‘We must focus on another type of tourism’: How one Italian site is welcoming back visitors

Ahead of the Colosseum and Pompeii, the towering Greek temple complex at Paestum near Naples is the first Italian archaeological site to reopen to tourists after the coronavirus lockdown.

'We must focus on another type of tourism': How one Italian site is welcoming back visitors
Paestum is one of Italy's lesser-known ancient treasures. Photo: Guillaume Baptiste/AFP

This ancient Greek colony, dating back to the 6th century BC, reopened on May 18th with temperature checks at the entrance and other health measures implemented around the site as lockdown eases.

READ ALSO: Florence's Duomo introduces social distancing necklaces for visitors

A limited number of people are allowed on the site at the same time, they must disinfect hands and wear masks, and one-way routes have been marked out, said site director Gabriel Zuchtriegel.

The site has also developed a free app to guide visitors through the sprawling site and send an alert when too many people are gathered in the same place.

“But at the same time we also wanted to give cultural content which does not make visitors experience this situation as a limitation but as a chance to finally return to live with beauty, culture, freedom,” said Zuchtriegel.

The Temple of Hera at Paestum seen from above. Photo: Charles Onians/AFP

Zuchtriegel says the post-lockdown phase with fewer visitors to the three remarkably well-preserved temples in the Doric order should be seen as an opportunity.

“We must focus on another type of tourism, another relationship with visitors, more intense, more 'one to one', and who knows, I think this could be a model for developing 'slow tourism' in the future,” he said.

So far visitors to the site have been scarce, but the numbers are expected to pick up when tourists are once more allowed to fly in to Italy from early June.


“After spending two months or even more at home, not going out, you really appreciate this freedom to go outside,” said visitor Svetlana.

“You realise you've been postponing things, thinking: 'Let's go tomorrow, or after tomorrow, or in a month, or not now it's too hot'. No, it's not later, it is now!” she said.

Many Italians remain at home after the over two-month lockdown, including schoolchildren, but teacher Maris has brought her pupils to Paestum via a livestream on her mobile phone.

“I came for the weekend and took the opportunity to take my pupils on a virtual trip, my pupils with whom I've been doing distance learning! They were all connected, and I took them to Paestum, and they loved it,” she said.

Pompeii will reopen to the public on May 26th, while Rome's Colosseum has not yet announced when visitors will be able to return.

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Is the EU likely to reinstate Covid travel restrictions?

A meeting is scheduled for Wednesday in Brussels to discuss the latest Covid situation in China - so could this mark the return of vaccine passports and travel restrictions?

Is the EU likely to reinstate Covid travel restrictions?

Several EU countries including France, Italy and Spain (as well as non-EU countries including the UK and USA) have already imposed travel restrictions on arrivals from China, over fears of new variants of Covid-19.

The countries announced their restrictions – mostly amounting to compulsory tests and masks – on a unilateral basis at the end of last week, but there have been calls for greater co-ordination at an EU level.

There is now a meeting scheduled for Wednesday of the EU Integrated Policy Response Capability to discuss coordinating measures, with an insider telling Politico: “The idea is to harmonise, but without being extremely prescriptive.”

The meeting has been called by Sweden, which now holds the rotating presidency of the EU. 

So what measures are likely?

At present the countries that have announced restrictions have only imposed testing and mask rules – there is no requirement to show proof of vaccination and no travel bans. All measures only apply only to travellers from China.

A meeting of the European Health Safety Committee last Thursday did not produce any concrete measures, with EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides merely urging member states to coordinate quickly. It was after this that some countries announced their own restrictions.

If anything more concrete comes out of Wednesday’s meeting, it is likely to refer to testing or mask rules only and like the previous EU Covid travel policies, will be advisory for countries to follow.

Because borders are a national competence, countries can impose their own measures without having to consult the EU.

Despite the introduction of the EU digital vaccine passport, countries never managed to entirely co-ordinate their travel rules during 2020 and 2021.

In most EU countries the health pass or vaccine pass apps remain active, and could be used again if necessary. 

Will there be travel bans?

At this stage more draconian restrictions – such as the ‘red lists’ or ‘essential travel only’ rules of 2021 seem unlikely.

Most EU countries have a high level of vaccine cover, so would probably only resort to travel restrictions if new variants – against which current Covid vaccines are not effective – emergence in China (or any other country).