HOW IS IT TO VISIT ITALY DURING COVID?

Words by Be MyJourney and N. Livesey

Rome

How is it to visit Italy during Covid? Emmy-nominated director, artist and photographer Nick Livesey exploited this “extra-ordinary” time to travel to take a summer family trip to Italy. I had a chat with Nick about travelling through the country during a Pandemic.

 

BMJ : Why did you choose Italy as your destination for summer 2020?

NL : Italy was on our list since a couple of years. Our daughter is named after an Aeolian Island – Panarea – and we wanted to take her there. We also wanted to visit Italy over this “extra-ordinary” time. I would never choose to go to Rome or Florence in July for obvious reasons as it is very hot, combined with the maximum usual tourist flow, but not this year.

BMJ : What was the itinerary?

NL : We drove in a VW campervan from the UK through France and crossed from Monaco into Genova with the idea to get to Sicily, but also to spend some time in the Peninsula on the way. We didn’t book any ferry ticket to get to Panarea, so we winged it. We stopped in Florence, Pompei, Panarea and Rome.

BMJ : What were a few highlights of the trip?

NL : The Uffizi in Florence was all for us and it felt like walking in our own manor house! 

Also, all the Florentines who over summer would usually leave the city to go to the coast, this year stayed in Florence – almost reclaiming for the city – and everyone was extremely welcoming! We even got stopped a couple of times by people who wanted to thank us for choosing Italy as our destination “can I just ask where are you from and thank you so much for coming!”. This made us feel truly welcomed, whereas normally in such destinations you can feel that locals are somehow scared by tourists.

From Florence we drove down to Pompei. Visiting the archaeological park while it was empty was another highlight, even if it was extremely hot. Then, all masked, we took a train to Naples to go get the overnight ferry to Panarea.

When we arrived the island was empty and we were able to stay in Panarea’s most beautiful hotel. Even if we were with kids – usually not allowed in the property – the hosts welcomed us to stay in one of their suites.  We left the island on the 31st July and from the ferry on our way back to Naples we even spotted “Eccola, Eccola”, which stands for Stromboli’s volcano eruption!

From Naples we went to Rome. From my last visit, I remembered Rome as a chaotic city with no road mapping, no traffic rules, but this time when we drove in it was just empty. And when I say empty I mean it with the capital E and an exclamation mark! Unlike Florence, it looked like everyone left the city.

We parked right aside the Colosseum, we met a guide and we had an extemporary private tour of the archaeological site! It was almost like having a virtual reality experience or maybe looking at a film set just made up. It didn’t feel like the real thing because there were no tourists.. it is funny how tourists can somehow authenticate a place as their presence can make something feel real and historically valid. It was strange, but breathtaking!

BMJ : Did you feel safe with the health safety measures taken in the country?

NL : A lot of people told us we were brave to visit Italy this year, but the country managed the virus in a slightly different way comparing to the approach taken by France and the UK – travelling through the three countries over the same period we were able to notice that. In Italy, if you wanted to get inside a place – any place – you needed to wear a mask and everyone was very strict about it! Even inside Uffizi  – where we were alone – the museum’s guardians asked us to wear a mask for the whole time and they were there to make sure that was respected. These strict rules made us feel safe.

BMJ : If you had to choose three words to describe the experience of visiting Italy this summer?

NL : Easy, easier than normal over summer with less people and less traffic. – Splendid, surreally beautiful – More personal, we felt valued as tourists!

BMJ : And three words to describe Italian people?

NL : Warm – Funny – Open to family tourism

Pompei

Pompei

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