Update on Italy

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I just got back from 3 weeks in Italy, shooting 4x5 and with a Mamiya 7. I was in Rome, the Cinque Terre, Florence and surrounding countryside and Venice. Before leaving I posted a question about the problems with using a tripod without having to pay permits. Thought I would give you an update.

I was never challenged when using a tripod. I never even attempted to take it into any museums or national areas (i.e. Roman Forum, inside the Colliseum). No one ever asked me whether or not I was a professional or even mentioned a permit.

According to the Italian consulate, each person is entitled to bring into Italy 2 still cameras and 10 rolls of film. I took my tripod, 2 cameras, 40 rolls of 220 film and 100 sheets of 4x5. The officials at the Rome airport never even asked to see in my bags or even look at my passport. A word of advice. Don't expect to find any 4x5 film in Italy. I found one shop (Bongi, by the Piazza Repubblica) in Florence that had 8 rolls of 120 slide film (no 220). As far as tripods go, take your own. Don't expect to purchase one there. Of all the places I was, only Bongi in Florence had any decent (very lightweight, though) tripods. They had 3 Manfrottos. Can't say what Milan would have had as that is where Manfrottos are made.

Thought you would want an update. Haven't seen my film yet. If I haven't covered any specific questions, just post and I will try and respond. Great site. It was a major help to me in deciding what to take on this trip. Thanks.

-- Randy Redford (redford01@home.com), April 19, 2001


Would you consider writing a more detailed account for the main page? Something to add to the good articles by Natahn Congdon, Pat Kearns and Tuan?

-- Sean yates (yatescats@yahoo.com), April 19, 2001.

I've been to Italy twice so far this year. Rome, Bologna, Naples, Capri. There is a very nice camera shop in Bologna just off of the main central square -- the name of the shop of course I've forgotten. A real pro shop -- Leica, Hasselblad, Rollei -- had everything, including 4x5, 120, and 220 film (good selection of Fuji and Kodak in Pro Packs). It is definitely more expensive than the U.S. price. I even managed to find Kodak Portra NC 160 in Capri at 10,000 lira a roll (about $5.00 for a 120 roll). Inside the "national areas", I've taken a tabletop tripod and my Mamiya 6 and nobody has said anything yet. Yes, I'm very discrete and careful where I set the darn thing and don't get shots everywhere. I haven't been as agressive about the 4x5. My impression is that they are less concerned in the field type sites with lots of room than the interior sites like museums or churches (where they seem most concerned about the flash coming from the point and shoots). I've yet to be stopped at any of the Italian airports with my camera kit. The only time I've been stopped in Europe at all was at the Athens security point, and I think the guy just wanted to look -- turned out he was a camera buff. The biggest hassle is trying to get film hand checked -- the Italians will go through it all -- I saw more than a few times people waiting while the security guy looked at each of what must have been 100+ rolls of film. And that was after 10 minutes of arguing about whether they would even do it. Get the lead bags and send it through IMHO -- I've had no problem with that. My film came through without a hitch -- only issues, as usual, were user error.

-- Donald Brewster (dpbrewster@prodigy.net), April 19, 2001.

Well, Italy has lots of professional shops but they tend to be located out of the city center, I have worked in Milan and Naples for years and could help with addresses there too, the fact is that being a tourist you might not be aware of the locatin of professional shops, I live in the Netherlands now and by the same token, you might have the impression that 4"x5", 8"x10", 120 aren't sold in Holland, which isn't true. The fact is that all professional shops are out of the city center. Should anybody want help and advice about finding shops for professional materials , antique and collectable cameras, let me know, I'll do my best. I know very well Milan and Naples.

-- andrea milano (milandro@multiweb.nl), April 20, 2001.

concerning flash or tripod use: flash photography in museums is almost everywhere banned in all counties I know, if sometimes it happens it doesn't mean that it is allowed or tollerated but just that sometimes eyes or minds are somewhere else(it happens in Holland too....), officially tripod photography in public buildings is allowed only by special permission, sometimes, without this, you can get away with it.......especially if you don't look too professional, this in every museum in the world. Small museums tend to be easier going than most. Permission is very often granted without too many problems.

-- andrea milano (milandro@multiweb.nl), April 20, 2001.

Randy: your statement about 4x5 and 120 availability in Italy is the same I make about west US. Have you tried getting even a roll of Velvia 35 mm in the middle of the Colorado plateau? In case you find it, do you know the price? The only thing they have is kodachrome 64 and the price is pretty high. Not to mention 120 o 4x5. Of course anywhere you go you must know the right places where to buy film! I shoot 35mm, 6x7 and 4x5 and I live in Ferrara near Bologna. I can buy and have 4x5 film developed in my own town (120.000 inhabitants). Of course to buy 4x5 you have to wait a few days time as the shop doesn't have it in stock.You can find everything in Italy as long as you have a bit of patience. Donald: The shop you are referring to is called "Foto Ottica Paoletti" in the very centre of Bologna. Their prices suck although they seem to have everything. But again, they have the most expensive prices you may find in Italy. Not a good reference point. What really lacks in Italy is a bit store chain where to buy at low prices (well actually we have it but only in Tuscany it's called "Il fotoamatore")

Ciao Roberto , Ferrara - Italy

-- Roberto Manderioli (ik4jqw@amsat.org), April 22, 2001.

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