Posted on

Tuscany by Car

Tuscany by Car

Driving a car gives you maximum flexibility to choose when and where to go. Travelling around Tuscany by car can be the only transport to get to some of the nicest places where roads wind up, down and around the colorful Tuscan hills. But if you are driving around these smaller back roads, take your time and drive carefully as progress around Tuscany´s winding roads can be slow. However, the main roads in Tuscany are good but often really busy so try to avoid driving into or out big cities, such as Florence, around work start and end times (8-9 am, 6-8pm) when traffic can be more intense.

The Motorway System
The Italian motorway system, the A1 (Autostrada del Sole) goes from Bologna through northern Tuscany, swings around Florence and heads southeast towards Cortona and Arezzo in its way to Rome. Off the A1, the Autostrada Firenze Mare A11 motorway connects Florence to Lucca/Pisa and the Autostrada A12 motorway connects the coast from Genoa and La Spezia through Viareggio, Pisa and Livorno. You will also find a couple of four-lane, toll free roads as alternatives to the autostrade. For example, the SS1 (Via Aurelia) goes all the way from Livorno Sud (south) down to Tuscany’s southern border with Lazio. The SGC highway connects Florence, Pisa and Livorno and the Firenze-Siena, which starts near the A1 “Firenze-Impruneta” entrance/exit, links Siena and Florence. Do not forget speed limit in towns is usually 50km/h rising to 70km/h on secondary roads and 110km/h on the autostrade.

When renting a car it is important to take gasoline prices into consideration. Gasoline (benzina) in Italy is one of the most expensive in Europe; prices for unleaded gasoline have been around € 1,70 per liter lately. However, you will not have difficulties when fueling up your car. You will find a lot of gas stations among the autostrade and main roads, which are usually open 24 hours a day. Otherwise, hours tend to be from 7.00 am to 12.30 pm and from 3.30 to 7.00 pm. Many gas stations are closed on Sundays and holidays, and those that open are then closed on Mondays. But don’t worry, even if they look closed sometimes they offer self-service pumps that accept bank notes so you can fuel up anyway.

Emergency contacts
For traffic information, you can call CIS Viaggiare Informati at 1518, which is active 24 hours a day. If you have an insurance with foreign organizations such as AAA (USA), AA (UK) or RAC you will be provided with an emergency assistance number while travelling in Italy which should covered any emergency you have. You can also call the Automobile Club d’Italia (ACI) for roadside assistance by calling 116 or for more serious trouble, call the Police at 113 or Ambulance at 118.

Parking in Tuscany
About parking in Tuscany it is important to know a few things. In general, in most cities (such as Florence and Siena) driving around town can be a real nightmare. Driving around the historical center of most towns is banned or restricted and finding a legal parking spot can be really difficult. The best option to avoid paying huge amounts of money and waste time driving around looking for a spot is to park away from the center where you will find free street parking. From there, you can then walk around the city and discover each worth city corner.

Buying a car
If you are planning to buy a car in Italy there are some important facts you should know. The following documents are required when purchasing a car: a proof of residence (EU citizens) or Permesso di Soggiorno (non-EU citizens), an identity card, a codice fiscal and a proof of insurance cover.

When buying a second hand car it is important to know that the transfer of ownership (Pasaggio di Propieta) must be completed within 60 days of the purchase. It can be done in any Agenzia di Pratiche Automobilistiche or Automobile Club D’Italia (ACI) office. To complete the ownership transfer, don’t forget to bring the following documents: The act of sale, Vehicle documents, Registration Certificate and a proof of residency or Permessi di Soggiorno.

Once you have your car, don’t forget that it is a legal requirement for all cars with more than 4 years old to have a Revisione every two years, which can easily be done in any Centro Revisioni Auto. Otherwise, if you get stopped by the police or other authorities you will get fined.

Best car routes
Finally, if you are travelling to Tuscany with enough time you should at least visit one of the multiple scenic routes that you will find in the region. One of the most famous landscapes of Tuscany is the road that leaves the town of la Foce and goes on towards the village of Radicofani, crossing through the beautiful Val d´Orcia. Among this route you will find the famous S shape road with the cypress trees by the sides.

Another impressive route is the road that goes from Taverne d´Arbia to Asciano, which is situated in the province of Siena. You will enjoy a road through the breathtaking Crete Lunari and Crete Senesi, one of the most impressive landscapes of the Tuscan countryside.

For those mountain lovers, the route that goes from Lucca to Barga helps you discover the beautiful region of Lugiana. Its mountains landscapes are really different from the sweet hills that can be found in the south of this region.

A route through Chianti is also recommended. The route that goes from El Castello di Brolio to Castello Ricasoli is one of the options. You will be able to walk through the wineries of these two castles that produce excellent wines and taste some of the best and worldwide known wines of the area.

These are just some advices when travelling to Tuscany by car but if you want further information feel free to contact us.

