International health insurance for Italy and Italy visa guide
January 04, 2019
For many, Italy stands at the top of their bucket-list travel. The glories of the country have been showcased in film and TV for generations, drawing people to explore its history, culture, cuisine and sun-drenched beaches. Whether you are heading to Italy for a business trip, or exploring it at your leisure on vacation. There are some intriguing locations to add to your Italy travel itinerary — and some important cultural callouts to keep in mind. In addition, consider adding a travel insurance policy to your trip to make sure you are covered should there be last-minute changes to your travel plans.
Before you go
Before you travel through Italy, learn a few key phrases in Italian — it's always good form to show this consideration and respect. In large cities, it's common for you to encounter English speakers, but less so in the countryside and Southern areas.
A valid U.S. passport and a valid visa are required upon entry. Italy is a signatory to the Schengen Agreement, which provides for the free movement of travelers between 26 signatory countries within Europe under a common visa policy. The Schengen visa is a single-entry visa that allows visitors to travel between member states for up to 90 days without needing a separate visa for each country. However, there is a medical insurance requirement. To meet this, travelers must provide a letter from their insurance company stating that they will be covered for any medical or repatriation expenses — applicable to the entire Schengen area -- for the entire duration of the intended stay.
Promoters of major tourist attractions usually make tickets available ahead of time online and sell out during peak periods, so plan ahead.
Also, when out and about:
- When visiting religious sites, be prepared with a scarf, jacket and spare pants or a skirt to cover bare shoulders, knees and elbows.
- Dining starts late and goes on later. Waiters will not bring your check until specifically asked — typical tips are 10% but check to see if the service charge is already added to the tab.
- Cash is still king in small local shops and with street vendors, where credit cards are not accepted. Negotiating on price or haggling continues to be a time-honored tradition/art form.
- Pointing with the index finger is considered rude and should be avoided.
- Cutting in line is typical, so be ready to be more aggressive to get service.
Health and Safety
There are currently no vaccinations required to enter Italy.
The nationwide emergency number is 112. Public and private hospitals generally have very few, if any, English-speaking staff. However, most cities and resorts have a medical service for tourists (guardia medica turistica) with English-speaking staff. Strikes and demonstrations occur relatively often in the country, with demonstrations mainly taking place in larger cities. Both occurrences can have the potential to affect services used by travelers. Earthquakes can be a concern, particularly in central Italy. Additionally, crime such as petty theft or pickpocketing is the security concern travelers to Italy are most likely to encounter.
From style to sunshine, to schussing
Italy is home to much of what critics would call "the greatest" the greatest art, architecture, food and vacation destinations. Looking for inspiration for your itinerary? These are the most popular places with tourists:
World-class cities: roam through the capital city of Rome, the eternal city and home to the Colosseum, the Pantheon and Vatican City. Or visit Venice, a place unlike any other on earth, where the roads are boat-filled canals lined with palazzos. Finally, explore one of the world's most famous fashion capitals: Milan is known to be a style epicenter in the industry — try to time your visit with the city's fashion week early in the year. And remember, wining and dining experiences in Italy are beyond compare, no matter the city.
Getaway hotspots: for Europeans and travelers from around the world. Italy's coastlines are an irresistible draw. The Cinque Terre offers five small fishing villages linked by walking trails and is known for its unique architecture built into mountain walls. The Amalfi Coast is called the Jewel of the Mediterranean, stretching along the southern edge of the country. Sardinia offers golden beaches and rugged landscapes as a unique escape.
Art lover destinations: as every art major will attest — Florence, as the birthplace of the Renaissance, is an essential trip for anyone fascinated by the history of the arts and sciences. Don't miss the Uffizi Gallery, Pitti Palace, or the Museo Nazionale del Bargello. In addition, every Italian city features remarkable modern and historic art destinations, from Rome's Galleria Borghese to the Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan.
Ski the North: exploring the ski resorts of northern Italy means getting not just world-class schussing but also cross-cultural experiences, as influences from Switzerland, France, Germany, and Austria seep into the food and music of the experience. Not to mention: kilometers and kilometers of fresh high-altitude air and fresh snowfall to play in.
Historic eye-openers: the list of historical and archeological sites in Italy can fill pages, but a few of the most popular include the Colosseum in Rome, the Valley of the Temples in Sicily, the Duomo of Florence, St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the ruins of Pompeii near Naples.
Explore the country, bite by bite
Italy comprises twenty different regions, each with a unique culinary personality. In the northern region of Lombardy, rice, polenta, and dairy are more likely to serve as ingredients for local dishes than in other regions. It's the origin of world-beloved cheeses including gorgonzola and Provolone. As you move toward central Italy, including Tuscany, you'll find fine olive oil and sheep's milk cheeses used in the local dishes, as well as the crusty bread the region is known for. Meanwhile, in the south, Campania's fertile volcanic soil produces the renowned San Marzano tomatoes as well as a wealth of vegetables and fruit — plus the Pizza capital Naples is the site of the world's first pizzeria.
Doing business in the old country
While Italy is certainly a modern country, there are traditional aspects to how is conducted there. The culture puts an emphasis on being well-dressed for business meetings. Bonus points for wearing Italian designers. Also, Southern European countries treat August as a month for vacations, so expect resort and beach areas to be more crowded during this time, with many of the cities becoming quieter and many businesses closing or reducing hours during the month. Courtesy is always a priority — punctuality is not.
Always consider purchasing trip protection*, just in case you experience a medical need (emergency or not) or an itinerary change due to cancellations or health needs. This is particularly helpful if your business trip takes you into less-traveled parts of Italy, where you may need help getting to a metropolitan area for health care or transportation. UnitedHealthcare Global SafeTrip offers a range of coverage for any type of trip, from International Travel Medical Plus plan protection in case of needing to cancel or delay a trip due to health issues, to International Travel Medical coverage that will take care of an accident or unexpected illness.
*Policy availability varies