the ‘Finances in Italy’ Category

How do Italian Hotel Taxes Work? (and why you should always have cash on arrival)

Monday, October 6th, 2014

Taxes, tipping, and service charges in Italy are an ever fluid subject that never fails to befuddle visitors. No matter how many times you’ve been, these things are highly subject to change, and just recently, the city of Rome dramatically upped their hotel taxes, so I wanted to talk to you about how these work.

Hotel taxes apply even if you are not stay in something that would be strictly referred to as a hotel. They come up at:

  • hotels
  • B&Bs
  • rental homes and apartments
  • camp sites
  • guest houses

The only exception is hostels, and the prices of the tax depends on the level of the establishment. 1- and 2-Star hotels stars carry a 3 EU per night tax, 3-star hotels a 4 EU per night tax, 4-star hotels a 6 EU per night tax, and 5-star hotels a 7 EU per night tax.

Agriturisms are taxed 4 EU per night, camp sites 2 EU per night, and all other types of accommodation 3.5 EU per night. And all prices are per person.

As hotels do not want to constantly raise their prices to reflect these taxes, you must pay the taxes separately from your room rate, typically on arrival. The hotel taxes go toward services for tourists, as well as tourism marketing, in addition to city developments that affect tourists, such as street improvement.

Cell Phones in Italy – What do You Need?

Friday, January 10th, 2014

Photo by Flickr user Time Stands Still

Even though cell phones are so ubiquitous in Italy that even the most elegant, old-fashioned grandmother has four in different colors to match every outfit, it can still be difficult, if not expensive to stay in touch with the U.S. while you’re in Italy if you don’t plan ahead.

Using Your Own Phone Plan in Italy

It’s typically relatively economical to send and receive text messages while you’re in Italy, but calls—even receiving calls that you don’t answer—can be several dollars per minute.

One member of the Italian Concierge team uses T-Mobile in the U.S., which has recently begun to offer free data and text messaging abroad. By installing the Skype app, which works over a data signal as well as Wi-Fi, she is able to make and receive calls in Italy for free!

If your phone has Wi-Fi calling, you may be able to do something similar without an app, but check the terms of your contract first. Some phones use regular minutes (and thus pricing) when Wi-Fi calling is used.

Buying an Italian Sim

Renting a phone in Italy can often be an expensive proposition (you can try Cellular Abroad if you’re interested), so bringing a phone from home and inserting an Italian SIM card is a far easier way to connect. Before you leave though, you must make sure that your phone is unlocked and able to use quad band, the service throughout Europe.

Head to one of the ubiquitous cellphone stores (Tim, Wind, and Vodafone are the most common) in major train stations, squares, and avenues and ask for a sim card. You’ll need to show your passport and the set-up can take 10 or 15 minutes, but the Italian Concierge can also set this up for you before you arrive. If you plan to make a lot of international calls, rather than just receive (which is free), ask for a card with a good international rate.

Using Italian Phones When You Find Them

Many hotels have room phone from which you can use a calling card or that you can have someone from the U.S. call you on.

Phone cards are very easy to come by in Italy. Any newsstand or tabaccheria (the same places you buy bus tickets), sells phone cards with great rates to the U.S.

To call from an Italian phone to the U.S., first dial 001. To call an Italian phone from a U.S. number, dial 011+39+ the number.

Preserving Italy’s Cultural Heritage with FAI

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

supporting preservation in Italy FAI venice

Image © Italian Concierge

Italy’s cultural heritage is currently at a crossroads.

At a time when the state – and even the European Union and UNESCO – does not have the ability to maintain the country’s innumerable cultural treasures, another way must be found.

As Travel + Leisure discussed this month, corporate sponsorships may be the path away from crumbling collapsing ancient Roman monuments and stones falling from busy tourist attractions. National monuments are becoming billboards for Italy’s biggest brands.

But there is another way. The “every penny counts” way.

What is FAI and Why Do I Support Them?

supporting preservation in Italy FAI ancient rome

Image © Italian Concierge

To protect, restore, reopen to the public and reinvigorate our country’s splendid jewels of art and nature is a demanding work that doesn’t allow any breaks.

But that is the duty that the Fondo Ambiente Italiano (Italian National Trust or FAI) has taken up.

Funded entirely by donations, FAI cares for Italy’s cultural patrimony through restoration and conservation projects, educational events and trips, and public advocacy.

FAI’s Work

supporting preservation in Italy FAI preserves

Image © Italian Concierge

The donations it collects online, at its sites, and through memberships fund the care of castles, monetary complexes, gardens, nature parks, works of art, villas, and small museums, many of which are donated to the fund by private citizens.

On Lake Como, FAI opens the lakeside Villa del Balbaniello to the public, where you can play noble or jet set for a day on the shores of Italy’s most fashionable lake.

And in Trento, the association manages the Avio Castle, a vast complex of castle buildings, including a defensive wall tower, guard house with a 13th-century fresco series, and Baron’s Palace with a “love room” that exhibits some of the earliest samples of secular 14th-century art.

But these are only a couple of their projects.

Supporting FAI (and our painting!)

supporting preservation in Italy FAI villas

Image © Italian Concierge

Last year, Italian Concierge was a FAI Corporate Golden Donor, and we look forward to renewing our donation on behalf of our clients this year. The benefits are staggering and visible. A painting in the Villa dei Vescovi outside Padova, was restored with funds from our donation.

