- USEFUL INFORMATION - by Helen Elizabeth Sadler

Brief Guide of Siena
Brief Guide of the Chianti area
Brief Guide of Colle val d'Elsa
Brief Guide of Larderello
Brief Guide of Massa Marittima
Brief Guide of Montalcino
Brief Guide of Monte Oliveto
Brief Guide of Montepulciano
Brief Guide of Monteriggioni
Brief Guide of Pienza
Brief Guide of San Galgano
Brief Guide of San Gimignano
Brief Guide of Sant'Antimo
Brief Guide of Volterra
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Bus schedules from/to Florence
Bus schedules from/to Rome
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INDEX IN ENGLISH

GLOSSARY

PALIO QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

THE PALIO BANNERS
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CONTRADA'S MUSEUMS


PALIO TIME SCHEDULES

THE RACE-TRACK

COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS
REGARDING THE HORSES


A TIMELESS HISTORICAL DIMENSION

BRIEF GUIDE OF SIENA
...AND ITS SURROUNDINGS

MAPS OF SIENA AND ITS PROVINCE

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Wine collection in a medieval cellar in Siena, Italy

GEOGRAPICHAL PROFILE OF ITALY

THERE IS A GREAT DEAL OF VARIETY in the landscape in Italy, although it is characterized predominantly by two mountain chains: the Alps and the Apennines. The former extends over 600 miles from east to west. It consists of great massifs in the western sector, with peaks rising to over 14,000 feet, including Monte Bianco (Monte Blanc), Monte Rosa and Cervino (the Matterhorn). The chain is lower in the eastern sector, although the mountains, the Dolomites, are still of extraordinary beauty. At the foot of the Alpine arc stretches the vast Po Valley plain, cut down the middle by the course of the river Po, the longest in Italy (390 miles), which has its source in the Pian de Re (Monviso) and flows into the Adriatic through a magnificent delta. The Alpine foothills are characterized by large lakes: Lake Maggiore and the lakes of Como, Iseo and Garda. The Apennines form the backbone of the peninsula, stretching in a wide concave arc to the Tyrrhenian Sea. A large part of central Italy is characterized by green hilly landscapes, through which the rivers Arno and Tevere (Tiber) run. The southern section of the chain pushes out to the east forming the Gargano promontory and, sloping down further south, the Salentine peninsula. It proceeds to the west with the Calabrian and Peloritano massif stretching across the Strait of Messina into Sicily. The principal islands are Sicily, rising up to the great volcanic cone of Etna (10,860 feet) and Sardegna. The main Archipelago, the Pontine Islands, the Aeolian Islands and the Egadi Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the coast of Sicily.

CLIMATE

THE MODERATING INFLUENCE OF THE SEA and the protection given by the alpine barrier from the cold north winds join to bless Italy with a temperate climate. Nevertheless, the weather varies considerably according to how far one is from the sea or the mountains. The winter is very cold in the Alps, cold and foggy in the Po Plain and the central Apennines; mild and even warm on the Ligurian coast, the Neapolitan coast and in Sicily. The summer is hot and dry, but the temperature is mitigated on the coast by sea breezes and in the Apennines and Alps it is pleasantly cool. In mountain areas, winter is ideal for skiing, and summer for excursions, hiking, etc. Seaside and lake resorts, with their excellent hotel facilities, have an intense tourist season during the summer, while the cities that are rich in art treasures, like Siena, are ideal in spring and autumn.

HOLIDAYS

OFFICES AND SHOPS ARE CLOSED in Italy on the following dates:
JANUARY 1 New year’s Day
JANUARY 6 Epiphany
Easter
Easter Monday
APRIL 25 Liberation Day
MAY 1 Labor Day
AUGUST 15 Assumption of the Virgin
NOVEMBER 1 All Saints Day
DECEMBER 1 Saint Ansano (only in Siena)
DECEMBER 8 Day of Immaculate Conception
DECEMBER 25 Christmas Day
DECEMBER 26 Santo Stefano

Offices and shops are also closed in the following cities on the local feast days honoring their patron Saints: in Siena, it is DECEMBER 1, in honour of Saint Ansano

PASSPORT REGULATIONS

A VISA IS NOT REQUIRED for a U.S. or Canadian citizen holding a valid passport unless he/she expects to stay in Italy more than 90 days and/or study or seek employment. If after entering Italy the tourist decides he would like to stay more than 90 days, he can apply to obtain a “permesso di soggiorno” (permit to stay), once only, at any police station (Questura) for an extension of an additional 90 days. He will be asked to prove that he is a bona fide tourist with adequate means of support and that he does not request the extension for study or employment. As a rule, permission is granted immediately. It is suggested that non-American citizens check current visa requirements with the nearest Italian Consulate before departure.

CURRENCY

The new monetary currency is the Euro which is divided as follows: bills of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500; coins of 1, 2, 5, 10 , 20 and 50 cents, 1 Euro and 2 Euro. Tourists reaching Italy without foreign currency can obtain Euros through any bank, ATM machine, or exchange office (Ufficio di Cambio), at airports, seaports and railway stations in the main cities. Foreign notes, travelers’ checks and letters of credit are purchased by Italian banks at the current rate of exchange less a commission.

