Written by: George Pattinson
Published on 31 March 2020
This article is part of a special series by Lonely Planet on the coronavirus pandemic. Check out the other articles in the series:
How To Travel Safely When Travelling To Italy
Travelling to Italy during the pandemic was never going to be easy, but now that the country is on the road to recovery it’s opened up a world of opportunities for travellers.
With a little planning and awareness, you can follow safe travel protocols and ensure your visit is as positive an experience as possible.
The article below will advise on how to minimise your risks and make the most of your trip.
Book Your Accommodation In Advance
Accommodation is one of the most important factors of a travel experience. It can make or break your whole trip. If you want to stay in good hotels, eat in top restaurants and see the sights, you’ll need to book your accommodation in advance. Booking accommodation in advance also gives you the chance to change your plans easily if something happens. For example, if the hotel you’ve booked is completely booked due to the pandemic, you can find a nearby alternative or swap.
You’ll also want to make sure that the accommodation you choose is virus-free. There are many hotels around Italy that haven’t upgraded their protocols and haven’t taken the necessary measures to ensure that guests aren’t carrying the virus. Make sure to book your hotel rooms and make reservations at restaurants and eateries in advance so that you can ensure they’re prepared to welcome you and ensure your stay is as pleasant as possible.
Use Mask And Gloves
For many of us, the fear of getting sick is what stops us from stepping out into the world. If you’ve been trapped inside for too long, the idea of going somewhere new and possibly catching a virus can feel daunting. But, as with most things in life, there are pros and cons to everything. Going to Italy without a mask is like going to the beach without a swimsuit on: it’s not a great look.
Even if you stay healthy, you don’t want to be putting yourself in unnecessary risks. Going to Italy without gloves is like going out for a jog without your shoes: it’s asking for trouble. Wearing masks and gloves can help shield you from the spread of viruses, preventing you from infecting others. It can also help protect the health of the people you’re with. Plus, it makes you feel better preparing yourself for the outside world. You’ll feel less vulnerable and more in control.
Stay In The Major Cities
If you want to visit the biggest and most famous cities in Italy, it’s best to stay there. Staying in smaller towns and staying in one place too long can put you at risk of spreading the virus. Trying to visit all the attractions in a single day is also asking for trouble. Crowds are gathering and the atmosphere is changing as soon as the gates open. Trying to enjoy your experience as a healthy visitor to Italy can be hard when you’re surrounded by people who’ve come from outside of the town to spend a day there. Staying in the larger cities also means you have more opportunities for shopping, eating out and getting around without having to rely on public transport.
Italians call their afternoon break a “riposo”. In English, we might call it a “power nap” or “power hour”. In the middle of the day, Italians have traditionally gone about their daily business. They’ve got shops to run, offices to go to and children to look after. In the early afternoon, they’ve taken a break from their busy days and have gotten themselves a coffee or a pasticcio (small pastry) to enjoy in the late afternoon.
In the early stages of the pandemic, people were still going to work, shutting themselves in the office all day long, coming home at the end of the day and crashing out for a few hours. Now that many businesses have closed down and people are managing much less busy schedules, the time in between lunch and dinner has opened up.
If you’ve got the chance to travel to Italy during these times, you can probably assume that most people aren’t going to be having fun. But, with many people working from home, the evening has turned into a time for families and friends to get together, stay at home and enjoy some quality bonding time.
Avoid Public Transport
Unless you live in a large town, most of us won’t have much access to bus, rail or ferry networks. If we do, it’ll probably be a private company that we pay for the privilege of using their services. Even if you use a private vehicle to get around, it’s still risky to be out on the open road. Driving yourself to the train or bus station can put you at risk of getting sick, as can walking to the bus stop. If you do get sick, it could be difficult to get a taxi or bus to take you to your hotel, particularly if you’re traveling during the off-peak season.
Use A Travel Agent
Italians are famous for their service-oriented society. Getting a coffee machine delivered to your home is just one example of the quality of service they’re capable of offering. When it comes to travel, they’ll go that extra mile to make sure you have everything you need. Even booking flight and accommodation as soon as possible is something of a custom in Italy. Most inhabitants don’t like to wait for things. Especially not when there’s a will to do something.
Travel agents represent a middleman, taking the hassle out of booking everything yourself. You tell them what you want, and they do the rest. While it’s not always necessary to use a travel agent, it’s definitely worth it in this case. Letting someone else do the work means you can sit back and enjoy your holiday without having to worry about a thing.
Only Travel To Needed Places
To go to Italy and not stay in the major cities might feel like a step back in time. If you stay in one place for too long, you’ll find many people wearing masks and gloves, even at the local food market. Trying to get a glimpse of the real Italy can feel like a challenge. Even getting a taxi to take you to the airport can be difficult. In many regions, the number of available vehicles has dropped significantly during the pandemic. The fewer people going to places, the less there is to go around. There are fewer opportunities for tourists, but more for locals, who are looking to get back out there and enjoy their freedom once more.
Only Visit Attractions And Museums
Once you’ve arrived in Italy, it’s important to start making plans for how you’re going to spend your time. Staying in one place too long can seriously damage your travel experience. If you really want to get out of the city and see the countryside, you’ll need a good reason for going somewhere besides just wandering around.
Museums and cultural attractions are a good way to do that. There are so many stories behind the items on display inside, and getting a sense of history is something that everyone can enjoy.
Use Local Guides
Italians are extremely proud of their culture and the opportunity to share it with the world. Many are putting in extra hours to make sure that you have a good experience and can get the most out of your trip. A local guide isn’t just going to point you in the right direction, they’re going to tell you everything you need to know. They’ll answer all your questions and give you an insight into the place you’re visiting. The only way to get to know Italy is by getting out there and exploring as much as you can. A local guide is going to be able to take you to places that you wouldn’t normally find on your own, giving you a unique perspective on the country and its inhabitants.
Don’t Forget The Basics
As we’ve established, being mindful about your health and safety is one of the most important things you can do while traveling. When it comes to Italy, it’s particularly crucial to follow the basics. Make sure you wash your hands regularly, stay hydrated and avoid contact with sick people and animals. Most importantly, if you do get sick, make sure that you isolate yourself from other people as much as possible. Staying home alone in your apartment isn’t going to make you feel better. Going to a town, shopping center or restaurant crowded with people is. This is especially important if you’re in a country where the virus is still circulating, or if you’ve been in Italy for a while and are starting to feel sick again.