Italy reopens borders, beckons European tourists for summer holidays

Italy has opened up its borders to travellers from Schengen countries and the United Kingdom in the hope of salvaging the summer holiday season after nearly three months of Covid-19 lockdown.

The first European country to be hit hard by the virus, Italy is once again opening up tourist attractions such as the Colosseum.
The first European country to be hit hard by the virus, Italy is once again opening up tourist attractions such as the Colosseum. AFP

For the moment Rome, Milan and Naples airport are open to international flights and travellers. Those arriving are to undergo temperature checks but will not be subject to quarantine unless they arrive from outside the continent.

However, neighbouring countries like Switzerland and Austria have refused to open their borders with Italy, claiming it is still unsafe to travel there and that anyone arriving from Italy would have to undergo health checks and other measures.

This has raised concerns that European tourists who generally vacationed in Italy would choose to go elsewhere.

Greece has also warned that Italians coming from four northern regions: Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, Veneto and Piedmont, would face quarantine.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit Italy’s tourism sector particularly hard. The industry represents 13 per cent of GDP. Hotels had to close and the majority are yet to reopen with most saying it will be impossible to recover the losses.

Not all bars and restaurants have been able to resume business due to the many requirements still in place, including hygiene measures like social distancing.

Many of the countries’ important tourist attractions and sites have slowly been welcoming back visitors, to the joy of locals – for the time being.

'Day of joy'

This week the Vatican Museums reopened its majestic doors allowing a long line of Roman and Italian visitors in to see the magnificent Sistine Chapel, the newly restored Raphael rooms and its many other treasures, without the normal crowds of foreign tourists.

Museum director Barbara Jatta came out to greet the first visitors and described the reopening as a “day of joy”.

Everyone entering the museums has its temperature checked and must wear a protective mask but she said now that pre-booking is a requirement the response had been tremendous, with 1,600 people who had already signed up for a visit.

Some 6.5 million people normally enter the Vatican Museums every year. Jatta said those numbers will certainly not be reached in 2020, but that everyone must know it is safe to come for a visit.

Italians who stood in line waiting to get in during the first days all said they wanted to take advantage of the fact there were no tourists now.

Back to life

Another very popular tourist landmark in Rome, the Colosseum, opened on the same day. Similar measures are in place there but only around 300 people will be allowed in at the time for the moment.

Archaeological sites such as Pompeii have re-opened as has the Tower of Pisa.

The 3rd of June marked another important day for Italians, in that they were able to start travelling from one region to another.

Relatives were reunited for the first time in three months, with people living in the north allowed to go to the southern regions and vice versa.

Italians can also travel abroad for their holidays this summer but many are choosing to stay in the country, given the financial difficulties many are facing following the coronavirus pandemic, which in Italy has killed more than 33,500 people.





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