The Euro

The Italian lira (L), unique as it was for its tiny value and romantic appeal, is now a thing of the past. The currency used in Italy is now the euro, the same currency used throughout almost all of Europe.

The euro comes in denominations of: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 & 500 euro notes, and 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 & 50 cent and 1 & 2 euro coins.

Each country prints its own euro notes and mints its own euro coins. In fact, each country has it’s own design on one side of each note or coin. (All countries’ coins and notes share a common side.) But no matter what country’s euros you have in your pocket, they are the same size, they are worth exactly the same in value, and they can be used in all euro-based countries. Including Italia!

The euro is now about equal to 1.17 US dollar (last updated October 2017). If it’s 100 euros, it’s about $117.

When to convert your money? Good news, you won’t have to convert much: It is best to pay for big things in Italy using your credit card or your debit card because the exchange is calculated for you and the exchange rate is always among the best available. Before leaving the USA have at least enough euro cash with you for a cab ride or phone call. (Just in case?) You can convert any more cash you may want either in the US or in Europe, but it’s best to do it at a bank where exchange rates and fees are the most reasonable. Only convert a minimum of cash at your US airport or at your Italian hotel. The rates there are not particularly good. And on you return trip, remember to convert back to dollars at a bank too. (And plan to have enough dollars when you return to bail your car out of the airport lot or pay the cabbie!)

Traveler’s checks can be useful if you don’t have a credit card. For convenience, buy them already denominated in euros before you leave.

In Italy, banks are usually open Monday through Friday (and Saturday mornings), and are closed on public holidays. ATMs are available in many places, but check with your US bank to make sure they are part of a European ATM network. Credit cards are accepted throughout Italy and, in many cases, offer a very good exchange rate. Have some euros in cash on hand for making small purchases, such as snacks and souvenirs from street vendors.