In general, similar business practices in the United States apply when doing business in Italy. The “golden keys” of customary business courtesy, especially replying promptly to requests for price quotations and orders, are a prerequisite for success. Business people in Italy appreciate prompt replies to their inquiries and expect all correspondence to be acknowledged. We recommend conservative business attire at all times. Business appointments are required, and visitors are expected to be punctual.
European business executives are usually more formal than their U.S. counterparts; so it is best to refrain from using first names until a solid relationship is formed. Italian business executives tend to use titles indicating their position in the firm. During the first stages of conducting business, it is best to let the prospective buyer take the lead since the U.S. approach of “getting down to business” is considered abrupt. Avoid commenting on political events or making negative comments about the country. Some positive and sincere observations about the Italian culture, style, art, history, cuisine, or music are always appropriate.
Italian buyers appreciate style, quality, and service, but are also interested in delivered price. Take care to assure that stated delivery dates are maintained and that after-sales service is promptly honored. Italians, and Europeans in general, expect that, after placing an order with a supplier, the delivery date be honored. While many factors may interfere with prompt shipment, the U.S. exporter must allow for additional shipping time and keep in close contact with the buyer. Meeting delivery schedules is of prime importance. It is much better to quote a later delivery date that can be guaranteed than promise an earlier delivery that is not completely certain.
Italy has a moderate rate of crime, especially for theft and economic crimes; violent crimes are rare. Petty crime (pick-pocketing, theft from parked cars, purse snatching) can be a problem, especially in large cities. Most reported thefts occur at crowded tourist sites, at airports, car rental agencies, on public buses, metros, and trains, and at the major railway stations. For more detailed information on travel to Italy, concult the Department of State website and the advisories and COVID-related information on the U.S. Embassy’s website..
Every U.S. traveler must have a passport with six months validity beyond the planned date of departure from the Schengen area. No visa is required of U.S. citizens travelling to Italy for tourism or general business for fewer than 90 days. A visa is required for longer stays. Under Italian law, all non-residents are required to complete a dichiarazione di presenza (declaration of presence). Tourists arriving from a non-Schengen-country (e.g., the United States) should obtain a stamp in their passport at the airport on the day of arrival. This stamp is considered the equivalent of the declaration of presence. In the absence of this stamp, the registration form submitted to hotel management upon check-in, signed by the tourist on arrival, also constitutes the declaration of presence. For more information, please refer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Polizia di Stato.
U.S. citizens planning to work in the country must obtain a work visa in the United States from the Italian Embassy or an Italian Consulate before entering Italy. The prospective Italian employer must first obtain approval for a work permit. This permit is usually granted only for specialized work or skills. The prospective Italian employer files an application at an Ufficio Provinciale del Lavoro e della Massima Occupazione (Provincial Labor Office). If clearance is granted, the prospective employer is further required to obtain a work permit with the approval of the regional and central authorities. The permit is then sent to the worker so that he or she may apply for the entry visa in the United States. There are Italian consular offices in many of the largest U.S. cities. It is necessary to initiate the application process at least three to four months before the visa is needed. In some of the larger cities such as Rome and Milan, there is a long backlog in the processing of work permits, so it is advisable to apply well in advance when possible.
A person seeking to work in Italy in an independent or self-employed capacity files an application directly with the Italian Embassy or Consulate along with credentials demonstrating experience in the field of work. If approved, the Italian Embassy or Consulate will issue the appropriate visa and the person must then apply for a permesso di soggiorno (permit of stay) within eight business days of arrival in Italy.
For further information concerning entry requirements for Italy, you may consult the website of the Italian Embassy.
You can also contact the Consular Section of the Embassy of Italy at 3000 Whitehaven Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20008, telephone: (202) 612-4400, or the nearest Italian Consulate General in Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, or San Francisco.
The official currency in Italy is the euro. Dollars are not widely accepted. All commercial banks are authorized to conduct foreign exchange transactions. Dollar currency and, in some cases, personal checks, may be exchanged at banks, exchange offices, authorized tourist offices, and hotels. Major credit cards are accepted and ATMs are ubiquitous.
Italy’s telephone dialing procedures require that the city code be a part of each telephone number. An example of a local call within Rome would be: 06 XXX XXXX (06 is the city code). Incoming long distance calls to Italy also require that the “0” in the city code be included when dialing. An example of an incoming long distance call from the United States to Rome is as follows: +39 06 XXX XXXX (39 being the country code, 06 the city code for Rome). Milan’s city code is 02. Italians are avid users of mobile phones and will generally provide their mobile number. When dialing a mobile number, note that no city code is used. Also, the “0” has been dropped from the prefix of all mobile numbers. An example of an incoming call from the United States to a mobile phone is as follows: +39 328 XXX XXXX (39 being the country code, and 328 a sample mobile prefix).
Rental automobiles are available at many locations. A valid state-issued driver’s license, accompanied by identification (e.g., passport), is acceptable. High-speed trains run between major cities and there are also slower regional trains. Highways are well-maintained and have well-serviced rest stops, including restaurants, gas stations, etc. Highways require tolls.
