After long deliberations with scientific experts and regional governors, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced late on December 18th that Italy would return to a nationwide lockdown over Christmas, New Year and Epiphany.
They're the strictest measures to be imposed across the entire country since March – but they contain a few important concessions for the holidays.
Here's how the new rules will affect your Christmas celebrations in Italy.
What are Italy's travel rules?
First things first: can you or your loved ones get to Italy?
The rules on long-haul international travel are unchanged: people from most countries outside the EU or Schengen zone can only travel to Italy for urgent reasons of work, health, study, emergencies or to return to their permanent (not second) Italian home. Anyone arriving in these circumstances has to quarantine for 14 days on arrival.
Italy also introduced stricter rules for EU travellers at the beginning of December: until December 20th, all arrivals from the EU, Schengen zone or the UK must test negative for Covid-19 within the 48 hours before their journey, or face quarantine on arrival.
From December 21st, anyone arriving in Italy from overseas – including from within the EU – must quarantine for 14 days, unless they're travelling for work, health or emergencies, or briefly transiting.
That rule applies to anyone who travels outside Italy at any point between December 21st and January 6th, even if they arrive after those dates. Find more details here.
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
What about travel within Italy?
That's restricted too. Until December 20th you can travel freely in most of Italy, with the exception of a handful of areas designated higher-risk 'orange zones'.
But from December 21st, you can only cross between regions of Italy for work or health, or in emergencies.
On top of that, from December 24th to January 6th you won't be allowed to leave your own town except for essentials.
The government is making an allowance for people who live in small towns of 5,000 inhabitants or less: they are permitted to travel to other comuni within a radius of 30 kilometres, so long as they avoid the capital of their province.
When can I leave the house?
Italy has a nightly curfew from 10pm to 5am, which remains in effect across the country throughout the holidays (and is extended to 7am on January 1st). To go out between these hours you'll need a good reason, and an autodichiarazione or 'self-certification form'.
But even going outside in the daytime will get more difficult over Christmas, New Year and Epiphany.
For the ten days in which Italy is in lockdown – December 24-27th, December 31st-January 3rd, and again on January 5-6th – you should plan to leave your house only for essential reasons, like going to the supermarket or seeing a doctor.
There is one important exception, however, that might allow you to go and visit friends and family. More on that below.
Who can celebrate together?
The Italian government has made a significant concession for people hoping to see friends or family this Christmas: you are allowed to make one journey per day to visit others at home, so long as you do not leave your region and no more than two adults go at once. Children under 14 and others who can't be left at home alone are allowed to come too.
That applies throughout the holidays, including the three lockdown periods over Christmas, New Year and Epiphany.
Bear in mind, though, that the Italian government has repeatedly urged people not to invite guests over. While Conte has stressed that police won't be deployed to enforce the rules in private homes, he and other ministers have appealed to the public to give up big celebrations for the sake of those at risk, especially older relatives.
“In private homes, it is strongly recommended not to receive anyone you do not live with, except for work reasons or situations of necessity or urgency,” states the emergency decree issued earlier this month.
Can I go shopping?
Shops can remain open as usual until December 23rd, but 'non-essential' stores will have to close nationwide when Italy goes into lockdown (December 24-27th, December 31st-January 3rd, and January 5-6th).
Supermarkets, grocers, pharmacies, news agents, pet shops, laundrettes and hairdressers can stay open throughout.
Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP
In between the three lockdown periods (December 28-30th and January 4th) all shops will be allowed to reopen, until 9pm.
Are bars and restaurants open?
Bars and restaurants can remain open in most of Italy until December 23rd, so long as they stop serving customers by 6pm. They'll stay closed to diners altogether in Italy's few remaining higher risk 'orange zones'.
Starting December 24th, bars, restaurants, cafes, bakeries and anywhere else serving food and drink will close throughout Italy. They'll remain shut up to and including January 6th.
But you will be able to order in, at least, with takeaway from the premises (asporto) allowed until 10pm and home delivery (consegna a domicilio) permitted any time.
Are churches open?
Yes: houses of worship can remain open throughout the holidays, though they'll have to reschedule some of their services to comply with the 10pm curfew.
If you plan to attend over Christmas or any other day when Italy is in lockdown, Catholic officials have advised worshippers to go to the church nearest their house and carry a self-certification form.
Can I go skiing?
No: Italy's slopes are closed until January 7th at the earliest.
Can I take a walk or go for a run?
If you find yourself desperate for a break from your housemates – or if you've just eaten too much – you have the option of exercising outdoors throughout the holiday lockdown.
You can do “motor activity” such as running so long as you don't go too far from your own home, while “sport activity” (e.g. basketball or football) is allowed so long as you practice by yourself.
Whether taking a leisurely walk counts as “motor activity” is a bit of a grey area, but in previous lockdowns the Italian government specifically said that passeggiate – sociable strolls that serve as an excuse to meet others – were not allowed.