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What Italy’s digital TV switchover means for you

All Italian TV channels will be switched to HD by December 21st. Here's what that means and how to check if your TV set or decoder is compatible.

Old TV set
All Italian TV channels will be switched to HD on December 21st and not all TV sets will support the new system. Photo by PJ Gal-Szabo via Unsplash

As Italy approaches the holiday season, Italian TV is set to undergo a major change and one that could make some residents reconsider their last-minute Christmas gifts. 

On Tuesday, December 20th, Italian TV will make the switch from the old coding system, known as MPEG-2, to the new-generation MPEG-4.

This means that, from Wednesday, December 21st, SD (standard definition) channels will no longer be available in Italy as they’ll be replaced by their HD (high definition) counterparts. 

So, for instance, the ‘SD version’ of channels like Rai1, Rai2 or Rai3 will soon be permanently switched off, with the HD format being the only available option for viewers. 

The same will be true for other popular channels, like Rete 4, Canale 5, Italia 1 and La7.

READ ALSO: Who needs to pay the Italian TV licence fee – and how to cancel it

Naturally, many residents are left wondering whether their current TV sets or decoders will be able to support the new HD channels. 

The good news here is that most new-generation TVs and decoders are already compatible with the MPEG-4 system and therefore with any given HD channel.

This means that most residents won’t have to do a single thing about the digital switchover aside from rescanning their TV channels on December 21st. 

TV remote

Most new-generation TVs and decoders are already compatible with HD. Photo by Chris DELMAS / AFP

So how can you be sure that your TV or decoder is actually compatible with the new system?

Briefly put, if any of the channels between 1 and 10 is currently available in HD, then that means that your TV or decoder already supports MPEG-4. 

If, on the other hand, you can currently only see channels from 500 onwards (and you’ve already rescanned the channels), you’ll have to buy a new TV or decoder in order to be able to view the new HD broadcasts. 

READ ALSO: Seven classic films to watch for an Italian Christmas

On this note, it’s worth pointing out that the December 21st switchover will only be the first step in a broader digital transition planned by the Italian government. 

Next year, Italian TV will switch to the DVB-T2 (Digital Video Broadcasting – Second Generation Terrestrial) system. 

Though we still have some way to go to this second switchover – the date hasn’t been announced yet – you can check whether your TVs or decoders will be able to support the new system. 

If your appliance handbook states that your TV or decoder is equipped with a ‘DVB-T2 tuner’, then they will support DVB-T2 transmissions. 

You can also tune in to either channel 100 or channel 200. If a blue card reading ‘Test HEVC Main 10’ appears on your screen on either channel, then your TV or decoder is compatible with DVB-T2.

For further information or guidance, you can contact the Ministry of Enterprise and Made in Italy’s support centre, which is open Monday to Friday, from 9am to 6pm at 06 87 800 262.

Alternatively, you can send a Whatsapp text message to 340 1206348.

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ROME

What are the best Rome neighbourhoods for international residents?

Whether you're moving to Rome for the first time or are looking for a new neighbourhood to live in, here are five of the best 'quartieri' for foreign nationals.

What are the best Rome neighbourhoods for international residents?

Testaccio

Testaccio is a historic working-class Roman neighbourhood that’s become increasingly popular among international residents in recent years.

It’s surrounded on two sides by the Tiber, meaning you can walk along the river into the centre of town; and has good transport links, as it’s right next to both Piramide metro and Ostiense train station.

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With its bustling food market and old-school Roman restaurants, Testaccio is a foodie haven, and you’ll often see food tours huddled around the market stalls nibbling on supplì and pecorino (though it’s mercifully otherwise relatively free of tour groups).

Testaccio's historic food market is a major draw.

Testaccio’s historic food market is a major draw. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP.

At one point it was ancient Rome’s river port and a commercial hub, so you’ll also see interesting Roman ruins like Monte Testaccio, a little hill formed entirely of broken clay pots (a 2000-year-old trash heap) or historic archways that made up part of the old quayside.

Trastevere

Located just across the river from the city centre, Trastevere is one of Rome’s most picturesque neighbourhoods, with the characteristic cobbled streets, terracotta-coloured dwellings and draping vines that many foreigners think of as quintessentially Italian.

READ ALSO: Six things foreigners should expect if they live in Rome

That also means it’s extremely popular with tourists and foreign students, who throng its piazzas and labyrinthine alleys year-round.

There’s no shortage of restaurants and bars in which to while away lazy afternoons and evenings; in fact there’s little else, and you’ll have to do a bit of digging to find ordinary shops and services.

Trastevere is popular with tourists and students.

Trastevere is popular with tourists and students. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP.

Its central location means Trastevere has less of a neighbourhood feel than somewhere like Testaccio, but if you’re looking for a buzzing area that’s just a short stroll from some of Rome’s most famous monuments, it could be the place for you.

Pigneto

If you’re moving to Rome but wish you were in Berlin, you might want to venture east of the centre to Pigneto, where the cool kids go.

Its grey apartment blocks and grungy aesthetic might not make it much to look at, but its cheap(ish) rents and refreshingly un-stuffy vibe are attracting increasing numbers of young people.

Pigneto makes up for in coolness what it lacks in beauty.

Pigneto makes up for in coolness what it lacks in beauty. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP.

Pigneto’s main strip of bars and restaurants, relatively quiet during the day, comes to life in the evenings and especially on weekends, when it turns into a vibrant party hub.

As well as having a fairly youthful population, the area is more of a cultural melting pot than many other parts of the city – though for a truly international experience you’ll want to go even further east to Tor Pignettara, where you’ll find some of Rome’s best non-Italian food.

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Monti

Just a few hundred feet from the Colosseum, Monti is practically in the city centre, though it’s still managed to retain its own distinctive personality.

It’s a trendy district where you’ll find a mix of stylish wine bars, chic restaurants, vintage clothing stores and high-end boutiques.

READ ALSO: ‘Why I used to hate living in Rome as a foreigner – and why I changed my mind’

Monti’s prime location means rents are high, and you’ll sometimes have to contend with crowds of tourists as you push your way to your front door.

But if you want to live in a fashionable and attractive neighbourhood that’s in Rome’s beating heart, you’d be hard pressed to find a better option.

Rome's trendy Monti district is a stone's throw from the Colosseum.

Rome’s trendy Monti district is a stone’s throw from the Colosseum. Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP.

Prati

Heading to the northwest of the city centre, just east of Vatican City, sits the elegant residential and commercial district of Prati.

This neighbourhood’s broad avenues, attractive residences and upmarket shopping streets have historically made it preserve of upper-class Italians, many of whom work in surrounding offices or the several courthouses that fall within its boundaries.

Prati’s grid-like shape and heavily-trafficked roads mean it doesn’t have much of a neighbourhood feel, but it has plenty of sophisticated restaurants, cafes and bars.

It’s also just across the river from Villa Borghese, one of Rome’s largest and most attractive parks, with easy access to the world-class Galleria Borghese art gallery.

READ ALSO: Six essential apps that make life in Rome easier for foreign residents

Rome's Prati district is just across the river from leafy Villa Borghese.

Rome’s Prati district is just across the river from leafy Villa Borghese. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP.
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