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UPDATE: What are Italy’s rules for travel over Easter?

Italy is tightening its rules across the country at Easter – but there are a few exceptions. Here's what you need to know if you're hoping to travel over the holiday weekend.

UPDATE: What are Italy's rules for travel over Easter?
Passengers at Cagliari airport in Sardinia. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Can I visit Italy from overseas?

Italy has not changed the rules on who is allowed to visit as a tourist, but it has introduced extra conditions for people arriving from within the European Union.

Visitors from other EU countries or the Schengen Zone are still allowed to come to Italy for tourism or any other reason, but they must test negative for coronavirus no more than 48 hours before arrival and then quarantine for five days regardless. They will then have to test negative a second time after isolation. 

The quarantine requirement will apply from March 31st until at least April 6th.

EXPLAINED: Which travellers have to quarantine in Italy and for how long?

There are separate rules for people travelling from Austria, who are subject to testing on arrival as well as before departure, and have to spend two weeks in quarantine even after two negative test results. They must then take a third test after 14 days. The rules apply until at least April 6th: find full details on the Italian Health Ministry’s website (in English).

Visitors from a handful of low-risk countries outside the EU – Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand – are also allowed to come to Italy as tourists, though they must quarantine for 14 days on arrival.

Testing arriving passengers at Rome Fiumicino airport. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

Italy currently has extra restrictions on the UK and Brazil. People departing from Great Britain or Northern Ireland are only allowed to enter Italy if they were officially registered as residents before December 23rd 2020 or can prove they need to come for “reasons of absolute necessity”. They must get tested before and after arrival, and carry out 14 days’ quarantine regardless of the results.

Meanwhile travellers from Brazil must have been registered residents before February 13th 2021, be returning to minor children living in Italy, or have other essential reasons to travel. They have to get tested before and after arrival, observe quarantine, and get tested again after 14 days.

READ ALSO:

Travellers from the rest of the world, including the United States, Canada, India, Russia, China and every other country unless specified, can only visit Italy for essential reasons, such as for work or study or to get medical treatment.

Nationals of other countries who live in Italy, as well as Italian or EU nationals and their family members, are allowed to return to Italy, but they have to quarantine for 14 days. The same applies to people who have “a proven and stable emotional relationship” with a legal resident of Italy and need to reach their partner’s Italian home.

Find more details of Italy’s current travel rules, including exceptions for people travelling for work or transiting briefly through Italy, on the Ministry of Health’s website (in English). 

Can I go abroad from Italy?

Yes – so long as your chosen destination allows you to enter, and you’re aware of the rules that will apply to you on your return to Italy (see above: residents of Italy are subject to the same testing and quarantine requirements as tourists, including when they’re returning to Italy from another EU country).

The Italian Interior Ministry recently confirmed that people in Italy are free to depart on holiday to other countries within the EU or Schengen Zone, even if it means travelling within Italy to reach the airport or ferry terminal. That stands even when Italy is a nationwide ‘red zone’ over the Easter weekend, with strict limits on leaving your town or region under most other circumstances.

However, Italy’s Foreign Ministry continues to recommend that people avoid travelling abroad unless “strictly necessary”, including within the EU. Further restrictions on entry to Italy from other countries are possible and could lead to difficulty getting home, the ministry warns.

Can I travel around Italy?

Italy currently has a ban on most travel between regions, which is only allowed for work, health or other emergencies.

With all regions either red or orange zones under Italy’s tier system of risk-assessed restrictions, non-essential travel between towns is also banned. 

EXPLAINED:

Over the Easter weekend from April 3rd to 5th, the whole of Italy will become a red zone with maximum restrictions in place, amounting to a form of lockdown.

Under these rules, people are required to stay at home except for essential reasons, including buying groceries, going to work or exercising (by yourself). 

If you need to make a trip either within your own town or beyond it, you should be prepared to fill in a self-declaration form justifying your reasons. 

Transport including trains and buses continues to operate for people who need to travel, but may be running a reduced schedule. You’re also likely to have your forms checked by police at train stations and bus terminals.

If you’re driving, you’ll also be subject to police stops on the road. 

Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Can I visit my second home in Italy?

