Do most stores, reataurants and inns accept credit or should I be prepared to pay cash
Quite frankly, it depends where you are and which size of place it is. If you are in Venice, you can be sure that most of the stores, restaurants, and hotels will accept credit cards as they cater to tourists. If you are in smaller places, like the Cinque Terre, make sure you have cash. Some hotels may accept credit cards, but you will need to check in advance.
The more touristy the area, the more likely they are to take credit cards. We found that almost all restaurants take credit cards, but many hotels/B&Bs do not. Also, for those hotels that do take credit, you might ask if there is a discount if you pay with cash. Sometimes you can get up to 5% off.
I tend to consider the size of the place I am. Smaller Hotel/Restaurant/store, less likely to use CC, Larger....then probably so. The amount spent as well makes a difference, I rarely, maybe never, have charged anything less than 50 Euro, probably more like 100 euro. Keep in mind that use of a CC requires the merchant to pay a fee, so many are reluctant to accept (some small places just refuse to accept) CC. I think too that Italy is still a pretty heavy cash society, definitely not like here at home where I use my debit card for nearly every purchase.
Also note that smaller shops, like gelato shops, cheese stores - will not accept bigger bills. They refuse to make change for a 20E or larger if you are only buying 5E in gelato. Make sure you get smaller bills just for this purpose.
I found most stores readily accept credit cards, and I really like to pay that way, get my receipt, and keep track of my purchases.
A combination of cash and credit cards is always a good idea. Don't carry a lot of cash, plan to visit an ATM every few days - depending on your ATM fees. If they are higher, get a larger amount out at once, those fees add up quickly!
Compass Bank offers a NO CHARGE ATM worldwide, we bank with them just for this purpose!
Italy is different than the rest of Europe. There are fewer stores which accept plastic. But I can't remember a restaurant which would not. But even when they don't you will find ATMs everywhere; so you can buy local currency easily.
The larger the establishment, the greater the chance your card will work. Always watch for the credit card signs at the front door. If you don't see any, ask about CCs.
more and more places in Italy have been accepting credit cards over the last few years, but it is still primarily a cash (preferably exact change) economy. Be prepared to pay cash in restaurants and I would contact the hotel(s) before you go to find out. If you can pay credit cards, expect to pay a higher price than if you used cash.
We have found that a lot of hotels in Italy (the smaller variety, of course) happily offer a good discount for cash. Always ask.