On the ground: What the scene in Italy is like right now
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Now that Italy is reopening, you might be wondering what it’s actually like on the ground.
As an American based in Rome, I’ve been here for the duration of the pandemic, so believe me when I say things feel much more normal now than they have at any point since March of 2020.
Of course, that doesn’t mean things are exactly as they were before. The pandemic’s effects will still be felt for many months.
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Still, a spirit of optimism is finally returning to Italy and can be felt just about everywhere I’ve been. Restaurants are full, hotel occupancy is at an all-time high since the start of the pandemic, and a number of new openings are bringing a bit of excitement to the country.
“Travel is tiptoeing back [and] the tourists are slowly returning to Italy. It’s a pleasure to see them and quite nice that we didn’t automatically spring back to regular tourism levels,” Zoe Shapiro, who just launched Stellavision Travel, a new tour company aimed at female travelers, told TPG.
“Slow, sustainable, year-round travel is good for the industry and good for Italy’s historic sites. It’s why we run small group tours at Stellavision, for eight to 10 women. And I think it’s what we’ll experience in 2021 [and 2022].”
So, if you’re thinking of planning a trip to Italy in the near future, here’s what you need to expect.
As of June 21, travelers coming from the U.S., Canada, Japan and the EU no longer need to take COVID-tested flights to travel to Italy, but can enter with a green certificate instead.
The new ordinance requires such passengers to provide one of the following: proof of vaccination completed at least 14 days prior to entering Italy; a negative antigen or molecular swab test taken within 48 hours prior to entering Italy; or proof of having recovered from COVID-19.
Passengers still need to complete the European Digital Passenger Locator form prior to departure. Vaccinated travelers must have received one of the four vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson or Astra Zeneca).
According to AFAR, Delta and American have suspended their COVID-tested flights and are abiding by the new entry requirements instead.
Are masks required in Italy?
As I write this, masks are required in public — both indoors and outdoors — but that’s set to change on June 28, when the Italian government plans to lift the requirement of wearing masks outdoors, except in situations where it’s impossible to maintain social distancing.
They’ll still be required on any form of public transit and when entering enclosed spaces, such as museums, shops and restaurants (except while eating and drinking).
What’s open and closed?
Just about everything is open: museums, archeological sites, shops, restaurants, bars, beaches, pools and more.
At restaurants, up to six people can be seated together indoors; outdoors there’s no restriction.
The only places still closed are nightclubs, though the government is considering reopening them starting July 10, according to local news site Wanted in Rome. It looks likely that the green certificate will be required for entry to Italy’s nightclubs. The national curfew was also eliminated on June 21.
One thing to keep in mind is that many museums began requiring visitors to purchase timed tickets in advance in order to better control the number of visitors and ensure social distancing. And while some museums (mostly smaller ones) have eliminated this requirement, others still have it in place.
For example, I recently visited the Giardino dei Tarocchi sculpture garden in Tuscany, and even though it’s almost completely outdoors, I had to book timed tickets online. So if museums, archeological sites and other attractions are part of your travel plans, check in advance to see if they require timed tickets.
Italy’s 20 regions are color-coded based on the number of COVID-19 cases, with restrictions corresponding to the region’s color.
A region going into a red zone signifies a total lockdown; orange zone means a partial lockdown; yellow zone means things are mostly open with some restrictions; white zone means things are (almost) back to normal.
Currently, every region is a white zone except the Val d’Aosta, which is yellow. But thanks to increasing vaccination rates and low case numbers, all of Italy will likely be in a white zone by the end of June.
“Getting vaccinated is the only way to conclude this dramatic season,” Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza said, according to the national news agency Ansa. Speranza noted that the “vaccination campaign is moving forward with significant numbers.”
Moving around Italy
Travel between white zones and yellow zones is allowed without the need to provide the auto-certification form that was previously required to justify your reason for traveling.
In the past three weeks, I’ve traveled to four other regions (from Lazio to Abruzzo, Tuscany, Umbria and Le Marche) and have never had to present an auto-certification form or COVID-19 test result.
PCR test results may be required to enter Italy from another country, but once you’re in Italy you’re free to move around as you please.
What’s new in Italy
In Rome alone, there are seven major hotel openings this year, including the Hoxton, Rome (opened in May) as well as upcoming properties by Soho House, W, Edition and Shedir Group, which is behind the luxurious Hotel Vilòn.
And after an 8 million euro ($9.5 million), five-year restoration, the 1st-century B.C. Mausoleum of Augustus (Rome’s first emperor) recently reopened to the public. The first round of tickets sold out within 48 hours.
Rome is, of course, hardly the only place with exciting new things to do and places to stay in Italy.
Renowned chef Oliver Glowig recently relocated from Rome to Umbria to launch Locanda Petreja, where he serves gourmet tasting menus using the freshest local ingredients (think: black truffles and Cinta Senese pork) at Borgo Petroro, a 13th-century castle transformed into a country house hotel.
Up north in Portofino, the Belmond Splendido Mare recently emerged from a full renovation. And in Sicily, Villa Igiea just opened its beautiful 19th-century Art Nouveau doors after being taken over and given new life by Rocco Forte Hotels.
Four Seasons is also preparing to open San Domenico Palace in a 14th-century convent in Taormina.
Featured image of Cassino, Italy by Grazyna Myslinkska/EyeEm/Getty Images.
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