Posted on

Utility Services in Italy

Utility Companies in Italy

Italian Regulatory Authority for Electricity Gas and Water (AEEG) is an independent body, which regulates and supervises the electricity and gas makers in Italy. The purpose of its establishment in 1995 was to protect the interests of users and ensure efficient, cost-effective and profitable nationwide services with satisfactory quality levels.

The Authority is responsible for defining and preserving a reliable tariff system and reconciling general social objectives with operators’ economic goals. It also promotes environmental protection and efficiency use of energy. The Authority formulates observations concerning issues in the regulated sectors of electricity and gas and provides an advisory and reporting service to the parliament and government.

Standard electricity supply is 220 Volts (V), 50 Hertz (Hz). The national electricity company and distributor in Italy is ENEL. However, consumers are free to choose other electricity providers available in their area.

Estimated bills are normally sent out every 2 months, and after the meters are read and adjusted bills are sent out again. They are payable at the local office, in post offices or through your bank, which I most recommend. Italians prices for electricity are higher than in most other countries and therefore they usually use it in a more more attentively way than we do.

Gas is widely used for heating, water heating and cooking appliances throughout Italy. It is controlled by the local Comune or by an authorised company. You can obtain gas in three different forms: bottled gas (bombole), outdoors gas tank (bombolone) or mains gas (gas di citta) which is mostly used in big cities. Bottled gas is most commonly butane gas and it can be bought in small quantities. Tanks gas is the most common in rural areas where it is stored in a large tank. Generally, the tank is installed by the gas company and remains their property. Once you sign a supply contract with the gas company you will be charged for a fixed minimum usage per year.

Every commune has its own water company. The water supply is controlled by the commune and pricing can depend on weather conditions. Mains water supply is limited to a fixed, metered amount per household and an annual consumption, which exceeds the limit, must be paid for. To arrange to receive water, you must provide the local water company with your tax code and identification document and contact the Ufficio Acquedotto at the comune offices to initiate service. Italians tend to drink bottled mineral water rather than tap water. However, quality of tap water in Italy is excellent, especially in the north as the water often comes from wells and springs, in which case it is not chlorinated but is safe to drink.

Posted on

Healthcare in Italy

Healthcare in Italy

Despite reputations and prejudices, even by many Italians, Italy has an affordable healthcare system and a high standard of medical assistance. Its healthcare system is ranked 2nd according to WHO (World Health Organization), after France, and has the third best medical performance worldwide. Italian doctors are considered well trained and very passionate about their profession.

Healthcare is provided to all citizens and residents in Italy by a mixed public-private system. The public part is The National Health Service (SSN) called The Servizio Sanitario Nazioanale, which is organized under The Ministry of Health and offers inexpensive healthcare to all European citizens, which is mostly financed by direct and indirect taxation. However, there are considerable variations in coverage and service quality between the different regions.

Every person registered with The Italian National Health System is entitled to choose a general practitioner (Family doctor) and a pediatrician. If you are not satisfied with the ones assigned you can decide to replace them and choose by looking up in the list available at the local health authority, ASL (Azienda SanitELocale) of your place of residence. In Italy you also have a free health care service for emergency cases, the doctor on duty (Guardia Medic), which normally operates at night and on holidays.

If you are in need of prescription medicines and other drugs, your family doctor will issue you a prescription that you can present to the pharmacy (Farmacia). Some drugs considered ‘Life-savers’ are free or on payment of a co-pay fee. Other medicines are not included in the services of the SSN and have to be paid entirely.

In order to get a specialist examination or radiological and laboratory tests you have to obtain an authorization, a medical prescription issued by your GP or pediatrician, and make a reservation by showing it as well as your SSN card. Specialist examinations are provided on payment of a co-pay fee, except in case of exemption. This co-pay fee, known as the ‘ticket’, is provided by the public National Health System (SSN). All citizens have to pay a ticket before undergoing specialist examinations, except for those who are entitled to exemption. The co-pay fee must be paid before using medical services. Dentist treatments as well as outpatient treatment are also subsidized by the SSN. Some particular circumstances (disability, chronic diseases, status of inability, low income or age reasons) entitle patients to co-pay fee exemption.

Waiting times are usually up to a few months in the big public facilities. Therefore, some Italians and expatriates, a total of 15%of the population, prefer to take private health insurance. With private insurance, you can freely choose your own doctor and specialist and be treated at private hospitals, thus avoiding waiting long queues to get an appointment for a medical specialist. Private hospitals in Italy have brilliant accommodations. Although the comfort and the quality of service from private hospitals are superior, the medical care is likely to be similar to public hospitals.

Therefore, regardless of where one comes from, it is imperative that you have health insurance from the moment you arrive in Italy. Without it, issuance of a permesso di soggiorno (Permit to stay) is not possible. In order to use public health services you have to register with the National Health System, which is implemented in the ASL (Local Health Authority) closest to your place of residence or domicile. On the SNN card you receive, your name and the name of your GP are indicated. The SSN card expires when your stay permit does so make sure to prepare everything before you travel to Italy.