Coronavirus forces Italy to close its biggest tourist attractions

The Colosseum, Pompeii and the Uffizi Galleries are among the tourist hotspots closed as Italy battles to halt the spread of coronavirus.

Coronavirus forces Italy to close its biggest tourist attractions
Rome's Pantheon is closed to the public until further notice. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

As part of unprecedented measures to contain the new virus, Italy has cancelled events that are likely to draw crowds – including festivals, football matches, exhibitions, concerts, theatre performances, film screenings and even church masses.

While the restrictions were originally limited to the worst-affected regions in the north, a sweeping government decree issued on March 8th extended the precautions throughout Italy.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about the new coronavirus measures in Italy

The closures are expected to run until at least April 3rd.

If you have already booked entry to a site or event before then, contact your ticket provider to request a refund or rebooking.

In the meantime, several museums are posting images of their collections online as part of a campaign by Italy's culture ministry called #iorestoacasa ('I'm staying home').

Here are some of the top sites affected.

Raffaello exhibition, Rome: one of the biggest disappointments for culture vultures is the abrupt closure of a blockbuster exhibition celebrating 500 years since the death of Renaissance master Raphael. 

Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

Gathering 200 works by the prolific painter, the show at Rome's Scuderie del Quirinale presidential palace opened on Wednesday and had been due to run until June 2nd, with some 70,000 tickets pre-sold.

But the museum announced on its website on Sunday that the exhibition was closing until further notice. Visitors who already bought tickets will be contacted directly.

Colosseum and Roman Forum: the Colosseum will remain closed to visitors until April 3rd – though you're still free to walk round and admire it from the outside.

The Colosseum deserted. Photo: Laurent Emmanuel/AFP

The Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and Domus Aurea are likewise closed. Take a stroll down the Via dei Fori Imperiali and around the Circo Massimo to get a view of the archaeological sites.

Vatican Museums: the Vatican Museums (including the Sistine Chapel) are closed until further notice. 

Exceptionally, even St Peter's Basilica and Square have been closed to the public until April 3rd. For the time being Pope Francis will not be celebrating mass in front of an audience, but streaming prayers instead.

Pantheon: this converted Roman temple, usually a functioning church and free to enter, is closed to visitors as part of the decree.

Borghese Gallery: Rome's sumptuous Galleria Borghese is closed until April 3rd. You can still visit the Villa Borghese park that surrounds it.

Uffizi Galleries: the Uffizi, the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens are all closed until April 3rd.

Pompeii: the ancient sites of Pompeii, Oplontis, Stabia and Boscoreale are all closed.

Reggia di Caserta: the Royal Palace of Caserta remains closed until April 3rd.

READ ALSO: Is it still safe to visit Italy after the coronavirus outbreak?

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Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”