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On January 1st, 2002, twelve of the fifteen European Union members completed conversion to the Euro, replacing their own national currencies. These twelve countries comprise the Eurozone, sometimes called Euroland. There are eight Euro coins denominated in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents, and 1 and 2 Euros. Each coin has a European community face as well as a national face specific to one of the twelve countries, so don't be surprised to find Spanish or German versions in your wallet. All are accepted in Euroland. Here are the French versions:
There are seven Euro notes, identical in all twelve countries. They are denominated in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 Euros, each having a different color. All notes carry advanced security features.
Final designs were announced in December 1996 at the Dublin European Council. They incorporate symbols of Europe's architectural heritage, but do not depict any real monuments. Windows and gateways dominate the front side of each banknote, symbols of the spirit of openness and cooperation in the EU. Each reverse side features a bridge from a particular age, as a metaphor for communication among the people of Europe, as well as between Europe and the rest of the world.
Banks in Italy are open from 08h35 to 13h35 and 15h00 to 16h00, Monday through Friday. Afternoon hours may vary, especially outside of Rome. In tourist areas some banks will remain open during lunch. Travelers checks can be exchanged for Italian currency at most hotels and shops and at the foreign exchange offices in main railway stations and at the airports. Banks close on weekends and for national holidays.
Italian banks will change money during normal business hours. Most will charge a fixed fee, usually around five euros, regardless of the amount. Euros can also be purchased at airports, ferry terminals, and post offices. Commissions may be lower at post offices. In most cities and tourist locations there are also private exchange offices, some of which will change money without commission, but the exchange rate will usually be less favorable.
Major establishments accept credit cards whose logos are posted in their windows, but when taking a taxi, be prepared to pay in cash: Some taxis will not accept credit cards, and even those that do prefer cash.
ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) are widely available in Italy, and are a convenient way to obtain cash. A debit card will be less expensive, since a cash advance via credit card normally begins accruing interest immediately. A flat fee will be charged for each transaction, regardless of card type, plus a percentage commission that varies by bank. It's best to contact your bank before leaving to advise them that you plan to use your card outside your home country. Verify your daily withdrawal limit, and ask about the fees so you don't have an unpleasant surprise when you return home. Don't forget to convert the amount in euros to your home currency when estimating withdrawal amounts. Finally, be aware that European ATMs accept only four-digit PIN numbers, so you may need to change your PIN before leaving.
If possible, arrive with some euros in your pocket. All Italian airports have ATMs, but if they are empty or out of service, you may have a problem.
Travelers checks are insured against loss or theft, an advantage which may be important to you. They can be cashed at banks and foreign exchange offices, but will probably be refused by hotels and shops. Eurocheques are similar to traveler's checks. When cashing checks you will be required to show identification.