'I was kicked off a water bus in Venice for wearing the wrong type of mask'

·4-min read
italy face masks travel omicron covid 19 coronavirus - Getty
italy face masks travel omicron covid 19 coronavirus - Getty

Telegraph Travel receives a number of questions from readers each week, with many relating to navigating the complicated travel rules that vary from country to country. Below, Oliver Smith, Assistant Head of Travel, looks into the latest dilemma.

Colin Griffiths writes...

I’ve just returned from a photography holiday in Venice, and used the water buses (vaporetto) for most of my travels around the city and to its outlying islands.

On a trip to the island of Burano last Sunday, I was approached by the conductor and informed that I would have to leave the ferry at the next stop as the face mask I’d brought with me from the UK – and had, until then, used without issue – was not compatible with the ferry company’s policy. Only those with FFP2 written on the side were acceptable, she said.

She added that I would not be allowed back on a water bus without the correct mask and also that I could face a €500 fine! Fortunately, the island of Murano, where I was offloaded, had a pharmacy that was open, and I was able to buy the correct mask and subsequently continue my journey. Visitors to Venice, be warned.

Oliver Smith, Assistant Head of Travel, replies...

While Boris Johnson yesterday announced that all mask rules in England would be scrapped after January 26, European governments appear far less keen to ditch the divisive face covering. Indeed, Italy, as your experience demonstrates, recently tightened its rules. Since December, FFP2 masks (a classification given to those said to filter at least 94% of airborne particles) – or their equivalent N95 masks – are required on public transport, as well as in theatres, concert halls, cinemas and indoor sports venues. Furthermore, the consumption of food and drink in the above locations is banned (lest people spend too much time with their face on show).

The rules, which will remain until at least March 31, are enforced pretty strictly, according to Italian residents.

Anne Hanley, Telegraph Travel’s Venice expert, said: “Occasionally it’s not enforced, but on the whole I’m finding that if you don’t have an FFP2, then you don’t get in. I recently took an elderly lady to Perugia Hospital for an appointment and forgot to tell her to bring one. It was only because the hospital’s vaccine pass checker found her a proper mask that she was allowed across the threshold.”

Sarah Lane, a reporter based near Bologna, said: “The other week my husband wasn’t allowed into the cinema with the mask he was wearing and had to buy an FFP2 one – sold right there in the cinema’s box office, as it turned out.”

The Italian government recently fixed the price of FFP2s at €0.75 per unit and they are widely available in pharmacies. Nevertheless, local newspapers in the country are full of stories of people being fined.

It’s all a far cry from the UK, where cloth face coverings have always been acceptable and enforcement has usually been pretty minimal.

Italy isn’t the only country to have made high-grade masks mandatory. Greece, for example, requires those in certain venues, such as supermarkets and pharmacies, and on public transport, to wear a N95/FFP2 mask, or – failing that – two masks (at least one of which should be surgical).

Heidi Fuller-Love, a reporter based in Crete, said: “The rules are strictly enforced in the larger cities – I was even ticked off in an Athens supermarket the other day for not wearing my mask properly; something that never used to happen here – but in smaller towns and the countryside people are pretty lax.”

Germany and Austria both require FFP2 masks to be worn on public transport, while France – like Italy – has banned the consumption of food and drink in sports halls, cinemas and theatres, and the sale of food and drink on trains, to deter people from removing their mask for even a moment.

Whether Europe’s stricter rules on mask wearing have made any difference to infection rates remains debatable. France recently reported a record 460,000 cases in just 24 hours – more than double Britain’s one-day record of 218,000 – nor have Italy, Greece, Germany or Austria managed to stem the tide of omicron.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting