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LIVING IN ITALY

Everything that changes in December in Italy

As we start the last month of 2021, here are the changes you should know about if you live in Italy.

Christmas shopping in Rome.
Christmas shopping in Rome. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Covid ‘super green pass’ arrives

From December 6th, Italy will introduce the ‘super green pass’.

The country’s basic Covid-19 health certificate or ‘green pass’ is currently required to enter workplaces, take long distance public transport, and enter most cultural, leisure, sports and entertainment venues across the country.

As things currently stand, the green pass proves the holder is vaccinated against or has recently recovered from Covid-19, or has tested negative for the virus in the preceding two-to-three days (depending on the type of test used).

However, once the new decree comes into force on December 6th, only the ‘super green pass’ – that is, only a green pass that certifies the holder is vaccinated against or recently recovered from the virus – will be accepted in most instances.

READ ALSO: Q&A: How will Italy’s new Covid ‘super green pass’ work?

Health certificates obtained via a test will be valid only to enter the workplace, stay in hotels, and access local public transport, which takes us to our next point:

The current version of the green pass will also be required in more places, including in hotels, and their validity will be cut from 12 to nine months.

See a full breakdown of the new rules here.

Vaccine booster doses for all over-18s

Booster doses of Covid vaccines can be administered to all adults in Italy from December 1st, Health Minister Roberto Speranza announced last week, as the government pushes to stop the infection rate rising sharply this winter.

Italy has also approved the administration of booster doses five months after the completion of the initial vaccination cycle, instead of six as was previously the case.

The booster has been available to anyone in Italy aged over 40 since November 22nd, after the government brought forward its planned start date for extending the eligibility criteria by 10 days.

Find out more about how to get your booster shot in Italy here.

Rules for UK travel change

A reminder that anyone planning on visiting the UK in December will have to follow new Covid entry rules from November 30th, due to concerns over the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Those arriving in the UK after 4am on November 30th will need to book and take PCR tests instead of lateral flow tests (also known as quick tests), which will no longer be accepted.

Travellers will need to take a PCR test by the end of the second day after arriving in the UK, quarantining until a negative test result comes back.

Any questions? Here’s our article with all the details.

Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Christmas and public holidays

Firstly, Wednesday December 8th is the Immacolata, or Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This important date in the religious calendar is a public holiday in Italy meaning you should get a day off work. And, as it falls midweek, some people will take the opportunity for a two-day ‘bridge’ as well.

As well as celebrating with the customary big family lunch, for many people this is the day Christmas decorations start going up – some see it as the unofficial start of the holidays. You may also find that at many businesses and public offices things start to noticeably slow down as people get into the holiday spirit. All we’re saying is: don’t plan to get much admin done or start any major projects between now and January 6th.

READ ALSO: The Italian holiday calendar for 2021

Christmas Day and Boxing Day fall on a Saturday and Sunday this year – so that means residents of Italy will not get public holidays. Unlike some other countries like the UK and the USA, Italy does not transfer holidays to weekdays when they fall on the weekend.

Also note that December 24th is not an official public holiday in Italy. But many companies do give their staff December 24th off as a gesture. 

It’s the same for New Year’s Eve on December 31st which is also not an official public holiday. Many employers do, however, give this as a paid day off too.

Check with your boss to find out what they’ll be offering staff this year.

New Year – will there be parties and fireworks?

We’ll be ringing in 2022 in just over a month – but at this stage, no one knows quite what that will look like. 

The corks are supposed to pop at famous public celebrations from Naples to Venice. But will the pandemic allow it this time? Last New Year’s Eve, we were forbidden from holding even a small house party under strict coronavirus ‘red zone’ rules.

So far, Italy’s government is still insisting that such strict measures will not be necessary again this holiday season. Instead, Italy is relying on the green pass system to keep businesses open and rules relaxed (at least compared to last year) and ministers recently said this holiday season will be “like any other before Covid” – at least if you’re vaccinated, and unless the health situation changes.

But with rising case numbers around Europe and the detection of the first Omicron variant cases in Italy leading to new travel restrictions, the situation still remains unpredictable.

