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Greece, Italy to discuss rail ‘restart’ after tragedy: PM

Greece's Prime Minister on Friday said he would discuss with Italy safety improvements on Greek trains run by an Italian state company in the wake of last month's rail tragedy.

Greece, Italy to discuss rail 'restart' after tragedy: PM
Wrecked wagons and mangled pieces of metal are seen near the tracks after a train accident in the Tempi Valley near Larisa, Greece, March 1, 2023. Photo: Sakis MITROLIDIS/AFP

“We will have the opportunity to discuss the way in which the Italian government…will be able to support the restart of Greece’s railways in a more active and substantial way,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told reporters at a eurozone leaders’ summit in Brussels.

Mitsotakis said Italian counterpart Giorgia Meloni had accepted an invitation to talks in Athens before the Greek general election in May.

“I believe we have the potential to jointly create a new future for our railways, whereby the Italian company will invest more in reliable, safer and faster trains” and Greece “will invest more in our network, its safety and its possible expansion”, Mitsotakis said.

Greece’s intercity trains went under private management in 2017, when state-owned Greek rail traffic services operator TrainOSE was privatised and sold to Italy’s Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane, becoming Hellenic Train.

Greek state company OSE still owns the tracks.

On February 28, two trains collided head-on after running on the same track for several kilometres (miles), killing 57 people. It was Greece’s worst ever rail disaster.

Most of the victims were university students returning from a long holiday weekend.

Greece’s transport minister resigned and the disaster sparked weeks of angry and occasionally violent protests, piling pressure on Mitsotakis’ conservative government ahead of the election.

The stationmaster on duty during the accident and three other railway officials have been charged and face possible life sentences.

But Greece’s rail watchdog found serious safety problems across the network, including inadequate basic training for critical staff.

Railway unions had long warned the network was underfunded, understaffed and accident-prone after a decade of spending cuts.

Mitsotakis said he would also discuss migration issues — a priority for both countries — with Meloni during her visit.

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TOURISM

What is Italy’s ‘tourist tax’ and where do you need to pay it?

Whether you're staying in a big city, a seaside holiday spot or an Alpine resort, when visiting Italy there’s a good chance you’ll have to pay a 'tourist tax' on top of your accommodation bill. 

What is Italy’s 'tourist tax' and where do you need to pay it?

What is the ‘tourist tax’?

Italy’s ‘tourist tax’, also known as imposta di soggiorno, is a charge imposed by some Italian cities on visitors staying in local accommodation establishments (hotels, B&Bs, vacation rentals, hostels, campsites, etc.).

The idea behind the charge is that visitors use services during their trip that are partly paid for by local residents’ taxes and the imposta di soggiorno passes on some of that cost to tourists themselves.

The collected funds are earmarked for services that benefit both tourists and locals, such as maintaining the city centre, running public transport, putting on cultural events or offering free wifi.

Where do I have to pay it?

Local authorities have the right to decide whether or not to charge the tourist tax.

In 2011, when the tax was first introduced, only 13 comuni (town councils) applied the tax, whereas well over 1,000 imposed it in 2023.

Though there’s no exhaustive list of Italian comuni currently charging the tax, most big cities, including Venice, Bologna, Florence, Rome and Milan, and tourist hotspots around the country (Gallipoli, Sorrento, Ischia, Cortina, etc.) have it in place.  

READ ALSO: Seven ‘secret’ UNESCO World Heritage sites in Italy you need to visit

If you’re unsure on whether or not the city or town you’re planning on staying in charges the tourist tax, it’s generally advisable to look for an imposta di soggiorno item in the tributi (taxes) section of the local comune website – or alternatively run a Google search of this sort: comune di [town] + imposta di soggiorno + relevant year.

Pitti square, Florence

A view of Pitti square in Florence in June 2013. Photo by CLAUDIO GIOVANNINI / AFP

Who has to pay?

Barring local residents, anyone staying in an accommodation establishment (this goes for hotels, B&Bs, holiday homes, campsites, hostels, etc.) in a city that applies the tourist tax must pay the charge.

This applies to both foreign nationals and Italian citizens.

Children under a certain age are generally exempt from the tourist tax, though the age limit varies from city to city – for instance, it’s 18 in Milan, 12 in Florence and 10 in Rome.

Other exemptions may include elderly guests, guests with disabilities, hospital patients and their carers, students, or tour guides. 

How much is it? 

The exact rates of Italy’s tourist tax are entirely at the discretion of local authorities, which is why you can expect to be charged different amounts in different parts of Italy. 

Further, rates generally change based on the type of accommodation, with higher tariffs in place for guests staying in luxury establishments.

For instance, this is an overview of Rome’s tourist tax rates per night:

  • One-star hotels: €4
  • Two-star hotels: €5
  • Three-star hotels: €6
  • Four-star hotels: €7,50
  • Five-star hotels: €10
  • B&Bs: €6
  • Agriturismi (holiday farmhouses): €6
  • Hostels: €3.50
  • Campsites: €3

These rates refer to a single guest, which means that a couple staying seven nights in a three-star hotel should expect to add €84 – (€6 x 2) x 7 – to their accommodation bill.

Most local authorities set a cap on how many nights are taxed. For example, Rome will only tax the first ten days of your stay (or five days in the case of campsites), while in Florence the limit is seven nights.

Rome, Colosseum

A tourist takes a picture during a visit to Rome’s Colosseum in February 2021. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

Furthermore, some cities lower their tourist tax rates in the low season. For instance, the tourist charge for a four-star hotel in Venice is €4,50 per guest from February 1st to December 31st, and €3,10 from January 1st to January 31st.

It’s worth noting that tourist tax rates and regulations can change fairly frequently, so it’s always best to check the relevant comune website to get the most up-to-date information.

How do I pay the tourist tax?

Guests pay the tourist tax directly to their accommodation structure, which is responsible for declaring it and sending it to the local authorities. 

If you’ve booked directly with your accommodation, they’ll in most cases include it in your accommodation bill. 

If you’ve booked via a tour operator or third-party booking site, you may have to pay the tax separately to your host before the end of your stay.

In all cases however, the tax should be clearly marked on your bill or documented with a receipt if paid separately.

As of February 15th 2024, in some 1,200 comuni around Italy, Airbnb automatically collects the tourist tax on behalf of hosts at the time of booking. In the remaining comuni, collection is still up to hosts, though the process should be automatised for the entire country by the end of the year. 

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