Sicily plans to subsidise holidays after lockdown

Sicily’s regional government has announced plans to subsidise holiday accommodation on the island - once travel to and within Italy is possible again. Here are the details we have so far.

Sicily plans to subsidise holidays after lockdown
A busy beach on the island of Lampedusa, Sicily, in September 2018. File photo: AFP

The island of Sicily is planning to subsidise holidays for both domestic and international visitors in an effort to revive tourism after the coronavirus pandemic, the island's regional authorites have confirmed.

Their current plans include subsidised hotel stays – offering one night of a three-night trip for free – as well as vouchers for visits to museums and other cultural attractions on the island.

The regional government says it has set aside €75 million to be give out to tourists via “vouchers and cards”.

“€75 million has been allocated for the advance purchase by the Region of vouchers and cards to be distributed, for promotional purposes, to tourists, once the health emergency has ceased,” stated the Sicilian local authority's announcement on May 3rd of its 1.5-billion-euro Stability Bill and the latest regional budget.

“We'll buy services such as hotel nights from operators, and we'll give them to tourists, Sicilians or not, who come to us,” Sicily's tourist board director Manlio Messina told news show Mattino Cinque.

“If you stay at least three nights,the region will pay for one (of them), he explained.

Those who stay for six nights will have two of them paid for by local authorities, he added.

Some media reports have stated that the funding would also go towards paying for flights to and from the island, but this has not been officially confirmed.

Sicily's museums and heritage sites currently stand empty under lockdown. Photo: AFP

“Tourism is the sector that suffered the damage first, and will start up again last, which is why we decided to support it, explained Messina.

Italy's tourism sector has suffered huge financial losses, with industry representatives reporting “the worst crisis in recent history” even before the national lockdown came was announced on March 9th.

Sicily's economy relies heavily on tourism, and the sector's rise is often credited with helping ease the grip of organised crime groups on cities like Palermo. But with poverty now rising, particularly in southern Italy, as incomes are lost to the shutdown, there are fears this progress could be undone without government intervention.

It's not yet known when or exactly how the vouchers will be made available, but more details are expected to be published on the Sicilian tourist board's website once travel is possible.


The Italian government has not released any further details on when current strict travel restrictions to and within the country may be lifted.

While Italy's tourism minister Dario Franceschini has denied claims that Italy would be closed to holidaymakers until 2021, he has also suggested that international travel may not resume by this summer.

Franceschini told Italian newspaper Il Messaggero the ministry was “making a strong investment in domestic tourism, because this will be a summer of holidays in Italy.”

Italy relaxed some rules as it entered phase two of its lockdown on Monday. However, tight restrictions on travel remain in place.

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EXPLAINED: Has Italy still got any Covid rules in place?

Italy is blissfully free of Covid restrictions this summer - or is it? Here's what you need to know about the country's few remaining rules.

EXPLAINED: Has Italy still got any Covid rules in place?

If you thought Italy’s Covid rules ought to have more or less expired by now, you’d be right – almost. 

There are essentially no travel restrictions, no vaccination or testing obligations, and very few situations in which people are required to mask up.

However, a few nationwide health rules do remain in place that are worth knowing about.

Here’s what they are.


One notable exception to Italy’s Covid rule relaxations is the continued requirement to wear a mask in parts of health and residential care facilities that house vulnerable or immunosuppressed patients.

This rule had been due to expire on April 30th, but was renewed by decree on April 29th and will remain in place until the end of the year.

READ ALSO: What to expect when travelling to Italy in summer 2023

That means if you work in such a facility or need to visit a friend or family member there, you should come equipped with a mask.

Under-6’s, people whose disability prevents them from wearing a mask, and carers for whom wearing a mask would prevent them from communicating with a disabled patient are the only exceptions.


Then there are the quarantine rules.

‘Italy still has quarantine rules?!’ you ask incredulously.

According to former health director Giovanni Rezza, who retired this May, the answer is yes.

It was Rezza who signed off on a health ministry decree dated December 31st, 2022 that established the country’s latest quarantine restrictions.

Tourists visiting Italy no longer face Covid-related restrictions, though rules may apply in some circumstances. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

That decree says that those who test positive but are asymptomatic must self-isolate for five days, or until they test negative at a pharmacy or health facility – whichever happens sooner.

Those who do experience symptoms should either test negative before exiting quarantine, or wait until they are symptomless for at least two days.

At the end of the isolation period, those who have left quarantine without taking a test are required to wear a high-grade FFP2 mask in public until the tenth day since the onset of symptoms or first positive test result.

READ ALSO: What are the upcoming strikes in Italy and how could they impact you?

People who have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for Covid should wear an FFP2 mask in public until the fifth day since the last point of contact.

Earlier this month, Rezza told journalists at the national broadcaster Rai that since no expiration date was stipulated, the decree remains in force indefinitely.

The health ministry doesn’t appear to have weighed in on the matter, so for now it should be assumed that the quarantine rules are still active.

Of course, this all relies on the honour system, as most Covid tests these days are taken (if at all) in people’s own homes without the knowledge or involvement of state health authorities.


Finally, there have been some recent reports of new international travel restrictions specifically relating to China.

There has been talk of Italy’s airports reintroducing tests for arrivals from China. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP.

Towards the end of May, newspapers La Stampa and La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno reported that Covid tests had been reintroduced at Italy’s airports for arrivals from China, which has seen an uptick in cases.

However, neither the health ministry website nor the Foreign Ministry’s Viaggiare Sicuri (‘Travel Safe’) website appear to have published any updates to this effect.

In December 2022, Italy’s health ministry mandated that all arrivals from China must produce a recent negative test result before leaving for Italy and to take a test on arrival, though this rule was due to expire at the end of January.