Like the majority of Western Europe including France, the official Italian currency today is the Euro (€). The Euro, however, was only officially adopted in 2002. The currency of Italy from 1861 until 2002 was the Lira, which was in fact considered a subunit of the Euro from 1999-2002, as the region migrated over to this unified currency.
Here is a really useful guide to traveling in Italy and using money in the European country:
In recent months, the conversion rate for €1 has stayed in the $1.10-1.14 range. Although the fluctuation is slight, be sure to check the exchange rate before changing your money on XE or Oanda before you travel. It’s helpful to think of €9 as $10 for easier conversion when making larger purchases. For example, a €180 bottle of exquisite Tuscan Brunello will run you about $200 ($198-205, depending on the current rate).
Looking to get a great Euro-to-Dollar exchange rate? Unfortunately, changing your cash is always going to cost you. But there are a few tips you should know so you don’t get swept up by the confusion of currency exchange abroad.
You’re guaranteed to lose 8-9% every time, sometimes more. That’s like throwing away a $10 bill for every $110 you exchange. If you do need to exchange dollars, however, only use a bank. Exchange booths advertise that they have the best rates, but in fact, they take a much bigger cut than banks – often 15%. In Italy’s major tourist spots such as Milan, Rome or Venice the “Cambio” money change operations will change you up to 19%!
It isn’t too common, but Italian currency scams do exist. On the off chance you meet a nice stranger who offers you a fantastically unheard-of exchange rate, don’t take it. He’s either working with counterfeit money or is using some excellent sleight-of-hand to count your bills. You’re also running the risk of arrest if you’re caught.
Avoid the hassle of shopping around for the bank with the best exchange rates and go for ATM withdrawal. This is the cheapest, fastest way to go to get the cash you need.
Not only will you lose the same 8-9% as if you were exchanging cash. You’ll also waste time in line at a bank, then getting the teller to properly handle this very out-of-date form of currency. Again, your best bet is to avoid dealing with humans altogether and hit the ATM.
It’s a common misconception that it’s best to have some Euros in your pocket before you land in Italy. However, U.S. rates of exchange for the Euro tend to be even worse than those at Italian banks. Wait until you arrive at your destination airport, where you’ll find plenty of ATMs.
When you can, pay by credit card. Not everywhere will accept credit cards, so it is important to carry cash. But when you can use a card, you’ll get a much better exchange rate, even with the transaction fees your home bank may charge (usually 1-2%). Talk to your bank in advance about what fees to expect before you go abroad – even find out if there’s a way to reduce them. You don’t want to come back to find you’ve racked up an outrageous statement you didn’t anticipate