‘Italy should be wary of tourists, not vice versa’: The verdict on visiting Italy this summer

'Italy should be wary of tourists, not vice versa': The verdict on visiting Italy this summer
When will you take your next Italian holiday? Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
We asked our readers: Should people avoid an Italian holiday this summer, if not for their own sake then for Italy's? Here's what you had to say.

Hundreds of you answered our survey on whether it's too early for tourists to return to Italy, or even for residents to travel around the country.

From overseas visitors set to arrive shortly to B&B owners who have encouraged guests to postpone their bookings, people who have reluctantly cancelled long-awaited trips to residents opting to stay local this summer, we had more than 200 responses and a wide range of opinions. 

Here are the results.

'It is Italy who should be wary of visitors, not vice versa'

Our respondents were divided on whether a trip to Italy this summer is a good idea. 

Around 45 percent of people said travel should go ahead, while just under 41 percent said it should be avoided and nearly 14 percent weren't sure.

“I think you need to get your economy going and since tourism is a big part of that it needs to start as soon as it can be done with some degree of safety,” said Steve Grinavic from the United States, who is still planning to visit Italy this year.

Kana Kanagendra, a Brit in Tuscany, pointed out that Italy has already been open to European tourists for more than a month and so far hasn't seen a surge in cases.

“In our little town in Chianti (which depends on tourism), I have watched returning visitors – both Italian and the more adventurous ones from the EU – and seen over the past few weeks that the number of active cases in Italy has continued to decline, i.e. the easing has not resulted in a surge in cases. People here are being sensible and therefore there should be no fears about travelling to Italy and within Italy,” he wrote.

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Most people who were in favour of travel restarting cited economic reasons, as Italy struggles to recover from the months-long shutdown that brought tourism, hospitality and other key sectors to a halt.

“Italy has been more cautious than many countries and has taken measures that many countries should have followed. Italy is highly dependent upon tourism so should not be denied the income from this after all their efforts,” wrote Sandra Fox from London.

In fact the one thing everyone agreed on was that Italy, where new infections have slowed sharply, was not a dangerous country to visit. As Venice resident Nan McElroy put it: “Italy is [one] of the safest places on the planet, with the strict behavioral regulations.” 

Calling it the “best year ever to travel to Italy”, she said: “It is Italy who should be wary of visitors, not vice versa.”

'A big mistake'

But for many, that might be a reason not to invite tourists back.

“The recent problems caused by a businessman in Veneto traveling to another country and bringing [the coronavirus] back illustrates how easy it would be for someone to unwittingly travel to Italy and bring it. I cannot imagine the chances for re-infection if hundreds or thousands of people start entering the country,” wrote Mark Hinshaw, a US retiree who lives in the Marche region.

“The lockdown for months was effective. It would be tragic if all that difficult effort were to be undone.”


Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

“Having dual citizenship and residency I at first was more laissez-faire about travel here. However, after passing through several airports to arrive, the full devastation of the virus was more evident and real than we take it in the US,” said Davide Migliaccio, who travelled back to his home in Umbria but intends to avoid any more trips.

“Allowing people from other countries would make a spike in the autumn worse, and also spread the virus to parts of Italy that are now relatively virus free, such as Puglia and Basilicata,” wrote Robin Boast of Lecce, who said he planned to holiday locally this summer to help control the risks.

He was among 17 percent of respondents who thought people should avoid travelling even within Italy this summer, though 71 percent disagreed.

For some people who work in tourism in Italy, the risk outweighs the financial benefit. “I live in a small comune in Abruzzo where the average age is over 65… I also manage a B&B and I do not want to be responsible for a guest of mine [bringing the coronavirus] here,” said Peter Thorpe, who has encouraged his guests to reschedule their bookings to 2021.

“I think that it is a big mistake to open Italy's borders to countries where the virus is not effectively being controlled,” he wrote.

'We all miss travel, yet this is the time to stay home'

Many of our readers who live outside Italy regretfully agreed, even if it meant giving up their travel plans. 

As Donna Maria Romeo from Texas in the United States put it: “We all miss travel, yet this is the time to stay home.”

Some people have sacrificed more than a holiday: readers told us about being separated from family, giving up on plans to start house-hunting, or being stranded in bureaucratic limbo as they await visas to move to Italy.

