Italy - Country Commercial Guide
Business Travel

Includes information on business customs, travel advisory, visa requirements, acceptable business etiquette, dress, business cards, gifts, etc.

Last published date: 2021-10-29

Business Customs

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; therefore, 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 numerous 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.

Travel Advisory

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. More detailed information on travel to Italy, including the most recent COVID-19 requirements, is available here https://it.usembassy.gov/covid-19-information/ and the following Department of State website and the advisories on the U.S. Embassy’s website

Visa Requirements

https://it.usembassy.gov/visas/

Every U.S. traveler must have a valid passport which must be valid for at least six months 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 less 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. The registration form submitted to the hotel management upon check-in, signed by the tourist on arrival, constitutes the declaration of presence. For more information please refer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs 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 all 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 if at all 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 needed 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, travelers can consult the Italian Embassy website.

They can also contact the Consular Section of the Embassy of Italy at 3000 Whitehaven Street, NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone: +1(202) 612-4400, or fax +1 (202) 518-2154, or the nearest Italian Consulate General in Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, or San Francisco.

Currency

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, travelers checks, 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.

Telecommunications/Electric

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: 06-46741 (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 U.S. to Rome is as follows: +39-06-46741 (39 being the country code, 06 the city code for Rome). Milan’s city code is 02. Italians are avid users of cellular phones and will generally provide their cellular telephone number. When dialing to cellular phones, please note that no city code is used. Also, the “0” has been dropped from the prefix of all cellular phone numbers. An example of an incoming call from the U.S. to a cellular phone is as follows: +39-328-6187041 (39 being the country code, 328 a sample cellular prefix).

Transportation

Rental automobiles are available at numerous locations. A valid state-issued driver’s license is acceptable, accompanied by identification (eg. Passport).   High speed trains run between major cities and there are slower regional trains. Highways are well maintained and have well serviced rest stops including restaurants, gas stations etc.

Language

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 an initial contact, should be in Italian. If a reply comes in English then the subsequent 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.

Health

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.    For COVID-19 related travel health guidance see https://it.usembassy.gov/covid-19-information/.  Drinking tap water is generally safe.

Listed below are Italian holidays (I) for 2021:

[U.S. holidays (A) observed by the U.S. Embassy are also indicated]:

January 1, Friday 

New Year’s Day (I) 

January 6, Wednesday 

Epiphany (I) 

January 18, Monday 

Martin Luther King’s Birthday (A) 

February 15, Monday 

President’s Day (A) 

April 5, Monday 

Easter Monday (I) 

April 25, Sunday 

Anniversary of the Liberation (I) 

May 1, Saturday 

Labor Day (I) 

May 31, Monday 

Memorial Day (A) 

June 2, Wednesday 

Foundation of the Italian Republic (I) 

June 24, Thursday 

St. John’s Day (I)  (Florence only) 

June 29, Tuesday 

St. Peter and St. Paul’s Day (I)  (Rome only) 

July 5, Monday 

Independence Day (A) 

August 15, Sunday 

Assumption Day (I) 

September 6, Monday 

Labor Day (A) 

September 19, Sunday 

St. Gennaro’s Day (I)  (Naples only) 

October 11, Monday 

Columbus Day (A) 

November 1, Monday** 

All Saints’ Day (I) 

November 11, Thursday 

Veterans’ Day (A) 

November 25, Thursday 

Thanksgiving Day (A) 

December 7, Tuesday 

St. Ambrogio’s Day (I)  (Milan only) 

December 8, Wednesday 

Feast of the Immaculate Conception (I) 

December 24, Friday 

Christmas Day (A) 

December 25, Saturday 

December 26, Sunday 

December 31, Friday

Christmas Day (I) 

St. Stephen’s Day (I)

2022 New Year’s Day (A&I)  

 

Temporary Entry of Materials or Personal Belongings

Italy participates in the International Convention to Facilitate the Importation of Commercial Samples and Advertising Materials. Samples of negligible value imported to promote sales enjoy duty-free and tax-free treatment. Prior authorization is not required. 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.

Imported samples of commercial value may be granted a temporary entry with exemption from custom charges. 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 ten %. Samples may remain in the country for up to one year. They may not be sold, put to their normal use (except for demonstration purposes), or utilized in any manner for remuneration. Goods imported as samples may be imported only in quantities constituting a sample according to normal commercial usage.

Carnets

As a result of various customs agreements, simplified procedures are available to U.S. business and professional people for the temporary importation of commercial samples and professional equipment. A carnet is a customs document that facilitates clearance for temporary imports of samples or equipment. With a carnet, goods may be imported without the payment of duty, tax, or additional security. The carnet also usually saves time since formalities are all arranged before leaving the United States. A carnet is usually valid for one year from the date of issuance. A bond or cash deposit of 40 % of the value of the goods covered by the carnet is required, in addition to the price of the carnet. This will be forfeited in the event the products are not re-exported and duties and taxes are not paid.

Carnets are sold in the United States by the U.S. Council for International Business at the following locations: 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, (212) 354-4480; or 1400 K Street NW, Suite 905, Washington, DC 20005, (202) 371-1316, email at info@uscib.org

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; fax at +39-06-4674-2113; or e-mail at Office.Rome@trade.gov. And for information about our programs and assistance visit the U.S. Commercial Service in Italy.  

Travel Related Resources

Bureau of Consular Affairs’ homepage 

State Department information site

U.S. Embassy website