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TRAVEL

Will ski slopes be open in Italy this winter?

The prime minister has said Italians shouldn't take ski holidays this Christmas - but with the slopes open in neighbouring countries, Italy's Alpine regions are pushing to reopen resorts.

Will ski slopes be open in Italy this winter?
Skiing in the Italian Alps near Bormio. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

“We cannot afford indiscriminate ski holidays,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Monday night. “Everything to do with skiing holidays is uncontrollable.”

But northern Italian regions are pushing for permission to reopen ski resorts with extra safety measures in place, saying that local businesses stand to lose millions of euros if they miss out on the Christmas season.

READ ALSO: Will Italy remove restrictions on travel and parties over Christmas?

Speaking to TV channel La7, Conte said that while he hoped travel between regions would be re-allowed by Christmas, the government was determined to avoid a repeat of the summer when multiple new Covid clusters were linked to holiday hotspots in Italy and abroad.

The Italian prime minister said that he was discussing taking a coordinated approach with other European countries, and on Tuesday confirmed that he had talked about “European coordination of health measures on Covid-19 during the Christmas holidays” with President of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen (though her spokesperson later said they had not specifically discussed closing ski resorts).

“We would like there to be European coordination, because closing Arabba or Cortina while people are peacefully skiing down the other side of the mountain would be difficult to justify,” said the governor of the Veneto region, Luca Zaia, calling a season without winter sports “suicide” for mountain areas.

France and Austria are still deciding whether to allow winter resorts to reopen next month, with the French government promising to “be as consistent as possible with our neighbouring countries”. Meanwhile Austrian ministers have indicated they are determined to allow this year's season to go ahead, despite a super-spreading outbreak at Austria's Ischgl ski resort back in March.

The German state of Bavaria has already pledged to keep its own slopes shut over Christmas, while the government has warned citizens against travelling abroad to ski.

Meanwhile in Switzerland the ski season is already underway, albeit with mandatory face masks and social distancing.

AROUND EUROPE:

Italy's Alpine regions, several of which are currently designated high-risk zones with only essential travel in or out, have proposed reopening to tourists with measures similar to those in place in Swiss ski resorts.

In a proposal submitted earlier this week, representatives from the regions of Valle d’Aosta, Piedmont, Lombardy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia laid out guidelines for an anti-Covid ski season, including mandatory face masks and social distancing, caps on the number of ski passes issued per day, cable cars running at half their capacity and table service only at bars and restaurants serving après-ski food and drinks.

But the final decision lies with the national government, which is due to revise its coronavirus restrictions in a new emergency decree on December 4th.

“For now the conditions are not right” for a new ski season, said Regional Affairs Minister Francesco Boccia after meeting with regional representatives this week. “We'll evaluate in the next decree what the conditions are right for and how and when to do it.”

READ ALSO: Italy's most famous Christmas markets are cancelled this year

Resorts in the Italian Alps would usually be preparing to open in early December, though amid Italy's second wave they may be forced to postpone the start of the season until January or even later. 

Christmas and New Year typically accounts for around a third of the Italian ski sector's annual revenues, according to industry estimates, with snow tourism worth billions of euros and hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The sector had already taken a hit when last year's season was cut short by the outbreak of the pandemic in Europe, and was bracing for another difficult winter amid Italy's ongoing ban on tourism from outside the EU.

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TOURISM

TRAVEL: Why Venice is named among Europe’s cheapest city break destinations

The Italian city of Venice has been named the third-cheapest place for a city break in Europe - a survey result that might surprise some visitors. Here’s why it may not be as costly as you'd think.

TRAVEL: Why Venice is named among Europe’s cheapest city break destinations

A new survey of 100 different cities in Europe by the Omio transport booking website has revealed that Venice is the third-cheapest destination for a city escape, in terms of being the most affordable and having the highest number of free activities and attractions.

The ranking will no doubt come as a surprise to many, due to the city’s reputation as an expensive destination geared towards luxury travel – and the fact that Venetian residents have been leaving the city’s historic centre in droves partly due to high housing costs.

The objective of the study was to identify the best tourist destinations to visit on a reduced budget, due to the current economic climate of inflation and rising prices affecting almost all daily costs.

It also aimed to show tourists that they can save a lot of money if they organise their travel by taking advantage of free offers and opportunities, as well as thinking carefully about where they go.

“Believe it or not, it is possible to have a cheap holiday in Venice,” the study’s authors wrote, advising travellers to “follow a few simple tricks to turn some of Venice’s most expensive places into low-budget havens”. 

READ ALSO: How much does it really cost to live in Venice?

Venice was found to have a total of 136 free tourist attractions, 22 free museums, and 58 guided tours rated as “affordable”. The study also highlighted the city’s 186 public drinking fountains, which local authorities this summer urged visitors to use in order to cut down on bottled water purchases. 

The study however did not include the cost of accommodation, and it put the cost of a 24-hour public transport ticket in Venice at €21.88: several times higher than the prices listed for other cities at the top of the ranking.

Venice is promoting the use of its network of water fountains amid efforts to combat plastic waste. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

The average price of a beer in the floating city also seemed comparatively high at €4.38, though this was below the European average price of €4.91.

Travellers can expect a meal for two in an average restaurant to set them back around €61 – that is, as long as they don’t wander into any of the tourist traps notorious for rip-off prices.

READ ALSO: Nine ways to get into trouble while visiting Venice

Overall Venice got a score of 82.3 percent to take third place, whilst Bruges in Belgium came in second with 93.6 percent and Granada was first with 100 percent.

Further surprises came in the ranking for other Italian cities: Florence was rated the 10th cheapest European city break destination, with 113 free attractions, 17 museums with free entrance, and a 24-hour public transport ticket costing 4 euros.

Meanwhile Naples – where the cost of living is comparatively low – was rated as being slightly more expensive to visit, in 12th place. Tuscan tourist hotspot Pisa came in 13th place, while the northern city of Turin was 23rd.

Milan was 30th on the list, which the study said has 372 free tourist attractions, but higher costs for food and drink

Rome came in 37th place – despite the survey saying the capital has a huge 553 free attractions, 34 free museums, and ten times more public drinking fountains than Venice (1,867).

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