Owners of coffee bar in two Covid zones find Italian rules a grind

Till and coffee machine lie in different regions, each with its own restrictions in force

Vanessa Verruchi and Paolo Marchi Lunardi, owners of L’Appennino da Pacetto
Vanessa Verruchi and Paolo Marchi Lunardi, owners of L’Appennino da Pacetto, stand either side of the regional border. Photograph: L'Appenino da Pacetto
Vanessa Verruchi and Paolo Marchi Lunardi, owners of L’Appennino da Pacetto, stand either side of the regional border. Photograph: L'Appenino da Pacetto

Last modified on Thu 12 Nov 2020 08.26 EST

As if Italy’s coloured three-tiered system to combat coronavirus wasn’t confusing enough, the rules have left the owners of a bar and restaurant in a hamlet that straddles the border of Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna even more baffled.

A historic border map essentially splits the bar area of L’Appennino Da Pacetto, located on a mountain ridge between San Pellegrino in Alpe, a hamlet of 11 residents in the Emilia-Romagna province of Modena, and Castiglione di Garfagnana in the Tuscan province of Lucca, in two.

The coffee machine lies in Tuscany, which on Wednesday was upgraded to the medium-risk orange zone, meaning bars and restaurants have had to close, while the till is in Emilia-Romagna, in the yellow zone, where they can stay open until 6pm.

When the rules were announced, confused regulars called the owners, Paolo Marchi Lunardi and his wife, Vanessa Verucchi, asking if they were still allowed to come for coffee.

For now, the bar, said to be one of the oldest in Italy, is open, with the couple making the coffees in Tuscany and serving and taking payments in Emilia-Romagna, even though technically they would need to fill in a self-declaration form to enter Tuscany. The bar’s licence is also held in Modena. The restaurant, meanwhile, is open as usual as it lies on the Emilia-Romagna side.

The quirk is usually a tourist attraction, drawing visitors keen to take photos of the “border”. But in times of Covid, it’s a nuisance.

“At the moment we’re practically open as we haven’t been told otherwise, nobody knows the rules,” Verucchi told the Guardian. “On top of Italy’s already contorted mechanism of bureaucracy – which I describe as a dinosaur – the confusing Covid rules are an additional burden.”

The church, which also straddles San Pellegrino in Alpe, a resting point for pilgrims over the centuries and today a popular area among hikers, and Castiglione di Garfagnana, faces the same dilemma and so it is unclear whether it can still welcome parishioners.