In order to enter Italy, visitors from the E.U. must produce a national identity card or passport, valid for at least six month from the date of arrival. Visitors from the US, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Ireland must produce a valid passport issued by their home country.
There are no visa requirements for stays up to 90 days. E.U. citizens intending to stay longer than 90 days will need to obtain a Permesso di Soggiorno (permission of stay) – details can be found in English on the Italian State Police website. For further details on visas, contact the Italian embassy or consulate in your home country.
Citizens of countries within the Schengen area are free to visit/travel to this designated zone comprising of 26 countries. However, citizens of non-Schengen member countries must apply to their local embassy/consulate for a Schengen Visa to enter the area. The countries bound by the Schengan agreement include: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Visitors should ensure they receive a passport stamp on entry to the country as proof of official arrival.
Drivers will require an international driving licence (or domestic licences for EU nationals) as well as vehicle registration documents and proof of third party liability insurance. It is also compulsory for drivers in Italy to carry a warning triangle and reflective clothing in the vehicle at all times.
Italy is a member of the European Union – the official currency used is the Euro. To exchange money, use an exchange office marked by the sign ‘cambio’ where the process is much faster and simpler than at the bank.There will be a commission so feel free to shop around. There are ATMs available in Sicily for withdrawing cash but be aware that on busy days, such as the weekend, they have been known to run out of money and it can take a few days before they are replenished.
Always ensure you are carrying enough cash for emergencies. Check with your bank for specific withdrawal fees. Most restaurants and shops in Sicily accept credit cards. However, if the establishment is very small or you are unsure, it is always best to check first.
The time difference in Italy is GMT plus one hour in the winter and GMT plus two hours in the summer. Thus, when it is 12 noon in London, it is 1.30pm in Sicily.
Shops and markets in Sicily tend to open around 7.30am, closing for lunch around 12:30pm. Shops re-open in the afternoon, usually around 4pm or later and stay open until at least 8pm.
Some shops in the popular tourist towns such as Cefalu may remain open during the afternoon siesta, but they tend to be more expensive.
Post in Sicily can be slow, particularly in the summer months with the influx of tourist mail. Stamps for postcards and letters can be purchased from tobacco shops that are open longer hours than the post office.
Public pay phones can be found throughout Sicily, in the streets and at post offices, bars and restaurants. These are operated by coins and pre-paid telephone cards, which can be purchased from newsstands, post offices and tobacco shops.
In the unlikely event that you get robbed or experience any form of crime, report the incident immediately to the Carabinieri (military police) or to the polizia (Civil police).
Military police: 112
Fire emergencies: 115
Emergency assistance on the road: 116
Palermo airport: 0039 091 6019111 for domestic flights or 0039 091 591275 for international flights
Catania airport: 0039 095 536170
Trenitalia 24hrs: 0039 892021 www.trenitalia.it
Sicily enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate throughout the year though there are distinct seasons. Warmer temperatures begin in May and usually last through to October. April to early June is a wonderful time to visit the country, the flowers are in bloom and the temperatures are not as sweltering as the summer months. However, it is also peak season for school children touring many of the key sites.
The peak summer months of July and August can be very hot and dry – it is important to take care in the heat of the sun, especially around midday and early afternoon. Ensure you bring suitable sun protection and drink plenty of water. This is also the busiest time for tourism as the schools close and locals and visitors alike enjoy their summer holidays and as a result the most popular coastal areas can become particularly crowded.
October to December is another interesting time to visit Sicily as the leaves change colour and the bulk of the tourists depart. November through to February is the coldest winter season in Sicily when temperatures take a dip, sometimes to below zero, particularly in the mountain areas.
Sicilian people can be very friendly and welcoming. Always remember to say hello and goodbye in social situations – this includes entering bars, restaurants and when visiting shops. Try saying ‘buon giorno’ (good morning) or ‘buona sera’ (good evening) as greeting – these phrases can be used for both hello and goodbye.
If you are invited to dinner by a Sicilian person, it is considered polite to take a gift for the hostess – flowers or chocolates are the usual tokens rather than a bottle of wine.
Dress modestly when visiting religious establishments or sites. Covering shoulders, midriffs and thighs is generally a good rule of thumb.