READ ALSO: Italy's latest travel rules, explained

“We've been careful and live in a relatively COVID-free part of the pariah UK. But we don't want to make our Italian friends and other Italians we might meet nervous about us. We'll ask the comune in our Italian village if they would rather we didn't come,” wrote Fiona Ellis from north-east England, who had been planning at least three trips to Italy this year and under current travel rules would be allowed to make them freely.

“Although cases are much lower now, where I live was the epicentre in Canada so I would not want to risk inadvertently bringing the virus with me,” said Susan Fox of Montreal, who is waiting until next year to reschedule a cancelled holiday even though Canadian tourists have been allowed to return to Italy since July 1st, with a two-week quarantine.

“I am an ICU nurse in southern California. We remain in the throes of the first wave of the pandemic,” wrote Rachel Garcia, who had been due to visit in May but like all tourists from the US is barred until further notice.

“For the love and safety of Italians and people everywhere, we (Americans specifically) need to stay home and keep each other safe.” 

The US was the country that respondents expressed the most concerns about, followed by the UK. 

That matches another recent poll that found 61 percent of people surveyed said they would oppose reopening Italy to US tourists this summer, more than would oppose visitors from China returning (57 percent). For Brits the figure was 44 percent, higher than other countries in Europe.

“I am American and I wear a mask, stay home as much as possible, and socially distance. If I could go to Italy tomorrow, I would. I would feel safe there taking the same precautions as I do here. However, as shown by our growing number of infections, too many other Americans are not being responsible.

“I would not wish them on Italy after she has suffered so terribly. I understand and respect the Italians' caution in accepting American tourists,” said Jennifer McFarland from Tennessee.

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Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

But others hoped the blanket ban on tourists from the US and most other countries outside Europe could be replaced by a screening system to allow healthy travellers to return.

“Other countries are requiring [a] negative test within three days of boarding [a] flight and another test upon arrival, contact tracing by cell phone etc. In this way Italy will stay safe and still benefit from the economic benefits of American tourism,” argued Wells L. Marvin from California.

'Travel should be done responsibly like everything else right now'

Italy does not currently test international arrivals as standard, though people entering from outside the EU, Schengen Zone or UK are required to quarantine themselves for two weeks after they land.

Everyone in Italy is expected to respect national and regional safety precautions, including wearing a face mask in enclosed public spaces and maintaining at least one metre of distance from others.

For anyone who isn't prepared to follow those rules, the message from our readers was clear: stay away.

“Travel should be done responsibly like everything else right now,” wrote Pasqua from Toronto in Canada. “Travelling with an increased awareness for your safety and the safety of others is essential [in] the current pandemic.”

Several respondents expressed concern about seeing certain people in Italy – Italians and internationals alike – failing to social distance or wear masks. And some said they'd even cancelled their trip because “I don’t want to face the hassle of going through my vacation with social distancing and wearing masks” or “Wearing masks all the time does not make a great vacation”.


Photo: Andrea Pattaro/AFP

'Accept a different travel experience'

Travelling in Italy this summer will mean doing a few things differently, whether it's wearing a mask or staying in one spot instead of going on tour. As Magda Madriz of the US put it, visitors need to “[accept] a different travel experience”.

Several people told us they'd changed their holiday plans to reduce the risks of catching or transmitting the coronavirus: some are staying within their own region, others were considering driving instead of taking a flight, one said they'd switched from a campsite to a private holiday house, and others said they'd just head for places well off the beaten tourist track.

Corinna Vahtera of Finland argued for what she called “mindful traveling”: “We need to get back to a new normal and find a way to travel in a safe and considerate way.”

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Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

If everybody does just that, tourism can help Italy's recovery, not hinder it. More than ever, Italy needs tourists who are prepared to travel responsibly and respectfully – even if, in some cases, that means not travelling at all just yet.

“If the Italian government/Italian people feel it needs tourists to help the economy, I see nothing wrong with visiting Italy. But if the government/people feels that tourists would jeopardize the health of Italy, tourists should stay home and hope it will be OK to come next year,” said US reader Robert T. Maruca.

“I think the answer should be that we should want to do whatever is best for Italy.”

Thanks to everyone who took the time to complete our survey. We read all of your answers even if we couldn't include them here.


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