on the platform, you could keep using it for months. The yellow box just stamps a date on the ticket, so the ticket-checker ('il controllore') knows you weren't planning on using that ticket again. Technically, a ticket that isn't validated is just like not having a ticket: you have to buy another. In practice, this is not a big deal for stammering foreigner.


Cheap Travel 
The payment system for most mass transit in Italy (trains, city busses, subway) is based on voluntary payment combined with sporadic enforcement. Specifically, you buy a ticket which can be used at any time (for that level of service, anyway) and when you use it you "validate" the ticket by sticking it into a machine that stamps a date on it. Once in a while (with varying frequency depending on the mode of transportation) someone ('il controllore') will ask you for your ticket and if you don't have it you get a fine. The system is designed such that you'll end up paying more in fines than you would if you just bought the ticket. However, the fines aren't paid on the spot (since this would be an invitation to corruption) and enforcement depends on a system of national identity cards that all Italians are required to carry with them at all times. This is a significant point for foreigners on a budget: an Italian transit fine means about as much to you as a Texas speeding ticket means to an Italian.
  • City Busses : You can't pay for a ticket on the bus, even if you wanted to. Various shops sell bus tickets, but for travellers they really aren't necessary. The fine for a missing bus ticket is quite high (30-50 times the value of the ticket) but the frequency of checks is very, very low (i.e. you could take one bus everyday for a month and only see one or two checks). The driver will never ask you for you ticket, or care whether or not you stick a ticket in the validator (many people have monthly or yearly passes). This is how enforcement works: two guys (usually middle aged in denim jackets) get on the bus, and once the bus starts moving they whip out ID cards and ask the people immediately next to them to show their ticket. The thing is, once they catch somebody, it takes them at least a couple minutes to fill out the paperwork, and by that time everyone but the unlucky two has jumped off at the next stop. In the highly improbable event that you get asked for your ticket, they'll make some show of writing down your passport number (or European ID), but the fine will never get to you. It just isn't worth the money or the hassle to pay for bus tickets.
  • Rome Metro : The system for the Rome's subway ('il Metro') is the same as for city busses, although checks may be more frequent, and these checks are sometimes done by cops, who are more likely to hassle foreigners. You can still get on and off the trains without a ticket, and you'll probably be fine. There are turnstyles at the entrances to the stations, but they're really just for show: all they do is stamp your ticket, and anyone who already has a ticket can just walk around the turnstyle. But given the slightly higher hassle-risk, the ideal approach is to buy one ticket, and then stamp it several times until it becomes unreadable. Then if somebody asks you for your ticket, just show them the ticket and act stupid. They get this a lot from unwitting foreigners.
  • Trains : The Italian train system is a very fast way to get around, and if you're smart it's easier than any other country in Europe to travel without paying: either by travelling in one-stop chunks or by avoiding 'il controllore' inside the train.

The no-ticket equation changes slightly for trains: you can pay for a ticket on the train, the fines are lower, and checks are much more frequent (you get checked more than 50% of the time). If you get on a train with no ticket and get checked, they'll ask you for money. You can pull out a credit card (they can't take credit cards) or you can just say you have no money. If you were an Italian they'd get your ID number and eventually you'd have to pay the price of the ticket plus a 20 or 30 euro fine, but you can continue to your destination. If you're an EU national they'll take your identity card, jot down the number, and they'll usually let you ride (this situation is ideal: they think the fine will catch up to you, but it probably never will). If you're non-EU they're wise to the fact that you'll never end up paying, and so they'll make you get off at the next stop. But most Intercity and Eurostar trains go very long distances (sometimes hundreds of miles) between stops, so if you time it right you can travel pretty fast this way. Ticket checks on night trains are even less frequent, so you can often go several stops before you get checked. One tip for this method: often when you say you have no money and no ticket, 'il controllore' will ask where you're going. It's a good idea to give the name of a city on the same line that is much farther than you plan to go, for two reasons: First, it's good to make them feel like they're inconveniencing you in some way by kicking you off, otherwise they're much more likely to get angry, since they know you're scamming the system and there's nothing they can do about it. Second, it's possible they'll let you ride a few more stops (possibly all you need) and tell you to get off at some intermediate destination.

If you need to go long distances and you don't have the time to get kicked off the train and get another train, there are several ways to avoid 'il controllore' while staying on the train. The obvious one is to hide in the bathroom, but this doesn't work that well, partly because other people will have the same idea (and there aren't many bathrooms) and mostly because the ticket checkers will often knock on the bathroom door and wait for you to come out. Here are two other approaches that work better: On the Eurostar just make your way to the snack bar, buy a drink (or hover over an empty glass) and hang out. They very rarely check the people in the snack bar.

Most Intercity trains have cars with compartments, and almost all of these have enough room under the seats to hide in. This sounds really tricky, but it's actually pretty easy. The seats are like a long bench, and there's plenty of space underneath for a person to stretch out. If you're shorter than 5 feet 10" (approx) then you can stretch out all the way and it's quite comfortable, though a bit claustrophobic. If you're taller than that it's much less comfortable, but still manageable, because you have to tilt your head up in order to fit. Just pull out one of the seats a few inches at one end and that will free up enough room to tilt your head up.

Of course, you don't want to spend hours under a seat, and you don't have to. Once the train gets moving, just walk down to the end until you see 'il controllore' in the next car. If you get to the end of the train, walk back the other way until you see him. Then just walk back a few cars, find a suitable compartment, hide under the seat, and wait--you are completely invisible down there. If you lie with your head opposite the compartment door you'll be able to see when the conductor passes by. Wait a few minutes, and scramble out. The best thing to do is to find a compartment where there are other people who look like they'll be down with the whole operation. Second best is to find an empty compartment (make sure you put your bag in an occupied compartment first). You'll have to do this a few times on long trips, since they often will do a check after each major stop.

  • Hitchhiking : Italians are generally very friendly and open people, but they're less likely to pick up hitchhikers than anyone else in the world. It is easier to hitchhike out of the Bronx than it is to hitchhike in Italy. Hitchhiking in the summer in touristy areas works okay because you'll get rides from Northern European tourists, and it works okay in very rural areas as long as there is consistent traffic (because you're still playing the odds) but hitchhiking near large cities or along busy routes is extremely frustrating. Also, hitchhiking is not recommended for women travelling alone.



Spend

Learn

Work

Stay Safe

Stay Healthy

Respect

Contact