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Most of Europe uses the metric system to express measurements of length, weight, capacity or volume, temperature, etc. The system derives its name from the meter which is its basic measure of length. Before you go to Italy, familiarize yourself with the metric system as not many people in Europe are familiar with American units of measure. It is very easy to use the metric system as it is based on the number 10. Dividing or multiplying is simply done by moving the decimal point or adding a zero. For example: the meter is the standard measure of length. Its multiples are:

  • the kilometer= 1,000 meters
  • the hectometer = 100 meters
  • the decameter = 10 meters
  • the meter = 1 meter
  • the decimeter = 0.1 meter
  • the centimeter = 0.01 meter
  • the millimeter = 0.001 meter

Note that in Italian the comma indicates decimals, while the point is used for thousands.


Length: Metric Standard Unit is the Meter

When you wish to purchase canvas, string, etc., you will ask for it in meters. One meter is just longer than one yard.

Liquids or Volume: Metric Standard Unit is the Liter
cup > milliliters or liter
pint > liter
quart > liter
gallon > liter

When you purchase liquids like wine or milk, the measure will be in liters or half liters. A liter is roughly comparable to a quart (see above.)

Weight: Metric Standard Unit is the Gram
ounce > gram
pound > gram
Pound > Kilogram

When you buy items by weight as grocery items, you will ask for them in kilos ( 1 kg = 2.2 LB), half kilos (a little over one pound), or by hectograms (a little over 3 ounces).


Temperatures are measured in Celsius degrees, also called centigrade. Every degree of temperature is divided in tenths.

If you are taking your body temperature with an Italian thermometer you will know you are running a fever if the mercury is past 37 degrees.

For weather conditions you can find out the temperature in Fahrenheit by using the following easy formula:

From the Celsius degree value: multiply by 9 ÷ divide by 5, add 32. The result is the temperature in Fahrenheit.

Telling Time in Italy

In Europe the hours of the day are counted from 1 to 24. There is no indication of a.m. or p.m. Time schedules will read correspondingly. For example: The play begins at “ore 21.00" means "at 9:00 p.m."

An easy formula to reduce the p.m. hours to what you are used to is to subtract 12 from the European time. Examples:21- 12 = 9 (which is 9 p.m.) ore 18.00 (- 12) = 6 pm, ore 15.00 (- 12) = 3pm ['ore' means 'hour'].