Local authorities in both Alto Adige (South Tyrol) and Trentino, the two autonomous provinces that make up the region on the Austrian border, confirmed this week that Christmas markets would not take place as usual.
While Italy's latest emergency decree doesn't ban markets, it does prohibit local fairs and festivals, which the provinces ruled should include their traditional winter markets.
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“It wasn't an easy decision that we took on Christmas markets,” said Franco Ianeselli, the mayor of Trento, Trentino's main city and the host of one of the largest festive fairs in Italy.
“But it was necessary, because an unsafe city can't attract tourists.”
Non è stata una decisione facile quella adottata sui #MercatinidiNatale. Ma è stata necessaria, perché una città insicura non può essere attrattiva per i turisti, è anche una questione di coerenza.
Lavoreremo a un Natale diverso e #Trento sarà illuminata, calda, accogliente pic.twitter.com/1MIpTf3AUM
— Franco Ianeselli (@fiane) October 20, 2020
“At the moment the priority is to keep schools and businesses running and therefore we have to give up everything that's not indispensable,” said South Tyrol governor and regional president Arno Kompatscher, who also announced that secondary schools would have to move at least 30 percent of teaching online and that bars should close at 11pm.
The decision means that the famous fairytale markets of Bolzano, Merano, Bressanone, Brunico and Vipiteno, among others, will not take place this year.
The cancellation is a heavy blow to the region's tourism industry, which estimates Christmas markets to be worth tens of millions of euros to the local economy.
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As coronavirus infections surge across Italy and most of Europe, the pandemic looks set to impact Italy's winter tourism season as well as the summer peak.
Trentino-Alto Adige's Christmas markets are the largest and most famous in Italy, showcasing the bilingual region's unique mix of Germanic and Italian traditions.
It seems likely that other parts of Italy will follow suit and cancel their own winter markets.
Kompatscher said he hoped “there will still be a Christmassy atmosphere in our towns nonetheless”.