“Look Ma, no lines!” If there is one phrase that sums up my recent ten-day trip back to the Motherland as I call it, it is that one. In all the years I have been traveling to Italy, there has never been a famous church, museum, or monument that did not automatically come with lines and often exceptionally long lines. Italy lovers such as yours truly would chalk up those lines and encourage others to do the same, with the reminder that Italy’s sights and sounds are worth waiting for. And while certain seasons are busier than others, crowds were always just a given, no matter what time of year one visited. That is not the case now, but as Italy, Europe, and the rest of the world continue to once again welcome tourists, it is not going to be crowd-free for long.
Italy is also making the journey across the pond less challenging. COVID testing is currently required. Vaccination is not. My visit began on June 5th, and I was required, according to Delta Airlines COVID-Free flights, to take several tests before landing as well as being tested before boarding the flight home. But different airlines offering the COVID-Free flights have different guidelines, and the rules are changing with fewer and fewer restrictions taking place practically every day. Tourism represents some 13% of Italy’s GDP, and being that Italy was among the countries hardest hit by the virus, tourism dollars plummeted last year down to 116 billion Euros from 236 billion in 2019. While remaining very health and safety conscious, COVID rates have been steadily decreasing and Italy is eager to encourage rather than discourage travel, and the sooner the better. The best advice is to check with your air carrier.
I imagined the Italy I experienced this month, might have been what those visiting the country back in the la dolce vita days in the 50’s and 60’s also witnessed; when air travel was not as advanced and as a result, Europe was lively and exciting but not overrun with tourists. Not that I pulled an Anita Ekberg and jumped into the famous Fontana di Trevi, causing a scene, splashing around to my heart’s content exactly. However, the tradition of tossing the coin is a lot more pleasant and memorable when you do not have to, how should we say, politely push and sometimes shove your way down the steps to the fountain’s edge. There were plenty of folks posing for photos, but it was very cheerful rather than challenging. There were plenty of Romans in the piazzas and the ristorantes, as well, but still more than enough room for the rest of us. What an absolute joy not to be crushed by crowds everywhere you go. What a thrill to see the increased eagerness and excitement on the part of the shop owners; the butchers, bakers, wine, and candlestick makers, so to speak, so happy to be serving customers again.
My visit to the Vatican Museums was another wonderful time that like felt in many ways like a new adventure. Prior to making my way there, I had the blessing of interviewing Dr. Barbara Jatta, the Director of the Vatican Museums for my radio show, Catholic Connection. I could not believe my ears when Dr. Jatta explained that those visiting the museums, especially the beloved Sistine Chapel, would encounter this and other treasures much differently. Thanks to capacity limitations, along with fewer crowds in general, visitors currently have the time to not only stroll through the halls of the museums, but to stop, ponder, reflect, and/or to pray in front of a particular masterpiece. I was so moved by being able to really take in one of the refurbished tapestries on display in the Pinacoteca, also known as the Vatican art gallery, established in 1932, that I burst into tears.
I truly hope you will give some serious thought to visit Italy sooner, and much sooner, than later. Italy is always memorable, even with the crowds, as the beauty, art, food, landscapes, etc. never cease to take one’s breath away. But if you genuinely want to make the most of a visit to this magical place, as another old saying goes, it’s “no time like the present.” Visit T’s Italy for help planning your trip!
Articles of Note:
- Americans Can Now Travel to Italy — Here’s How to Book a Flight
- Tourists Are Back In Rome – Including Some With American Accents
- Traveling to Italy during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go
- Italy Removes 10-Day Tourist Quarantine Requirement — but Only for Certain Flights