In few places do history, art, fashion, food and la dolce vita (the good life) intermingle so effortlessly. There are sunny isles and electric blue surf, glacial northern lakes and fiery southern volcanoes, rolling vineyards and an urban landscape that harbours more UNESCO World Heritage sites than any other country in the world. Few places offer such variety and few visitors leave without a fervent desire to return.
San Giorgio festival, procession from the Duomo
Slow Images/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images
January starts with New Year's and Epiphany celebrations. Italian festivals in January include Feast Days of San Antonio Abate and San Sebastiano, Il Palio di Sant'antonio Abate, and the Fair of Sant'Orso, a woodcarvers fair, that's been held annually for about 1000 years.
Carnevale, Italian carnival, tops the list of February festivals all over Italy. In Catania, Sicily, a big festival held on Saint Agatha's Feast Day is the second largest religious procession in the world. Other February Italian festivals include Saint Biago Day, Saint Faustino's Day, and an Almond blossom fair.
Songs and chocolate highlight March festivals in Italy. Two interesting March festivals are the Marriage of Venice to the Sea and the Palio dei Somari, a donkey race held on Saint Joseph's Feast Day, also known as Father's Day in Italy. Spring festivals start in March and Easter sometimes falls in March, too.
In April you'll find a frog race, Rome's birthday, the festival of San Marco, and Saint George's Day. There's an Italian national holiday on April 25 and Easter often falls in April. Food festivals are starting to be more plentiful, too.
May in Italy is a good time to find spring festivals. You'll find flower festivals, food and wine festivals, medieval reenactments, and events celebrating rituals of spring. Unusual festivals include the Wedding of the Trees and the Snake Handlers' Procession. May Day is a national Italian holiday.
Summer brings many festivals to Italy. Look for posters announcing a festa or sagra as you travel around Italy. Festa della Repubblica on June 2 is a national Italian holiday and the Feast Day of San Giovanni is celebrated many places in Italy. Some Italian towns have outdoor music concerts beginning in June, too.
July is one of the best months for festivals in Italy. Sienna has its famous Palio and one of my favorites is the Festa de la Madonna Bruna. You'll find food festivals, medieval festivals, and lots of fireworks including the World Fireworks Championships. There are also many music festivals in July.
Ferragosto (Assumption Day) is an Italian national holiday on August 15. In August you'll find local festivals throughout Italy, where you can often sample inexpensive regional food. Many Italians take vacations in August, often to the seaside, so you're more likely to find festivals there. You may run across a medieval festival that includes people dressed in medieval costumes. There are also many outdoor music performances in August.
In September Italians return from their vacations. Many festivals take place the first Sunday in September as summer comes to an end. You'll still find local food festivals throughout Italy during the month of September, a great place to mingle and sample regional food. Major September festivals include Venice's historic regatta, the Feast of San Gennaro in Naples, and the Feast Day of San Michele held in many places in Italy.
October is a great month for Italian food festivals, especially mushrooms, chestnuts, chocolate, and truffles. On October weekends, you'll find fall food festivals and wine harvest celebrations all over Italy. Although Halloween is not such a big celebration in Italy, it is becoming more popular and you may find Halloween festivals, especially in the larger cities.
November is the heart of the white truffle season and you'll find truffle fairs and chestnut festivals. All Saints Day is in November and Rome has a big festival of music, theater, and dance.
December celebrations and events in December revolve around Christmas. In December Italians celebrate the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception, Santa Lucia Day, Christmas Eve and Day, Saint Stephen's Day, and several other saints' days. There's also a wild boar festival in Tuscany and a festival of gospel music in Umbria.
