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CHRISTMAS

Will Italy remove restrictions on travel and parties over Christmas?

The Italian government is currently planning its next emergency decree, set to cover the Christmas period. So what will we be allowed to do this festive season?

Will Italy remove restrictions on travel and parties over Christmas?
This Christmas is set to be unlike any other with coronavirus rules in place. Photo: AFP

At the moment, it's not certain what rules will be in place by the end of December.

So far, Italy's much-loved Christmas markets have been banned, and ministers say the big family Christmas dinner (cenone, literally meaning “big dinner”) will have to be considerably smaller this time.
 
 
Travelling to see relatives, organising parties and dinners, and even shopping for presents is currently not allowed in some areas due to Italy's tiered system of restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of Covid-19.
 
Many reports in Italian media recently have speculated that these rules could be eased nationwide before or during the holidays – though this has not been confirmed by ministers.
 
And Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte last week said “we must prepare for a more sober Christmas,” adding that “celebrations, kisses and hugs will not be possible.”
 
The next emergency decree, due to be announced by December 3rd, is expected to make things clearer.
 
Based on leaks and ministers' statements, here's what we know so far about what the government is planning.

 
Will travel between regions be allowed?
 
People in Italy may find themselves dreaming of a yellow Christmas this year, as ministers have said travel is unlikely to be allowed except between regions classified as lower-risk yellow regions.
 
Health Minister Roberto Speranza on Monday played down suggestions that travel restrictions could be removed over Christmas, saying this will only be possible if all of Italy's regions are yellow zones.
 
Travel is currently allowed between yellow zones only.
 
 
At the moment most regions are either classified as high-risk red zones or medium-high risk orange zones, according to the three-tier system of restrictions introduced this month. Travel is not allowed between these regions unless for essential reasons.
 

Each region's classification is set to be reviewed every two weeks.
 
If you're hoping to visit Italy from another country, international travel rules have not changed recently. Travel is allowed from within Europe (with mandatory testing for people arriving from some EU countries) but remains restricted from many non-EU countries, including the US.
 
How many people can we have over for Christmas dinner?
 
As few as possible, as far as the Italian government is concerned.
 
The 'rule of six' recommendation is expected to remain in place, so at most you'll only be able to invite your immediate family.
 
“This Christmas we must plan to be as few as possible,” said Undersecretary for Health Sandra Zampa on Monday.
 
While the government recommends that people avoid any kind of gathering at home, these are currently recommendations and not laws – meaning the police won't come knocking if you do have a party.
 
What about Christmas and New Year's parties and events?
 
Italian media reports say a leaked draft of the new decree allows restaurants and bars to open in the evening across the country – though groups will again be limited to six.
 
Bars and restaurants are currently closed to the public in red and orange zones, while they can stay open until curfew at 10pm in yellow zones.
 
It's not known whether the nationwide curfew rule will be changed or removed altogether.
 
The usual New Year's Eve parties are unlikely to happen this year in streets and squares, as the government says it will keep a ban on gatherings in place.
 
“Gatherings and parties in squares will not be allowed,” Zampa said. “The holidays will be adequately regulated and, unlike during this summer, there will be no exceptions. We cannot risk a third wave.”
 
See the Italian health ministry's website for more information on the current public health measures.

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CHRISTMAS

Is Italy’s public transport running over Christmas and New Year?

If you're spending key dates over Christmas and New Year in Italy, can you expect to find trains and other transport services operating? Here's what you need to know.

Is Italy's public transport running over Christmas and New Year?

Question: My family are spending the holidays in Italy, and we’re wondering what sort of public transport services will be in place. I know we should expect a reduced timetable, but will some services still be up and running?

At any time of year, the quality and frequency of public transport services in Italy varies significantly between rural and urban areas, as well as between cities.

Areas that are usually poorly served by just the occasional bus could have an even more reduced service over the holidays – and you may well not be able to find out the revised schedule in advance.

That said, parts of the country that already have relatively robust public transport networks tend to keep them fairly active over the Christmas period.

Even on Christmas day itself, you’ll find the tens of high speed and regional trains that provide daily connections between major Italian cities and small towns running pretty much on a standard timetable.

Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

Local public transport services are somewhat reduced, but don’t shut down entirely, as they do in some parts of the world.

In Rome, all bus, tram and metro services should run as normal on Christmas Eve until 9pm, with night buses kicking in from 11pm; as well as from 8:30am-1pm and 4.30pm-9pm on Christmas day.

On New Year’s Eve, buses and trams are scheduled to run until 9pm and the metro until 2.30am, with a few dedicated bus lines in place to take people to and from metro stops.

READ ALSO: How to make the most of a Christmas break in Rome

In Naples, it’s currently hoped that bus, metro and funicular services will run throughout the day on December 25th and January 1st, with the metro and funicular staying open until 2am on both dates – subject to operator Anm reaching an agreement with workers.

While Italy has been hit with a series of transport strikes over the past few months, there’s not much chance of major strike action being announced over Christmas.

That’s because Italian law bans unions from organising strikes which could impact the air travel sector – so general strikes and transport sector strikes are out – on certain busy travel dates (known as periodi di franchigia, or ‘exemption periods’). These include December 18th to January 7th, as well as much of August.

Some cities haven’t yet released their holiday timetables, but previous years give an indication of what you can expect.

In Milan last year, buses were operational from 7am-7.30pm on Christmas day, with night buses cancelled on the nights of 24th-25th and 25th-26th. New Year’s Eve operated on a Saturday timetable, with night buses running as normal.

Tram in Milan's city centre.

Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Bus services in Florence last year ran on a reduced holiday schedule until 1pm on Christmas day, on a normal timetable until 9pm on New Year’s Eve, and operated on a holiday timetable on December 26th and January 1st, 2nd and 6th.

The city’s trams ran on a slightly reduced schedule (every 10 minutes instead of every 5-6 at peak times) on Christmas Eve, Christmas day and New Year’s Eve, but ran until 2am on the three days.

If you’re in Rome over the Christmas period this year, you’re in luck: the city council are expanding the public transport services and have offered several free transport days for the month of December. 

On December 24th, all public transport around the city will be free.

And until January 8th, three new bus lines providing shuttle services from city car parks to the centre – ‘Free 1’, ‘Free 2’ and the 100 service – will also be free.

The move is part of an initiative by mayor Roberto Gualtieri to reduce traffic in the city centre over the busiest parts of the season.

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