Good buys: Visit the designer warehouses of houses like Prada and Gucci for some excellent bargains. Also stock up on leather goods, olive oil and Parmesan cheese.
Local dishes: Pasta and pizza are Italy’s staple foods. Also try gnocchi and polenta dishes.
Good reading: There have been a mountain of books written about Italy. Classic travelogues include Vincent Cronin’s Concise History of Italy and HV Morton’s A Traveller in Italy. For a historical account, pick up Jerome Carcopino’s Daily Life in Ancient Rome or Bernard Berenson’s Painters of the Renaissance. Other classics include Dante’s The Divine Comedy and E M Forster’s Room with a View.
Visas: Italy (along with Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain) forms part of the border-free travel zone known as the Schengen Area. US, Australian, Canadian, Japanese, and New Zealand citizens are among those who may enter Italy as tourists without a visa and stay up to 90 days. EU passport holders can come and go as they please.
Public holidays: New Year’s Day; Epiphany (6 Jan); Easter Monday; Liberation Day (25 Apr); Labour Day; Mid-August Holiday (14-15 Aug); All Saints’ Day; Immaculate Conception (8 Dec); Christmas Day; Boxing Day.