Italian weather, although it has Mediterranean character, presents significant regional variations. First, due to its considerable extension latitude: Milan annual averages of 25.0 ° C in July and 1.4 ° C in January, while in Palermo, these averages are 29.3 and 13 ° C respectively . The place with the most rainfall in the country is the province of Udine, in the northeast, to 1530 mm, and conversely, the place with less precipitation is in the southern region of Apulia, in the province of Foggia and part south of Sicily, arid areas with about 460 mm. You can differentiate the country into three climatic regions: the Mediterranean climate in the south of Italy (on Florence), with hot summers above 30 ° C, the plains of the Po River, where the winter is very cold in northern countries and the Alps and Apennines (Liguria), with sweet winters and hot summers and heavy rainfall climate.
As for the weather, although France is part of the temperate zone, with hot summers. The Mediterranean influence is manifested by mild and short winters and hot summers.
The provision of relief emphasizes the contrasts of temperatures because the mountain ranges prevent the influence of the ocean on the plains of E. In summer temperatures rise significantly from north to south; all regions of the NO. They enjoy moderate summer without excessive heat, which contrasts with warm summers and S. Mediterranean region (the average temperature in July is 16.6 º Brest and Marseilles 24.1 º). In winter, temperatures fell to E. O., which reflects the influence of ocean masses; in the more continental regions the cold is strong and persistent. Strasbourg has an average January temperature of 1.6 ° to about 69 days of frost. In the eastern regions the existence of a relief channel (groove-Rhône) channeled winds NS; dry and cold mistral blowing in the Rhone Valley, is the most important. The rainfall is moderate, but are rare regions where rainfall is below 500 mm. Rainfall is abundant on the Atlantic coast and in mountainous areas and scarce in the plains of the interior, in areas sheltered by the relief and in the Mediterranean (Marseilles, 555 mm). In continental regions rain falls mainly in the summer and as showers; in Mediterranean regions, erratic and violent, occur at the beginning and end of winter. Overall the climate of France is characterized by unstable weather, result of the struggle of the masses of air extienen over the country. In winter, cold, dry continental air is pushed by the winds of E. offset by the Atlantic depressions that flow over the country and dulvifican climate; summer invasion of tropical air is limited by the winds of O.
There are three areas climatic characteristics: dominido ocean, the Mediterranean and the continental domain. The area subject to oceanic influences is the most extensive and covers most of the country, although there is only pure oceanic climate in Brittany and Normandy. It is characterized by unstable weather, since winds quickly change the atmospheric state, and no excessive temperatures; mists and rains attenuate the winter cold. Abundant rainfall, although they vary by region; pluviosos the number of days is always high: 2 days out of 5 in Paris (813 mm) and 3 out of 5 in Brest (1298 mm), which has over 200 days of rain per year. The crachin, fine, penetrating rain, falls in Britain, mainly in autumn and winter. The oak and beech forest and meadows and heathland are mixed with other species such as pines and birches. In Britain plowing has extended the bocage and heathland to the detriment of the forest. Too cool summers exclude the cultivation of the vine, but coarse grains, apples, vegetables and forage plants suited for this climate. In the bleak Aquitaine basin, mild winters and foggy winters remind Britons (Bordeaux receives 1137 mm per year). The showers and light rain late cluttering and cool springs; the summer, however, warmer and drier, continues with a sunny autumn.
In the Paris Basin is oceanic climate gradient from O to E. Winter, more prominent, is marked by periods of cold, snow and sharp frosts; Summer is characterized by warm and rainy continental stormy character. The average January temperature in Paris is 2.2 ° and 18.2 ° in July. The domain Mediterranean climate is characterized by dry and bright sky; its area is bit long, since it is limited by the mountainous box the Alps and the Cevennes. The latitude and Mediterranean influence lead to mild winters and hot summers; Marseille January temperature is 7.1 ° and 8 ° in Nice and July average 24.1 ° and 20.9 °, respectively. The continental climate comprises the eastern lands of the country; plains and large valleys sheltered by mountain ranges, and not benefiting from the influence of the winds of O. It is characterized by sharp stations, crude oil and drier winters, and the presence of local winds accentuates these characters. The less abundant and irregular precipitation falls mainly in summer, especially in Alsace (Strasbourg, 631 mm), and in autumn, in the Rhone Valley. The mountain climate is determined by the main factor, which is the altitude. It is characterized by long winters and raw, cool and short summers and abundant rainfall (between 1500 and 2000 mm). A prairie crops and lower slopes happens leafy and coniferous forest; between 1500 m and 2000 m the alpine meadow appears.
France and Italy Combined Pre-departure
All participants must be in good physical condition and be well coordinated. Journey requires getting in and out of vehicles, and some walking on uneven terrain. The cobblestone streets in the historical hill towns might be steep and narrow. Trails in the countryside, along the vineyard, olive groves and through forests are sometimes on dirt tracks or uneven stone paths and they become slippery when wet. Travelers with health conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure and weight problems should consult their physician before traveling. It is very important and your responsibility to provide us with accurate information in order to make available to you proper advice. The length of walking activities may fluctuate from 3 to 5 hour walks according to the day activities. Our walks are a combination of exercise, learning and cultural experience. Always ask your guide before departure on each walk what to expect.
Before you depart for an extended vacation, you should consult your physician. Make the doctor’s appointment no less then 8 week before departure. You will need some prescriptions, inoculations and perhaps some special advice that relates to your own physical condition.
If you have any special conditions or allergy that might require attention overseas, have your physician write a letter describing the nature of the condition and the treatment. Carry the letter with you. You should be aware that medical services or facilities might not be readily available during all or part of your trip.
Important: Be sure to bring enough of the prescription medication that you are currently taking. When you pack, make certain that you have ALL your medication in your carry-on luggage. NEVER pack any of your medications in your checked luggage.
Altitude is not a factor during our journeys in France & Italy.
No immunization is required to visit France & Italy but we highly recommend having the following vaccinations current:
- Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG). Transmission of hepatitis A virus can occur through direct person-to-person contact; through exposure to contaminated water, ice, or shellfish harvested in contaminated water; or from fruits, vegetables, or other foods that are eaten uncooked and that were contaminated during harvesting or subsequent handling. You are not at increased risk in Northern, Western, and Southern Europe, including the Mediterranean regions of France, Italy and Greece.
For more information on medical considerations when traveling contact the:
Center for Disease Control and Prevention
It is vital that persons with medical problems or special diet requirements make them known to us well before departure so that land operators are properly informed.
European SOS 112
The number 112 can be dialed to reach emergency services - medical, fire and police - from anywhere in Europe. This Pan-European emergency number 112 can be called from any telephone (landline, pay phone or mobile cellular phone). Calls are free. It can be used for any life-threatening situation, including:
• Serious medical problems (accident, unconscious person, severe injuries, chest pain, seizure)
• Any type of fire (house, car)
• Life-threatening situations (crimes)
Healthcare and Medical Assistance
Tourists requiring urgent medical care should go to the nearest hospital emergency room (airports and many train stations also have medical teams and first aid facilities). Those with serious illnesses or allergies should always carry a special note from their physicians certifying in detail the treatments in progress or that may be necessary.
(Farmacia), generally follow shops times (approx. from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 3:00 to 7:30 p.m., Monday to Saturday), but in large cities many are open non-stop. Night-time service is provided on a shift basis. Business hours and night shifts are displayed outside of each pharmacy (including the location of the nearest night pharmacy each evening). Before departure, it is advisable to procure a document certifying coverage by the national health-care service.
Pharmacies are generally open from Monday to Saturday from 08:30 to 19:30. Many pharmacies close between 12:00 and 14:00, although in shopping centres and large towns, pharmacies will stay open non-stop.
At least one local pharmacy will be open on Sundays. Details of and schedule for this "duty pharmacy" (pharmacie de garde) can be found in every pharmacy window, in local newspapers or by contacting the local commissariat.
