Article by Lisa Gerard sharp. Italy is once more a beguiling holiday option for British visitors, with travel permitted from 10th July, and no self-isolation once home. But should we be booking?
While Italian borders re-opened almost a month ago, the British have been cooped up at home, with only a cappuccino serving as memory of la dolce vita. That is set to change, with Italy tantalisingly close once more.
Travel to Italy has at last been given the green light, with no need to self-isolate once home. However, there are still several clouds on the holiday horizon as this move does not yet apply to people living in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. A UK-wide approach was expected but for now these are England-only exemptions.
Summer and autumn breaks are now on the cards, even if UK-based travellers will have to hand over their home address to the British authorities. Still, what matters is that, for England at least, the uncertainty caused by current travel restrictions may be over.
As the first European country struck by Covid-19, Italy naturally bore the brunt of negative publicity ever since the first cases were reported in late February. Since then, the tables have turned and Italy has fared better than many countries, including Britain, in combatting the pandemic.
Credit – Support Venice by Lorenzo Quinn
Still torn about travelling?
“Without tourism, Italy dies” is a common complaint heard among everyone from hoteliers to tour operators and guides. In a bid to boost summer tourism, Italy became the first European country to open its borders this June. So far, the decision has been widely applauded at home, despite the low numbers of international visitors.
Major attractions such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Pantheon and Pompeii rely on foreign visitors to fund restoration and keep such world treasures open. Trusted tour operators to Italy need our support, too, if they are still to survive into next year and continue to serve us so well.
After imposing one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe, Italy unilaterally re-opened its borders on June 3rd. Lockdown is lifted, with international tourists lured back by the Italian lifestyle. Post-pandemic, Italy believes in tackling travel differently and has already put many reassuring measures in place. In terms of safety, the UK is way behind the curve.
Credit – Lisa Gerard Sharp
Should we be returning shortly?
The general consensus is that this summer will mostly be dedicated to domestic tourism. That said, international visitors who brave the journey will be rewarded by an Italy that has more time and space to focus on its valued visitors.
More realistically perhaps, with a specially extended season, we will be tempted back in autumn, drawn by deserted art cities, unspoilt landscapes, late-summer beaches and delectable food and wine routes. For most fans of the country, it’s not so much about specific plans but about revelling in reconnecting with Italy. We are all missing the timeless Italian lifestyle which, if not dolce vita, comes pretty close.
The Italian Tourist Board believes that Puglia, Sicily and Tuscany will be the greatest beneficiaries this summer. Next among those deemed desirable destinations come the Dolomites, followed by Sardinia, Emilia Romagna, the Veneto, Liguria and Campania.
Given Italy’s great outdoors, less-populated regions come into their own as natural retreats. In Trentino and the South Tyrol, the mountains represent sources of regeneration, beyond their fame as walking and skiing destinations. Trentino, which encompasses the Unesco-listed Dolomites, makes a virtue of its natural social distancing by offering “barefoot walking” and “forest-bathing” experiences. In more down-to-earth vein, the South Tyrol boasts that only 20 percent of the territory is populated and wryly add that much of that is home to top restaurants. Indeed, one Michelin-starred restaurant is taking up residence in the mountains at 2,000 feet, moving into a mountain hut for summer.
Credit – Turin Tourist Board of the Unesco Roero vineyards Piemonte
Weighing up risks and rewards
Naturally, it’s a personal decision as to what constitutes risk and what constitutes giving up on travel to Italy, one of life’s great pleasures. Weighing up risk colours every aspect of our lives so why not in travel, too? If that sounds too cavalier, then take into account these caveats.
Travelling through a trusted tour operator is an important way of reducing risk and ensuring a smoother experience, especially in these transitionary times. What’s more, if tour operators are not supported, some might not survive, hugely reducing visitor choice in the future as well as raising prices in the future.
Given that Government policy on safe countries can change in response to any spike in the pandemic overseas, the risk of a holiday cancellation cannot be excluded. Following Foreign Office advice is paramount. Travellers should check with insurance providers to ensure that Covid cover is specifically included. At the start of the pandemic, most insurers excluded Covid cover but some leading lights now include it. The EHIC card, the European healthcare scheme, ensures basic health care but the card is only valid until the end of 2020, with doubt about its continuance, given the effect of Brexit.
Certainly, as elsewhere, there are justified fears around crowds, festivals, large gatherings and travelling on public transport, from trains to planes. While cruising is at a standstill until 2021, some island ferries are still operating. International flights are resuming, linked to demand and the lifting of lockdowns. Given its preparedness, Italy has imposed impressive airport procedures, which are more stringent than in most countries. The same is true of the pandemic protocols that govern everyday life. As a result, the visitor experience is as seamless and safe as possible. The Italian love of the outdoor lifestyle also reinforces the safety messaging.
Credit – Trenino Verde Sardinia
Flying is bound to become more cumbersome, tedious, time-consuming and ultimately, more expensive. This will be the “new normal” yet most of us will adapt and willingly learn the new language of travel in return for the right to re-join Italy.
Italian policies on entering and leaving the country are already stringent and more reassuring than those adopted by the UK. The Italians already have the option of checking passenger temperatures, with travellers not allowed into the country if shown to have a temperature above 37.5 degrees. Italian law also states that would-be arrivals must not have had any recent contact with anyone infected with Covid-19. Visitors who experience Virus symptoms within 8 days of arrival must report this to the authorities. Sicily, which has remained largely Virus-free, even insists that arrivals sign up to a Covid-19 contact-tracing app, both to be allowed to access local health services and to enable comprehensive contact-tracing.
Italy’s Ministry of Health has just introduced new guidance on air travel, saying that all flights coming into the country must respect new rules banning overhead locker luggage. Luggage must be carried in the hold or placed beneath one’s feet, leaving the lockers above completely free. There is currently no mention of exceptions, whether for work or health reasons. Other international carriers have pondered banning cabin baggage, even if the British Department for Transport “strongly” recommends checking in luggage in order to speed up boarding times and minimise the chances of contagion. That said, Italy might well face challenges from international airlines on the legality of this ruling. Nor is there any certainty that these new recommendations will be enforced.
Despite seemingly daunting travel barriers, Italy’s decision to opt for airport safety checks rather than blanket quarantines can be seen as healthier and more supportive of the travel industry. Visitors can finally plan a return to beloved Italy. Ultimately, Italy is still Italy. Beyond that pesky mask, this is still the ravishing country you once loved. It’s an Italy that welcomes you back – slowly but surely. Breathe in deeply – and book.