It depends. If you live overseas and have a holiday home in Italy, you will need to follow the same travel restrictions as any other visitor (see above). 

If you live in Italy and have a second home within the country, the national rules do allow you travel there. You can return to a home in a different town or region even if it’s not your permanent residence and even if it means leaving a red or orange zone. 

But there are two conditions: you must have owned or rented the property before January 14th 2021, and there can’t be anyone else already living there. In other words, you can’t decamp to a short-term rental, or stay with friends or relatives. 

READ ALSO: ‘Don’t come’: Italian regions seek to stop second-home owners visiting

Remember too that certain regions of Italy have introduced their own restrictions limiting visits from second-home owners over the Easter break, including Tuscany, Liguria, Sardinia, Valle D’Aosta and Alto Adige/South Tyrol. These take the form of local ordinances that you can find published on each region’s official website: find links here.

Always check regional restrictions as well as national ones before planning a trip.

I live in Italy. Can I visit my friends and family here?

You can’t go and stay with your loved ones, as explained above. But you can spend the day with them, according to a special exception on socializing in Italy’s Easter rules.

Over April 3rd to 5th, when Italy is a red zone, you will be permitted to visit another nearby household once a day, and accompanied by no more than one other adult (though children under 14 can come too).

You must stay within your own region and should set off after 5am and return home by 10pm, in line with Italy’s nightly curfew.

Such visits are usually banned in red zones, but the latest emergency decree contains a temporary allowance for the holiday weekend.

When will the rules change next?

Italy’s current emergency decree came into force on March 6th and will remain in place until April 6th. 

The Easter lockdown applies from April 3rd to 5th. 

The Italian government has not yet confirmed the rules from April 7th onwards, though Prime Minister Mario Draghi has indicated that the tier system of regional restrictions will remain in place and that none of Italy’s regions will become a yellow or white zone – where restrictions are allowed to loosen – until at least the end of April.

For all The Local’s coverage of the coronavirus emergency in Italy, click here.

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VENICE

‘Fighting for survival’: Has Venice become a city no one can live in?

As the population of Venice sinks below 50,000, activists say 'normal life' is impossible in the floating city. What does the future hold for its dwindling number of residents?

'Fighting for survival': Has Venice become a city no one can live in?

Venice made national and international headlines last week with the news that its resident population had fallen below 50,000 for the first time, a stark symbol of the city’s metamorphosis from thriving metropolis to tourist playground.

There was some initial confusion as to the source of the figure: a widely-shared story from news agency Ansa said that Venice City Hall (the Comune di Venezia)’s statistics office had recorded its population size as 49,997 on August 10th – but when contacted by The Local, the comune denied having provided any such information, and said its most up-to-date population stats only cover up to July 31st.

Instead, the number appears to have come from Venessia, a Venice-based activist group which maintains a (de)population counter based on provisional updates from the civil registry office that have yet to be vetted.

The counter put the city’s population below the 50,000 threshold on August 10th; as of Thursday, the number had dropped to 49,989.

Matteo Secchi points to a population tracker that counts 49,997 Venetian residents.
Matteo Secchi points to a population tracker that counts 49,997 Venetian residents. Credit: Venessia.com

The exact moment when Venice lost its 50,000th resident may be lost to history, but what’s undeniable is that the city’s permanent population is disappearing at an alarming rate, from over 174,000 in 1951 to less than a third of that today. Meanwhile, its tourist numbers continue to break records.

“I feel like a stranger in my own home,” says Matteo Secchi, a native Venetian who leads the Venessia.com group and runs its website.

“I live near the Rialto Bridge, and there are no more Venetians there, only foreigners. Not that there’s anything wrong with foreigners…. we are open to all cultures, but we would like ours to survive too.”

READ ALSO: Mass tourism is back in Italy – but the way we travel is changing

Secchi currently works on a hotel reception desk after his own B&B went under during the pandemic – an irony which, given Venessia’s emphasis on the damage inflicted by the tourist industry on the city, is not lost on him.

“Everyone works in the tourism sector here,” he says matter-of-factly.

It’s not that tourism is an inherent evil, says Secchi, acknowledging that it’s made Venice rich; but its implacable hold on the city has driven up rents and property prices, causing ordinary shops and affordable accommodation to disappear.

