After so many months of grounded planes, no travel plans and staying put in one place, it can be difficult to imagine what life is currently like in different parts of the world. And yet, despite the pandemic, life does continue – albeit a little differently for now.
To understand exactly what has changed and what the true reality of what life is like in Italy right now, we caught up with Travel Director Maria to find out more…
How have you seen Italy change over the last 8 months, from lockdown to now?
In our villages, towns and cities, everything seems a lot quieter since we lost all tourism from outside Europe, and the Italians stayed at home during lockdown following all the rules such as sanitizing, wearing masks in public, queuing up to enter shops, banks, and generally trying not to assemble in groups. Our trains have distancing and sanitizing measures in place.
What was lockdown like in Italy – how did you stay busy?
I am privileged as I live in the country in northern Tuscany, and have a large garden so lockdown started in the spring, therefore my husband and I kept busy in the garden, spring cleaning, looking after my parents, going out for walks, and only venturing out to the shops once a week. Most of my foodstuffs I get from my farmer neighbours and some we grow ourselves. I also do yoga and enjoy writing, so there was always a lot to do. Plus I concentrated on nutrition and a diet for myself and managed to lose 10kg, which was a huge hurdle for me!
How did people feel when lockdown was lifted?
Of course the Italians were very pleased finally to be able to go out from the 3rd June onwards. This meant going to cafes, restaurants, gyms, to work, and to resume a relatively normal lifestyle, albeit with the usual sanitizing and the wearing of masks.
Also they started to travel, mostly within the country, and go to the mountains, national parks (of which we have several), spending time within nature (Italy has the most varied flora and fauna in Europe), going to the beaches etc.
How busy has Italy been over the summer – were there many international tourists or mainly locals?
We were relatively busy outside the big cities, particularly at the beaches and mountain areas. The small villages were also popular as it was a way of keeping away from the crowds. Most of the travellers were Italian, but there were also European visitors, particularly from France, Germany and the UK.
How did summer 2020 compare to a normal summer in Italy?
The busiest month was August as usual, but there was no comparison with other years as there was hardly any tourism from outside Europe. Our main cities remained quiet, such as Rome, Milan, Venice and Florence. The off the beaten track areas had more visitors.
RELATED CONTENT: Here’s where our Trafalgar community plan on travelling to in 2021
Where did you travel to over the summer?
I only went to visit friends and relatives in the south of Italy, and otherwise stayed in my area where there are beaches and mountains nearby, so there was no need for me to go too far. It was a chance to visit some places in my area that normally I would not have time to go to, since in the summer I would be taking Trafalgar guests on our lovely trips.
Are Italy’s main tourist attractions open, and how have they been adapted to allow for social distancing?
Most attractions were opened again from June onwards, although now for the next month they will not be.
All of our public buildings, attractions, museums etc. had organized themselves following the social distancing rules and mask wearing. Even when going to the beach, at least where I live, to enter the beach area you had to arrive with a mask, sanitize your hands, then go to your spot on the beach, at 1.5m from others and only then could take your mask off. I went to a local museum and there the staff made sure that visitors did not get close to each other.
RELATED CONTENT: How to prioritise your health and wellbeing on your next trip
Do people tend to respect social distancing when out and about? Is it easy to social distance?
I have to say that mostly, Italians are very respectful of social distancing, bearing in mind our gregarious nature! In the supermarket sometimes it was more difficult but the staff were vigilant, which helped. Even going out for walks and exercising out in the fresh air, people kept their distance.
Is Italy missing receiving visitors from overseas?
Yes, very much so. Our hotels in the cities were virtually empty, and also our museums and other attractions. Without our visitors from outside Europe, Italy’s tourist industry cannot survive. Tourism, so the government says, counts for 13% of our GDP, but personally I feel it is much more than that. Tourism doesn’t just give jobs to travel companies, hotels, B&Bs, transport companies, museums and attractions, taxis and bar and restaurant workers, but also without tourism, shops, handicrafts markets and stores, the production of foodstuffs (the suppliers to hotels, bars, cafes, gastronomy shops), farming, wine production etc. all suffer in the end.
What would you say to people in two minds about visiting Italy next year?
I think that once we get over this last part of our hurdle right now in tackling the virus, then I feel that next year will be a great time to visit Italy – especially with the positive news of a possible vaccine on the horizon! It will not be as crowded as before the pandemic, so social distancing will not be a problem. Italians have gotten used to it, and know how to deal with certain situations. I feel that it is one of the safest countries to visit in Europe, because of the various protocols in place at our public spots and airports in dealing with the virus. Italians care about their health and that of others.
Once the flights are in place there is no need to worry about coming over here. Trafalgar are leading the way in ensuring the implementation of safe travel measures, and have your safety at the heart of everything they do. So see you all soon!
If you are ready to start dreaming of your 2021 escape to Italy, head over to Trafalgar’s website to discover all of our incredible tours to Italy.