AC Voltage and Plugs
AC power is 220 Volts, 50Hz. Plugs have three round pins in-line (the central is ground and may be missing sometimes). Schuko (German-style) plugs are also used but somewhat less popular. Most of the power sockets at the conference will be able to accommodate Italian and Schuko plugs. Adapters for UK and US power plugs are available in several electrical supply stores.
The local currency is the Euro (the symbol is € 1 Euro ~= 1.18 US Dollars. It comes in coins (1-2-5-10-20-50 cents, 1-2 Euros) and notes (5-10-20-50 and, less common, 100-200-500). More info on the notes at the European Central Bank. The local language is of course Italian.
Number formats and prefixes
Italian phone numbers have variable length, both in the “prefisso” (prefix, used to be the area code) and in the local part of the number. The prefix must always be included, even for local calls.
A leading “0” denotes area codes for wired phones (e.g., 035 is Bergamo, 02 is Milan). The leading “0” is an integral part of the area code and must be dialed also when calling from abroad.
A leading “1” is normally used for toll services or emergency numbers.
A leading “3” indicates the prefix for cellular phones (e.g., 347, 340, 338…). They are not related to a specific area, neither, to some degree, to a specific provider.
Toll free numbers have the “800” prefix (but they are normally free only from landlines), whereas other prefixes starting with “8” are toll services and may be expensive.
Finally, international calls must be prefixed by “00” and the international prefix for the country you are calling (e.g., 001 for the US, 0044 for the UK). The international phone prefix for Italy is 0039.
112: general emergency number
113: Polizia (police, general emergency)
118: Pronto soccorso (Emergency medical service)
115: Vigili del fuoco (fire brigade)
Calling from cell phones
Definitely the most convenient and economic way of calling abroad in most cases. Cellular phone coverage (GSM) uses 900 and 1800 MHz frequencies, so if you have a suitable phone you can use your regular subscription to make and receive calls. Roaming charges are free for coutries in European Union, but very high for other coutries (1-2 EUR per minute are not uncommon).
You can buy prepaid SIM cards (no subscription necessary) for use in your phones in most telephony stores by just showing a picture ID (which will be photocopied as a law requirement to identify users of SIM cards). Apart from special offers, typical entry fees are around 10 EUR and include 5 EUR of traffic. Tariffs vary depending on the plan you choose, most of which include a given number of SMS, minutes of phone calls, and GB of Internet traffic. The most common cell phone operators are Vodafone, TIM, and Wind.
Calling from hotels
Same as everywhere, charges for phone calls from hotels vary. Some hotels will just apply the tariffs of the telecom operator (normally up to 10-40c connection fee, 10 to 40c per minute for local/western Europe/US calls), other might apply a surcharge. We suggest you to check with your hotel.
Calling from public phones
Public phones are rapidly vanishing these days, except in airports and train stations. They might be coin-operated but more often will take a calling card (on sale in some bars and tobacco shops) or sometimes a credit card (squeezing out a fair bit of money from it, as in most places in the world).
Banks, Credit Cards and ATM
Banks are typically open 8.30-13.00 and 15-16.30. Most of them also have ATM machines (“bancomat”), which are open 24/7 and take most credit cards.
Tipping and Receipts
Being a major deviation from the custom in the US, we would like to point out that tipping is not required nor expected in Italy: the bill (“conto”) always includes service. So, in particular in bars, restaurants, taxis, etc., it is perfectly fine to pay exactly the amount on the bill, or possibly round it up by say 2-5% depending on the amount to make the numbers round. Italian law requires businesses to release, spontaneously or at least on demand, a receipt with date, sequence numbers, and identification of the business.
Shops are generally open Monday to Saturday, 8.00-13.00 and 15.00-20.00. Some stores are closed on Monday morning. Others (usually electricity, hardware etc.) are closed on Saturday afternoon. Supermarkers and department stores usually are open 8.00-20.00 (excluding Sunday).