Italian newspapers available from all newsstands can be frustrating, even for fluent Italian readers. Don't expect the Italian press to give you a balanced view of current events as most newspapers reflect the political or business interests of those who control them. The articles tend to be long-winded and the point, if indeed there is one, is usually buried in the final paragraphs. The domestic politics section, which normally occupies the first four or five pages of the newspaper, is difficult to follow even for the most dedicated reader and if you miss an instalment it's almost impossible to catch up on events.
Most Italian daily newspapers cost € 0.75 (or € 1 if a supplement is included).
Corriere della Sera, based in Milan, is the country's leading daily and has the best foreign news pages and the most comprehensive and comprehensible political coverage.
Il Messaggero is a popular Rome-based broadsheet, It is especially good for news about Rome and the Vatican and has a weekly listings suppliment, Metro.
The former left-wing mouthpiece, L'Unita', was relaunched in March 2001 (after closing in July 2000). A new editorial company has bought the title from the Democatici di Sinstra political party (the former communists) and the new-look paper is now closer to the political centre.
The tabloid-format La Repubblica, also a Rome-based paper, usually has great photos but it also has a reputation for sloppy reporting. Its Trovaromasuppliement on Thursday provides entertainment listings.
The conservative L'Osservatore Romano is published daily (with weekly editions in English and other foreign languages) and is the official voice of the Vatican. There are several other daily papers. All of the above are available nationally from larger newsstands.
RADIO & TV
You can pick up the BBC World Service on medium wave at 648kHz, short wave at 6195kHz, 9410kHz, 12095kHz and 15575kHz, and on long wave at 198 kHz, depending on where you are and the time of day. Voice of America (VOA) can usually be found on short wave at 15205kHz.
Vatican Radio (1530 AM, 93.3 FM and 105 FM) broadcasts the news in English at 7am, 8.30am, 6.15pm and 9.40pm. The reports usually include a run-down on what the pope is up to on any particular day.
There are three state-owned Italian stations: RAI-1 (1332 AM or 89.7 FM), RAI-2 (846 AM or 91.7 FM) and RAI-3 (93.7 FM). They combine classical and light music with news broadcasts and discussion programs. RAI-2 broadcasts news in English every day from 1am to 5am at three minutes past the hour.
Commercial radio stations are a better bet if you're after contemporary music. Popular stations are Radio Centro Suono (101.3 FM) , the Naples-based Radio Kiss Kiss (97.35 FM), and Radio Citta' Futura (97.7 FM), which broadcasts a listing of the day's events in Rome at 10am daily.
Italian television is so bad that it's compelling. There is an inordinate number of quiz shows and variety programs featuring troupes of scantily clad women prancing and thrusting across the set. The home-bred soap operas are so terrible that it's sometimes embarrassing to watch but they attract a huge following. So, too, do the many imported soaps, mainly from the USA, all of which are dubbed into Italian. Current release films transfer to the small screen relatively quickly in Italy, but again, they are always dubbed.
The state-run channels are RAI 1, RAI 2 and RAI 3. The main commercial stations are Canale 5, Italia 1, Rete 4 and La 7. The French-language TV channel, Antenne 2, can sometimes be received on Channel 10.
Many bars and restaurants, have satellite TV and can receive BBC World, Sky Channel, CNN and NBC Superchannel.
PHOTOGRAPHY & VIDEO
Film & Equipment
The major Italian airports are all fully equipped with modern inspection systems that do not damage film or other photographic material carried in hand luggage.
There are numerous outlets that sell and process films, but beware of poor-quality processing. Many places claim to process films in one hour but you will rarely get your photos back that quickly - count on late the next day if the outlet has its own processing equipment or three or four days if it hasn't.
A roll of film is called a pellicola but you will be understood if you ask for "film". A 100 ASA Kodak film will cost around €4.15/5/15 for 24/36 exposures. Developing costs around €5.70/7.25 for 24/26 exposures in standard format. A roll of 36 slides (diapositve) costs €5.15 to buy and €4.15 to develop.
Tapes for video cameras, including V8, are often available at the same outlets or can be found at shops selling cameras, videos and electrical goods.
Photography is not permitted in many churches, museums and galleries. Look out for crossed-out camera symbols as you go in. These restrictions do not normally apply to archaeological sites.
In military zones you will encounter signs in Italian warning you not to trespass and not to take photographs. Realistically photography in these areas carries little risk in peace time - although the enforcement of restrictions is left to the discretion of the soliders.
The standard rules about photographing people applies in Italy. In the south, you need to be particularly sensitive to the fact that people - especially women and the elderly - are traditionally more reserved. Children, on the other hand, will often come running to have their photo taken.
Italy operates on a 24-hour clock.
It is one hour ahead of GMT/UTC. France, Germany, Austria and Spain are on the same time as Italy. Greece, Egypt and Israel are one hour ahead. When it's noon in Rome, it's 3am in San Francisco, 6am in New York and Toronto, 11am in London, 7pm in Perth, 9pm in Sydney and 11pm in Auckland.
Daylight-saving time, when clocks are move forward one hour, starts on the last Sunday in March. Clocks are put back an hour on the last Sunday in October. When phoning home, remember to allow for daylight-saving in your own country.
Voltages & Cycles
The electric current in Italy is 220V, 50Hz, but check with your host family because some places, especially those in older buildings, may still use 125V.
Plugs & Sockets
Power points have two or three holes and do not have their own switches; plugs have two or three round pins. Some power points have large holes than others. Italian homes are usually full of plug adapters to cope with this anomaly.
If you do not have international plug adapters there is always the option of taking your appliance to an electrical shop and having them replace the foreign plug with an Italian one. Travellers from North America need a voltage converter although some homes may have provisions for 110V appliances such as electric razors.
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