‘I hate masks’: Why some visitors choose not to travel to Italy this summer

With the summer holidays approaching, we asked whether our readers are planning to visit Italy this year. Most of you said yes, but a few were more hesitant.

While Italy is anticipating its largest influx of tourists since the start of the pandemic this summer, some travellers are still unsure.
While Italy is anticipating its largest influx of tourists since the start of the pandemic this summer, some travellers are still unsure. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP.

Many European countries, including Italy, are beginning to relax their Covid rules and international travel restrictions for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

As a result, Italy is anticipating its largest influx of foreign visitors in the last two years this summer, providing a much-needed boost for the country’s tourism industry.

READ ALSO: Will tourism in Italy return to pre-pandemic levels this year?

We wanted to know how many of The Local’s readers were among those planning to spend their summer holidays in Italy this year, and whether your decision was affected by the country’s remaining Covid restrictions – so we asked you. 

A total of 199 people responded to our survey asking readers if they planned on visiting Italy this summer, and the vast majority (83 percent) said yes – albeit many with reservations.

“I’m concerned that restrictions will get tighter. Fingers are crossed that the gov’t will continue to loosen restrictions,” said Benjamin Biscoglia in Chicago, who plans to visit for the first time in 20 years.

“I’m concerned about getting Covid while I’m on my tour, missing larger parts of my vacation and potentially staying in Italy until I recover from Covid,” wrote Mark Rapp in Colorado, for whom this will be his first trip to the country.

Others were unreservedly excited about their trip – and some were happy that Italy’s Covid measures are on the stricter side.

“No concerns, glad restrictions are easing!” wrote Susanna Young.

“I think Italy has done a really good job at having and enforcing restrictions and safety mandates and I hope they don’t drop things too hastily just to attract tourists,” said Elizabeth Keddy in Michigan.

The Local will soon publish a follow up article looking at the thoughts and feelings of people who will be visiting Italy this summer – but for this piece, we’re focusing on the small minority of readers who said they will continue to avoid travel to Italy altogether for time being.

Of those who said they’d removed Italy from their list of places to visit this summer, most cited the country’s ongoing Covid measures as the main reason why they won’t be holidaying in the bel paese this year.

Italy has extended its indoor mask mandate for certain venues until at least June 15th, making its mask rules more restrictive than those of most other European countries.

READ ALSO: Reader question: What type of mask will I need for travel to Italy?

It also – like most of the rest of Europe – requires visitors coming from abroad to show a valid vaccination or recovery certificate or a recent negative Covid test result to gain entry into the country.

Some would-be tourists say they'd rather travel to a country without any mask mandates this summer.
Some would-be tourists say they’d rather travel to a country without any mask mandates this summer. Photo: Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

“(I) don’t want to go on holiday where I might have to wear a face mask even in certain settings,” said Riccardo Mangiacavallo in Toronto, while one anonymous respondent agreed: “I find the mask requirement too oppressive.”

“Italy is an international outlier in continuing to mandate masks, specifically the uncomfortable FFP2 type,” said another anonymous writer, adding that they would rather go on holiday to a country like Switzerland or Denmark which has dispensed with mask mandates.

The complaint wasn’t restricted to those who said they were avoiding travel to Italy: Elizabeth Johnson, who is planning to travel to Tuscany and Genoa, said simply: “I hate masks”.

READ ALSO: Where do you still need to wear a mask in Italy from May 1st?

Others worried about the risk that Italy could change the rules after they’d booked, ruining their plans.

“I think they may be keen to pose restrictions again,” said Peter Biggins in Leeds, who added that regardless of whether or not the government did change the rules, masks would “ruin the experience” for him.

“For travellers from North America it could be a financial disaster. The uncertainty is too big and the risk is too high,” said Yuri Matis in Toronto.

Some readers said they wouldn’t consider returning to Italy until all Covid restrictions were dropped, saying that the rules add too much stress to the “already complex process of international travel”.

A number of those surveyed said their concerns revolved more around entry rules for return to the US than Italian Covid restrictions.

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

“We are avoiding because of the current US requirement for a negative test to re-enter the United States. We strongly prefer NOT to be trapped abroad. We are very much less concerned about Italy’s current restrictions,” said Jennifer Horinek in California.

“US testing requirements for re-entry keeping me away,” echoed Denise Alexander in Texas.

For a few respondents, however, it was Covid itself, rather than Covid restrictions, that remained a cause for concern.

“Because of Covid, not just the measures,” wrote one anonymous reader in answer to the question of why they were avoiding travel to Italy for the time being.

“We continue to worry about Covid. We love Italy and I would much like to get back to Puglia but Covid worries hold us back,” said David Dowell in Portland.

Member comments

  1. An unhinged country dominated by socialist groupthink, un paese arretrato. A nation once loved for its wonky civil disobedience, is now following the worst norms of the new world order and sleepwalking into Euro tyranny. When Italians wake up they’ll be ruled by a digital-ID system and then it’ll be too late. If there is one reason to give up residency and move somewhere else it is this dramatic shift in the make-up of the Italian DNA. Such a pity. Where is the dolce vita, the delicious civil disobedience? Crushed by the faceless politicians and their relentless pursuit of the fear narrative aided by an entirely left-wing press.

