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How Italy’s tourist hotspots are preparing for summer 2021

As Covid-19 restrictions across Italy ease, how are the nation's most popular destinations gearing up for summer?

How Italy's tourist hotspots are preparing for summer 2021
Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

Italy is loosening some of its restrictions on international travel and says it plans to open up to the world for tourism this summer.

Although the rules on  getting into Italy will vary depending on the country you are travelling from, visitors from some countries can enjoy more relaxed rules.

There’s now no quarantine requirement for travellers from the EU, Britain and Israel, and tourism from the US, Canada, Japan or the UAE, is now allowed on Covid-tested flights.

With the vaccination campaign picking up pace and the planned introduction of a ‘green pass‘ to allow tourism to restart, the industry is awakening from its lockdown slumber and preparing to welcome tourists again.

READ ALSO: What’s the latest on how the EU’s ‘Covid passports’ will work for travellers?

Tourism in Italy is a source of much-needed income after last year’s hefty loss of more than €120 billion for the sector – more than a 60% drop compared to 2019.

According to a study by research agency, Demoskopia, in conjunction with the University of Sannio, over 23 million extra tourists are expected between June and September, compared with the same period last year.
 
The regions of Puglia, Tuscany and Sicily take the top spots for the predicted most-visited destinations.  They’re followed by Emilia-Romagna and Sardinia as the tourist hubs for summer 2021.
 
The regions most visited forecast for 2021, according to estimates. Source: Demoskopia
 
Puglia
 
With Puglia at the top of the list, expecting some four million visitors from within the EU alone, is the region prepared for a summer of tourism?
 
Forming the heel of Italy’s ‘boot’, this region’s stunning coastline and beaches are a huge draw for holidaymakers – and authorities have been busy ensuring those picture perfect seascapes are in top shape, following a study in May deeming the water quality “excellent”.
 
 
Puglia’s beaches amaze and its waters are ranked “excellent” Photo: Massimo Virgilio/Unsplash
 
The Regional Agency for Environmental Prevention and Protection (ARPA) found that the coastline has met the highest quality for bathing standards.
 
The agency’s environmental analyst, Pietro Petruzzelli said, “For the city of Bari, it is hugely satisfying to be able to count on 42 kilometres of coastline that are safe from a health and hygiene point of view – all the more so if the assessment is ‘excellent’ everywhere in terms of water quality.”
 
 
He also expects water sports to feature in people’s Puglia holidays: “Excellent water quality can help give new life to water sports activities that, like all sports, have had to suffer an inevitable slowdown due to the health emergency,” he added.
 
Tuscany
 
“We are ready,” announced the Regional Councillor for Tourism, Leonardo Marras, on Tuscany’s regional newspage.
 
The region that’s famously home to vineyards, renaissance art and breathtaking coastlines is prepared for the influx of tourists, but with “virtuous behaviour and respect for the rules”.
 
Marras added, “It will be a safe holiday in our region. Of course, prudence is a must.”
Florence in Tuscany is holding a plethora of evens this summer. Photo: Mark Tegethoff / Unsplash
 
In Tuscany, 4.1 million tourists are expected this summer season, according to the Demoskopika study. That’s a 13.6% rise on last year’s figures.
 
“Certainly, it will take time to make up for lost ground and this summer will also have its limitations. But we will be able to manage the situation in the best possible way thanks to the professionalism of all the operators in the sector,” said Marras.
 
“The towns are also ready to organise, as far as possible, events that will give tourists the best possible welcome,” he added.
 
Such events include city festivals in Florence, from the Florence Jazz Festival to the ‘Apriti Cinema‘ (Open Cinema).
 
Celebrations linked to Dante’s 700th anniversary are also earmarked to commemorate this famous literary great.
 
Venice

The magical floating city is relaunching itself this month with the opening of the International Architecture Exhibition (Biennale Architettura) on 22nd May and the Venice Boat Show (Salone Nautico) on 29th May.

“We will be the first to resume with events in attendance, but we need clear indications from the government,” said Tourism Councillor Simone Venturini in an interview on the city’s website.

READ ALSO: 16 surprising facts about Venice to mark 16 centuries of the lagoon city

Other scheduled spectacles include the reopening of the art museum Punta della Dogana, and in September the Doge’s Palace will host the 1600th anniversary exhibition “Venice, Birth and Rebirth”.

