Tips for Business Travellers - Italy
Table of contents
Before you go: Getting organized
Deciding to export to Europe is not something to be entered into lightly. Does your company have the resources - in terms of time, people and capital - needed for a successful venture abroad? Taking a realistic look at your company is the first step, followed by a bit of research. The Knowledge Centre has a large amount of information on the realities of exporting, as well as some specific information on Italy and the sector of interest to you.
Here are some of the basic questions that you should examine:
- What is unique or special about your company, product or service?
- Who are the end-users of your product or service? To whom do you sell in Canada and abroad, and through which channels?
- Which countries or regional markets are you targeting and why? What do you know about these markets?
- How do you plan to enter the market: export, license, joint venture or investment?
- How do you describe the typical buyer, distributor, agent or partner you want to work with in this market?
- When do you plan to visit the market? Have you considered adapting your product or service literature to the market at that time?
Italy, together with Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain, forms part of the border-free travel zone subject to the Schengen Agreement. EU passport holders can come and go as they please. Citizens of the USA, Australia, Canada, Japan and New Zealand are among those who may enter Italy as tourists without a visa and stay up to 90 days.
Visiting less than three months
To enter into Italy, Canadian citizens must hold a passport that will be valid for at least 6 months or more during the duration of the visit. Canadian citizens are exempted from having to obtain a visa for visits to Italy of no longer than 3 months, even if they have stayed in other countries under the Schengen* agreement. You may act as a representative of your company, and do research, but you are not allowed to perform services or be paid by an Italian company.
* In 1995, the Schengen agreement abolished the internal borders of the 13 Member States and two non-member States ( Norway and Iceland ) and created a single external border where immigration checks for the Schengen area are carried out in accordance with a single set of rules.
Visiting more than three months:
If you plan to stay in Italy for longer than three months, you will need to obtain a long-term visa, which can last up to one year. This process must be undertaken in Canada prior to entering Italy.
You will also need to obtain a residency authorization (permesso di soggiorno) as soon as possible and preferably within 8 days following your arrival in Italy . To apply, go to your nearest Prefettura or Prefecture's Office with your passport and certificate of residence (a rental agreement/lease should do). This can be renewed once a year, for up to three years, at which time you will be eligible to apply for a permanent residency card.
Working in Italy
Whether you are acting as an employee or independently, you will need to obtain a permanent work authorization. The usual procedure calls for the Italian employer to submit an application to the Italian labour bureau (ufficio di collocamento), which will then decide if an Italian national could fill the position. The success of your application largely depends on the sector in which you will work as some restrictions may apply in sectors with high levels of unemployment.
A permanent work authorization is not required if you are transferring salaried management or technical staff to act as support or liaison with an Italian company for a one-year period. The staff must be paid through Canada and obtain a temporary transfer authorization.
In addition to the above permits, you will be required to obtain a "Carta del commercio estero" (Commercial Card) if you or your employee will be acting as:
- President or General manager of an SPA (Societa' per azioni)
- Manager of a SRL (Societa' a responsabilita' limitata)
- President of a SAS (Societa' in accomandita semplice)
- Managing partner in a partnership agreement
- Manager of the Italian branch of a foreign company
Types of Italian companies
There are several legal statuses under which to incorporate a company in Italy depending on the size of the company and number of partners. For more details, go to the website of the Camere di Commercio di Italia (Italian only).
Further to the Schengen agreement, EU nationals traveling on a EU Member State passport do not require work permits or commercials cards to work in Italy . However, they do require a residency permit, which will be issued upon presentation of a EU passport, employment declarations from the Italian employer, proof of residency (ex: lease) and passport photos.
Please note that employment formalities and practices in Italy are substantially different from those in Canada, and care must be taken to ensure that your organization is fully aware of its responsibilities towards its employees.
- Public Emergency Aid: 113*
- Military Police Emergency Assistance: 112
- Fire Brigade Emergency Assistance: 115
- Automobile Breakdown Service: 116
- Customs Officer: 117
- Hospital/Ambulance: 118
- Traffic/Road Conditions Information: 1518
- Coast Guard: 1530
For public interest, it is advisable to use this number only in cases of impending danger for individuals or in incidences of serious calamity, and when it is not possible to contact the appropriate entities listed below:
- Public Railways: 89 20 21
- Italian Mail Complaints: 185
- Telegrams dictation: 186
Italian is the official language, although 12 other languages are officially recognized and protected by law as a right of linguistic minorities. There are many diverse dialects. Business people in larger companies speak English, while local businessmen and wholesalers often need an interpreter.
The 12 languages/dialects spoken:
- Catalan, and
- Pink EU driving licence or international driver's licence
- Vehicle registration book or rental certificate
- Nationality plate
- Insurance certificate: international Green Card
On the motorway, speed limits vary according to the size of the vehicle's engine, ranging from 90kph/56mph (600 cc) to 110-130kph/69-81mph (over 1000 cc). On ordinary roads, the maximum speed limit is 90kph/56mph regardless of engine size.
For more information, please consult Auto Europe.
Main international airports in Italy
- Passenger information: Tel +39 (02) 748 52200
- Location: approx. 55km/34mi northwest of Milan.
- Transportation to the city centre:
- By taxi: allow 40 to 55 minutes.
