Viva L’Italia: Italy Reopens!
When it was announced on May 13 that Italy was reopening, our first thought was to give you a report from each of our local guides. But since our trips cover all of Italy from the northern border with Switzerland in the Italian lakes, to Tuscany and the Cinque Terre, through the Amalfi Coast, to Puglia in the heel, to Sicily off the tip of the boot, we needed someone who could provide an informed view on travel to all of Italy.
So, we turned to our favorite Roman, and European tour manager, Priscila. Raised in a multi-cultural family in southern California, she studied art history while in university in Rome, before returning to San Diego to become a guest services manager in our head office. While working with Classic Journeys and vacationing in Italy, she met the love of her life Pino, an engineer, whose job includes retrofitting some of the most famous architecture in Rome against earthquakes. Ultimately, returned to Rome to marry Pino and start her life with him there. They now have a little daughter, Stella, and Priscila continues her career at Classic Journeys as our European tour manager.
PS fun fact – her Mom was actually a featured performer on the Lawrence Welk Show.
As Italy reopens, Priscila shares a local’s view of the Eternal City, and also gives us updates collected from all of our guides throughout Italy.
Great news! As of today, all of Italy is in a “yellow zone.” (a number of regions may soon be designated “white zones” due to their low infection rates.) Since the color system was introduced (red, orange, yellow, and then white), this is the first time that all of Italy has been yellow, so it’s a very good sign. We can stay out until 11:00 pm.
Italy is open. It feels wonderful, and peaceful.
For the moment, major sites like the Colosseum and Vatican Museums (as well as other museums/cultural sites) are operating at reduced capacity and enforcing social distancing, so they are significantly less crowded than usual, but it’s also more important than ever to plan ahead and book in advance to make sure you get a spot.
As I walk around the city, many of the famed sites feel almost empty, which is certainly a good reason to consider visiting this year!
Local businesses are so happy to see tourism return.
Just like tourism businesses everywhere, those in Rome and Italy have been hit extremely hard and they are so eager to welcome back locals and visitors alike.
During the pandemic, restaurants had to adapt by providing takeaway services. Even for coffee! That may sound odd to Americans but it is really remarkable here in Italy because there was previously no takeaway coffee culture. An espresso is meant to be enjoyed quickly at the bar, or a cappuccino is to be sipped at the table while sharing breakfast with friends. Before Covid, a takeout cup was unheard of!
Restaurants have been expanding their outdoor seating areas into streets and alleyways—sort of the Rome you remember but even more so—which makes for a great ambiance and some really charming outdoor scenes, especially in the city center.
And our world famous cuisine awaits!
The regional specialties are different throughout Italy, but Rome is famous for its pastas like cacio e pepe, carbonara, and amatriciana. Supplì is a popular street food, and of course you can’t go wrong with gelato and pizza. Rome’s version has a thin, crunchy crust.
Local like myself and Classic Journeys guides throughout the country are so excited to welcome guests.
In addition to all the amazing cultural sights, history, and breathtaking natural landscapes Italy has to offer, guides tell me they are most eager for the human connections they make with our Classic Journeys guests and the locals we encounter on tour. Of course that’s something that Classic Journeys has always been really good at creating. We have all spent so much time during this past year feeling isolated and disconnected that I think now we will appreciate the simple pleasures and the little things even more.
From restaurants and guides to hotels, artisans, farmers, olive oil makers…locals are eager to welcome travelers back and could really use their support. Everyone from cities to museums, to hotels, to local businesses has used this past year to improve their offerings, so you can be among the first to experience these new improvements (For example, many cities, including Rome, have used closures to make improvements around the city like adding new bike lanes, repaving the piazza in front of the Pantheon, etc. Hotels have mentioned that they have refurbished rooms and added new amenities, etc.).
We are entering a new and improved normal.
I think after this period of feeling isolated and disconnected, it will feel all the more special to be back out in the world exploring new places, meeting new people, and learning about different ways of life. Hopefully we won’t ever again take for granted how special these moments are. I also think that it is more important than ever to be mindful travelers (Classic Journeys guests already fall into this category as opposed to mass market tourists), to support small businesses and local traditions (again, something Classic Journeys has always done with visits to local artisans, farmers, shepherds, etc.) These things will inevitably make a vacation better because rather than just skimming the surface and checking monuments off of a list, it will provide travelers with a much more meaningful and memorable experience.
Please say ciao to everyone for me and let them know we can’t wait to see them in person!