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Current Situation in Italy

I have hesitated a long time to post a downbeat report from Italy. However, as every day I see more and more forum members inquiring about summer/fall travel plans, I finally decided to post about the perspective from here.

Yesterday (March 10), I read two very good articles about the current state of affairs here. One, from The Local.it, says current government expectations are for a return to normality in seven to fifteen months from now. Yes, really. The other is from the Rome bureau chief for the Globe and Mail (Canada's national newspaper) about the one-year anniversary of Italy's lockdown and the current state of affairs. Sorry if these are behind paywalls, I subscribe to both so I can't tell.

The gist is: the EU block buying of vaccines and distribution to member states has been a complete failure and it's going to take a long time to straighten out the supply chain and get vaccines flowing. Which means it will be a long while, probably the rest of 2021, before tourism can restart.

I am delighted that the U.S. and Canada are turning the corner on vaccines and I completely understand the wish to get back to Europe. I managed to move to Italy last August during the only travel window since the pandemic started. Since October, we have been almost completely in "red zone" lockdowns, meaning I can't leave my small town without an essential reason and cannot leave Abruzzo at all. We are settling in and healthy, but we also are itching to see more of Italy and Europe. All I really have to say is let's clutch our remaining patience and wait it out till we can all do it safely. It's not looking promising for June or September, I'm afraid.

Posted by
6992 posts

Always good to have a report from a direct local observer.

Hopefully the vaccination snarl gets resolved on a sooner rather than later basis.

Posted by
1858 posts

I'm not sure I have understood the Local's article. First they they say they could vaccinate 56 millions people before June 30, i.e. anyone but teens and those with variable immunodeficiency disease. June is 3 months from now, what do they mean with "return to normality in seven to fifteen months"? I am afraid they already know that current vaccines can't cover the new variants and that smaller outbreaks will keep on popping up for 7 to 15 months from now.

Posted by
1770 posts

*Nelly *, so sorry your adventure is not what you dreamed of. My 2 Italian friends - one also in Abruzzo and the other in Sicily - have given me similar (anecdotal) cautions..."not this year."

My friend in Abruzzo is an elementary school teacher. They had been having in person classes but recently had to go back to distance learning. She actually goes into the classroom but her students do not.

Posted by
1123 posts

I’ve been getting the same info from my Abruzzo relatives.

Posted by
17881 posts

I was able to read The Local's article. The difference in the two schedules for reaching the goal line is pace of vaccination. The current figure is about 110,000 vaccinations per day.

The 7 to 15 months estimate is based on 240,000 vaccinations per day (and the assumption that vaccinations are good for 2 years).

The goal of vaccinating 56 million people by June is based on a much-accelerated pace:

200,000/day by the end of March (6.2 million doses for the month).
400,000/day in April (12 million doses for the month)
500,000/day in May (15.5 million doses for the month)
600,000/day in June (18 million doses for the month).

The only way those number work is if the numbers of vaccinations per day for March-June represent averages for the entire month, not the figures finally reached on the last day of the month.

Given that the US is averaging over 2 million vaccinations a day and hopes/expects to ramp up from there, I don't think Italy's goals are crazy. The US population is 5.5 times Italy's, so 600,000 doses per day in Italy is equivalent to 3.3 million/day in the US. That part sounds doable as long as vaccine hesitancy is low.

Will Italy be able to source that many doses that quickly? I don't know. I didn't think the EU expected deliveries to be at that pace.

Posted by
4610 posts

We have a trip planned for October this year to Italy and we are saddened by this report. We'll hang in there just in case things get better.

Posted by
842 posts

Vaccination talk here in the US was pretty bleak a couple of months ago--things have improved since. I am not saying the same will definitely happen in Italy/Europe, but the outlook could change over time.

Posted by
1806 posts

We're hopefully doing a trip April 2022 to Switzerland & Italy. I am fully expecting some kind of mask and/or distancing modifications will still be in place. But this is on the timeline I pretty much figured.

Posted by
806 posts

My crystal ball is no better than anyone else's, I just wanted to pass along what I believe is solid information from credible sources here in Italy. I do think it's unlikely the Italian government truly believes they can get the supply to vaccinate at the pace they need to for broad immunity this year. They are now evaluating the Sputnik V vaccine and plan to manufacture it here under license. I would prefer not to get the Russian vaccine, but we'll see what we can get when it's our turn.