- By bus: Malpensa Shuttle buses leave every 10 minutes for the main station. The trip takes about 50 minutes.
- By train: the Malpensa Express serves Cadorna station. Duration: 50 minutes.
- Passenger information: Tel: +39 (02) 23 2323.
- Location: approx. 10km/6mi southeast of Milan.
- Transport to the city centre:
- By taxi: allow approximately 15 minutes.
- By bus: bus No. 73 leaves every 10 minutes for Piazza San Babila. Duration: 25 minutes
- Passenger information: Tel: +39 (06) 794 941
- Location: approx. 17km/10.2mi to the southeast of Rome.
- Transportation to the city centre:
- By taxi: allow approximately 25 minutes.
- By bus: buses leave every 30 minutes for Ciampino station which is linked with Rome 's main train station (trains leave every 10 to 15 minutes). This bus also goes to the Anagnina underground station (trains leave every 5 to 10 minutes for the city centre).
Roma-Fiumicino Leonardo da Vinci Airport
- Passenger information: Tel: +39 (06) 65 951
- Location: about 30km/18mi southeast of Rome.
- Transportation to the city centre:
- By taxi: allow approximately 30 minutes.
- By train: the Leonardo Express leaves every 30 minutes for the main station. Duration: 30 minutes.
There are international train connections between most European cities and the main towns and cities in Italy . France has rail links to the Italian peninsula via the Nice-Ventimiglia-Genoa line and the Modana-Bardonecchia-Turin line via the Frejus tunnel. The Sempione tunnel provides the rail link with Switzerland and the Brennero and Tarvisio lines link Italy with Austria and Eastern Europe.
Several Websites such as Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane exist for information on times, tariffs and bookings.
A national identity card or passport for European Union (EU) nationals. Nationals of non-EU European countries, Americans and Canadians need only a passport, provided their stay does not exceed 3 months. Nationals of other countries should check the Italian Foreign Office site, for entry requirements.
Health risks: None
Time: GMT /UTC plus one hour (two hours ahead in summer)
Electricity: 220V, 50 Hz
Weights and measures: Metric
Advice on doing business
- Shake hands with everyone when arriving and leaving.
- Italians feel comfortable standing closer together than the normal North American distance of two feet. Don't back away.
- Don't use first names unless invited.
- Titles are used in all forms of address. Professors and doctors are esteemed; use the title "Dottore" for a man, "Dottoressa" for a woman.
- First write an email in Italian for an appointment, if you want an immediate reply. Follow up your letter by email, fax, or telephone call. Be very aware of summer vacation periods, as most firms close during the month of August. Be on time, especially in the industrial north, where business is conducted with "American-style" pressure and efficiency.
- Italian businesspeople want to deal with someone they know, even casually. Have a local representative make introductions and appointments for you before you invest in a trip.
- Corporations in Italy often have a horizontal chain of authority. Italians call it a "cordata" (which actually means a team of mountain climbers on the same rope). The "cordata" concept is very difficult to explain fully to outsiders, but it exists and, to facilitate business, one should have a reliable contact that has full knowledge of a company's inside structure.
- Do not exchange business cards at social occasions; however it is normal at business functions - especially since an Italian would feel it impolite to ask a foreigner to spell out her or his name. Italian cards are often plain white with black print. Usually, the more important the person, the less information is on the card.
- Avoid talking about religion, politics, and World War II. It is considered gauche, even insulting, to ask someone you have just met at a social gathering about his or her profession.
- The idea of an organization chart does not apply in Italy . You might suddenly have to deal with a new person, usually consulted because of his experience and seniority.
- Negotiating is often lengthy. A sense of urgency can weaken your bargaining position.
- Italian hospitality plays an important role in business life. Most often this means dining in a restaurant. No matter how you feel, refusing an invitation will offend. When dining, use your knife (not your fingers) to pick up cheese, and don't eat any fruit except grapes or cherries with your hand. Italians consider wine as a food to be sipped. To drink too much is considered very offensive.
- Dining is a serious business, and real prestige can be gained or lost at the table. Paying may equate to prestige, and Italians may even slip the waiter a generous tip before dinner to make sure you do not get the bill. The check will not be brought until you ask for it. Get a waiter's attention by saying, "Senta", an idiom meaning, "please listen" / "come here" or "Mi scusi", meaning "Excuse me".
- Business dinners involve only a small, important group. If you are the host, consult with your Italian contact for help in deciding whom to invite.
- Keep the receipt for the restaurant bill. Sometimes tax police check restaurant bills outside for adherence to tax laws.
- As a guest, you will be introduced first. The most senior or eldest person present should always be given special regard. Handshakes may include grasping the arm with the other hand.
- If you are invited to someone's home, bring gift-wrapped chocolates, pastries, or flowers. Never give an even number of flowers. Do not give chrysanthemums; they are used for funerals. Do not give a brooch, handkerchiefs, or knives, all of which connote sadness. If you give wine, be certain it is of excellent vintage - many Italians are wine connoisseurs.
- In the business world, good clothes are a badge of success. Women dress in quiet, expensive elegance; men's ties and suits
- Clothes should also be fashionable and well cut. Keep in mind Italy is a major centre of European fashion. Even casual clothes are smart and chic.
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