Food-loving Italians are flocking to a mountainous region in the north which remains the only part of the country not to have ordered the closure of restaurants at 6pm.
The German-speaking South Tyrol and the neighbouring province of Trento have a high degree of autonomy and their local governments have decided to exempt trattorias from the laws that were applied to the rest of the country on Sunday.
That has lured Italians from neighbouring regions, with some driving several hours to sample the delights of regional specialities such as canederli bread dumplings, goulash, apple strudel and bottles of crisp Muller Thurgau white wine.
Local restaurant owners say they are grateful to be allowed to remain open until 10pm.
With the big All Saints public holiday coming up next month, they are busy taking bookings from Italians who live in other regions in the north, such as Lombardy and Veneto.
They have been dubbed “gastro-dissidents” by one newspaper, as they avoid the law that has shuttered bars and restaurants in the rest of the country.
Restaurant owners in neighbouring regions are deeply unhappy, however, as their regular customers head north for dinner.
“I understand that, but the mistake by the government was to have shut down everything in the rest of the country,” said Alfio Ghezzi, a chef in a restaurant in the town of Rovereto.
“The health crisis is going to last for months. It is simply not sustainable to tackle it by destroying the hospitality sector,” he told La Repubblica newspaper.
A chef from the Wirsthaus Vogele in Bolzano, the provincial capital of South Tyrol, said he was taking reservations from all over northern Italy. It was “a breath of oxygen” for a sector that has been hard hit by the national lockdown in the spring, travel bans and a dearth of tourists.
The owners of osterias, pubs, trattorias and bars have staged protests around the country at the new 6pm closure rule, which was introduced as part of a package of new anti-virus measures on Sunday.
Among the customers at a restaurant in Merano, a ski resort in South Tyrol, were Laura Vallese and Yuri Cardelli, the owners of a restaurant in the region of Emilia-Romagna that has had to close. The disparity between the different parts of the country was not fair, they said.