I don't want to be a Cassandra prophesying doom, and I am not telling anyone not to try to make their dream trips - just that the prevailing opinion here is that we are not near the end of the road yet.

As for us, if I could post a picture you would see that we're not exactly suffering - the sky is a clear blue, there's snow on the mountaintops and flowers blooming throughout the town. It's just that we cannot leave this town of 2000 souls. In mid-February, I ran into a police stop on a small mountain road with not another car or human for miles. We were only 5 km from home, looking for a new place to walk and still within our township. He gruffly told me to get home. I haven't gotten in my car since then. External restrictions give anyone itchy feet!

Posted by
178 posts

The vaccination plan in Italy at the moment depends by the availability of doses. Unfortunately the suppliers disappointed the contracts and are not sending the purchased amount. In the second quarter are expected 64M of doses and 68M in the third quarter. So, if everything arrive in time at the end of September probably the whole Italian population (or the most) will be vaccinated.
The point is: when is everybody vaccinated, means return to normality? Is too early to say a definitive YES. Of course I hope so. But is even very probable that there will an intermediate period, with freedom of movement but even some restriction. For example small group, 75% passengers on buses and trains, mandatory masks and so on for months. That probably means that travel and tourism will be allowed again, I hope from next Summer, but isn't yet "normality".

Posted by
1605 posts

As for us, if I could post a picture you would see that we're not
exactly suffering - the sky is a clear blue, there's snow on the
mountaintops and flowers blooming throughout the town.

The sky is blue this morning with snow on the mountaintops in Calgary too.....but -10 this morning. Flowers blooming in late June?

As for that first article, it says it all in the final paragraph; we just don't know enough yet.

Posted by
4348 posts

The chief medical officers in the U.K. are warning about another possible spike here late summer and another in the winter, due to new virus variants and the unknown protection that the vaccines give. We are way ahead of Europe in our vaccination programme and the government here is now saying all adults will have their second vaccine by the end of October. No children are being vaccinated.

I have a friend that lives in France and she said her doctor couldn’t drum enough support from the entire large village to order 10 vaccines (minimum order). If this is typical of some parts of mainland Europe, herd immunity and protection is a long way off.

Supply of vaccine is going to be an issue.

Posted by
484 posts

It is very dismal here in Italy in my opinion. It is difficult not to be able to leave your town or region and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. Many shops and small businesses have closed. Some big stores in Bologna have closed and even some hotels. It has been a very difficult time. Schools are closed and online again but for some essential workers and special needs students they are in person. The vaccine roll out is slow. The papers often seem to play up the worse... "at the current rate it won't be until 2025 to the Modenese are vaccinated". Really? I doubt I guess it sells papers. I'm still hopeful for fall. From what I read it was originally thought that Italians would be vaccinated by the END of summer not June. Haven't heard an update. According to the virologist I heard today on RAI Radio the vaccines will be effective on the variants. The Sputnik vaccine has been approved for production (I think) in Italy. Italy also reports that French and Germans are refusing the AstraZeneca vaccine in hopes of receiving a different one. This has to end but when we shut down February 23rd 2020 here in Emilia Romagna I never thought a year later I would still be wondering when?

Posted by
1378 posts

It is interesting to read these reports. I've been watching Stanley Tucci's series Searching for Italy, in which he has been visiting various cities and regions and exploring local cuisine. (Great show, by the way.) I'm not sure what time of year he was there, but although they are wearing masks and greeting others with elbow bumps, everything seems open and bustling with activity. Did it get much better and is now getting much worse?

Posted by
1 posts

My wife and I moved to Merano on November of 2020. We arrived after a month and a half in Split Croatia (which we really enjoyed). We went into quarantine several days later. We're restricted to travel within our town, but for us it's still been a great choice. The people here are amazing. Warm, helpful, and open. Even though we don't speak the local languages (German and Italian), we've been able to get by well. So many people have gone out of their way to make our lives easier.

One thing that I'd add to the things that others have said is that it's important to recognize the local regions and municipalities can alter the rules of the country. Particularly up here in the autonomous region of Bolzano. TheLocal is great, but the information often isn't applicable to our region. I'd recommend that if you're interested in visiting a particular region, start reading their official web site and the local paper. Get a feel for what's really happening in that area since the rules differ so radically.

