Currency in Italy

Currency

The unit of currency in Italy (and the rest of Europe) is the euro and centessimo, similar to the US dollar and cent.  The coins are as follows: 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, 1 euro, and 2 euro. The bills are as follows: 5 euro, 10 euro, 20 euro, 50 euro, 100 euro, 200 euro and 500 euro. The latter you won’t need or likely even see, unless you plan on buying a Ferrari in cash.

While we’re on the topic, just in case you do decide to buy a high ticket item like a Ferrari etc., in Europe, periods and commas are interchanged. So our 100,000 is written as 100.000; likewise, decimals such as 1.5 are written as 1,5.

It’s best to pay for small cost items with smaller bills and coins. Many shop owners will balk at changing a E100 bill for something that costs less than E10. Try asking first (hold up the suspect bill and say, “Puo cambiare?” – get-by pronunciation: pwo kahm-bee-yah’-ray).

If you’re interested in the current exchange rate, check out xe.com.

Currency Exchanging

All the old ways of exchanging money are pretty well supplanted now by the ubiquitous ATM machine. Bring along your ATM card and in front of almost every bank you’ll find an ATM machine – many of which also accept major credit cards for cash advances. The exchange rate is about the best going, although a fee may be applied by your bank – from $1 to $3 per transaction – and there is often a limit on how much you can take out per day. Check to make sure what your bank’s terms are, and then decide if using the ATM is your best option.

Very important note if you plan on using ATMs: Italian ATM machines typically have space for only 5 digits for your PIN. If your PIN is longer than that, you had best expect to use other means of exchanging money.

On most machines, after you put in your card, you’ll be prompted for which language you’d like to use. In any case, the procedure is exactly the same as in the US: slip in your card (after which you’ll likely be requested which language you’d like to use), enter your PIN, enter the amount you’d like to withdraw, and after a few agonizing seconds, the machine spits out your card, your money, and – 9 times out of 10 – a receipt if you request it. If you absolutely rely on having a receipt, then stick with the traditional exchange services: banks, airports, major rail stations, and as a last resort (because of the poor exchange rates offered) big hotels. Keep in mind that banks are usually only open in the mornings until around 1pm; in the large cities, some may open additionally from 3 to 4pm. Exchange services at airports, etc. are open for longer hours.

It’s very likely you’ll need to change a couple hundred dollars (or whatever it is you’re carrying) immediately upon landing in Italy in order to catch a taxi, a train, or a bus to the train station. You should be able to make an exchange at the airport, unless your flight arrives in the middle of the night. If that’s the case, try to make the exchange at your departure airport – and just grin and bear the lousy exchange rate . . .

Also, keep in mind that virtually all hotels accept credit cards, as do most restaurants and stores. Keep an eye out for the sign posted on the door “Carta Si”. The days of overstuffed money belts are largely over, thanks to electronic money. But don’t be too overconfident; you will very likely still need some cash, and if you want to stay absolutely on the safe side, you can bring along some Traveler’s Checks, which you can exchange at any exchange service.