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READER QUESTIONS

Are Italian taxi drivers required to accept card payments?

If you’re used to paying for rides with just a quick tap of your credit card, you may find things aren't quite that easy in Italy.

Taxi van parked in front of the Colosseum in Rome, Italy
While card payments on taxis are the norm in most European countries, things are not so straightforward in Italy. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

Question: ‘I’ve heard taxi drivers in Italy are now legally required to let you pay by card. Is this true, and what exactly are the rules?’

Italian taxi services have long been the target of intense public scrutiny, with drivers up and down the boot often doing very little to avoid criticism from high-profile public figures and regular Italian citizens alike.

Reports of taxi drivers ripping off unsuspecting tourists in major cities are common: last month, the BBC’s Italy correspondent Mark Lowen shared the story of how a friend was charged 70 euros for a journey from Rome’s Fiumicino airport to the city centre – a trip that has a fixed cost of 50 euros.

READ ALSO: Rome vows to crack down on ‘rip-off’ airport taxis targeting tourists

But overcharging aside, Italian taxi drivers have also been long known for their ‘unenthusiastic’ attitude towards card payments, with many reportedly insisting on cash only.

So, in an effort to clear up at least some of the doubts on the subject, we’ll try to answer the pressing question of whether or not Italian taxi drivers are actually required by law to accept electronic payments.

Pedestrians walk on an empty taxi lane in central Rome, Italy

Italian taxi drivers are legally obliged to accept card payments and fines are in place for transgressors. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

From a legal point of view, there seems to be no room for confusion.

Since 2014, businesses selling items or services have been required to accept card payments (under Article 15 of Bill (Decreto Legge) 179/2012, later updated by Article 18 of Bill 36/2022). The law says they should accept at least one type of credit card, one type of debit card, and prepaid cards.

This regulation applies to all retailers, business owners and self-employed individuals. As such, it encompasses taxi drivers.

Though whether or not this law has been widely enforced so far is another question.

Under an update to the law, as of June 30th 2022 there are penalties for non-compliance: businesses caught refusing card payments are liable to pay “a 30-euro administrative fee plus four percent of the value of the transaction previously denied”. 

So, for instance, in the case of a 100-euro fare, the driver who did not accept a card payment is liable to receive a fine equal to 34 euros (30 plus 4, i.e. 4 percent of 100).

Having said that, while the law does compel taxi drivers to accept card payments and fines are in place for those flouting the rules, many taxi drivers are – to put it mildly – not so fond of the idea of having clients pay by card.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Why can’t I get an Uber in Italy?

The latest incident happened earlier this week in Milan. 

When Philip, 43, and his 12-year-old daughter Raymie, from Melbourne, Australia, asked to pay for their five-euro taxi fare by card, their driver told them that he would only accept a cash payment. 

After an argument, the taxi driver flew into a rage, got out of the vehicle and started throwing his customers’ luggage onto the street – as a result, most of the Murano glass items they had bought while visiting Venice were destroyed.

The whole scene was captured by an incredulous resident and later posted online, where it quickly went viral.

Sadly, this was just the latest in a long series of incidents involving denied card payments, including several reported by high-profile Italians.

Last month, writer and content creator Camilla Boniardi, better known by the moniker ‘Camihawke’, got into a heated argument with a taxi driver who initially said he wouldn’t accept a card payment before backing down.

Italian gymnast Carlotta Ferlito wasn’t as lucky as, after reminding her driver that he was legally obliged to accept card payments, she was asked to get out of the car halfway through her journey.

So, given Italian taxi drivers’ apparent propensity to lose their cool at the mere suggestion of a card payment, what should you do in the event you are denied the right to pay by card?

The enforcement of any rules involving electronic payments is up to the Italian Revenue Agency (Agenzia delle Entrate) and the Financial Police (Guardia di Finanza).

Guardia di Finanza officers in San Fiorano, Milan, Italy

The Italian Financial Police (Guardia di Finanza) should be the first point of contact for customers looking to report a taxi driver. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

So, should you be unlucky enough to find yourself in this situation, you have the option of reporting the driver to the police.

The easiest way to do so is by calling the Guardia di Finanza at the toll-free number 117, though keep in mind that not all operators will speak English fluently.

Alternatively, you can print out and complete this form. There’s no option to submit it online – you’ll need to hand-deliver it to the nearest Guardia di Finanza precinct.

For further information please see the Guardia di Finanza website.

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CHRISTMAS

Nine things to know if you’re visiting Italy in December

From dazzling Christmas markets to succulent festive meals, December is one of the best months to visit Italy. So, here are some things that you should know if you’re planning on visiting.

Nine things to know if you’re visiting Italy in December

December in Italy is nothing short of magical.

Most cities across the boot light up with twinkling light displays and local life is energised by enchanting Christmas markets, which tend to turn even the most ordinary of urban landscapes into a cheerful wonderland. 

So, if you’re planning on (or, perhaps, just considering) travelling to Italy in December, here are some things that you should know prior to setting off.

No travel restrictions

People who travelled to Italy last December were required to show proof of Covid vaccination, recent recovery from the virus or a negative molecular (PCR) or antigen test result in order to enter the country.