Italy is wonderful, the Südtirol/Alto-Adige absolutely amazing. Even in quarantine, we're able to hike the local trails daily. With the amazing views, beautiful mountain trails, wonderful food and wine, and warm caring people, it's heaven on Earth for us.

Posted by
5528 posts

Lane, on at least one of the episodes (Milan I think) there is a disclaimer at the beginning of the show that says it was filmed before COVID. Maybe that was added after the original broadcast as I watched it on "On Demand".

Posted by
7202 posts

Today I got an email from a French legislator who said restrictions for overseas French in the US and Canada will remain in place due to the high number of cases in both countries and the circulation of variants. This is to remind others that it's not only what's happening in Europe that determines if or when North Americans can visit, but also what is happening in NA, no matter how many more people have been vaccinated.

Back to the real subject: it was similar across the border in France, though the 1 kilometer and 100 kilometer restrictions were lifted. With a 6 pm curfew and no restrooms available, it was difficult to go anywhere. I know you are happy to be there no matter what, but it's difficult when everything is closed and it's the same old, same old. Walking the same trail again and again....

Posted by
9 posts

Thank you Nelly. So sorry to keep hearing about the current state of things in Italy. I'll keep it short but my wife and I were supposed to travel from the USA to visit Italy starting end of May to June for 2 weeks beginning in Venice--> Florence-->Cinque Terre-->Positano-->Rome. I was keeping a small glimmer of hope thinking it may happen after reschedules from May 2020 then switched to Sept 2020 then to May 2021. I wish the Italian Govnmt would amend their Law Decree to extend all past vouchers to expire to Dec 2022 or 2023 since refunds weren't given. Mine are set to expire Nov 2021. Hotels are not willing to do refunds and I can't blame them given the state of the economy. My window to travel to Italy was end of May this year. Now I know why I cannot make any reservations on Trenitalia high speed trains if the regions are in lock-down. Regional trains would take way to long to arrive at the destinations.
Unfortunately, its time to be realistic about this trip. Thanks again for the post.

CZ

Posted by
806 posts

I have updated the Globe and Mail link in my original post; I had originally linked to an older Eric Reguly article by mistake. From this updated article, I'm posting my favourite part, a lighter story with a great punchline.

"San Marino is a landlocked micro-country in northeast Italy that I have never visited. It covers 61 square kilometres and has a population of 34,000. Its constitution dates from 1600, making it the oldest constitutional state. Ambassadors to Italy are, typically, also ambassadors to San Marino; they drop in now and again for a Torta Tre Monti (Cake of the Three Mountains), a chocolate-covered layer cake depicting the three towers that decorate the national flag.

San Marino is on my mind because it has a problem, other than the fact it has no ambassadors or tourists around to eat its cakes. It has a solution, too.

The problem is that it has one of the highest COVID-19 death rates in the world – maybe the highest. San Marino has had 73 people die – equivalent to 2,149 deaths per million (Italy’s rate is 1,595, Canada’s 573). Everyone in the country knows someone who was felled by the virus.

The solution is, of course, vaccines. But how to get them? Turns out San Marino is not a member of the EU, a status it shares with the Vatican, the other micro-country surrounded by Italy. That means San Marino has the option to rustle up its own supplies. And that’s exactly what it’s doing, since Italy’s and the EU’s vaccine rollouts have been embarrassingly slow. So far, none of Italy’s meagre vaccine supply has been diverted to San Marino.

Last week, San Marino announced that it had struck a deal with the Russian Direct Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund that is managing the vaccine’s distribution, to buy the Sputnik V vaccine. San Marino’s health authority was thrilled and said the first Russian jabs would land “in the coming days.”

There was one small hitch. San Marino has no international airport, only a little private airstrip, meaning the vaccine supplies would have to come through Italy. But since the EU has not authorized the Russian product, no one knew if it could be legally imported. In fact, a Sputnik V shipment destined for San Marino was stopped by Italian customs agents in Milan. By Tuesday, presumably after a lot of yelling and screaming by San Marino’s Health Minister, the problem was resolved and a shipment of 7,500 Sputnik V doses made it to the country’s hospital under police escort, negating the need for San Marino’s tiny but brave military to invade Italy and seize Milan’s airport."

