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EXPLAINED: When can you turn your heating on in Italy this winter?

Italy has updated the rules on when and for how long you can switch on your central heating – as well as how high you can turn it up. Here's a look at the dates for this winter.

EXPLAINED: When can you turn your heating on in Italy this winter?
When can you turn the heating on in Italy? Photo by Dominik Kuhn on Unsplash

One thing new residents are often surprised to learn is that Italy has rules dictating the dates when you can switch on the heating, based on the part of the country – or ‘climate zone’ – you live in.

These rules were updated recently under a new energy-saving decree, which shortens the winter heating season by 15 days, postponing the switch-on date by eight days and bringing the switch-off forward by seven for all zones.

READ ALSO: Key points: Italy’s new heating restrictions for winter

In the interests of saving energy, Italy has long had rules in place about when different provinces can use central heating (riscaldamento centralizzato), based on their average seasonal temperature.

As you might expect, northern and mountainous areas are the first to be allowed to switch on the heat in October, while some parts of the south can’t turn up the dial until December.

How have the rules changed this year?

As mentioned above, the season has been shortened by 15 days, The government’s new energy-saving plan also says heating systems should be used for one hour less each day and set one degree lower than last year.

The decree requires businesses not to put the heating over 18C (down from 19C), while private citizens are asked to set their heating at a maximum of 19C (down from 20C).

Here’s an overview of this year’s updated restrictions:

Zone A: December 8th to March 7th, 5 hours a day

  • Lampedusa, Linosa and Lampione
  • Porto Empedocle

Zone B: December 8th to March 23rd, 7 hours a day

  • Agrigento
  • Catania
  • Messina
  • Palermo
  • Siracusa
  • Trapani
  • Reggio Calabria
  • Crotone

Zone C: November 22nd to March 23rd, 9 hours a day

  • North-west: Imperia.
  • Centre: Latina.
  • South: Bari; Benevento; Brindisi; Cagliari; Caserta; Catanzaro; Cosenza; Lecce; Naples; Oristano; Ragusa; Salerno; Sassari; Taranto.

Zone D: November 8th to April 7th, 11 hours a day

  • North-west: Genoa; La Spezia; Savona.
  • North-east: Forlì.
  • Centre: Ancona; Ascoli Piceno; Florence; Grosseto; Livorno; Lucca; Macerata; Massa Carrara; Pesaro; Pisa; Pistoia; Prato; Rome; Siena; Terni; Viterbo.
  • South: Avellino; Caltanissetta; Chieti; Foggia; Isernia; Matera; Nuoro; Pescara; Teramo; Vibo Valentia.

Zone E: October 22nd to April 7th, 13 hours/day

  • North-west: Alessandria; Aosta; Asti; Bergamo; Biella; Brescia; Como; Cremona; Lecco; Lodi; Milan; Novara; Padova; Pavia; Sondrio; Torino; Varese; Verbania; Vercelli.
  • North-east: Bologna; Bolzano; Ferrara; Gorizia; Modena; Parma; Piacenza; Pordenone; Ravenna; Reggio Emilia; Rimini; Rovigo; Treviso; Trieste; Udine; Venice; Verona; Vicenza.
  • Centre: Arezzo; Perugia; Frosinone; Rieti.
  • South: Campobasso; Enna; L’Aquila; Potenza.

Zone F: No restrictions

  • Cuneo
  • Trento
  • Belluno 

How are these rules enforced?

The rules are supposed to apply to every property in Italy, including independent houses and apartments with their own independent heating systems (riscaldamento autonomo), where it’s up to individual occupants to limit their heating use. 

But the restrictions are more easily enforced in shared buildings with a single, communal boiler, such as apartment blocks, offices, schools and hotels. In that case the amministratore, or building manager, will be responsible for regulating when the heating comes on and off.

READ ALSO: What are the rules on using wood-burning stoves in Italy?

The new decree doesn’t contain any mention of fines, inspections or any sort of enforcement of the rules for homes with independent heating systems, though businesses and condominiums can be subject to inspections.

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Lights out: How Christmas in Italy will be different this year

As the European energy crisis continues, some cities in Italy have chosen to save on electricity by downsizing regular Christmas displays, thus making this year’s festivities a little less flashy.

Lights out: How Christmas in Italy will be different this year

With less than a month to go until the Christmas holidays, many might be rejoicing at the prospect of finally seeing their cities lit up by dazzling Christmas displays.

But, as the European energy crisis shows no sign of abating and many cities across the boot keep struggling to square their accounts in the face of soaring bills, some residents may be disappointed to know that this year’s festive decorations might differ from the norm.

Milan, Italy’s economic capital, was one of the very first Italian cities to announce it would significantly reduce Christmas displays to save on energy.

READ ALSO: Lights off and home working: Milan’s new energy-saving plan for winter 

After reports emerged in early October that the city would end up spending a whopping €130 million on energy bills alone in 2022, Milan’s mayor, Giuseppe Sala, was quick to warn residents that Christmas decorations would be “restrained” and operate “for shorter periods of time”.

And, it wasn’t long before Sala made good on his promises. 

Earlier this month, the city’s authorities agreed on putting up decorations and light displays on December 7th (that is over two weeks after the usual date) and taking them down on January 6th instead of late January. 

Christmas lights in the streets of central Milan

Christmas lights in Milan will be switched on on December 7th, that is over two weeks after the usual switch-on date. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Also, while in previous years Milan’s city centre was illuminated overnight, this year’s Christmas lights will be switched on at 4pm and switched off at midnight. 

But, while Milan residents might be slightly dissatisfied with the new arrangements, they sure have little to complain about when compared to Rome residents. 

It’ll be a dark Christmas (literally and, perhaps, even figuratively) for most areas of the Eternal City and not merely because of the current energy crisis. 

READ ALSO: Energy crisis: The Italians reviving ‘nonna’s’ traditions to keep costs down

The city’s tender for this year’s Christmas lights contract received no bids before its deadline on October 27th, which means that, in many neighbourhoods, festive decorations will be largely left to the goodwill and financial means of the residents.

So while the popular Piazza di Spagna, Porta Pia and Via Alessandria will light up over the holiday season thanks to private funding, the San Giovanni and Tuscolano neighbourhoods and Via Cola di Rienzo are currently expected to remain au naturel.

Christmas light in a street in Rome

Many areas of the capital, Rome, will be without lights this year due to lack of funding. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

Things will generally be better in Venice and Florence, where local authorities have recently chosen to maintain their usual arrangements, the only exception being the replacement of regular lights with energy-efficient, LED ones. 

So, while the lighting might be a little softer and displays might not be as remarkable as in previous years, both cities should be able to deal with late-December energy bills more comfortably than they would have had to do otherwise.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Italy has avoided a huge hike in gas prices – for now 

Having said that, not all Italian cities have decided to resize their Christmas offerings on the back of eye-watering electricity prices. 

Naples, which has long been known for the extravagance of its Christmas and New Year celebrations, has seemingly chosen to turn a blind eye to the energy crisis and will allocate as much as €1.5 million (that’s €150,000 to each one of the ten local municipalities) to this year’s displays.

Unsurprisingly, the comune’s decision has been drawing widespread criticism, with many local political figures pointing out that part, if not most, of the above-mentioned amount should have been spent elsewhere, perhaps in the form of a one-off ‘Christmas bonus’ for struggling households and businesses.

The available money should have been used to “turn off the crisis and light up people’s hearts”, city councillors Antonio Culiers and Francesco Flores said in a joint statement earlier this month.