Currency in Italy: Your Complete Guide - 2023
As part of the Eurozone, Italy’s official currency is the euro.
If you’ve got a trip to Italy planned, this guide is for you. We’ll cover all you need to know about euros, and take a look at some smart ways to get a great deal when you switch your pounds to euros, ready for your holiday.
What currency is it used in Italy?
Italy’s official currency is the euro. You’ll see this written as EUR on currency exchange websites and stores, or as the symbol € on restaurant menus, in stores and in many other places.
Italy was one of the founding members of the Eurozone, which means the euro has been used there since way back on 1 January 1999.
Can you use GBP in Italy?
No. You’re unlikely to find many places that will accept GBP cash in Italy - and if you do. You’re highly likely to get ripped off by poor rates and high fees to convert your payment back to euros.
Spending in Italy is easy enough, though. Read on for more about how you can convert currency for your holiday, either before you leave, or once you arrive.
Using a card in Italy
One of the most convenient options for spending in Italy - and in other popular destinations from the UK - is to use a travel money card. With a travel money card you can usually add money to your digital account in GBP and then convert to the currency you need in advance - or in many cases, you can just leave your money in pounds and let the card switch to EUR when you buy something or make a cash withdrawal. Travel money cards often have the advantage that they’re pretty cheap to get and use, and may also offer better exchange rates compared to banks.
Here are a couple of popular travel debit cards you could take to Italy, to compare and give an idea of their features
Wise travel debit card
Hold and exchange 40+ currencies, spend with your Wise card in 150+ countries
Mid-market rates apply to all currency exchange, with low fees from 0.43%
Some fee free ATM withdrawals every month, with low fees after limits exhausted
Send payments to 160+ countries, and get paid conveniently to Wise, with local details for 9 currencies
Revolut travel debit card
Pick from a standard plan with no monthly fee, or upgrade to a higher tier account with monthly charges
Hold and exchange 25+ currencies in your Revolut account
All accounts have some fee free ATM withdrawals and currency conversion
Other options, like accounts for kids, investment and insurance available, depending on your account tier
Is it cheaper to convert currency in the UK or Italy?
With so many different services and exchange rates out there, it’s not really possible to say whether it’s cheaper to convert currency in the UK or Italy. You’ll need to shop around to see what rates are available to you locally in the UK and also once you arrive in your destination in Italy.
It’s good to know you don’t need to convert your money in advance if you don’t want to. Instead you could simply make ATM withdrawals on arrival. If your bank has low or no foreign transaction fees - or if you have a travel card from a service like Wise or Revolut, this could mean you get a pretty good exchange rate and relatively low charges.
No matter where you decide to change your money, it’s worth avoiding places like airports and hotels where no competition and passing trade can mean poor rates. Head to a city centre exchange if you’re switching over cash on arrival instead.
To find the best place to buy euros, you can read our guide here.
Buying euros before your trip
Let’s walk through some popular options if you’re planning on getting your EUR in advance of travel.
Using a travel card
We already touched on Wise and Revolut as smart ways to manage your money once you head overseas. Both providers offer a travel card that you can order once you open an account online or through an app, add money in pounds and then either switch immediately to EUR, or just let the card switch your balance when you make a purchase.
Whichever you choose, you’ll get the mid-market rate, with low or no fees, depending on the provider and card type you pick.
Ordering your holiday cash online can mean you get a better rate compared to a spot exchange with a money changer. You’ll also be able to conveniently shop around and check which service has the best EUR rates. Depending on which service you select, you could get your money brought right to your doorstep for low or no delivery fees, or you could collect your money in cash at an outlet near you.
Home or Office Delivery
Here’s a quick look at the delivery options for one popular UK service - Travelex:
Order for home or office delivery, or in store collection
Cash for collection can be ready in just a few hours
Home delivery can be next day if you order Monday - Thursday before 3pm
Delivery is free if you exchange more than 600 GBP; fees apply otherwise
You’ll need to be home to collect your cash, and may be asked for ID
Exchange rates are likely to include a markup - which is a fee
While money changers may be among the best places to get money fast, they are also often expensive as they add a markup to the exchange rate used to convert your pounds to euros. With a money changer you’ll be able to walk into a shop or office, any time during business hours, and can often get a popular currency like EUR instantly. Pay in cash or by card - but remember extra fees may apply if you pay by card.