Member comments

  1. Please can anyone tell me whether you will need the ‘super green pass’ to go on ski lifts? We are travelling to Italy from the UK in December and our two boys (13 & 15) are not double vaccinated. I am worried they will not be able to access ski lifts if they can not get the super pass.

  2. I have the UK NHS Certificate and APP and already had both + Booster Jab. How does this link to the new Super Green Pass. Previously the paper copy has worked with the scanner (in most cases). Will the SG Pass still recognise the NHS QR Code? I work a lot in Italy… thanks

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QUALITY OF LIFE

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

Yet another survey of Rome’s foreign residents has rated the Italian capital dismally for quality of life. Jessica Phelan explains why she too disliked the city when she first moved here, and what helped to change her mind.

A view over the city of Rome at sunset.
Life in Rome can take a while to get used to. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

If you’d told me four years ago that I’d be coming to Rome’s defence, I would have told you: Ma va’. Yeah right, get out of town. And I would have said I’d be long gone myself. 

And yet, as the latest InterNations survey of expats around the world puts Rome in last place for city life and work, here I am not only still living here but saying out loud: this place isn’t so bad.

It’s not that I don’t get where my unhappy fellow foreigners are coming from. I never dreamed of Rome before I moved here and found it far from dreamy once I arrived, in summer 2017. I’d grown up a short flight away (the UK) and lived in European capitals (Paris, Berlin) for several years, and after a stint further afield (Japan), I naively thought that moving to Rome would feel like coming home. 

Instead I found myself complaining to anyone who would listen about the same things that InterNations’ respondents listed as Rome’s downsides. The unreliable public transport. The scant public services. The politicians on the take. The provincialism. The rubbish – good grief, the rubbish. The inequality and lack of opportunities for young people – and lack of young people themselves, as it seemed in certain neighbourhoods. 

READ ALSO: Rome and Milan ranked ‘worst’ cities to live in by foreign residents – again

Sure, I liked the food and I couldn’t argue with the weather, but it felt frivolous to enjoy the small pleasures amid what I began to see as existential flaws. They spiralled for me into the impression of a city on the brink: the trash is piled shoulder-high because people here don’t care about anyone else, I told myself.

The fact everyone assumes I’m a tourist means they’re not used to anyone who doesn’t look or sound like them. I’m struggling to meet other young professionals – it must be a sign that the best and the brightest have all left. Because really, who’d choose to live here?

Photo: Andreas SOLARO/AFP

Partly it was because I didn’t feel I had chosen to live here. I had moved for my American partner’s teaching job, and nothing was more alienating than encountering people who were stubbornly, unaccountably, in love with the place – or an idea of it. An awkward pause would ensue as I contemplated whether to mumble something innocuous about gelato or take it upon myself to debunk their romantic notions and expose what I was convinced was the ‘real’ Rome – dirty, dysfunctional, doomed. 

It wasn’t all in my head. As the InterNations survey has shown for several years straight, many foreign transplants report deep dissatisfaction with the city. So do Romans as a whole: one survey in 2020 found that most residents said their quality of life had worsened in the past five years. Global studies have named Rome one of the unhealthiest cities in Europe, and its roads some of the most dangerous. When Italians compile the list of the ‘best places to live in Italy’, there’s a reason why Rome never comes close to the top ten. 

In fact, every time I lamented the city’s decline, I fitted in better than I realised: no one complains more about Rome than Romans themselves.

Photo: Alberto PIZZOLI/AFP

There was perverse comfort to be had in realising that people born and raised here saw the same things I did and found them just as galling. La grande monnezza, they call it: forget ‘the great beauty’ (la grande bellezza), it’s the great rubbish dump. Roma fa schifo, as a popular local blog has it. Rome is disgusting. 

Huh, I began to think I scrolled through photos of egregiously parked cars or smirked at another meme about the incompetents in city hall, maybe we can get on after all. It was a glimpse of a dark, deeply cynical humour that was one of the first things about Rome I had to admit I liked.

READ ALSO:

Gradually, other qualities forced their way into view. I moved from a stuffy neighbourhood in the west of the historic centre to outside the city walls in the east and discovered that yes, other people under 50 do live here, no, not every foreigner is a tourist or study-abroad student, and thank goodness, not every restaurant serves only Italian food. Our new apartment was bigger, and bigger by far than anything our relatively modest incomes would have got us in the capitals of our home countries.