Italian is the official language and is spoken in all parts of Italy, although some minority groups in the Alto Adige and Aosta regions speak German and French, respectively. Correspondence with Italian firms, especially for a first contact, should be in Italian. If a reply comes in English, then the next correspondence with the Italian firm can be in English. The use of Italian is not only regarded as a courtesy, but assures prompt attention, and prevents inaccuracies that might arise in translation. Most large commercial firms are able to correspond in various languages in addition to English and Italian, but a business overture or proposal is given more serious attention if written in Italian.
The importance of having trade literature, catalogs, and instructions printed in Italian cannot be overemphasized. The agent representative in Italy who has such material is in a far better competitive position than the one who can only show literature in English to prospective customers and consumers.
Medical services are good and medical standards compare with those in the United States. Common medical needs are easily accessible, and special supplies are normally available on short notice, including most pharmaceuticals. See the U.S. Embassy website for COVID-19 related travel health guidance. Drinking tap water is generally safe.
Local Time, Business Hours, and Holidays
The time zone for Italy is six hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Standard Time, except during periods at the beginning and end of daylight savings time (Italy begins daylight savings time later in the year and ends earlier than in the United States).
The usual Italian business hours are from 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 or 1:00 p.m. and from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 or 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, although some professional services companies may stay open later. Working hours for the various ministries and local government are normally from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. without intermission, although many now follow business hours. Bank hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m., closed on Saturdays and Sundays. Retail establishments are closed on Sundays with rare exceptions, primarily in tourist areas. In recent years, Italy has enacted legislation providing flexibility in retail store operations.
Italian holidays must be considered when planning a business itinerary. July and August are not good months for conducting business in Italy since most businesses are closed for vacation. The same is true of the Christmas and New Year period. Italian commercial holidays, when most commercial offices and banks are closed, are listed below. Certain other days are celebrated as holidays within local jurisdictions. Italian holidays and American holidays are also observed by the U.S. Embassy and Consulates and should be considered when telephoning or visiting the Commercial Service offices. When an Italian holiday falls on a Saturday, offices and stores are closed.
Italian (I) and American (A) Holidays in 2022/23:
November 24, Thursday Thanksgiving Day (A)
December 7, Wednesday St. Ambrogio’s Day (I, Milan only)
December 8, Thursday Feast of the Immaculate Conception (I)
December 25, Sunday Christmas Day (I/A)
December 26, Monday St. Stephen’s Day (I)
January 1, Sunday New Year’s Day (I/A)
January 2, Monday New Year’s Day, observed (A)
January 6, Friday Epiphany (I)
January 16, Monday Martin Luther King Jr Day (A)
February 20, Monday Presidents’ Day (A)
April 10, Monday Easter Monday (I)
April 25, Tuesday Liberation Day (I)
May 1, Monday Labor Day (I)
May 29, Monday Memorial Day (A)
June 2, Friday Republic Day (I)
June 19, Monday Juneteeth Independence Day (A)
June 24, Saturday St. John’s Day (I, Florence only)
June 29, Thursday St. Peter and St. Paul’s Day (I, Rome only)
July 4, Tuesday Independence Day (A)
August 15, Tuesday Assumption Day (I)
September 4, Monday Labor Day (A)
September 19, Tuesday St. Gennaro’s Day (I, Naples only)
October 9, Monday Columbus Day (A)
November 1, Wednesday All Saints’ Day (I)
November 10, Friday Veterans’ Day (A)
November 23, Thursday Thanksgiving Day (A)
December 7, Thursday St. Ambrogio’s Day (I, Milan only)
December 8, Friday Feast of the Immaculate Conception (I)
December 25, Monday Christmas Day (I/A)
December 26, Tuesday St. Stephen’s Day (I)
Temporary Entry of Materials or Personal Belongings
Italy participates in the Customs Convention of the ATA Carnet for the Temporary Admission of Goods. Samples of negligible value imported to promote sales enjoy duty-free and tax-free treatment. However, a bond or cash deposit may be required as security that the goods will be removed from the country. This security is the duty and tax normally levied plus 10%. Prior authorization is not required, and samples may remain in the country for up to one year. To determine whether the samples are of negligible value, their value is compared with a commercial shipment of the same product. Granting of duty-free status may require that the samples be rendered useless for future sale by marking, perforating, cutting, or other means. They may not be sold, put to their normal use (except for demonstration purposes), or used in any manner for remuneration. Goods imported as samples may be imported only in quantities constituting a sample according to normal commercial usage.
Carnets are sold in the United States by the U.S. Council for International Business,
Business travelers to Italy seeking appointments with U.S. Embassy Rome officials should contact the Commercial Section in advance. The Commercial Section can be reached by telephone at +39 06 4674 2202 or e-mail at email@example.com. For information about our programs and assistance, visit the U.S. Commercial Service in Italy.