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Hey there,

May 18th marked an important step in the Italian pandemic course.                                                       

This is it, this is Italy entering a real phase two after "phase 1.5" started after the May 4th decree. It’s hasn’t been very long between May 4th and now but there’s been lots of progress.

As has been the case since the start of the COVID-19 emergency, not all regions are in the same situation. That has caused, along with the different political colors of part of the regional governors – friction between the government led by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and some regions. They found a compromise starting last Monday: regions can issue guidelines different than the ones issued centrally, but they are accountable for their decisions. They have to report back their cases and the central government can impose its hierarchy if numbers go over a certain benchmark. To better understand the situation consider that public health is a central government matter but that hospitals are under the regions. We have all learned of Lombardy's disastrous handling of the emergency and the untimely political back-and-forth with Conte.

Things are under control, but they can change quickly and we all know it.

All the indicators of the virus spread that we’ve come to know keep trending downward. Italy registered 99 new coronavirus deaths on Monday, the lowest daily rate since March 11, and 451 new infections.

 

The focus is shifting to the economic epidemic. There’s also been a change in attitude from patience to impatience, from fatalism to action.

                                                                                                                                                    

Not much progress – hardly any -- has been made since the May 4th decree when they announced the tracking app and more sample testing. On the other hand, the May 18th decree called “rilancio” (rebound) has been huge in terms of economic help and relief. The Euro 55 Billion put in place for aid and tax cuts are more than double the 2019 fiscal budget. Nothing of that sort has been done before and there are also negotiations with the European Union for more. They are debating about the form that EU assistance should take. 

The big news came on the EU level with regards to tourism. So far, you cannot travel from country to country and in Italy you cannot leave your region except for a few justified cases. Last weekend it was announced that starting on June 3rd EU residents (Schengen area + Switzerland and Monaco) could travel to Italy without the obstacle of quarantine. As you can imagine that is huge in terms of rescuing the summer tourism season somehow. Some regions of Italy that have hardly had any cases could see European tourists come back. For them, it will be a balance of fearing the virus spread and helping the economy (tourism accounts for 13% of Italian GDP; 15% considering the industries tangentially related to tourism).

Another big step forward comes form airlines. Ryanair is a big player in Europe thanks to number of flights and affordability. The CEO was the first one to announce that they’ll soon reopen with flights to 90% of their destinations claiming that they’ll offer the usual low fares “if the governments will allow it." The statement was both considerate and a bold warning that it was time for some clarity. Lufthansa will also resume flights to/from Italy, and Alitalia has just announced they will resume flights to and from Spain and the USA, and from Rome to other points in Italy, on June 3. We've also just heard that Easy Jet and British Airways are targeting June to resume flights to Italy. Read about our recent flight experience.

Many pieces are falling into place but will travelers come? Yes, they will, slowly. Italy is top of mind according to Google searches on travel.

 

What about hospitality? There’s frustration about missing guidelines or that rules that are too expensive or impractical to implement. But Italians are resourceful and things are moving forward. Trade associations and consortiums have stepped in to help with all of the bureaucratic aspects of complying with reopening while coexisting with Covid. Hotels, restaurants, bagni (beach accommodations) are adjusting with a % that said that is not worth it to reopen.

All of us, including travelers, will have to adjust, too, in the sense that expectations and behaviors have to shift and that could be better than we think. One example: you might be used to early dinners and that clashes with the fact that in Italy restaurants rarely open before 8 pm. Well, they’ll have to open sooner to social distance their guests in the best way. Not into 3 hr dinners? You might be getting lucky because restaurateurs won’t want parties to hang out for too long when they can only use 30-50% of their capacity. In one of the economic relief articles the decree grants restaurants, bars and coffee bars the use of public space tax free. Some cities are going even further and envision their piazzas as open-air dining areas. Our personal feeling is: enough of Zoom and Skype, we can’t wait to go back to eating out.

Hotel protocols for cleanliness and hygiene are very comprehensive. I’ve seen a document that was made in conjunction by the three hotel trade associations and over its 30 pages talks about prevention, signage, how to handle a suspected positive case, and more. I’ve found some good points that we’ll integrate into Tourissimo’s protocol.  

Here’s a summary of the Italian Rebound decree:

  • Social distancing remains mandatory
  • Masks are mandatory in public when you can not social distance
  • Retail shops, hairdressers, coffee bars, restaurants can reopen
  • Churches, museums can reopen
  • gyms, sports facilities and swimming pools will be able to go back into business on May 25th
  • Large gatherings are still prohibited
  • Starting June 3rd you can visit other regions without “justified motivations”
  • It’s still a monitoring phase of “try and learn,” ready to take action with retightening measures if the numbers start climbing again
  • Parks and public gardens are open but you have to respect social distancing
  • From June 3rd, visitors from other European countries will be able to enter Italy without quarantine

 

I’d say it is mostly a strange back to normal. 

Many of the reopenings initially scheduled for June 1st have been moved up due to pressure from public opinion and from the regions but of course with the reassurance of the virus spread indicators heading down.

In the nearly 500-page decree there were many economical measures that are not worth mentioning here. A pleasant one was the bonus for the purchase of a new bicycle or scooter (electric, too) worth 20% of the cost with a cap at 500 Euro (about 500 US$). Hopefully, a side effect of COVID-19, will be a shift in the way Italians think about mobility. We are getting used to low traffic and we would like to keep it that way and cities are rushing (Italian rushing) to build bike-mobility infrastructure that would have taken years just to get approved. I’m seeing that here in Turin.

Final thoughts from a tourism perspective:

Italy is reopening and Europeans will be allowed to travel and spend their vacations here. What remains to be seen is:

  • When other European countries will open their borders to one another
  • When travelers from other countries will be allowed back in Europe
  • How other countries will handle those who have visited Italy

As for other countries, the government is expected to announce whether they will accept other international travelers by June 14th. And of course, we look forward to learning more about how things will play out with the US.

With all of that, it is still hard to say with absolute certainty that our September and October tours will run but chances are improving by a lot. Our last tour starting for the summer – the June Peloton Italian Ride – was moved to September. Our private groups are waiting just as we are. As you’ve noticed, we’ve rightly been holding back marketing but we were pleased to see unsolicited inquiries resume. As you can see below our 2021 calendar is ready, when you are.

 

View Tour Calendar

 

 

Non-COVID News

 

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Vinissimo! Our Wine Club 

While you can’t travel to Italy right now, we want to bring a bit of Italy to you! We're hand-selecting wines from our favorite producers and creating content to introduce you to the wine makers. All profits from 2020 shipments will be given to our staff as a bonus. Sign up for more details.

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Giro d'Italia 2020

Moved to October 3-25, 2020

The Giro has been moved to October and the start will be in Sicily instead of Hungary. Our Giro Cycling Week will be from October 10-17.

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2021 Calendar is Online

Italy is waiting for you when you are ready to travel, and we've released our 2021 Tour Calendar so you can start dreaming and planning. We're also already working with private groups for 2021 and 2022.

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Follow our FB Lives

What started as a way to pass time in quarantine and update people on our travels will continue periodically throughout the summer to keep you informed and to say hi. We miss you! Follow us on Facebook for more info. See our first live HERE.