Doing Business In Italy

Visa Information

Italy signed the Schengen Convention, an agreement whereby 13 EU member countries (excluding the UK, Ireland and the new members that have entered the union since 2004) plus Iceland and Norway agreed to abolish checks at common borders. Legal residents of one Schengen country do not require a visa for another. Citizens of the remaining 14 EU countries and Switzerland are also exempt. Nationals of some other countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand and the USA, do not require visas for tourist visits of up to 90 days.
All non-EU nationals (except those from Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) entering Italy for any reason other than tourism (such as study or work) should contact an Italian consulate, as they may need a specific visa. They should also have their passport stamped on entry as, without a stamp, they could encounter problems when trying to obtain a residence permit (permesso di soggiorno).
The standard tourist visa is valid for up to 90 days. A Schengen visa issued by one Schengen country is generally valid for travel in other Schengen countries. However, individual Schengen countries may impose additional restrictions on certain nationalities. It is worth checking visa regulations with the consulate of each country you plan to visit.
You must apply for a Schengen visa in your country of residence. You can apply for only two Schengen visas in any 12-month period and they are not renewable inside Italy. If you are going to visit more than one Schengen country, you should apply for the visa at a consulate of your main destination country or the first country you intend to visit.
For more information on the wonderful world of Schengen visas, check out
EU citizens do not require any permits to live or work in Italy, but may be asked to report to a local police station after three months have elapsed. After five years’ continuous residence, they may apply for a document granting permanent residence.

Business Etiquette

Relationships & Communication
Italians prefer to do business with people they know and trust.
A third party introduction will go a long way in providing an initial platform from which to work.
Italians much prefer face-to-face contact, so it is important to spend time in Italy developing the relationship.
Your business colleagues will be eager to know something about you as a person before conducting business with you.
Demeanour is important as Italians judge people on appearances and the first impression you make will be a lasting one.
Italians are intuitive. Therefore, make an effort to ensure that your Italians colleagues like and trust you.
Networking can be an almost full-time occupation in Italy. Personal contacts allow people to get ahead.
Take the time to ask questions about your business colleagues family and personal interests, as this helps build the relationship
Italians are extremely expressive communicators. They tend to be wordy, eloquent, emotional, and demonstrative, often using facial and hand gestures to prove their point.
Business Meeting Etiquette
Appointments are mandatory and should be made in writing (in Italian) 2 to 3 weeks in advance.
Reconfirm the meeting by telephone or fax (again in Italian).
Many companies are closed in August, and if they are open many Italians take vacations at this time, so it is best not to try to schedule meetings then.
In the north, punctuality is viewed as a virtue and your business associates will most likely be on time.
The goal of the initial meeting is to develop a sense of respect and trust with your Italian business colleagues.
Have all your printed material available in both English and Italian.
Hire an interpreter if you are not fluent in Italian.
It is common to be interrupted while speaking or for several people to speak at once.
People often raise their voice to be heard over other speakers, not because they are angry.
Although written agendas are frequently provided, they may not be followed. They serve as a jumping off point for further discussions.
Decisions are not reached in meetings. Meetings are meant for a free flow of ideas and to let everyone have their say.
Business Negotiation
In the north, people are direct, see time as money, and get down to business after only a brief period of social talk.
In the south, people take a more leisurely approach to life and want to get to know the people with whom they do business.
Allow your Italian business colleagues to set the pace for your negotiations. Follow their lead as to when it is appropriate to move from social to business discussions.
Italians prefer to do business with high-ranking people.
Hierarchy is the cornerstone of Italian business. Italians respect power and age.
Negotiations are often protracted.
Never use high-pressure sales tactics.
Always adhere to your verbal agreements. Failing to follow through on a commitment will destroy a business relationship.
Heated debates and arguments often erupt in meetings. This is simply a function of the free-flow of ideas.
Haggling over price and delivery date is common.
Decisions are often based more on how you are viewed by the other party than on concrete business objectives.
Dress Etiquette
Dressing well is a priority in Italy.
Men should wear dark coloured, conservative business suits.
Women should wear either business suits or conservative dresses.
Elegant accessories are equally important for men and women.
Business Cards
Business cards are exchanged after the formal introduction.
To demonstrate proper respect for the other person, look closely at their business card before putting it in your card holder.
It is a good idea to have one side of your business card translated into Italian.
If you have a graduate degree, include it on your business card.
Make sure your title is on your card. Italians like knowing how you fit within your organization. 

General Business Hours

Generally shops open from 9am to 1pm and 3.30pm to 7.30pm (or 4pm to 8pm) Monday to Saturday. Many close on Saturday afternoon and some close on a Monday morning or afternoon, and sometimes again on a Wednesday or Thursday afternoon. In major towns most department stores and supermarkets have continuous opening hours from 10am to 7.30pm Monday to Saturday. Some even open from 9am to 1pm on Sunday.

Banks tend to open from 8.30am to 1.30pm and 3.30pm to 4.30pm Monday to Friday. They close at weekends but exchange offices usually remain open in the larger cities and in major tourist areas.

Central post offices open from 8.30am to 6.30pm from Monday to Saturday. Some main branches close at 12.30pm on Saturday, while most smaller branches only open Monday to Friday. All close two hours earlier than normal on the last business day of each month (not including Saturday).


Farmacie (pharmacies) are generally open 9am to 12.30pm and 3.30pm to 7.30pm. Most shut on Saturday afternoon, Sunday and holidays but a handful remain open on a rotation basis for emergency purposes. Closed pharmacies display a list of the nearest ones open.


Many bars and cafés open from about 8am to 8pm. Others then go on into the night serving a nocturnal crowd while still others, dedicated more exclusively to nocturnal diversion, don’t get started until the early evening (even if they officially open in the morning). Few bars remain open anywhere beyond 1am or 2am. Clubs (discoteche) might open around 10pm (or earlier if they have eateries on the premises) but things don’t get seriously shaking until after midnight.


Restaurants open noon to 3pm and 7.30pm to around 11pm or midnight (sometimes even later in summer and in the south), although the kitchen often shuts an hour earlier than final closing time. Most restaurants and bars close at least one day a week.


The opening hours of museums, galleries and archaeological sites vary enormously, although at the more important sites there is a trend towards continuous opening from around 9.30am to 7pm. Many close on Monday. Some of the major national museums and galleries remain open until 10pm in summer.