The watery ways of Italy’s floating city have been unusually quiet during Covid-19 restrictions. It’s now ready to welcome back tourists. Photo by Rebe Adelaida on Unsplash

Sardinia

This island in the Mediterranean has fluctuated during the pandemic, being at one time Italy’s only lowest-risk white zone, before plunging into the harshest red-zone restrictions.

Along with the rest of the country now, however, Sardinia is easing its restrictions and preparing for the tourists to arrive.

READ ALSO: Reader question: What kind of coronavirus test do I need to take for travel to Italy?

€1 million are being pumped into the coastal towns to ensure the beaches are of a high standard to attract potential travellers.

And the island is going ahead with more than just gorgeous beaches for people to relax on.

The tourism board is also planning the Rally Italia Sardegna, a car-racing event that “contributes to promoting tourism and the image of the island nationally and internationally”, said Gianni Chessa, Regional Councillor for Tourism, during a video meeting with the event organisers on Friday.

Sardinia’s sparkling seas aren’t the only thing open for summer 2021. Photo by Ivan Ragozin on Unsplash

Italy’s ‘Covid-free islands’

Dozens of small islands around Italy are gearing up for tourists with complete vaccination rollouts.

Procida, in the Bay of Naples, became the first such island to administer shots to all its residents earlier in May.

Mass vaccinations are also underway at other islands close by, including Ischia and Capri, and at various islands off the coast of the country, such as the Pontine islands in Lazio, the Tremiti in Puglia, Capraia and Giglio in Tuscany, and the Maddalena archipelago off Sardinia.

READ ALSO: How Italy’s ‘Covid-free islands’ vaccine plan hopes to save summer travel

It isn’t just a move to encourage tourists to visit. Procida’s mayor Dino Ambrosino said, “Small islands in Italy are fragile territories that often have limited health services.”

The port of the volcanic island of Ischia (front) and the island of Procida (back) are pictured in the Bay of Naples, off Italy’s western coast on the Tyrrhenian Sea. (Photo by Laurent EMMANUEL / AFP)

As Italy reopens as a whole, the plan is to “relaunch Italian tourism”, according to the president of Demoskopika, Raffaele Rio.

 “They are encouraging estimates for the recovery but we need to play in advance with a recovery plan for 2022-2023… which fuels the restart and stimulates domestic and international demand for Italy,” he added.

Stay up to date with Italy’s travel rules by following The Local’s travel section and checking the Italian Health Ministry’s website (in English).

Member comments

  1. Hi – I have a question that I cannot seem to find the answer for. When it says “There’s now no quarantine requirement for travellers from the EU, Britain and Israel…” does that mean anyone, from any country, can have no quarantine even though I am a US passport holder coming to Italy as part of an ongoing vacation? Or does it mean, as a US passport holder, even though I am entering from UK, I have to follow rules as if I’d arrived from the US? If anyone has a definitive answer that would be very helpful. Thanks.

    1. You need to follow rules as a US citizen. It matters the country of your passport and where you originated from on trip.

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TOURISM

OPINION: Why Italy should let the rich pay for ‘private moments’ at tourist hotspots

Instead of criticizing actor Jason Momoa over his VIP visit to the Sistine Chapel, Italy should encourage wealthy visitors to pay large sums for such experiences, says Silvia Marchetti.

OPINION: Why Italy should let the rich pay for ‘private moments’ at tourist hotspots

Signing a generous cheque in order to enjoy a private, exclusive moment – without crowds – at the Colosseum, the Pantheon, or sitting on the Spanish Steps should not be seen as scandalous nor outrageous.

Imagine taking in the view of the Trevi Fountain at sunset, by yourself in a deserted Rome, after having splashed out ten or hundreds of thousands of euros, just to see the sun go down and relax for an hour.

READ ALSO: ‘I love Italy’: Jason Momoa apologises over Sistine Chapel photos

The big fuss over American actor Jason Momoa taking pictures of the Sistine Chapel recently during his Roman stay while shooting his next movie has raised eyebrows worldwide and caused much ado about nothing. It even made global headlines.

