On 1 January 2002, the euro became the currency of cash transactions in all of Italy (including the Vatican City and the Republic of San Marino) and throughout the EU (except for the three foot-draggers: Denmark, Sweden and the UK).
Euro coins and notes were into Italy on 1 January 2002. For two months lire and euros will circulate side by side and lire can be exchanged for euros free of charge at banks. From 28 February 2002, the euro will be Italy's sole currency. Banks will accept lira for ten years beyond that date, but will only issue euros. During the transition period, you can pay for goods and services in either euros or lire, and change will be given in both currencies.
The euro is divide into 100 cents. Coin denominations are one, two, five, 10 20 and 50 cents, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500.
All euro coins across the EU are identical on the side showing they are 12 different obverses, each representing one of the 12 euro-zone countries. All euro notes of each denomination are identical on both sides. All euro coins and notes are legal tender throughout the euro zone.
Once euro notes and coins are issued in 2002, you won't need to change money at all when travelling to to other single-currency members and prices in the member states will be immediately comparable. Banks may still change a handling fee (yet to be decided) for travellers cheques but they won't be able to profit by buying the currency from you at another. And even EU countries not participating in the single currency may price goods in euros and accept euros over shop counters.
For more information check out the euro section of the European Union Web site at www.europa.eu.int/euro.
You can change money in banks, at the post office or in a cambio (exchange office). Banks are generally the most reliable and tend to offer the best rates. However, you should look around and ask about commission. This can fluctuate considerably and a lot depends on whether you are changing cash or cheques.
While the post office charges a flat rate of 0.60 per cash transaction, banks charge at least 1.55 or more. Travellers cheques attract higher fees. Some banks charge 0.50 per cheque with a 1.55 minimum, while the post office charges a maximum 2.55 per transaction. Other banks will have different arrangements again, and in all cases you should compare the exchange rates. Exchange booths often advertise 'no commission' but the rate of exchange can often be inferior to that in the banks.
The desire to save on such fees by making occasional large transactions should be balanced against a healthy fear of pick-pockets- you don't want to be robbed the day you have exchanged a huge hunk of money to last you weeks!
Cash There is little advantage in bringing foreign cash into Italy. True, exchange lower than for travellers cheques but the danger of losing the lot far outweighs such petty gains.
Travellers Cheques These are a safe way to carry money and are easily cashed at banks and exchange offices throughout Italy. Always keep the bank receipt listing the cheque numbers separate from the cheques themselves, and keep a list of the numbers of those you have already cashed - this will reduce problems in the event of loss or theft. Check the condition applying to such circumstances before buying the cheques.
If you buy your travellers cheques in euros, you should not be charged commission when cashing them. Most hard currencies are widely accepted, although you may have occasional trouble with the New Zealand dollar. Buying cheques in a third currency (such as US dollars if you are not coming from the USA), means you pay commission when you buy the cheques and again when cashing them in Italy. Try to get most of the cheques in largish denominations so you can save on per-cheque exchange charges.
Travellers using the better known travellers cheques (such as Visa, American Express and Thomas Cook) will have little trouble in Italy. American Express, in particular, has offices in all the major Italian cities and agents in many smaller cities. If you lose your American Express cheques, call toll free 800 872 000 (24 hours). For Thomas Cook or MasterCard cheques call 800 872 050 and for Visa cheques call 800 874 155.
Take along you passport when you go to cash travellers cheques.
Tel:+44 (0)20 85423067. Fax:+44 (0)207 1529598