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.