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Why Italian resorts are struggling to fill jobs this summer

Italy's tourist season is expected to be back in full swing this year - but will there be enough workers to meet the demand?

Why Italian resorts are struggling to fill jobs this summer

Italy’s tourist numbers are booming, sparking hopes that the industry could see a return to something not far off pre-pandemic levels by the summer.

There’s just one catch: there aren’t nearly enough workers signing up for seasonal jobs this year to supply all that demand.

READ ALSO: Will tourism in Italy return to pre-pandemic levels this year?

“There’s a 20 percent staff shortage, the situation is dramatic,” Fulvio Griffa, president of the Italian tourist operators federation Fiepet Confesercenti, told the Repubblica news daily.

Estimates for how many workers Italy is missing this season range from 70,000 (the figure given by the small and medium enterprise federation Conflavoro PMI) to 300-350,000 (the most recent estimate from Tourism Minister Massimo Garavaglia, who last month quoted 250,000).

Whatever the exact number is, everyone agrees: it’s a big problem.

READ ALSO: Dining outdoors and hiking: How visitors plan to holiday in Italy this summer

Italy isn’t the only European country facing this issue. France is also short an estimated 300,000 seasonal workers this year. Spain is down 50,000 waiters, and Austria is missing 15,000 hired hands across its food and tourism sectors.

Italy’s economy, however, is particularly dependent on tourism. If the job vacancies can’t be filled and resorts are unable to meet the demand anticipated this summer, the country stands to lose an estimated  €6.5 billion.

Italy's tourism businesses are missing an estimated 20 percent of workers.
Italy’s tourism businesses are missing an estimated 20 percent of workers. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

“After two years of pandemic, it would be a sensational joke to miss out on a summer season that is expected to recover strongly due to the absence of workers,” said Vittorio Messina, president of the Assoturismo Confesercenti tourist association.

Different political factions disagree as to exactly what (and who) is to blame for the lack of interest from applicants.

READ ALSO: Travel in Italy and Covid rules this summer: what to expect

Italy’s tourism minister Massimo Garavaglia, a member of the right wing League party, has singled out the reddito di cittadinanza, or ‘citizen’s income’ social security benefit introduced by the populist Five Star Movement in 2019 for making unemployment preferable to insecure, underpaid seasonal work.

Bernabò Bocca, the president of the hoteliers association Federalberghi, agrees with him – along with large numbers of small business owners.

“What’s going to make an unemployed person come to me for 1,300 euros a month if he can stay sprawled on the beach and live off the damned citizenship income?” complained an anonymous restauranteur interviewed by the Corriere della Sera news daily.

“Before Covid, I had a stack of resumes this high on my desk in April. Now I’m forced to check emails every ten minutes hoping someone will come forward. Nothing like this had ever happened to me.” 

READ ALSO: MAP: The best Italian villages to visit this year

Italy is experiencing a dire shortage of workers this tourist season.
Italy is experiencing a dire shortage of workers this tourist season. Photo: Andrea Pattaro / AFP.

Five Star MPs, however, argue that the focus on the unemployment benefit is a distraction from the real issues of job insecurity and irregular contracts.

There appears to be some merit to that theory. A recent survey of 1,650 seasonal workers found that only 3 percent of the people who didn’t work in the 2021 tourist season opted out due to the reddito di cittadinza.

In fact the majority (75 percent) of respondents who ended up not working over the 2021 season said they had searched for jobs but couldn’t find any openings because the Covid situation had made it too uncertain for companies to hire in advance.

READ ALSO: MAP: Which regions of Italy have the most Blue Flag beaches?

Others said the most of jobs that were advertised were only for a 2-3 month duration, half the length of the season (again, due to Covid uncertainty), making it not worth their while to relocate.

Giancarlo Banchieri, a hotelier who is also president of the Confesercenti business federation, agrees that Covid has been the main factor in pushing workers away from the industry, highlighting “the sense of precariousness that this job has taken on in the last two years: many people have abandoned it for fear of the uncertainty of a sector that has experienced a terrible time.”

The instability brought about by two years of Covid restrictions has pushed many workers away from the tourism sector.
The instability brought about by two years of Covid restrictions has pushed many workers away from the tourism sector. Photo: Andrea Pattaro / AFP.

“I said goodbye to at least seven employees, and none of them are sitting at home on the citizen’s income,” Banchieri told Repubblica. “They have all reinvented themselves elsewhere; some are plumbers, others work in the municipality.”

READ ALSO: OPINION: Mass tourism is back in Italy – but the way we travel is changing

To counteract the problem, Garavaglia has proposed three measures: increasing the numbers of visas available for seasonal workers coming from abroad; allowing people to work in summer jobs while continuing to receive 50 percent of their citizen’s income; and reintroducing a voucher system that allows casual workers to receive the same kinds of welfare and social security benefits as those on more formal contracts.

Whether these will be enough to save Italy’s 2022 tourist season remains to be seen, but at this stage industry operators will take whatever fixes are offered.

“The sector is in such a dire situation that any common sense proposals much be welcomed,” the Federalberghi president Bocca told journalists.