And FAI membership isn’t just for companies. You can join as an individual for free access to any of the 45 properties FAI owns/maintains.

We support FAI because if we don’t work together to conserve Italy’s heritage, what will there be to visit?

Italy- How to change money in Italy

Friday, July 1st, 2011

MONEY AND PEOPLE MONEY- Our relationship with it.

Money does not make the world go around in Italy. In Italy the human element, always comes first. Money comes second. When I was a tour guide, I had a client suggest that I should offer the custodian of the church money to open the pieve when it was closed during lunch time. The custodio would have been quite offended. Money will not open a locked church door for you in Italy. Use EURO when in Italy. Our smallest gesture such as using US dollars instead of Euro currency can be construed as making a statement.

CURRENCY/CREDIT CARDS/ MONEY At the time of printing, the current exchange rate is EU 1= $1.45 to the US Dollar. You can check for the current rate on line at www.x-rates.com or www.xe.com, or on bloomberg.  http://www.bloomberg.com/personal-finance/calculators/currency-converter/ You will need your passport when exchanging US$ to Euro at the bank. Plan to stay a while at the bank. Forms need to be completed and the transaction needs to be registered.

There is no restriction to the amount of currency you can take into Italy. However transactions involving large sums of money ARE recorded by law.

BANK HOURS Banks are normally open 8:30-3:45 M-F Banks normally close for lunch from 1:00-2:00. Then reopen until 3:45.

VISA/AMX/TRAVELERS CHECKS The economy is difficult everywhere in the world these days, and everyone wants cash. There was a time when only the vendors in southern Italy, (known as the Mezzogiorno) wanted cash. Today cash is preferred everywhere. Many businesses prefer Visa to American Express. You may even find that American Express is not accepted at all. Traveler’s checks are the least desirable method of making purchases. You may even hear that the credit card machine is “Guasto” – broken.

ATM/BANCOMAT Most major banks provide ATM services known as a Bancomat in Italian. The rates of exchange are very favorable. To begin your transaction, you may need to select the International Circuit to begin the process. Select English and enter your code just like you do back home. You There are daily limits. Most of the time the limit is EU 250 per day. It is rare to find an ATM which dispenses more than EU 400. ATM withdrawals provide the easiest method of obtaining EURO with a minimal amount of commission in the fastest amount of time. Banks and Cc Companies charge 2.8% for each transaction. Capitol One and Some American Express cards do not.

TIP: The worst place to obtain EURO is in the airport in the US!!. The second worst place is in the arrival airport in Italy. The third worst place is anywhere near Ponte Vecchio-Firenze or any major monument.

And if you like what you’ve been reading, like us on Conde Nast Traveler’s Travel Specialists List, where I’ve appeared for the last four years straight.

As the Euro and Snow Fall

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

When is the best time to travel to Italy?

I just finished searching for mileage flights  on line so that I can return to Italy this winter.   You see winters are long and hard at 9,800 ft above Aspen, Colorado where we reside.  Considering that we are still technically in autumn, and have already had over a week of below zero days many of them with snow, it did not take much effort to convince myself to spend those 110,000 miles on two flights, and to go back to Italy for two months to reside for the remainder of the winter.  Italy has to seem balmy after five winters at this elevation. Hold that thought, and add to the flame,   a stronger dollar ( how this happened I will never know) and it makes Italy seem like a deal this winter.

When in Italy and when I do not need  to travel for R&D ( research and tour development) I stay outside of Firenze.  Being located off of SS2, the highway that links Siena and Florence is a most convenient location.  One can reach either city easily by bus.    Should the Euro continue to weaken against the dollar ( currently at 1.32), this will be the winter to be there.  Why, even a cappuccino  at Proccaci in Florence will seem like a deal.   I would much rather be sipping my” cappuccio ” between well heeled Fiorentines,  instead of elbowing my way between the “hey-dudes” at Cafe Ink in Aspen and then to add insult to injury paying close to  $5.00 for a latte.

Why not look for flights deals now?  Off season fares are ridiculously low from now until the end of March, when the warm weather returns.   You could mark your calendar by the spike in fares as soon as the thermometer leans towards 60.  But why not go now?

I look forward to hearing only Italian spoken during these winter months, a rare event in the travel worn Art Cities of Rome, Florence and Venice.  When Italy returns to the Italians that is when I want to be there.  Last Year I went to Calabria in February.  It was warm and often wet,  and we wore only a rain coat (no gloves or hats, but of course a scarf).  Easy travel gear to bring if you ask me.  I was toting my new  Moschino black umbrella with different shapes of pasta placed in the shape of  hearts.   Darn , lost it at the museum in Locri, Calabria.  The sun was strong  when it peaked through the clouds , when we left the museum  and it glistened as it bounced off of the Ionian Sea.  I forgot about the umbrella.  But ten days is not enough to beat the winter blues even if you are site seeing  the  Bergamot  tree that only grows in Calabria.   It was easy to forget winter for those few days.

This year, I’ll be back in Aspen for the last twoweeks of spring skiing, when the nights are cold but the days warm up in the 40′s. But for the moment,  there are other things to do.      AIS- The Italian Sommelier Toscana Association has the Livelli Uno class offered late January and I am not going to miss it this year.

Enjoy Winter!

un bel cafe

And if you like what you’ve been reading, like us on Conde Nast Traveler’s Travel Specialists List, where I’ve appeared for the last three years straight.



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