The Latest on Italy Travel
Welcome to the Red Zone, an ever-growing amoeba of restrictions and closed doors that has swept across the country covering eleven (and counting!) out of Italy’s twenty regions, thank you, Covid 19. From March 15 to April 6, most of Italy including Lazio is on a stay-at-home order with rigid lockdown rules reminiscent of 2020. Don’t worry, it’s not unfair punishment. The government has extended the red zone invitation to the entire country for Easter weekend of April 3 -5. And we’re beginning to get a better idea of travel and tourism.
What is Red? Red is more than a color, it’s a way of life. Or as I like to call it, a Closed Door policy. Think of anything you like to do, and it’s closed – museums, tennis courts, hairdressers, nail salons, playdates, cocktails and secrets. Only essential shops such as grocery stores, pharmacies, bookstores and dry cleaners remain open, along with caffes and restaurants which are thankfully are available for take out and delivery. Schools are closed, and kids are at home back to online learning. Friends and family are closed as we are not allowed to travel to any private home other than our own. We can’t travel to other municipalities, and within our own towns, we are asked to stay in the close neighborhood and use buon senso (common sense), only going out for essential reasons [health, work, family], and always bringing a self-declaration form that attests to who we are, where we live and what we are doing. Forget about traveling to another region, that’s not on the table. And late night walks? There’s a nationwide 10pm-to-5am curfew. I don’t remember the last time I was out of the house past 8pm.
I like to think of this moment in the red as a three-week long Twilight Zone episode where every morning we wake up and relive Lockdown 2020. The good news is we can reboot for take out latte macchiato. Am I annoyed? More like exhausted and honestly, a little relieved. We’ve spent everyday since October holding our breath while monitoring RT index to see who would be shut down next. We commiserated on last minute school closings, side-eyes friends who “just had to get away”, and suffered through randomly inflicted tampone tests, those eye-watering nasopharyngeal swabs. Am I worried now that we’re in the red? Not quite. (Mostly) Everyone has been very respectful to each other and to the rules, and we’re all at home. Yeah, it’s a bit of a bummer, but so is Covid. And we are very well aware of that as our vaccine roll out is very slow. On March 12, vaccine bookings were opened to those from years 1946-47 (76 years old!), with every third day adding the next successive two years. On March 13, the government upgraded the vaccine plan to increase distribution to 500,000 persons daily so we have our fingers crossed that some of us will be vaccinated by the summer. But that’s not why you’re reading this, is it?
I’m vaccinated. Can I come to Italy?
I know you want to come to Italy, which is why I love hearing from you every time I share a photo, tweet or publish and article. A least once a day, I’m asked if and when it’s possible to come to Italy. My answer has been and still is “not yet”. Non-essential travel (i.e., tourism) to Italy from most non-EU countries including the United States is prohibited and we don’t know when that will change. Here’s the good news, there are the very beginnings of travel murmurings. My hotelier friends immediately began planning for an onslaught of vaccinated, immune and Covid negative guests as soon as Greece announced plans to raise the green flag on May 14 to EU and non-EU vaccinated visitors. With that in mind, just this week, the European Commission proposed a Digital Green Certificate, aka Green Pass, which would help facilitate free movement for all EU bloc members via digital proof of Covid 19 vaccination, negative test result or Covid-19. It’s still on the drawing board, but once this happens, it will make way for non-EU persons (with same requirements) to enter. And of course transport is getting itchy. Earlier this year, Covid free flights got on the radar with pilot flights to/from Atlanta and Rome thanks to Delta and Alitalia, and on March 17, Delta announced more covid-free flight offerings from New York to Rome and Milan. Just last week, Ferrovia della Stato, Italy’s national rail, announced that they will be testing Covid-free routes on the high speed lines Roma-Milano. it’s beginning to feel like Italy wants to get back to tourism.
Honestly, I have no idea. According to Il Sole 24 Ore, as of March 17, only 2.2 million out of 60 million people have been fully vaccinated. That’s only 3.73% of the population. If the government gets on track with vaccinating, Italy should have 80% vaccinated by the end of September, which means most of us will not have a vaccine this summer. In the possibility that Italy, and subsequently the EU, opens its doors with the Green Pass, please bring your N95s and hand gel, and follow the rules for Italy travel and lockdown. Keep in mind that even if travel is permitted, there is no guarantee that sites will be open or that zone restrictions won’t suddenly occur.
What to do while I wait?
Enjoy Rome virtually. So many of Italy’s amazing museums have opened digital doors and lately I’ve been walking through a lot of them in Rome. An incredible and overlooked museum is Centrale Montemartini, an early 1900s power plant converted into a museum, aka antiquities meet engines, in the Ostiense neighborhood. If you head to Caldaia (Boiler Room) D, you can go eye to eye with the Marsyas statue that my husband Darius Arya slept with the night he dug it up in Villa delle Vignacce. If you’ve ever joined me in Rome, you’ll know Museo delle Mura is one of my favourite places of all times. Taking over ithe ancient city entrance gate Porta Santo Stefano, this is the place to understand how Rome defended itself. Go virtual and you can stand on the top of the 2nd century entry gate and look out onto Via Appia Antica. Vatican lovers, I didn’t forget you, the Vatican Museums opened six, yes, six, virtual galleries, including the Sistine Chapel. Or just keep listening to my podcast!
Travel and Lockdown Resources
It’s a waiting game which means waiting for the latest news. To help Italy travel and lockdown, all travellers (from any destination) who want to know when and if they can come to Italy should visit Italys’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs, always updated with the latest information. The site’s Viaggi Sicuri survey will break down to the fine detail whether or not you can enter, how, why and what you need to do and have. US citizens can also visit US Embassy, but Viaggi Sicuri is more up-to-date and has far more information. Once travel is unleashed, check out VeriFly. This should help to keep you organised.
Feature image: Any given afternoon in Rome’s centro storico during Lockdown V2. Photos by Erica Firpo.