What time is it in Italy?

Time zones in Italy and dealing with the 24-hour clock

Enter a country or city:

Italy—like most of Western Europe—is six hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time (or one hour ahead of GMT, Greenwich Mean Time).

That means when it's 1pm in New York and 10am in San Francisco, it's 7pm in Rome, Florence, and Venice.

Great Britain, Ireland, Portugal, and Iceland are all one hour behind Italy.

Greece and Eastern Europe are are one hour ahead of Italy.

Note: Since every country has its own date when daylight savings time kicks in, there are often brief periods when the difference shifts by an hour. For example, lately the U.S. has gone on DSL really early in the year, like early-March, whereas Italy waits until the last Sunday in March. For those few weeks, Italy is only five hours ahead of EDT. (Italy "falls back" on the last Sunday in October.)

What time is it? 16:30 (Huh?)

Most Italian use the 24-hour clock—known in the U.S. as "military time," though you'll never hear an Italian bark out a phrase like "at oh-six-hundred hours," not even in Italian (and not just because few Italians are silly enough to be awake at that ungodly hour).

They just refer to the morning hours like we do—9:00, 10:00, 11:43, etc. (However, they don't often use a ":" to separate hours from minutes; they either use a period, or nothing at all.)

At noon they write 12:00, and when it gets to be 1pm they write 13:00—and then they go take a nap (you gotta love riposo).

The evening passeggiata stroll beings around 1700 (5pm), then you head to dinner anywhere between 1900 (7pm—though only tourists eat that early) and 2130 (9:30pm). The day ends at 24:00 (that's midnight), after which there's a wee hour when the minutes tick off 0:01, 0:02, 0:03...

Just remember: If the hour is greater than 12, subtract 12 and add a "pm" in your head. That way, 20:00 becomes 8pm (i.e.: time to start heading to dinner).

Now that's how it works when time is written down, as in open-hour signs posted in windows. When speaking, however, Italians might use either the 24-hour-clock number or a 12-hour-clock number followed by the phrase del pomeriggio ("of the afternoon").

That means if you ask someone che oro sono? (what time is it?) at 3pm, they may say sono le quindici ("it's fifteen o'clock") or they might say sono le tre di pomeriggio ("it's three of the afternoon").

Tips & links

Useful links
Don't overplan

I will freely admit to being as guilty as anyone of this, but: Please try not to overplan your trip to Italy. That's a two-fold plea:

  1. Plan everything, but don't feel compelled to stick to the plan. I think it's a fine idea to work out all the details of what you plan to do—if nor no other reason than it will help you get a handle of what you are able to get done, and start making the hard choices of what you have time for and what you should leave for the next trip to Italy. (Always assume you will retrun!)

    But then do not book absolutely every second in advance (that leaves no room to adjust things as you go to accommodate changing interests, sudden festivals, or unexpected invitations), and please do not attempt to stick to the schedule if it turns out to be overly ambitious and startrs making you miserable.

    Rememeber Clark W. Griswold, the Chevy Chase dad in the Vacation movies, always bound and detemrined to get to WallyWorld come hell or dead aunties? Yeah, don't be that guy. No one in that family was having any fun.
  2. Don't try to pack too much in. A vacation is not meant to be all about checking sights off a list or dashing from place to place to fit in as much as humanly possible. It's about enjoying yourself.

    So do that. Enjoy yourself. Take a hint from the Italian concept of la bel far' niente—the beauty of doing nothing—and take a break from the sightseeing every once in a while.

    Leave some time to stop and sip the cappuccino.
Consider a tour

I'm all for planning your own trip‚ and this website is set up to help you do just that—but some people might just as well prefer to leave all the planning, logistics, transportation, lodging, and gathering of information to the professionals and simply sign up with a guided tour.

Nothing wrong with that. Just take my advice and choose a tour that emphasizes small groups over large crowds, local transport over big tour buses, and fun cultural experiences over sightseeing checklists. You'll have a better time, and probably spend less for it. Here are a few of my favorite tour companies who emphasize just that.

1-5 days

1-2 weeks

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