Some banks still offer cash currency exchange, but it’s not as widespread as it once was. If your bank has a travel money service, this can be a familiar and convenient way to get your cash. However, it’s worth double checking the rates as it’s not necessarily going to be the best value option out there.
Airport currency exchange services are convenient - but usually expensive. That’s because there’s normally no competition nearby, and travellers don’t tend to scrutinise the rates and fees too carefully by this stage in their trip. If you’ve not got euro cash at the point you leave the UK you might be better off just taking money out of an ATM once you arrive in Italy. This will usually get you a reasonable exchange rate, so if you have a card with a low (or no) foreign transaction fee, it can present good value.
How to exchange currency in Italy
Prefer to exchange pounds for euros on arrival? You can also do that, as long as you have GBP notes with you, which are clean and undamaged. There are plenty of currency exchange services in major Italian cities or popular tourist areas - look for signs for Cambio, although they’ll also often be marked up in English for the convenience of tourists.
More about the currency used in Italy
Get set up for your trip with a quick lesson on the currency used in Italy.
Denominations of euros
You can use euro notes anywhere in the Eurozone.
Euro notes are made up of:
Bear in mind, many stores won’t accept the very high value notes (much like in the UK). However you should be OK up to the €50 note in most cases.
Each euro is split into 100 cents. Most euro coins, as you’d expect, are small values, up to 1 EUR - but, like the UK, you can also get 1 and 2 euro coins.
EUR coins may have been minted in a different Eurozone country, with slightly different designs on one side, but they’ll be accepted without problems.
The EUR coins in circulation in Italy are:
Travel money tips for Italy
Let’s look at a few final ways you can do more with your money when you’re travelling in Italy:
Use a travel money card - open an account with Wise or Revolut before you travel, add GBP, and spend with the mid-market rate and low fees in EUR when you arrive
Have several different ways to pay - a travel money card, local UK debit card, and some cash, for example, just in case one method isn’t accepted
Avoid airport and hotel currency exchanges - they’re usually poor value as they rely on passing trade and aren’t subject to much competition
When you’re in Italy, pay in EUR - if you’re asked if you’d rather be billed in GBP on your card, just say no. This means the merchant sets the exchange rate, which is not likely to be as good as your bank or card network would offer
Double check all the fees that may apply to your card if you’re using one - for example, you may pay ATM fees each time you withdraw, making it more cost effective to take out fewer, larger amounts
Don’t get cash with a credit card - you’ll pay a hefty cash advance fee, a foreign transaction fee, and immediate interest, which may even be at a higher rate than the one used on purchases
Don’t carry too much cash - tourists are frequently victims of opportunist theft
How much does a trip to Italy cost?
Let’s take a quick look at some key costs you may encounter when you visit Italy from the UK. Each trip is different so you’ll need to research and draw up your own budget as well, but this gives a flavour.
Visa cost: No visa usually required for trips for up to 90 days (Schengen agreement rules apply)
Transport in Italy: Local transport tickets are around 1.5 EUR each way
Taxi: Around 5 EUR to start, then just over 2 EUR per mile
Car hire: Cheapest compact cars are likely to start from 15 EUR - 30 EUR per day
Room at a hotel: Very varied - in popular cities the lowest costs are usually 80 EUR or so per night
Dinner at a mid- range restaurant: 60 EUR for 2 people
Track GBP-EUR exchange rate
Get to know the mid-market rate for euros, so you can check you’re getting good value when you need currency exchange. Use the Exiap rate tracker to view the live mid-market exchange rate, and then compare it to the rate you’re offered by different currency exchange services so you can spot the best deal on offer.