Italian pushes ahead with Islamic university plan

The Italian businessman behind plans to create Italy's first Islamic university told The Local he is pushing ahead with the project despite authorities in Lecce rejecting a request for a building permit, a decision that was partly due to the current negative focus on Islam and opposition from residents.

Italian pushes ahead with Islamic university plan
Lecce's municipality rejected plans for an Islamic university. Palazzo Carafa photo: Shutterstock

The council for Lecce, a province in the southern region of Puglia, turned down the request from Giampiero Khaled Paladini, the president of Confime, a confederation for Mediterranean businesses, to renovate a former tobacco factory to house the university.

Severo Martini, a councillor from the planning unit, said that after evaluating the project the municipality found there was little clarity on how it would be financed.

"But we also can’t ignore the national and international attention right now on Islam," he was quoted by Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno as saying, referring to the deadly attacks by Islamic extremists in Paris in early January. 

"Above all, we must consider the wishes of our residents, who have opposed the idea of an Islamic university."

The project was first pitched by Paladini to the municipality in October last year.

The university would initially teach courses in philosophy, literature and theology, and would be open to all students in Italy and abroad, he told The Local.

Paladini, who converted to Islam in 2012, denied the project didn’t have support from people in Lecce, saying that about “80 percent are in favour".

"We also have plans to work alongside the University of Salento," he added.

"People can see the cultural and economic value the project could bring."

The idea was born three years ago, and has the support of several private donors as well as backing from the Qatar Foundation and Italy’s Union for Islamic Communities, Paladini said.

"Not a single euro will have to come from the local, regional or national government," he added.

Paladini was unfazed by the permit rejection for the first property and is determined to push ahead with the plans.

He has two more buildings in mind, both in Lecce, that can be purchased outright without the need for a renovation permit.

But the project is yet to be submitted to Italy’s Ministry of Education for approval.

Although the accreditation process takes time, there are no obstacles to the creation of a religious university so long as it meets all the required guidelines.

As well as concerns over safety, there have been some controversial reactions in Italy to the Paris shootings, with the mayor of Padua saying just days after that no more permits would be granted for the construction of mosques in the northern city.


UPDATED: These are the Italian regions that now require tourists to register in advance

Anyone hoping to visit Sardinia, Sicily Puglia or Calabria this summer must remember to fill out a form stating where they'll stay and when they'll leave as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

UPDATED: These are the Italian regions that now require tourists to register in advance
Anyone arriving in Sardinia must now register with local authorities. Photo: Pascal Pochard-Casabianca/AFP

*Please note that this article from 2020 is no longer being updated. See the latest Italian travel news here.*

Since the beginning of June, when Italy allowed travel between regions again and reopened to European tourists, most journeys in Italy no longer involve paperwork – with a few exceptions.

While tourism is allowed and you don’t need to justify your reasons for travelling, some of Italy’s most popular summer destinations now ask visitors to register with the regional authorities in order to track and trace anyone potentially bringing the virus with them from elsewhere.

The process is separate from showing your ID when you check into tourist accommodation, which is standard practice all over Italy; now it is travellers’ responsibility to give their contact details directly to regional authorities by filling in a designated form.

The requirement aims to help protect regions that have so far had fewer cases as people beginning returning home from other parts of Italy, or heading south for a beach break.

The rules apply to everyone arriving, regardless of their nationality. Here are the parts of Italy where they’re in force.


Italy’s second-biggest island requires anyone arriving by plane or boat to complete its ‘Sardegna Sicura’ registration form, which is available online here.

The form asks travellers for their contact details, the flights or ferries they’re arriving and departing on, their address(es) in Sardinia and a piece of ID. Visitors must also agree to follow coronavirus prevention rules such as wearing a face mask, to inform local health authorities is they develop symptoms, and to submit to tests if necessary.

READ ALSO: Ajò! Handy local words to use on your next trip to Sardinia

While you can fill out most information up to a month before your trip, you’ll also be required to declare that you don’t have any symptoms no more than 48 hours before you travel.

Airlines and ferry companies will ask passengers to show their completed forms before boarding, and will also be checking travellers’ temperature.

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP


Until September 30th, all visitors should register on the Sicilia Si Cura website (also available as an app). 

READ ALSO: Can Sicily’s plan to subsidise your holidays save its tourism industry?

The portal allows non-residents to log their presence and health status and to alert authorities if they develop symptoms. All information is available in English.

Tourists can also call the toll-free number 800 458 787 for assistance in Italian or English.


Anyone entering Puglia from another part of Italy or overseas must complete a form online (available here) and email it to their doctor if they’re a resident of the region, or to the local health authorities in the province where they’ll be staying if they live elsewhere (find a list here).

Visitors should also keep a record of everywhere they visit and everyone they come into contact with for 30 days following their arrival in Puglia, which they may be asked to produce in the event of an outbreak.

While the region says the requirement applies to everyone arriving by public or private transport, it’s unclear how tightly it is being policed. Meanwhile people travelling for work, health reasons, emergencies or to transport goods are exempt.

Incomers are also encouraged to download Italy’s contact-tracing app Immuni

For further advice, you can call the region’s hotline on 800 713 931 within Italy or 0039 080 337 3398 from overseas.


The southern region requires visitors to register online here

READ ALSO: Seven crowd-free alternatives to Italy’s tourist hotspots

You should complete the form before you arrive, listing where you’re departing from, where you’re staying and how long for. You must also agree to inform the local health authorities if you develop symptoms.

The form is available in Italian and English.