Written by our Head of Marketing detailing her experience living and working in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thinking back to this time last year, it’s hard to believe that almost 12 months have gone by since Italy first went into lockdown due to COVID-19. While everybody’s experience has been different (but also pretty similar in the sense that we’re all spending a lot of time at home), I’m here to share my experience as an American living in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic, starting back in March 2020 leading up to today, February 2021.
Early in the COVID-19 Pandemic
I think many people would agree that when the pandemic hit, we didn’t really know what to expect and certainly didn’t envision a scenario that would endure for this long – textbook definition of unprecedented times. In what felt like a blink, everything changed. Study abroad programs were canceled, students were sent back to America, and many of our American staff chose to head back stateside to wait out the pandemic with their families. As I have been living and working in Italy since 2017, when we went into lockdown in early March there was no doubt in my mind that I would be staying in Italy – Rome is my home.
Italy was one of the first European countries to report thousands of daily cases of COVID-19 and implemented some of the tightest restrictions to curb the spread. We were only allowed to leave the house for reasons of absolute necessity; grocery shopping, pharmacy visits, or other reasons deemed essential. We were required to fill out an autodichiarazione or self-declaration form for those instances we did need to leave the house stating our reason for being out. Everything felt surreal, and as someone who has worked in the tourism industry for over four years, it felt pretty scary to not know when things would return to normal and tourism would be able to resume. Tourism in Italy accounts for 3.5 million jobs, over 14 percent of its total workforce.
By May, the numbers were improving and the country relaxed restrictions. Over the summer, life seemed relatively normal, but American travelers were still not allowed into Europe. It felt like we were almost out of the woods, we could see the light at the end of the tunnel and we beat back the pandemic! Unfortunately, you already know how the story goes, in the Fall of 2020 numbers spiked and the dreaded second wave had arrived. Restrictions were put back into place, not as strict as the first lockdown but still fewer freedoms than over the summer. The country hunkered down in hopes to stop the spread of the virus from overwhelming hospitals.
Living in Italy Today During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Fast forward to today, middle of February 2021 – what are things like in Italy now?
Back in November, the Italian government implemented a three-tier system to determine the level of restrictions in each particular region based on the number of cases and hospital beds available. Yellow is the lowest level of restrictions, Orange in the middle, and Red zone being the most strict measures. As of right now, Lazio, the region where Rome is located, is Yellow zone. This means that dine-in is allowed at restaurants until 6 PM, but the nationwide curfew of 10 PM – 5 AM is still in effect. Museums are allowed to be open Monday – Friday but must be closed on the weekends.
Additionally, gyms, theaters, and cinemas remain closed. Ski resorts were required to push their opening date until March 5th. As of today, February 18th, movement between regions is prohibited until February 25th.
Tourism in Italy
Currently, there is no tourism happening in Italy due to COVID-19 restrictions. Although borders between European countries remain open, there are strict measures in place to curb the spread and encourage travel only for absolute necessity. There is no additional update on lifting the travel ban on North America.
Day to Day Life
Like most people, COVID-19 and the many changes it brought, have been an adjustment for me. Many of my friends live in Florence so I’m unable to see them, my Italian lessons have been over Zoom since March, and I haven’t had dinner at a restaurant in months. But the silver lining is that when I leave my home office and walk around Rome, I’m reminded of how the city and its inhabitants have endured much more than I could ever imagine, and one day (hopefully soon) we will start to have a semblance of normalcy back.
For me personally and like many of my friends both in Italy and America, we struggle with the endless unknowns that this pandemic has thrown at us, and the feeling of an inability to plan or make major decisions. COVID-19 has forced us to take it day by day and keep a positive outlook for the future. Whereas I used to travel frequently for work and leisure, this extra time at home gave me the opportunity to adopt a puppy – Spritz – and train her to be my Italian sidekick.
While living in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t the Italian fantasy most people think of when they imagine living in Rome, it’s still home for me and I’m hopeful that it will welcome back travelers and students alike very soon.
Check out our Escape 2 Europe trips for Summer 2021! Weeklong trips to Europe for 20-somethings. The Greek Islands, Southern Italy, or Spain & Portugal – pick your favorite and book risk-free.