Using ATMs in Italy
Bancomat (pronounced with long "a"s as "Bahn-ko-maht") is the name of the automatic systems for collecting cash from your bank account in Italy and in many European countries. In Italy, Bancomats/ATMs are clearly marked with a blue sign, like a number 3 upside down (see the picture) and you will find them outside banks, or in behind a door that opens when you swipe your card.
If your ATM card is on the Mastercard/Cirrus or Visa/Plus networks (look for the name and symbol on the back of the card) then you will be able to get cash out of Italian ATM machines. Just like at home, it will withdrawal the money directly from your checking account, convert it into euro - at a more favorable exchange rate than you would get changing cash - and spit it out (remember, only euro!).
Once you insert your card, you will be prompted to choose your language. Then you will have to enter your 4 digit pin number. Is your pin longer than 4 digits? There are machines which are able to use longer pins, but the standard Italian pin is 4 digits (no letters!). You are less likely to incur any trouble if you have your bank issue a 4-digit pin before you leave. Oh, by the way, take the time to test the new pin at your local ATM before departure. You never know...
ATMs withdrawals are the cheapest way to get local currency, but watch out for the per-transaction fee. Your bank is likely to have a fixed fee for each transaction, and in order to make the best use of your money it will be better to avoid small withdrawals. A maximum withdrawal limit of 250 EUR is imposed at most Italian Bancomats. Make sure your card can handle at least the equivalent of this amount in dollars or whatever your currency is, so that you are not forced to make multiple smaller withdrawals.
If you have a chance, consider taking with you at least two cards from different banks. While we have been reported no specific problems connected to the use of ATMs in Italy, it is better to play it safe and have a backup card, in case the first one fails. Also, for additional peace of mind, do bring with you some euro to get you started. Don't bring 200 or 500 euro pieces: they are very hard to use if you are not making a large purchase. Rather, prefer 10s and 20s, which are useful upon arrival to buy bus tickets, cappuccino, cornetto, gelato... Plan to settle in comfortable in your villa or apartment and then go out seeking the Bancomat: it's much easier than having to do it at the end of long journey, negotiating a large airport with your baggage and with crowds coming and going.
Oh, don't wait until you are short on money to do a pit stop! Bancomats are not replenished over the week-end, and in high-demand tourist places there is always a chance that the machines run out of money. Also, smaller villages might not have banks nor ATMs, so don't plan to withdraw money in remote non-touristy villages. Wasn't it the untouched Italy that you were looking for?
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