10 travel tips for first-timers in Italy.
Everyone knows Italy – Rome's iconic ruins,Tuscany's vine-clad hills, Venice's romantic waterways.
These have all been on the radar for centuries.
Add fabulous food and breath-taking scenery,and you have all the ingredients for an unforgettable visit.
Eat like a local.
Dining out is one of Italy's great joys.
And there's no shortage of eateries, witheverything from Michelin-starred restaurants to neighbourhood trattorias, wine bars, cafesand pizzerias.
Italians generally eat late, so if you wantto fit in, stop for lunch at around 1.
30pm and dinner at 8.
30 to 9pm – the furthersouth you go, the later they eat.
Dress the part.
Appearances matter in fashion-conscious Italy.
That said, you'll have to dress comfortablyfor sightseeing because you'll be walking a lot.
Practical shoes are a must as cobblestonedstreets play havoc with heels and ankles.
For the evening, smart casual is the way togo.
Museums (and how to skip the line)Italy's historic cities are littered with awe-inspiring art and famous buildings, andoften sightseeing is just a case of walking the streets.
But for top sights like the Colosseum andVatican Museums in Rome or Florence's Galleria degli Uffizi and Gallerie dell'Accademia,entrance queues are the norm.
Bread and tipping.
Italians are not big tippers.
Service is generally added to restaurant bills,but if it's not, a euro or two is fine in trattorias and pizzerias, up to 10% in smartrestaurants.
Also, expect to pay for pane e coperto (abread and cover charge) – this is standard and is added even if you don't ask for oreat the bread.
Stopping at a cafe for a quick coffee is oneof the great rituals of Italian life.
To do it like a local, first pay at the cashregister, then, armed with your receipt, give the barista your order.
When it arrives, drink standing at the bar- sitting at a table is fine but takes longer and costs more.
Shopping like a pro.
Traditionally, Italian shops have an afternoonbreak, typically closing between 1pm and 4pm.
They'll then re-open until around 8pm.
However, this is changing and in big cities,many shops now stay open throughout the day.
Some even open on Sunday mornings.
Tips for driving.
It's pointless hiring a car for city travel– traffic is hellish and ZTLs (limited traffic zones) are in force – but if you want tohead into the countryside, it's well worth considering.
Italians tend to drive aggressively but onceyou've got used to the tailgaters and tooting, driving here is not as nerve-wracking as it'soften made out to be.
Navigating public transport.
Most Italian cities can be explored on foot,but you'll inevitably need to use public transport at some point.
Tickets, which must be bought from a tabaccaioor street kiosk and validated once on board, are generally valid for a set time period.
In Rome, for example, a single €1.
50 ticketis valid for 100 minutes.
Cash or Credit.
While credit cards are widely accepted inhotels, restaurants, shops and autostrada tollbooths, Italy hasn't entirely gone plastic.
You can't always rely on cards in museum ticketoffices, and some smaller trattorias, shops and pizzerias only take cash.
Brush up your italiano.
You'll have no trouble getting by with English,but a few Italian words and expressions will help you on your way.
This is particularly true in restaurants wheremenus don't always have translations and some places rely on waiters to explain things.