Posted by
1724 posts

Enjoyed the story about San Marino Nelly!
I remember at the very start of this mess checking daily an online Covid case tracker and being shocked how many cases for such a tiny place (San Marino). They were hit very early on.

Posted by
1480 posts

another good resource is the NY Times, they write quite often about the situation in Italy. If you run up against their article limit, clear out your cookies.

Posted by
17881 posts

A couple of years ago I found I got a new allotment of NYTimes articles if I switched to a different browser. I now pay for access, so I don't know whether that still works.

Posted by
1123 posts

Thanks Nelly for the dose of reality. Hopefully those thinking of making a large deposit, even if refundable for travel this summer travel, might decide to rethink their plans.

Posted by
7202 posts

Nelly, today’s Washington Post said that half of Italy, around Milan again, is about to go back into a full lockdown. What’s happening now? It’s really changing daily.

Posted by
806 posts

As you’ll see in other threads and news items, Italy has tightened restrictions again, currently planned to last through Easter but I expect longer. Still discouraging news on the vaccine supply. I read a very cranky blog post yesterday about how no one expects organization from the Italians. But the latest graphs show that Italy and Germany are neck and neck on their vaccination rates (10 per 100). So it’s not a question of organization 😜.

Although rumour has it Italy has scrapped the designer primrose vaccination tents, along with the minister who ordered them. Fancy tents and marketing couldn’t cover up the lack of supply.

Posted by
230 posts

Thanks for posting this, my 2020 cancelled trip is scheduled for November of 2021. I'm hopeful, but keeping an eye on things before filling in all the bookable stuff like hotels. Thankfully, everything so far can be moved without penalty.

Still have a hotel in Cortona from last year I'll never be able to use, out $600 on that one. Lesson learned.

Posted by
36 posts

Nelly, thanks so much. We’re booked in Tuscany for a week this October, having to use it, or change it, luckily, yet again. Hoping we don’t have to, as we haven’t been to Tuscany before. We value your view from the inside. Stay well.

Posted by
24 posts

Nelly we are hanging on with you for Tuscany and more this October!! No air or hotels booked. I remain hopeful thinking how fast our vaccines have ramped up here in US these last 2 months!! I know the EU has struggled. Maybe now that Astra Zeneca is back on track...can that help these nxt 7 months? Surely hope so for their lives and livelihoods!!!

Posted by
75 posts

Dear Nelly, thanks so much for your updates posted from Italy. Very much appreciated.

Posted by
1806 posts

Absolutely, Nelly, please keep us apprised with your 'ears on the ground'. We really do appreciate it. We have an April 2022 17-day train journey through Switzerland & Italy that come July/August we'll have to start to book.

Although rumour has it Italy has scrapped the designer primrose
vaccination tents, along with the minister who ordered them. Fancy
tents and marketing couldn’t cover up the lack of supply.

You gotta love the Italians. First day in Italy 11 years ago, we arrived at Rome Fiumicino trying to catch a tight connection to Catania, Sicily. At a disadvantage not speaking the language then, I tried questioning a couple of workers about the correct gate to find my flight. The young man & woman were dressed to the nines, airline or security uniforms straight out of a magazine pictorial. They pretty much dismissed me with a patronizing smile & wave, and walked away.

That's when I learned about style over substance at certain points of my Italian travels. Yet...I keep returning!

Posted by
806 posts

Well, as the last post talked about style over substance...there's still a lot of hand waving and not enough jabs in arms going on. There's discussion about queue jumping by people purporting to be health workers, proposals from various islands to vaccinate their whole populations so tourism can restart (cue vehement objections from mainland towns), stern admonition from the Prime Minister to let the elderly be vaccinated first to reduce deaths. But I don't hear about the total numbers increasing at the rate publicly promised.

I get most of my information from The Local Italy and Abruzzo online news. They seem reliable enough, but who knows. We're still waiting for our vaccines without any expectation of when, and active infections are still rising. But I sure hope all of you, and my family/friends, can get here soon.

Posted by
15 posts

Thank you Nelly for the update! You gave me more information than I have been able to find to date. I have a trip planned in late April 2022 for Rome and Athens. I am keeping my fingers crossed that all goes well and I can take my trip. From what I am reading and hearing, if Rome is a no go by then, Athens will still be on the table so, we will see!