Health Services and Insurance Policy
France & Italy have no medical program covering U.S. and Canada citizens. Therefore, U.S. tourists are advised to take out an insurance policy before traveling. First Aid Service with a doctor on hand is found at airports, ports, railway stations and in all hospitals. Prescription medicine can be obtained from pharmacies as well as in some supermarkets.
To enter France & Italy you must have a passport and it must be valid for at least 6 months after your departure date from Italy or France.
If you have changed your name make sure that is reflected on your passport. You must always use the name as it appears on your passport for all applications, visas and identification.
If you are getting a passport for the first time, or if your old one expired more than eight years ago, you will need to provide proof of citizenship, two passport photos, and passport fee. Please check the government pages of your telephone book to determine the most convenient location for you.
Photo Copies of Important Documents
It is a good idea to bring with you four photocopies of your passport and two copies of your airline tickets. New rules request hotels to collect passport information to except tourist from service taxes and must make a copy of your passport. By you having copies with you at time of check-in you help speed up the process. Also having copies is useful in case of documents are misplaced or stolen.
For US citizens it is only necessary to bring your valid passport and do not require a visa.
Getting to France & Italy
International and US airlines operate direct flights to mayor cities in France & Italy.
GMT/UTC +1 (+2 in summer) (Central European Time)
Start: On the last Sunday in March
End: On the last Sunday in October
Flights to Book
The official start or your France & Italian combined program is on day 2 of your journey since you loose a day traveling from USA to Europe. We program all your transfers taking into account your arrival and departure information. Once you have the confirmed flights please send us your flight information and the reservation confirmation code.
Important: The Participant's airline tickets, when issued, shall constitute the sales contract between the airline companies and the Participant.
If for any reason the flight to/from France or Italy is cancelled because of bad weather or mechanical problems, participant loses the first night in France or Italy hotel without refund and activity planned for that day. The guest is also responsible for the costs of the additional night or additional expenses where flight originated.
Currency, Banks and Credit Cards
The Euro is the official currency in Italy. The new monetary currency is the Euro which is divided as follows: bills of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500; coins of 1, 2 Euros; 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents.
The visitor can change money/traveler checks at banks, currency exchange offices and most major airports. Credit cards are widely accepted at most restaurants, hotels and stores.
Banking in France
Bank hours: Banking hours in Paris are usually from 10.00am to 5.00pm, Monday through Friday. Throughout the rest of France, banks are usually open from 10am to 1pm, and 3pm to 5pm, Tuesday through Saturday. Banks often close earlier the day before a public holiday.
Banking in Italy
Bank hours: Banks in Italy are open Monday through Friday from 8:35 a.m. to 1:35 p.m. and from 3:00 - 4:00 p.m.; in many tourist areas they are open non-stop from 8.30 a.m. to 4p.m. and closed all day on Saturday and Sunday and on national holidays. The afternoon one hour opening may vary from city to city. Travelers’ checks can be exchanged for Italian currency at most hotels and shops and at the foreign exchange offices in main railway stations and at the airports.
Currency Exchange in France and Italy
Avoid at all cost exchanging cash or traveler’s checks. The fees and commissions are hefty. Use the ATM’s or try and pay for most of your purchases and for restaurants with your credit cards. If you must use the exchange services here some guidelines. Currency exchange can be made in most banks (look for a sign indicating Change) and post offices as well as in some large stores, train stations, airports and exchange offices near major tourist sites. Remember that even though exchange rates are fixed, agent commissions vary: they must be clearly displayed. Exchange rates vary from bank to bank in France and Italy. Large cities in the U.S. generally have banks specialized in foreign exchange with lower exchange rates.
In general, it is best to find a larger bank or exchange office in the center of town or in a financial area. If only a small amount of money is being exchanged, the hotel's money exchange rate may be adequate. Traveler's checks in U.S. dollars should be exchanged in banks or exchange offices because very few businesses will accept them.
ATM’s in France and Italy
The are many ATM’s to be found in the large cities and even in small towns. The machines operate just as they do in the U.S.; at the beginning of the transaction, it prompts the user for the preferred language. We highly recommend you bring two different credit cards with you in case one does not work or if it is rejected.
