Italy steps up security for Christmas and New Year's crowds

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Italy steps up security for Christmas and New Year's crowds
Christmas crowds on Via Condotti in Rome. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Italy has ordered security to be tightened at busy Christmas and New Year's events across the country, the Interior Ministry said on Wednesday.


Interior Minister Marco Minniti has instructed all local authorities to step up security in areas expected to be filled with people celebrating the holidays, as well as at attractions that regularly attract crowds.

The announcement followed a meeting of Italy's national public safety committee, at which officials agreed upon "the need to maintain a high level of attention and vigilance", especially at targets considered to be high risk.

Italy has also increased checks at airports, train stations and ports, as well as on roads and public transport, the ministry said.

Rome on Wednesday announced additional security measures at Piazza Navona, the central square that hosts the capital's biggest Christmas fair from December until Epiphany on January 6th. 

Under the security plan a maximum of 12,000 people will be allowed into the square at once, while access will be limited to designated entrances equipped with metal detectors. Other areas will be blocked off with metal grates.

The precautions will also apply to streets leading in and out of the square, which will be pedestrian-only, and to some of the capital's other hotspots, including the busy shopping street Via del Corso.

The Befana Festival, as the Piazza Navona fair is called after the witch that brings Italian children gifts on Epiphany Eve, was delayed this year as city authorities struggled to reach an agreement with stallholders over who should foot the bill for expensive security measures. The first stalls eventually went up last weekend, some two weeks behind schedule. 

Epiphany celebrations last year in Piazza Navona. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

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