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HEALTH

Here’s what changes about life in Italy in December 2020

Changes to the coronavirus rules, some bank holidays, and cashback for Christmas shoppers are among the things we can expect in Italy this month.

Here's what changes about life in Italy in December 2020
Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

Coronavirus rules will (hopefully) ease…

…at least in some areas. On December 4th the Italian government will bring in a new set of rules aimed at managing the coronavirus crisis. 

While the new measures have not been confirmed yet, the government has indicated that non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen in red zones, and shopping centres could reopen at weekends (they are currently closed nationwide) ahead of the holidays to allow Christmas shopping.

MAP: Which zone is your region in under Italy's tier system?

With infection rates falling in many parts of the country, it is expected that more regions currently classified as higher-risk red and orange zones will be downgraded to yellow zones, freeing residents from additional restrictions.

Italy’s nationwide 10pm curfew is expected to stay in place however, and things are not looking promising for the ski season.

See more details about Italy's planned new coronavirus measures.

Italy will announce its vaccination plan

On December 2nd, the Italian health minister Roberto Speranza is set to outline the plan for a national coronavirus vaccination programme.

The government has appointed a task force to plan how and where the first doses will be delivered when international regulators approve a successful vaccine. Here's what we know so far about Italy's vaccine strategy.

Tax returns delayed, and more aid for lockdown-hit businesses

Further help for businesses and employees is available this month under another new financial package announced on Monday.

Companies and individuals who were due to file tax returns or make payments by Monday, November 30th, now have until December 10th.

The package includes a €1,000 payment for workers in tourism, leisure and the arts, and €800 for people working in sports, as well as seasonal workers, door-to-door salespeople, and other temporary or precarious workers.
 
The payment is similar to previous emergency payments announced earlier this year.
 
 
 
A cyclist rides across Turin's Vittorio Emanuele I bridge. AFP
 
New smog limitiations arrive
 
As the weather turns cold and foggy, some northern Italian regions are implementing new measures to combat smog, including restrictions on certain types of vehicles.
 
From December 1st, there are new measures in place in Milan and other parts of the Lombardy region, as well as in Emilia-Romagna. Check your region's website for any new directives in your area.
 
We get a few bank holidays

Mark your calendars as December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, is a bank holiday in Italy.

Since it falls on a Tuesday many schools and workplaces will also close on Monday 7th, for the Ponte dell'Immacolata: the “bridge” between the holiday and the weekend.

Christmas Day, December 25th, falls on a Friday this year. meaning we all get a long weekend as the 25th is also a bank holiday in Italy.

The same goes for the weekend after. New Year's Eve will be on a Thursday, meaning January 1st is a Friday – so those who enjoy an extra glass of wine on the big day will have a whole weekend to recover from the headache.

You can claim cashback on your Christmas shopping

As part of its set of measures aimed at encouraging more electronic and online payments, the Italian government has announced a “Christmas shopping refund” programme. 

From next week, those who pay via cards or apps will be entitled to a 10 percent refund, up to a value of 150 euros, on purchases made in shops this December.

To be eligible you must be an Italian resident, over 18, and registered using the government’s “Io” app.

Some will get an extra month's salary

The rumour you've heard about Italian employees getting a thirteenth monthly salary at Christmas? It's true – at least for many state employees. The tredicesima, or “thirteenth”, really is an extra month's wage. The bonus was introduced under Mussolini's regime, and unsurprisingly there hasn't been much interest in abolishing it.

Brexit transition period ends

This is a big one for British nationals living in Italy. December 31st will mark the end of the Brexit transition period, which means a series of changes will enter into effect on key areas such as residency, healthcare and travel.

See our Dealing with Brexit section for further updates.

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ENVIRONMENT

REVEALED: These are the most polluted towns in Italy

The northern cities of Milan and Turin were named Italy's 'smog capitals' in a new pollution report on Monday which urged the government to take action over poor air quality.

REVEALED: These are the most polluted towns in Italy
Photo: Pixabay

Smog and pollution are choking Italian cities year-round and many towns are exceeding limits on fine particles and other pollution, according to another report from Italian environmental watchdog Legambiente.

The Mal’aria di città (Air pollution in the city) report for 2023, unveiled on Monday, was the latest to warn about the risks to health posed by pollution in many parts of the country.

It found that 25 of 95 cities monitored had violated clean air ordinances by exceeding daily fine particle (PM10) emission limits, which are currently set at no more than 35 days a year with a daily average of over 50 micrograms per cubic metre.

Turin was ranked as the worst offender, exceeding this level on 90 days, closely followed by Milan (84), Asti (79), Modena (75), and Padua and Venice at 70.

These were followed by Cremona, Treviso, Mantua and Rovigo, all of which exceeded limits to a lesser degree.

All of the most polluted cities were in the northern Italian regions of Piedmont, Lombardy, Emilia Romagna and Veneto, with most within the north-western ‘industrial triangle’.

Some southern cities featured nearer the bottom of the ranking, with Andria (Puglia) and Ragusa (Sicily) exceeding limits on several days, as well as Rome, which overshot the permitted level for one day.

(Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

The average annual rate of PM10 emissions nationwide dropped slightly, by two percent year-on-year, the report found.

“This, however, is not enough to guarantee the health of citizens,” said Stefano Ciafani, president of Legambiente.

He pointed out that the situation looked even worse if air quality in Italian cities were measured against tighter limits under the new European Directive on air quality, in force from 2030, which lowers the PM10 threshold from 35 to 20 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

“Only 23 out of 96 cities (24 percent) would be under these limits,” Ciafani said, while 84 percent would exceed the threshold for PM2.5 and 61 percent for nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

Italy has repeatedly been reprimanded by the European Union over air quality, and has “persistently and systematically” breached EU recommended limits, the European Court of Justice ruled in 2020.

The north of Italy has long been ranked among the worst areas in Europe for polluted air according to data from the European Environment Agency.

“Air pollution is not only an environmental problem, but also a health problem of great importance,” said Ciafani. “In Europe, it’s the main cause of premature death due to environmental factors.”

“Italy has more than 52,000 deaths per year caused by PM2.5 emissions, equal to a fifth of those recorded throughout the continent,” he said.

The main causes of air pollution in Italian cities are reported to be industry, inefficient domestic heating systems, agricultural practices and, most of all, heavy traffic.

In Italy, cars continue to be by far the most-used means of transport. 65.3 percent of journeys overall are made by car, Legambiante wrote, with the emissions from some 38 million cars choking Italy’s towns and cities.

(Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP)

Legambiente said “drastic” measures were required to tackle the problem, including funds for more efficient heating systems in homes and public buildings and a major increase in public transport provision.

The group said Italy must “quadruple the availability of public transit, promoting integrated season tickets as done by Germany in 2022”, triple the number of electric buses, create zero-emission zones in town centres, and “create another 16,000 kilometres of cycle paths”.

It also praised local authorities choosing to bring in 30 km/h speed limits in city centres. Councils in Bologna, Turin, Milan and Cesena have all said they plan to implement these limits, following the lead of European cities including Paris and Madrid, despite fierce criticism from Italian transport minister Matteo Salvini.

Legambiente published a petition urging the government to make clean air and more livable cities a priority, saying Italy should follow Paris in attempting to create ’15-minute cities’, in which everyone lives within a quarter of an hour’s walk of vital amenities such as shops and schools and possibly also workplaces.