When to come
The climate in Tuscany is very mild. The best seasons are spring and autumn especially because the landscape at that time of the year is very beautiful. Obviously if you want to combine your cultural tour with time in the countryside then the summer period (May-September) is preferable although in July and August the sometimes blistering heat may make trekking around cities or hill towns pretty hard work. If Spring colours are your thing then March and April are good but be prepared for showers in April/May. Even into October it can remain warm, if cooler in the evenings. November sees night-time temperatures really begin to drop with crisp autumn days to accompany the main olive harvest throughout Tuscany. Winter can have sunny, mild days but it is usually cold and wet. Anyhow spring always seems to come quickly.
What time is it?
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +1 (+2 in summer) (Central European Time) Italy is six hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time in the USA and Canada. Daylight saving time in Italy goes into effect each year usually from the end of March to the middle of October.
Check time zone conversion
To phone Italy from abroad, use your local international access code + the country code (39) + area code (2/4 digits) + number (5/8 digits). To call a mobile phone dial the country code (39) + the number. About mobile phones, in Italy there are four main companies through which you can get a temporary or prepaid account if you already own a GSM, dual- or tri-band cellular phone. You will usually need your passport to open an account.
Important phone numbers:
Carabinieri (National Police) – 112
Public Emergency calls- 113
Fire Dept.- 115
Medical emergency (ambulance)- 118
Forest Police- 1515
ACI Assistance on the road- 116
Money & currency exchange
Our monetary currency is the Euro which is divided as follows: bills of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 (it is often difficult to get change for a €500.00 note); coins of 1, 2, 5, 10 Euros, 20 and 50 cents. It’s a good idea to keep a supply of various coins for parking meters, laundrettes, tolls etc.
Using a credit card can mean never having to have more than a handful of Euros on you. Some small pensioni (little hotels), trattorie and pizzerie will only accept cash but ATMs are widespread and easy to use.
Banks and post offices are the most reliable places to change traveller’s cheques and generally offer the best rates.
Service charges are included in your restaurant bill, so you are not expected to tip. It is common practice, however, to leave a small amount. Be aware that prices in Italian bars and cafes double (sometimes even triple) if you sit down.
Banks are generally open Monday through Friday from 8.30am to 1.30pm (some banks also open from 3 to 4 p.m.). In many tourist areas they are open non-stop from 830am. to 4pm and closed all day on Saturday and Sunday and on national holidays.
All the Post Offices are open 8am-6.30pm Monday-Friday and 8am-12.30pm Saturday.
If you want stamps, you can buy them in “tabacchi” too, they will often also weigh your letter. Check the prices of Stamps for postcards and letters
Italy has many regional cuisine and cooking styles vary notably, from the rich and creamy dishes of the north to the hot and spicy specialities of the south. Tuscany is in the middle and is a great experience to taste the delicious Bistecca fiorentina (a large beef steak minimum 4 hg weight), the Ribollita soup, prosciuttos and salamis of Cinta Senese (a special pig from this area), Pappardelle or Pici al cinghiale ( typical hand made pasta in wild boar sauce) and the worldwide famous red wines such as Chianti, Brunello and Nobile. Coffee and wine are anyway amazing countrywide.
Restaurants are always open on Sunday while, they usually have a day off on mid week. Lunch time is usually from 12:30 to 2:30 pm. Dinner time is usually from 7:30 to 10 pm.
Shops opening time
Although shops are normally open from 9am to 1pm and from 3.30/4pm to 7.30/8pm, in some tourist areas they tend to stay open the whole day from 9.30am to 7.30pm, like some large department stores. Most Groceries, drugstores, hair dressers, clothes shops are usually closed on Monday. They mostly accept all credit cards except for some very peculiar, hidden small shops.
IVA tax refunds
Like most other European countries, Italy imposes a value added tax (VAT) on most goods and services purchased in the country. This tax is known as the IVA. It is normally included in the price of most goods and services. Generally the rate stands at 20% of the sale price. Residents outside of the European Union visiting Italy may obtain a VAT refund on purchases of new goods. VAT refunds may be claimed for purchases of merchandise (not for services such as hotels, car rentals, entertainment, meals or transportation) in excess of € 155.
Churches and sites of interest
Churches are generally open in the morning from 7.30am-noon and in the afternoon from 4-6.30pm. Most churches and cathedrals that are popular with tourists remain open until 1pm. Sightseeing is not permitted during services. Some churches operate a very strict dress code – sundresses, tank tops, shorts and miniskirts are not considered respectable clothing. The solution can be simple – carry a large but lightweight wrap to put round your shoulders.
Museums, monuments and archaeological sites are usually closed on Sunday afternoons and all day Monday. Their opening follow two patterns: Tuesday-Saturday, 9am-7pm in summer, and 9am-5pm the rest of the year; or 9am-2pm (Sundays until 1pm). These given hours should be considered mere guidelines.
Healthcare & Medical Assistance
Tourists requiring urgent medical care should go to the nearest hospital emergency ward (airports and many train stations also have medical teams and first aid facilities). Those with serious illnesses or allergies should always carry a special note from their physicians giving detailed information on the treatments they are following or that may be necessary. Pharmacies (Farmacia), generally follow shop opening times (approx. from 8.30am to 12.30pm and from 3 to 7pm, Monday to Saturday, but in large cities many are open throughout the day and on Sunday. It is advisable to procure a document certifying coverage by the national health care service before departure.