The above mandate expired on May 31st, which means that travel to the bel paese for any reason, including tourism, is no longer tethered to any health requirements.

As for the requirement for arrivals to complete an EU digital passenger locator form (dPLF), that was also scrapped last May.

Face masks required in healthcare settings

The requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport lapsed on Friday, September 30th.

However, Italy’s new government has recently extended the requirement to wear face masks in all healthcare settings and care homes until the end of the year.

So, if you’re planning on paying a visit to a relative or friend who’s currently staying in one of the above structures, you’ll have to wear a mask. 

Anyone refusing to comply with face mask rules can still face fines ranging from a minimum of €400 to a maximum of €1000.

Current quarantine rules 

Italy still requires anyone who tests positive for coronavirus while in the country to self-isolate, with the minimum isolation period currently standing at five days.

In order to exit quarantine, the infected person must be symptomless for at least two days, and must test negative to a molecular (PCR) or rapid antigen test at the end of that period.

Testing should be carried out at a registered pharmacy or testing centre as the results of home tests are not seen as valid for this purpose.

Should the patient continue to test positive, they must remain in isolation until they get a negative test result. However, the maximum length of the self-isolation period has now been cut to 14 days, down from 21.

National strike on December 2nd

After months riddled with nation-wide demonstrations, travel to, from and across Italy will continue to be disrupted by strikes during the last month of 2022. 

The demonstration that’s currently expected to create the greatest amount of disruption will take place on Friday, December 2nd and it’ll be a 24-hour national strike affecting airline and rail travel as well as local public transport lines.

Staff from Spanish airline Vueling and public transport companies in Udine, Trieste, La Spezia, Naples, Foggia and Bari have already announced that they will take part in the strike.  

At the time of writing, it isn’t yet clear if essential services will be guaranteed and, if so, which ones and at what times.

As always, The Local will keep you abreast of all the latest developments.

Local public holidays 

Italy has three public holidays in December. Those are:

  • December 8th – Feast of the Immaculate Conception
  • December 25th – Christmas Day
  • December 26th – St Stephen’s Day (or Boxing Day in English-speaking countries)

As you might have already realised, December 24th (Christmas Eve) and December 31st (New Year’s Eve) are not official public holidays in Italy. However, most local companies do give their staff both days off as a gesture of goodwill. 

It’s worth noting that on all of the above-mentioned days the country will pretty much collectively stop, with all public offices and nearly all shops remaining shut. 

Even transport services are usually very limited on the days in question, so, if you’re planning to visit around those dates, make sure to make all the necessary arrangements well in advance.

Christmas markets 

This Christmas looks set to be Italy’s first in two years without any Covid restrictions.

This means that the country’s traditional Christmas markets, a number of which were cancelled last year due to safety concerns, should be up and running again this December.

Italy’s most popular markets are located in Trentino-Alto Adige, the northern region bordering Switzerland and Austria – Bruneck, Bolzano and Brixen are all well known for their gleeful stalls.

That said, the northern mountain cities don’t claim complete ownership of Italy’s Christmas markets, as Rome, Perugia and Gubbio also have some of the best set-ups in the entire peninsula.

Galleries and museums’ special openings 

Most galleries and museums in the country tend to have special opening hours during the festive season, which means that you might be able to admire artworks by some of the most famous Italian painters and sculptors even on public holidays and as late as 10pm on some days.

For instance, in Venice, Palazzo Ducale, Museo Correr and Murano’s Museo del Vetro (Glass Museum) will be open every day (public holidays included) in December, with their doors remaining open to visitors until 9pm on some dates.

As always, you’re advised to check the websites of the museums you’re interested in visiting to know what they’ll offer visitors in December.

Christmas’ culinary wealth 

READ ALSO: Six quirky Italian Christmas traditions you should know about

The quality of Italy’s cuisine is no secret, but the country dishes out some of the best examples of its long culinary tradition over the Christmas holidays.

While the evening meal on Christmas Eve (known as ‘La Vigilia’) tends to be quite frugal, the Christmas Day meal is anything but.

A pasta dish (tortellini, lasagne or baked pasta) is followed by a veal-, ox- or poultry-based second course accompanied by a variety of vegetables.

Finally, the festive meal is finished off with a scrumptious slice (more like, three or four for some) slice of panettone or pandoro.

Prosecco or another variety of sparkling wine is generally used to wash down all of the above.

Extravagant New Year celebrations

READ ALSO: Red pants, smashed plates and bingo: Six reasons Italian New Year is awesome

If you’ve never spent New Year’s Eve in Italy, you might be in for a surprise.

The Italians have a reputation for being a superstitious bunch, and some of their New Year customs can truly startle the uninitiated foreigner. 

Apart from ladies wearing red underwear to fend off evil spirits and people eating lentils by the bucketload to bring wealth and prosperity to their families, some residents, especially in the south, throw crockery out of their windows to show that they’re ready for a new start in the new year.

An alternative tradition – which, to be fair, seems to be slightly more friendly towards passers-by – is crashing pots and pans together right by the front door to frighten away evil spirits.

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