When will Italy let tourists in?
When can we travel to Italy again?
The question everybody is asking - and whether those long awaited holidays can happen or not. There are five main questions that I've tried to answer:
1. When will Italy let tourists in?
Italy has been relaxing its lockdown rules gradually since the 4th of May. In the first phase Italian residents were allowed to travel outside their province - but still needed to carry a written explanation of where they were going and why, with only strictly necessary trips allowed.
From the 18th of May travel will be allowed within each region (Italy has 20 such regions, of which Tuscany is one).
From the 3rd of June, if the infection rates remain under control, Italy will allow citizens of some other EU countries to visit without imposing a 14 day period of self-isolation. At the moment I can only find verified information regarding visitors from Malta, Cyprus, Greece, Slovenia, Portugal, Germany, Spain and Croatia. The UK is not in the list - and of course the UK has never been in the Schengen area and now is no longer in the EU. On the other hand, some articles mention all EU countries , and the UK is technically still part of the EU until the end of 2020. I will try to clarify this over the next few days.
UPDATE 20 May 2020. Have now had confirmation from the Italian Tourist Board:
"You might have already read the news that last weekend the Italian government published a decree confirming that Italy will reopen its borders from June 3rd without restrictions as it seeks to further ease its lockdown and restart the eurozone’s third-largest economy. That will allow entry in and out of the country and lift all restrictions on internal movement in an attempt to kick-start the tourism industry in time for the summer. Giuseppe Conte, Italy’s prime minister, said that the lifting of travel restrictions would only apply to visitors from EU countries ( including the UK), Schengen area, San Marino Republic, Vatican City and Andorra. 14-day isolation quarantine will no longer be mandatory.
Shops are now open again. Disposable gloves will be available when trying clothes on.
Bars and restaurants have re-opened. Guests will be required to keep a 1-metre distance from each other.
Museums are also open, with limited visitors at one time. Masks must be worn inside the museums.
Hairdressers are open. Spas will be allowed to open at a later date.
Hotels and accommodations will have to ensure at least 1-metre social distancing between guests and both staff and guests must wear masks.
Accommodations will be regularly cleaned and disinfected. Air conditioning systems will be checked regularly.
Beaches will be constantly checked. Sun loungers will be disinfected after each use. There will be a space of 10sqm for each umbrella. Large gatherings on free beaches will not be allowed.
Swimming pools will have to follow strict sanitary and disinfecting rules.
Public transport will be regularly disinfected will be provided with on-board hand sanitisers.
Masks must be worn most of the times (always indoor). The temperature might be checked when entering some indoor spaces.
15 June gathering of up to 200 people will be allowed (masks will be mandatory). Cinemas, theatres will open.
Public events that cannot ensure social distancing cannot go-ahead for the time being. At the moment, there is no date for the reopening of nightclubs
Finally, if everything goes according to plan, by the 15th of June, cinemas, theatres, sports events and similar will re-open. If UK residents are not allowed into Italy by the 3rd of June, hopefully we will be the 15th. For US residents the situation is more complex and I'm afraid I have no advice at the moment - I imagine it depends more on how the situtation develops in the US rather than Italy.
2. What will the experience be like?
While travel restrictions are being relaxed there are a number of rules that will still have to be observed - though I imagine that some will be relaxed if the contagion levels continue to drop.
Stewards or officers can still take your temperature any time you're in a public space. Public officials might still ask you take your temperature while you're in public spaces, and you must consent.
Social distancing must still be observed, incuding in restaurants, bars and shops. Many restaurants have already installed plexi-glass separators to keep diners at a distance. Shops and restaurants must keep records of visitors for 14 days (not sure how they will manage to gather all this data). Bookings to be "privileged" over walk-ins and all staff to wear face-masks. Clients must also wear face-masks when they're not sitting at their table.
Villa holidays will be more attractive than Hotel stays. There are a lot of rules - as you'd expect - about managing communal spaces in hotels. Luckily all of these don't apply if you're staying in your private villa. But cleaning must be more in depth between guests - we are finding out which are the most efficient and safe ways to manage deep-cleaning procedures between guests. Checking in and checking out will need to be done following social-distancing rules but this will be very simple to set up.
Most villas offer grocery delivery and catering services. Should you wish, you can stay in your villa and have groceries delivered directly.
Will museums be open? I can't find this out. There is a great desire to re-open museums but it may well be taken on a case by case basis depending on the size and popularity of the venue. For example, I can imagine that the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena might re-open, while the narrow stairway up the Torre del Mangia would remain close - it's impossible to maintain any social distancing during a visit.
3. What will travel be like?
Self-isolation. The most immediate problem will be the UK's recent decision to introduce, starting on the 8th of June, a 14 day period of self-isolation upon return from any travel. This makes travel far less attractive and is a mystifying decision, given that UK airports have been open throughout the last three months. I will update this as I get news. For more information see this FT article on the rules
Flying. Airports will have to change the check-in processes and procedures - many already have. There are distances to be observed and hand-sanitinsing stations before and after the security screening. Personal items, like wallets or belts, should be put inside your hand-luggage, and not on the tray. Flight attendants will wear masks and there may well be no food or drink served on board.
Past the airport. Travellers may not use public transport - so hiring a car or booking a car and driver will be less of a choice and more of a requirement.
Driving from the UK. I imagine many might choose to drive rather than fly and, as long as you have booked good, spacious hotels to stop at along the way, it seems a very safe option. I shall probably drive down soon - I will report back on the experience when I have. For information on routes and timing have a look at Driving to Italy from the UK.
4. Can I avoid self-isolation when we return?
This depends on the UK government. At the moment the advice is to self-isolate if you show symptoms, but there have been rumours this might change. The relevant UK gov page is Government Travel Advice.
5. Should I book a holiday for this summer?
The big question. Our feeling is that travel should be possible and that, as the situation improves, it will become easier. We also feel that, once you're in your villa, everything will feel fairly normal and not much different from a normal, everyday, pre-COVID holiday. So the squeeze point is the travel and for that we have to see what the airlines propose and how easy and safe air-travel is.
A note on insurance - it's also worth pointing out that you should read your travel insurance documents carefully as it may be invalid if you travel when official advice is against all but non-essential travel. You can check the FCO advice here: Foreign Office Travel Advice
The situation will become clearer as we move forward - today is the 18th of May.
Zero cost bookings. In order to help, we're taking bookings for this summer with no deposit until the situation is clearer, so until the 10th of June. So if you think you'd like to travel this summer but aren't sure how things will pan out, why not put a holding reservation on your favourite property at no cost, with the deposit only due on the 10th of June. If at that point you decide to cancel there is no penalty or cost. The only proviso is that this should be for bookings that are from mid July onwards.