BANKING HOURS

BANKS IN ITALY ARE OPEN APPROXIMATELY Mon.-Fri. from 8:30 am to 1:00 pm and from 3 pm to 3:30 pm and closed all day on Sat. and Sun. and on national holidays. Afternoon hours may vary from city to city. Travelers’ checks can be exchanged for Italian currency at most hotels and shops and foreign exchange offices in main railway stations and airports. Euros can also be obtained through any bank, ATM machine, or exchange office (Ufficio di Cambio), at airports, seaports and railway stations in the main cities. Foreign notes, travelers’ checks and letters of credit are purchased by Italian banks at the current rate of exchange less a commission which varies from place to place.

POST OFFICES

POST OFFICES ARE GENERALLY OPEN from 8 am –1:30 or 2 pm from Monday to Friday, Saturday 8 – 11:45 am. Some counters (e.g. registered mail, telegrams, etc.) have different hours and in the main cities they may also be open in the afternoon.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS

LUGGAGE MAY BE EXAMINED on entering and leaving Italy. Free entry is allowed for personal effects: Clothing (new and used), books, camping and household equipment
Fishing tackle, Two pairs of skis, Two tennis racquets
One boat, One canoe, One surfboard
One bicycle, One television, Portable typewriter
Record player with ten rolls of film for each camera, One movie camera with ten rolls of film, Binoculars
Personal jewelry, Portable radio set (subject to a small license fee)
400 cigarettes and a quantity of cigars of pipe tobacco not exceeding 500 grams (1.1lb)

All items mentioned above may be imported duty-free only on condition that they are for personal use and won’t be sold, given away or traded. A maximum of two bottles of wine and one bottle of hard liquor per person may be brought in duty-free. A maximum of 4.4 lbs of coffee, 6.6 lbs of sugar and 2.2 lbs of cocoa are allowed duty-free. Overseas tourists arriving in Italy after visiting other countries are allowed to carry with them souvenirs purchased in other countries up to a total value of $ 500 and only a verbal declaration is required. Purchases may include up to 50 gr. of perfume and ¼ liter of cologne.

HEALTH SERVICES AND INSURANCE POLICY

ITALY HAS NO MEDICAL PROGRAM covering U.S. tourists. They are advised to buy insurance before traveling. First Aid Service (Pronto Soccorso) is found at airports, ports, railway stations and hospitals.

PETS

A TRAVELER ENTERING ITALY with a dog or cat must have a veterinarian’s certificate stating that the animal is in good health and has been vaccinated against rabies between 20 days and 11 months before entry into Italy. The certificate is valid for 30 days. The forms (from Ministero della Sanita’Mod. U) are available from all Italian diplomatic and consular representatives. A dog must be on a leash and muzzled when in public.

ELECTRICAL APLLIANCES

THE ELETTRICAL CURRENT IN ITALY IS AC, the cycle is 50 and the voltage is 220. A tourist carrying electrical appliances to Italy should have a transformer, either obtained before leaving the U.S. or bought at an electrical appliance shop in Italy. Check the local voltage with the hotel before using electrical appliances. Plugs have two round-pronged plugs, making an adapter plug necessary. Many electrical appliances such as pressing steam irons, hair dryers and water heaters are available in the U.S. for use abroad without the need of separate transformers or adapters.

TELEPHONE

PUBLIC TELEPHONES ARE AVAILABLE throughout Italy. Either local or international calls require the use of a phone card (Carta Telefonica) which may be purchased at any newsstand, tobacco shop or “bar”(coffee shop). Be sure to break off the corner of the card before inserting into phone otherwise it may not work. Both local and long distance call require the proper area code before dialing the number.
Ex: to place a call within Siena you must dial 0577 + phone number
To call Rome from Siena : 06 + phone number; to call Siena from Rome : 0577 + phone number.
When calling a cellular phone, drop the zero of the area code, ex: 338 + phone number of the cellular.
To call USA from Italy: 001 + area code + phone number
To call Italy from the USA: 011 + area code + phone number


TRAFFIC REGULATIONS

An American drivers licence is recognized in Italy and you must be 25 years old to be able to rent a car. Traffic rules are the same as in the USA, distances are indicated in kilometers (1km = 0.621 miles). Seat belts in the front and rear seats are obligatory, children up to 5 years of age should be seated in a car seat. Cellular phones can be used while driving if operated with head set. The wearing of a helmet is obligatory on two wheeled vehicles. Headlights must be kept on in areas outside of residential areas.

GASOLINE

ALMOST ALL SERVICE STATIONS in the country are equipped with pumps for lead free (95 octane) and diesel fuel. The fuel distribution network for gas-propelled vehicles is reasonably developed (ask for information at the Automobile Club d’Italia offices). Service stations are open from 7 am to 12:30 pm and from 3 pm to 7:30 pm. Service is guaranteed 24 hours a day on the motorways. Automatic pumps function in the evenings and at night with cash banknotes of 5, 10 or 20 euro.

SHOPPING

Generally, SHOPS ARE OPEN FROM 9 am to 1 pm and from 3:30/4 pm to 7:30/8 pm Tuesday to Saturday, and Monday afternoon. From the middle of June to the middle of September, the shops are closed on Saturday afternoon but would be open on Monday morning. These times are extremely variable depending on type of the shop and the type of town.
Suggestions: Clothes for men and women (dresses, shoes, gloves, silk ties, skirts); lacework, jewelry, leather goods (handbags, cases, boxes, luggage), ceramics, gold and silver items, alabaster; woodwork, straw, embroidery, glass and crystal ware. It is advisable to carry merchandise purchased with you in order to avoid any inconvenience. All major credit cards are honored in Italy. A proof of purchase (receipt) must be kept.


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All of the information in this page is purely indicative and for that reason we cannot be held responsible for any eventual changes or incorrect information contained within.

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