“There are fewer of us all the time because you can’t live normally,” he says.

He compares modern-day Venice to Disneyland, saying he often feels like “a little monkey: people come and take photos and say, ‘look at this nut!'”. What young person wants to live their life as an unpaid theme park mascot?

OPINION: Why more of Italy’s top destinations must limit tourist numbers

In 2009, Secchi and the other Venessia organisers staged a mock funeral for Venice after its population dropped below 60,000. The spectacle involved rowing a pink coffin down the Grand Canal, flanked by several gondolas, and depositing it outside City Hall.

Though he’s proud of the demonstration and the attention it received (“The second-biggest news story out of Italy that year, after the Aquila earthquake!”) he has no plans hold another one this time, noting that of the five founding members of his organisation, he’s the only one still alive.

Venessia's 2009 'funeral' for Venice.
Venessia’s 2009 ‘funeral’ for Venice. Photo by ANDREA PATTARO / AFP.

Venessia has a long list of recommendations for how to rebuild the city’s population, including giving tax breaks to all non-tourism businesses, offering financial incentives for landlords to rent to residents rather than tourists, and having a ten-year moratorium on building tourist accommodation (“Do you think the comune would agree to this?” I ask of the latter. “No!” Secchi chuckles).

One of the organisation’s more realistic proposals is levying a tax on tourist rentals to finance the renovation of Venice’s dilapidated public housing, much of which stands curiously empty for a city with some of the highest rents and real estate values in the country.

READ ALSO: ‘The myth of Venice’: How the Venetian brand helps the city survive

There’s no easily accessed public record of exactly how many empty public housing units there are in Venice, but the issue was the subject of a Vice documentary in the early days of the pandemic, when some restaurant and hotel workers suddenly out of a job were forced to squat in abandoned buildings unfit for human habitation.

Secchi becomes particularly animated on this point. “It’s very interesting – these numbers now form the basis of our protest, we’re going to focus on them. It’s been years that we’ve been saying ‘ah, there are all these empty homes’, but we’ve never got official figures.” 

Activists hold up a banner displaying the number 49,999, as part of a campaign to draw attention to Venice's rapid depopulation.
Activists hold up a banner displaying the number 49,999, as part of a campaign to draw attention to Venice’s rapid depopulation. Credit: Venessia.com

While the activist is frustrated with the comune‘s inaction in the face of what he sees as a slow-motion catastrophe, Secchi doesn’t think the city’s current leaders are worse than its any of its previous ones.

“In the past 40 years, there hasn’t been an administration capable of handling this issue,” he says.

A quality they all tend to share, in Secchi’s view, is that they have a “coda di paglia” – literally, a ‘straw tail’; an expression that refers to a person who is highly defensive in response to any criticism.

When the latest population figures made the headlines, the comune were quick to dismiss the issue as a false alarm, saying that the numbers fail to take into account all the students and temporary workers who live in the city without being registered residents.

READ ALSO: How will the new tourist-control system work in Venice?

Secchi rejects the notion that these people in these categories count as Venetians, arguing that a community is made up of individuals who put down roots, not those who pass through for a few months or years.

But if they want to view the issue purely in terms of numbers, he says, by their own logic the comune should take into account all the people who falsely claim Venice as their primary residence in order to evade the inflated property taxes that come with second home ownership, but in reality live elsewhere most of the year.

A banner hung on a washing line bears the number 49,999. Venessia began a countdown to the number as publicity campaign to draw attention to the city's population decline, several months ago.

A banner on a washing line bears the number 49,999. Venessia began a countdown publicity campaign to highlight the city’s population decline several months ago. Credit: Venessia.com

Venice has recently taken one step to address its over-tourism problem, with the announcement by Mayor Luigi Brugnaro at the start of July that the city will impose a long-discussed tourist tax of €3-€10 for day-trippers from January 2023.

Whether the tax will have any real calming effect on tourism, or be used to benefit residents in a way that might help rebuild their numbers, remains to be seen.

“We’re in favour of freedom, but we also want to defend our identity,” says Secchi.

“We’re not fighting for anything strange; we’re fighting for our survival.”

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