Can Italy Attract Tourism Again in 2020 After the COVID-19 Outbreak?

It has recently been exciting to experience Italy, to listen to the news reports and to hear Italians make plans for opening up their businesses in addition to mapping out their summer vacations. After having been at home so long, few would like to have a ‘staycation’. At this point, most people are already looking optimistically forward to summer, thinking about whether it would be best to go to the sea or the mountains this August. Moreover, the government is even considering offering citizens the “Buono Vacanze”, which are special 500-euro discounts to help pay for their trips within the Patria. Everyone is driven to relaunch Italy; hence, many entrepreneurs in the restaurant, bar, hotel, and vacation industries will be waiting with open arms for wayfarers from the entire world.

But first things first; Italy’s gotta open up! The hair stylists, barber shops, sports clubs, and other beauty centers are getting prepared by sanitising everything and ensuring that people will keep the correct distance of one meter between one another, even if this means serving only one client at a time. Everything has to be ready for foreign tourists and Italian tourists alike who will soon return to the spas to relax in magnificent Italy. These globetrotters are welcomed to enquire as to how the shops have been sanitised and whether or not they utilise UV Type-C lights to sterilise their businesses because everyone has the right to be informed appropriately.

We have already begun to enjoy the delights of Italy once again! A few days ago, we visited an excellent Gelateria named Sotto Zero in Gattico-Veruno. There was a relatively long line of enthusiastic customers ready to order ice cream. A few had already placed their take-away orders online (or by telephone) and had just arrived to pick them up quickly. Most of the customers in line outside the store kept appropriate social distancing and wore masks. The post-COVID-19 rules were posted to the right of the entrance in case some people hadn’t been informed of them. The rules were as follows: Everyone must wear a mask; only one person can enter the gelateria at a time; everyone must keep a meter apart from others, and ice cream has to be consumed far from the shop’s premises.

Not only did Sotto Zero serve delicious, legendary ice cream cones, but they also had some vegan, gluten-free, and lactose-free options, which I opted to devour rather than consuming conventional ice cream. Italian gelato has always been glorified, but this year’s tourists can expect to find an even more expansive range of options to make everyone deliriously satisfied! Not far from the customary Italian ice cream shops, there are bread shops and pizzerias that will make visitors euphoric as Italian food abounds! Italians are determined to continue offering delicacies no matter what.

Italy is well-known for its exquisite designer jewellery. Tourists enjoy acquiring golden bracelets, rings, as well as artisanal sterling silver and crafts. I recall how so many sightseers made photos of gold trinkets on Ponte Vecchio in Florence when I was young (in the 1980s), and the enthusiasm persists today! A jewellery shop proposes to sanitise all of their metal jewellery for each customer who wishes to try on dazzling rings, bracelets, or necklaces. A box with UV Type-C lights might be employed to ensure their clients’ safety. Moreover, they have installed unique partitions that will help patrons feel both safe and comfortable. No doubt, shopping for jewellery is going to be a pure pleasure this year for vacationers in Italy!

It now looks like migrant farm workers are going to be needed to help pick the new crops. Italy is more welcoming to migrant workers today than a year ago because these migrants can do the jobs that many younger Italians no longer know how to do. Additionally, the migrants will finally get the chance to work from within the legal economy and obtain some benefits. Still, many Italians have recently decided to return to agricultural production. Young Italians know these jobs have deep roots in the Italian tradition, many older Italians having entered in the farm working field as early as age 14. Perhaps the recent growing interest in agriculture has been stimulated by a worldwide return to the emphasis on the need to have healthy nutrition.

Restaurants and bars are different from how we reminisce about them prior to COVID-19. Getting a take-away bag or tray was unthinkable in 2019. In less than two months, between 21 February and 17 May 2020, the Italian mindset about eating out has been reconstructed. In the traditional Italian viewpoint, eating out entailed having outstanding waiting service, one reason why there are so many ‘hospitality’ schools in this country. Being served by top waiting staff was an essential part of the customary restaurant experience.

I remember the days when I dined in some excellent restaurants in Rome that served meals in a specific order. Firstly, there was an aperitif followed by the antipasto (sometimes fried calamari). Then there was the customary first plate (classically pasta). The second plate consisted of a protein dish like fish and two vegetable sides or a salad. That was followed by dessert, typically fruit, Tiramisu, Profiteroles, or another light sweet. A dim candlelight atmosphere enhanced the pleasant experience. Such classical dining with excellent staff will continue as long as customers are willing to follow the rules regarding social distancing and utilising protective barriers, but if diners prefer, they can settle for take-away.

Having distinct take-away meals will be quite a transformation in a country accustomed to making do when needed. Some Italians are already planning to order take-away food to celebrate their romantic wedding anniversaries. However, if couples are determined to eat out in restaurants, they will find the tables far apart this year, not like in the past when people used to eat pizza at a shared table along with the locals. Many restaurants have already installed plexiglass in the middle of tables to shield consumers from the coronavirus. One wonders how bottles of wine and baskets of bread will be passed back and forth between patrons (if there is plexiglass in the middle of them), but it would be an excellent excuse to order the wine of one’s choice rather than that of one’s companion.

Travellers shouldn’t expect to get any kisses and hugs from overly friendly Italians this summer. Italians keep to themselves these days and practice social distancing as much as they can. Italians weren’t known for distancing themselves a few years back, quite the contrary in such a friendly nation, so almost everyone’s still talkative and pleasant nowadays. Visitors should expect to answer numerous questions about what brings them to Italy, and the locals will likely assist them if they get lost and need to understand the directions at the train station, even if they can’t speak the language. Most Italians tell visitors that their cuisine is the best in the world and that Italian fashion is the utmost. Of course, thousands of tourists long to visit Italy and genuinely appreciate all that Italy has to offer: art, culture, music, cuisine, and the get-up-and-go attitude.

Laura Gail Sweeney, Ed.D., has earned degrees in Italian Language and Culture, English, Art, and Education. In 1988, she earned a degree in Italian Language and Culture at Middlebury College (Vermont, USA). She travelled to Cortona twice with The University of Georgia and studied for more than a year at L’Universita’ per Stranieri in Perugia. Sweeney loves to explore Italy and to visit great cities like Rome and Florence. She once did a promotional book tour in Milan, Torino, Bologna, and Rome.

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