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Political demonstrations in Italy can reach fever — and sometimes violent — pitch, which has prompted the U.S. State Department to warn Americans traveling to or living in Italy to be cautious in light of next month’s national elections.

“There is a higher state of alert in Italy due to the run-up of political elections,” said Benedict Duffy, a spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Rome.

“Demonstrations are planned in various parts of the country in anticipation of the upcoming Italian Parliamentary elections April 9 and 10, and municipal elections in May,” reads a portion of the State Department’s public announcement, posted Tuesday on the department’s Web site. The alert expires June 19.

U.S. citizens either traveling to or living in Italy should avoid areas where crowds have gathered, take common-sense precautions, and closely follow media reports, the statement reads, adding “demonstrations may be large, but even peaceful demonstrations have the potential to escalate into violence.”

A 25-year-old sailor living in Naples said that while he doesn’t anticipate changing social plans while off his base, he would heed the State Department warning to avoid demonstrators.

“Italian political demonstrations don’t make a difference in how I plan for entertainment or dinner or visiting with friends; however, if I go to an area where there is a demonstration, then I would change plans to avoid coming in direct contact with the rally,” said the sailor, who asked not to be named because U.S. Navy officials have told sailors to refrain from commenting on sensitive issues regarding the host nation.

“We constantly remind our people regionwide to avoid large crowds whenever possible and to stay alert to their surroundings,” said Chief Petty Officer John Musser, a spokesman for Navy Region Europe. “If confronted in any way, walk away. Although demonstrations are usually peaceful, there is always the potential for violence and we don’t want anyone getting caught up in that.”

On March 11, demonstrations by No Global anti-globalization movement protesters turned violent in Milan, according to media reports.

Also, the department’s announcement Tuesday reminds Americans of continuing threats of terrorist attacks worldwide stemming for the U.S.-led presence in Iraq, and that “Italy continues to be under heightened public threat by al-Qaida and other Islamic extremists for its continued participation in multinational activities in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The State Department Web site is found at: http://www.travel.state.gov.

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