What you can and can’t do in Italy this Christmas

With a Christmas lockdown on the way, many of Italy's usual celebrations are out. Here's what you can still do over the holidays, and what you can't.

What you can and can't do in Italy this Christmas
What does Italy's Christmas lockdown mean for travel, shopping and socialising? Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

After long deliberations with scientific experts and regional governors, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced late on December 18th that Italy would return to a nationwide lockdown over Christmas, New Year and Epiphany.

READ ALSO: Italy confirms 'red zone' lockdown over Christmas and New Year

They're the strictest measures to be imposed across the entire country since March – but they contain a few important concessions for the holidays. 

Here's how the new rules will affect your Christmas celebrations in Italy.

What are Italy's travel rules?

First things first: can you or your loved ones get to Italy? 

The rules on long-haul international travel are unchanged: people from most countries outside the EU or Schengen zone can only travel to Italy for urgent reasons of work, health, study, emergencies or to return to their permanent (not second) Italian home. Anyone arriving in these circumstances has to quarantine for 14 days on arrival.

Italy also introduced stricter rules for EU travellers at the beginning of December: until December 20th, all arrivals from the EU, Schengen zone or the UK must test negative for Covid-19 within the 48 hours before their journey, or face quarantine on arrival.

READ MORE: What are Italy's new rules for Christmas travel?

From December 21st, anyone arriving in Italy from overseas – including from within the EU – must quarantine for 14 days, unless they're travelling for work, health or emergencies, or briefly transiting

That rule applies to anyone who travels outside Italy at any point between December 21st and January 6th, even if they arrive after those dates. Find more details here.

Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

What about travel within Italy?

That's restricted too. Until December 20th you can travel freely in most of Italy, with the exception of a handful of areas designated higher-risk 'orange zones'.

But from December 21st, you can only cross between regions of Italy for work or health, or in emergencies. 

On top of that, from December 24th to January 6th you won't be allowed to leave your own town except for essentials.

The government is making an allowance for people who live in small towns of 5,000 inhabitants or less: they are permitted to travel to other comuni within a radius of 30 kilometres, so long as they avoid the capital of their province.

When can I leave the house?

Italy has a nightly curfew from 10pm to 5am, which remains in effect across the country throughout the holidays (and is extended to 7am on January 1st). To go out between these hours you'll need a good reason, and an autodichiarazione or 'self-certification form'.

But even going outside in the daytime will get more difficult over Christmas, New Year and Epiphany.

CALENDAR: What are Italy's new Covid-19 rules over Christmas and New Year?

For the ten days in which Italy is in lockdown – December 24-27th, December 31st-January 3rd, and again on January 5-6th – you should plan to leave your house only for essential reasons, like going to the supermarket or seeing a doctor.

There is one important exception, however, that might allow you to go and visit friends and family. More on that below.

Who can celebrate together?

The Italian government has made a significant concession for people hoping to see friends or family this Christmas: you are allowed to make one journey per day to visit others at home, so long as you do not leave your region and no more than two adults go at once. Children under 14 and others who can't be left at home alone are allowed to come too.

That applies throughout the holidays, including the three lockdown periods over Christmas, New Year and Epiphany.

READ ALSO: 'This year will be small for sure': How Italy's foreign residents have changed their Christmas plans

Bear in mind, though, that the Italian government has repeatedly urged people not to invite guests over. While Conte has stressed that police won't be deployed to enforce the rules in private homes, he and other ministers have appealed to the public to give up big celebrations for the sake of those at risk, especially older relatives.

“In private homes, it is strongly recommended not to receive anyone you do not live with, except for work reasons or situations of necessity or urgency,” states the emergency decree issued earlier this month.

Can I go shopping?

Shops can remain open as usual until December 23rd, but 'non-essential' stores will have to close nationwide when Italy goes into lockdown (December 24-27th, December 31st-January 3rd, and January 5-6th).

Supermarkets, grocers, pharmacies, news agents, pet shops, laundrettes and hairdressers can stay open throughout.

Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

In between the three lockdown periods (December 28-30th and January 4th) all shops will be allowed to reopen, until 9pm. 

Are bars and restaurants open?

Bars and restaurants can remain open in most of Italy until December 23rd, so long as they stop serving customers by 6pm. They'll stay closed to diners altogether in Italy's few remaining higher risk 'orange zones'.

Starting December 24th, bars, restaurants, cafes, bakeries and anywhere else serving food and drink will close throughout Italy. They'll remain shut up to and including January 6th. 

But you will be able to order in, at least, with takeaway from the premises (asporto) allowed until 10pm and home delivery (consegna a domicilio) permitted any time.

Are churches open?

Yes: houses of worship can remain open throughout the holidays, though they'll have to reschedule some of their services to comply with the 10pm curfew. 

READ ALSO: Pope to hold Christmas 'midnight' mass at 7.30pm due to virus curfew

If you plan to attend over Christmas or any other day when Italy is in lockdown, Catholic officials have advised worshippers to go to the church nearest their house and carry a self-certification form.

Can I go skiing?

No: Italy's slopes are closed until January 7th at the earliest.

Can I take a walk or go for a run?

If you find yourself desperate for a break from your housemates – or if you've just eaten too much – you have the option of exercising outdoors throughout the holiday lockdown. 

You can do “motor activity” such as running so long as you don't go too far from your own home, while “sport activity” (e.g. basketball or football) is allowed so long as you practice by yourself.

Whether taking a leisurely walk counts as “motor activity” is a bit of a grey area, but in previous lockdowns the Italian government specifically said that passeggiate – sociable strolls that serve as an excuse to meet others – were not allowed.

Member comments

  1. “Starting December 24th, bars, restaurants, cafes, bakeries and anywhere else serving food and drink will close throughout Italy. They’ll remain shut up to and including January 6th.”
    Bakeries? 🙁

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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].”