Less shopping, more ‘spiritual reflection’: What will Christmas be like in Italy this year?

Christmas is set to look very different in Italy this year. Here's what we know so far about what is and isn't allowed, or recommended.

Less shopping, more ‘spiritual reflection’: What will Christmas be like in Italy this year?
A shopper browses Christmas gifts and decorations in Rome, where shops are still open under current rules. Photo: AFP
Italy’s Prime Minister has reassured children that gifts will be delivered as usual in 2020 as Babbo Natale, or Father Christmas, won’t face any coronavirus travel restrictions.
The rest of us however are likely to have to stay where we are.
It’s not certain exactly what rules will be in place by the end of December, as Italy’s current set of measures enforced under the latest emergency decree is only valid until December 3rd.
Four emergency decrees have been issued within the past month, as the rules are continually updated.
So far, Christmas markets have been banned, and ministers say the big family Christmas dinner (cenone, literally meaning “big dinner”) will be a no-go this year.
Christmas lights at Piazza Venezia in Rome, 2019. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP
It would be best for people to spend Christmas only in the company of their “closest family members”, Regional Affairs Minister Francesco Boccia told La7 television on Thursday.
And while PM Giuseppe Conte was quick to reassure children that they’d still get Christmas presents, he also reminded the public that Christmas is “not only associated with shopping, presents and boosting the economy.”
He warned on Friday against people gathering to shop and celebrate, saying Christmas should be a “spiritual” time.
“We will consider the epidemiological curve that we'll have in December,” said the premier. “Christmas, whatever your religious faith, is certainly also a moment of private spiritual worship.”
He said it’s no good to “do private spiritual reflection with a lot of other people”.
Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP
Shopping for gifts and non-essential items is currently only allowed in regions designated “yellow” and “orange” risk zones, under a new three-tier system of coronavirus restrictions.
In red zones, where most shops and businesses are closed, only online shopping is possible.
The government reportedly aims to reopen shops across the country closer to the Christmas holidays. However, this will depend on whether it is able to get the coronavirus situation under control by then.
Non-essential travel between regions and towns is tightly restricted for people in red and orange zones, meaning travelling to visit friends and family this year looks unlikely to be allowed.
Conte stressed on Wednesday that he wants to avoid putting the country under a second nationwide lockdown.
Several types of restrictions have been imposed nationwide and at a local level, depending on the health situation in different regions.
But a growing number of medical workers and politicians are calling for stricter measures, and even a second nationwide lockdown.
Before bringing in further measures, Conte said the government is waiting to see whether or not current restrictions are having an impact on the contagion curve.
Italy, the first European country hit by coronavirus earlier this year, has recorded a surge in cases in recent weeks and has topped one million infections in total.

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Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”