The main complaint was that the actor had been granted the privilege of taking photos. in spite of the ‘no-photo’ ban, which many said apparently applied only to ‘ordinary people’.

Personally, I don’t see what the big deal is about Momoa’s not-so intimate moment in the Sistine Chapel.

We Italians tend to look down on tourists who are constantly grabbing their camera to take pictures. We consider our artistic heritage untouchable, or in a way, non-reproducible through photography. 

But Momoa was not committing a crime. 

He later apologized, and explained that he had paid for an exclusive “private moment” by giving the Vatican Museums a large donation.

I think this is something positive: a ‘mechanism’ that could be exploited to raise cash for city coffers and urban projects – instead of raising local taxes that weigh on Italian families.

Rome, and all other Italian cities, should rent out such locations for events – even for just one night, or one hour – in exchange for a high fee.

The rich and famous would be more than happy to pay for such an opportunity to enjoy Italy’s grandeur. As would ordinary people who may decide they can afford it for a special occasion.

These are solo, one-in-a-lifetime experiences in top sites, and must be adequately paid for. 

Rome’s Colosseum in February 2021. Lower visitor numbers amid the Covid-19 pandemic meant Italian residents were able to see the country’s major attractions without the crowds. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

Italy is packed with historical, artistic and archeological gems that the entire world envies, people flock here just for a selfie in front of the Looming Tower of Pisa.

So why not make a leap forward and raise the bar for ‘private moments’; something Momoa, despite the unknown sum of money he paid, did not even actually get.

I’m not suggesting Italian cities lease monuments for weeks or months, for they belong to all humanity and everyone has a right to enjoy them. But allowing exclusive, short private experiences at Pompeii, or Verona’s arena, or just time to stare at Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus or Michelangelo’s The Last Judgement, should be seen as a source of extra revenue, not a taboo.

Italy should economically exploit its infinite artistic treasures as a powerful money maker, unleashing the full potential of it. 

If offered the chance, I think Elon Musk would not mind paying hundreds of thousands of euros, or even millions, for a private corporate cocktail party at the Colosseum.

OPINION: Italy must update its image if it wants a new kind of tourism

Of course, you’d need rules: a strict contract with specific clauses in case of damage or guest misbehavior; a detailed price list; and surveillance to safeguard the site during the private event. And extremely high fines if any clause is breached.

It’s a matter of looking at a city from a business and marketing perspective, not just a touristic one.

Today you can already take a private tour of the Vatican Museums for a higher ticket price, but it’s mostly for groups of 10 people, and there’s always a guide with you. You’re never really ‘still’ in your favorite room, so forget having a completely ‘private moment’.  

Taking photos inside the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel is usually forbidden, except for members of the media with special permission and, apparently, celebrities. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

One model city to take as reference is Florence, which in the past few years has done a good job of promoting the city brand.

The mayor’s office has set up a special committee that rents out Renaissance piazzas for private wedding celebrations and birthday parties, as well as several key historical spots like the Giardino delle Rose, and Palazzo Vecchio, the historical headquarters of the town hall.

There is an online menu with all the locations available for weddings and other private events, depending on the number of guests and type of celebration. 

Those interested should contact the town hall’s special ‘wedding task force’ if they want to book frescoed rooms in ancient palazzos or other buildings owned by local authorities. Last time I enquired, some elegant rooms are available to hire for as little as €5,000.

Would you pay big money to have major attractions, such as Rome’s Colosseum, all to yourself? Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

Venice, too, has attempted to raise cash by renting the façades of public buildings overlooking the Canal Grande to global fashion brands for advertisements, but the move raised eyebrows among locals. 

Even in Florence, residents weren’t so pleased to see huge, lavish billionaire Indian weddings celebrated in front of their palazzi, blocking access to their homes.

Italians need to reset their mentality. If anyone is willing to pay big money to enjoy the solo thrill of a site or location, we should be more than happy to allow it. 

As a result, we might end up paying lower city taxes for waste removal, water and other services. Every day, for free, we share the Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navona with masses of noisy, coin-throwing, gelato-slurping tourists; why not occasionally accept a generous donation from a VIP or philanthropist eager to pay for a moment alone in the company of Bramante and Brunelleschi? 

We would only be helping our cities to maintain their artistic heritage, which fills us with pride.

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