Using a credit card, or even better, a debit card or your local bank ATM card is very easy. One must first locate either the Cirrus or BankMate symbol (on the Bancomat and on your card) to insure the card is usable on that particular unit. Cirrus and BankMate are the two most popular and widespread banking systems in the world so they are the best to have. If you are unsure about the compatibility or the banking systems, contact your credit card company or local bank.
After discovering the system is compatible, simply withdraw money as you would at home. Of course, in France and Italy the money will be dispensed as Euros, but when you return home, your bank will have converted the Euros into dollars using the best exchange rate possible. Be careful though when using credit cards, as many banks are now charging large fees of 2.5% to 4% for cash advances which negate any advantage of using the Bancomat in the first place. One's best bet is to use your regular ATM card and simply withdraw money from your account just as you would do at your local bank.
It is highly recommended to leave at home all jewelry and expensive watches. If you do bring valuables, most hotels will provide our clients with a safe deposit box located in the hotel management office. High-end hotels provide clients with a safety deposit box in the rooms. A fee may be charged for this service. MVE is not responsible for lost or stolen items.
Electricity – Charging photo/video batteries
Electric Plug Details
European plug with two circular metal pins
A visitor carrying electrical appliances to France and Italy should have a transformer (power converter) in order to convert the 220v into 110v so you’re your USA made appliances don’t burn up. You must either obtained it before leaving on your trip or purchase one in France or Italy upon arrival. Plugs have round prongs, not flat; therefore an adapter plug is also required.
Access to telephone, fax is available at your hotels. Some hotels provide clients with access to internet and most towns have internet cafés that are open late at night. Public telephones are available throughout France & Italy. Either local or international calls require the use of a phone card (Carta Telefonica) which may be purchased at any newsstand, tobacco shop or "bar"(coffee shop).
France and Italy's climate is as varied as their culture and cuisines. From north to south and from sea level to mountain hill towns, temperatures can vary dramatically. In general the ideal times to visit France and Italy are during the spring or fall months.
In Provence and Piedmont from April to June and late September and October are a very pleasant time of year to visit. Temperatures are usually delightful (highs in the 70s °F low 80°F), with a lot of sun, and cool nights in the hills (can fall into the high 50s °F). Summers are hot and more crowded but the magic still present if this is the time of year you would prefer to travel in Europe.
We highly recommend that our clients visit a weather website to get the latest weather information before departure.
Casual wash and wear clothing is most appropriate during your journey. Lightweight rain gear is useful for brief showers (waterproof plastic rain ponchos, not Gore-tex, are ideal). Light long-sleeve shirts/blouses and sweater and well-insulated windbreaker is necessary for cool nights.
- Lightweight, sturdy hiking boot/trail running shoe with good ankle support and tread if you have difficulty walking on uneven terrain. Other option: Good pair of walking shoes if ankle support is not necessary. Avoid if possible using white tennis shoes during the trip.
- Comfortable shoes for the evening.
- Rain poncho/ umbrella
- Padded socks
- Comfortable pants for walking
- Quick dry, washable shirts, Polo style shirts, long sleeves.
- Hat with brim, sunglasses, sunscreen
- “Daypack”-type backpack to carry water, camera, snacks etc.
- Sweater or sweatshirt for cooler days/evenings
- Prescription medicines, film, band-aids, sunscreen, hat
- Slacks, sweaters, casual/dress-up shirts, skirts. Dinners are generally casual during our program but Italians are elegant and do dress up for dinner. No white jogging shoes or shorts to dinner. Black and other dark colors are the best color to pack for evenings.
We recommend that you pack at least some clothing that can be easily hand-washed, rinsed, and dried overnight.
Note: Our space for baggage in the bus is not infinite. Please limit your luggage to one medium-sized suitcase per person, plus a small carry-on and your backpack.