In fact, I suspected I wasn’t living in a capital city at all. Milan is where most of the money and opportunities within Italy are to be found, which has long made it a more logical place to move to for Italians and foreigners alike. I envy Milan’s metamorphosing skyline and cosmopolitan population – things I associate with ‘real’ cities.

But what do you know: if Rome comes 57th in the InterNations survey, Milan comes 56th. The responses suggest that housing is more expensive and harder to find up there, and the cost of living higher. 

I’ll leave it to people who live there to say what it’s really like, but I wonder if there are other trade-offs: I’d take the people-watching and window-shopping in Milan over Rome any day, but would I have to wear the ‘right’ clothes to fit in? I might have more chances to get ahead, but would I be judged on my job title or salary, and would people be more competitive? For better or worse, these aren’t things I have to worry about in Rome.

OPINION: Why Milan is a much better city to live in than Rome

Lucky for me I can afford not to: I’m not one of the 41 percent of foreign residents in Rome who told InterNations their disposable household income is not enough to cover expenses. Salaries are low here, and the cost of living – not visiting – can be higher than you might think. I’m in the privileged position of working for international employers, who pay better than local ones, and of splitting the bills with someone else in the same boat. We’re comfortable, but Rome isn’t the place to make your fortune.

So it’s no economic powerhouse. But culturally it’s got more life than I first gave it credit for. The things I’d assumed were missing altogether – new music, interesting events, a mix of people and backgrounds – were all there, they were just on a smaller scale and correspondingly harder to find. (Places to start looking: mailing lists, venues’ Facebook or Instagram pages, Zero.)

Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

In other cities I felt I’d made inroads by the end of the first year; in Rome, I was still at least another year away from meeting the friends who’d become my group here and, in turn, introduce me to people and places I wouldn’t have found on my own.

More than other cities, people say that Rome – the Rome that’s not in guidebooks, at least – is da scoprire, ‘to discover’ or even ‘unearth’. While you’re digging, having an ‘in’ can make all the difference. 

In some ways, Covid-19 also helped to rehabilitate Rome for me. The seriousness with which most people took the pandemic, and the camaraderie my neighbours showed throughout that first bewildering lockdown, proved that Romans were more than capable of caring for strangers. The months that followed, when we were confined to city or regional limits, taught me to appreciate the possibilities I might otherwise have ignored: travel might be impossible, but at least I had woods, lakes, mountains, waterfalls and the Mediterranean on my doorstep.

Other things I had to work around, or simply live with. I’m as convinced now as I was four years ago that Rome’s public transport system is woefully inadequate, but now I mainly avoid it: I walk or cycle as much as I can. In fact a whole alternative network of shared transport has sprung up in the time I’ve been here, from e-bikes to car shares and scooters, or monopattini.

Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

I’m yet to see a fix for the city’s rubbish problem, but I no longer assume it’s all the residents’ fault. It’s the result of decades of misuse of public funds, graft and organized crime – hardly reassuring, but marginally less bleak than thinking that none of your neighbours give a damn.

Because always, of course, there are people trying to improve things – by protesting, by voting, by picking up litter, even by filling in potholes on the sly. (Remember that if you’re a citizen of another EU country living in Rome, you have the right to vote in city elections too.) Doing the work yourself doesn’t absolve the authorities of the responsibility to do it, but in the meantime, as one acquaintance put it, at least your sidewalk is clean.

And those small pleasures: I finally gave myself permission to enjoy them. I like cracker-thin Roman pizza, supposedly kept from rising by the city’s hard water. I like sun that dries my laundry even in December. I like the view of mountains on a clear day. I like the light that glows golden around half an hour before sunset and works a kind of magic on ochre walls and brick bell towers and crumbling aqueducts.

In my fifth year here, I know now that these things don’t blind me to Rome’s faults, nor do I have to pretend not to see them to prove I’m not just another tourist. I live here; sometimes it’s bad; and most days, at about 5pm, looking over the rooftops, it’s good.

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