Try to use the odd word in Italian when conversing with the locals.
Never miss an opportunity to have a coffee, gesticulate, or say “ciao”.
Always try the local food dishes. They’re often the best and most reasonably priced.
Lunch is very important in Italy so pick a good mountain restaurant and relax.
The mountain roads are beautiful but slow. Take the motorways if you are in a hurry.
In the northwest, in or around the Aosta valley, you can fly to numerous airports including Turin, Milan, Bergamo, Geneva or Grenoble. The small local airport in Aosta itself is rumoured to be extending its runway to receive larger aeroplanes, so in a few years' time transfers to the Aosta valley resorts could be some of the easiest in Europe. The Dolomites are best accessed by Bolzano airport. However, it's a small airport and its services change regularly. There's a downloadable list of carriers and times at abd-airport.it. Alternatively, Venice has Treviso airport (trevisoairport.it) which Ryan Air (ryanair.com) fly to, while easyJet (easyjet.com) is serviced by Marco Polo airport, which is a little further from the mountains and closer to the city of Venice. Alternatively, the Dolomites can be reached via Innsbruck airport. Italy also has fantastic road links to France, Switzerland, Austria and Croatia, although it is advisable to check that the mountain passes are open. Most, including the Brenner Pass, the Mont Blanc Tunnel, and the Fréjus Pass are motorway trade routes for lorries, which means they are unlikely to be shut unless a serious accident or severe weather has hit.
There's a no-smoking policy in all public places and that's about it.
Italy is a member of the European Union. Health insurance is recommended, and EU citizens should carry a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which replaces the old E1-11 form. Go to ehic.org.uk to apply for one.
One of the highlights of any trip to Italy is the food, especially the many regional variations. In the Alps and Dolomites there is a lot of culinary influence from central Europe and you may find yourself tucking into fondue or the odd bratwurst. Each region in Italy (each valley, sometimes) has its own version of classic Italian dishes or a regional speciality. Try the traditional regional cuisine if you are staying in the northeastern valleys of the Aosta region. If you are closer to the Austrian border, you have to try the traditional farmers' winter warmer – a small pot of cooked bacon fat with crusty bread. If you are vegetarian you will have plenty of choice on the menu, with many local specialities meat free. Typically you will find dishes with asparagus, peas and other garden vegetables and it's worth noting that the emphasis in genuine Italian cuisine is on freshness and health.
crime & safety
Like most resorts, you are unlikely to have your skis pinched from outside a mountain restaurant but don't leave them anywhere accessible overnight in the bigger resorts.
Italian. English is spoken by many of the younger generation, and many of the ski areas use French and German as a second language so you shouldn't have too many problems. A smattering of basic Italian sayings will be handy for politeness and a bit of fun.
Driving is standard European (right-hand side). Being an EU country, a valid driving licence from your home country is enough to get you on the road. Italy has a reputation for aggressive drivers but if you're used to driving in big cities you should have no problems.
Most major hire car companies (easycar.com, hertz.com, avis.com etc.) have offices in airports and cities. Usual age restrictions apply.
Keep your change out as there are tolls for the motorways, mountain passes and tunnels. Italy's motorways are reliable, safe and direct.
Italian trains are divided into Eurostar, Intercity, Interregionale and Regionale services. All are complicated, have unnecessary validation stamping on tickets and have huge price fluctuations depending on seasons and times of day. To use the trains you will need patience and have your wits about you. The national rail website trenitalia.com is translatable into English.
Depending on where you go, you may encounter shops closed for siesta or bars with a tradition of staying open until the last customer leaves. Generally, though, shops have long opening hours, restaurants are open well into the night, and most clubbing goes on very late.
green travel tips
Italy's Alta Badia has been investing in environmental solutions since before the current climate-change debate began. The resort is home to the most ecofriendly ski lift in the Alps. It consists of a long rope that skiers hold on to and a sledge powered by a pair of horses. Not only does this lift use a fraction of the raw materials and energy usually required to build modern lifts, but it's impact on the mountain is tiny as well. It also runs on hay and fodder!