The fall is a glorious time of year to travel to Italy. While many readers of the Italian Tribune have already made their plans, there are some things to be aware of for first time travelers to Italy and even for some seasoned visitors. A growing number of tourist destinations around the world now add in an additional tax for stays. Since 2011, all municipalities have been authorized to levy a tax on anyone staying overnight in tourist accommodations, with the tax to be paid directly by the visitor.
To be accurate, Italy has been taxing tourists since 1910. It began with a tax on beach resorts that was gradually extended to other vacation destinations. That levy was withdrawn in 1989, only to be reintroduced in Rome two decades later and then extended to all of Italy.
The concept behind the tax is that since visitors use facilities and services during their trips that are paid for by local residents’ taxes, the tassa di soggiorno, or occupancy tax, passes on some of that cost to tourists themselves. The funds collected are earmarked for public services that benefit both tourists and locals, such as maintaining city cultural centers, running public transportation, as well as putting on cultural events.
Local councils have the right to decide whether to impose such a tax and many of Italy’s most popular destinations have done so, including Rome, Venice, Florence, Naples, Milan, Bologna, Turin, the Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre and the Lake Como area. Anyone staying in tourist accommodations in these areas has to pay the charge directly to their host. The same rules apply to both foreign nationals and Italian citizens. Additionally, although each area provides an exemption from the occupancy tax for children, the age limit varies considerably. In Milan and Naples, the exemption applies for those who are less than 18, but in Sorrento, the exclusion applies to those who are less than six years of age. There may be other exemptions for senior citizens, guests with disabilities and students.
The occupancy tax is calculated per adult guest, per night. The exact rate is at the discretion of the local council, which is why visitors are charged different amounts in different parts of Italy and different amounts, based upon the type of accommodations.
As an example, in Rome, a stay in a one and two-star hotels carries a surcharge of €3, but it increases incrementally to €7 for five-star hotels. This would add €56 to a four-night stay for two people. Florence is a bit less, topping out at €5 per person, per night in a five-star hotel. In Venice, there are different rates charges depending upon whether you stay in the historic center, on other islands or on the mainland. Many places also set a cap on how many nights are taxed. Florence only taxes the first seven nights of a stay, while in Rome, the limit is ten nights for hotels. Some towns lower their rates in the off-season or waive the tax altogether.
Visitors are sometimes surprised to find the need to pay extra upon arrival when they believe that they have already paid for the room in full. Such is the case if the occupancy tax had not been added in already. In most of the major hotels, the fee is already included and clearly marked on the bill.
Finally, Venice has announced it will introduce a landing fee aimed at those who visit the city without staying overnight. Effectively, it is an entry charge that will range from €2.50 – €10, depending on the season and it will apply to all non-residents arriving in the historic center, though not to visitors who have reserved accommodations and will instead pay the occupancy tax. The fee will go into effect in January 2020. But even with the additional fees associated with travel – there is still no place like Italy.