Updated September 15, 2020
I've been getting lots of similar questions about the Coronavirus in Rome via email and across all my social media channels, so I wanted to create a place to answer them:
The basilica is open as of May 18. The Vatican museums and Vatican gardens opened.
There are a lot of new rules and new hours. You can read them on the Vatican Museums newly-designed website here.
We visited the museums, the basilica, the dome, and the square, and it's an amazing experience, with few people around.
Right now, advance booking is mandatory (the Vatican Museums will waive the 4€ fee right now). Entrances will be staggered and timed. You must be punctual. Wearing a mask inside is mandatory.
There is no advance booking required for Saint Peter's Basilica, but you may have a short wait in a socially-distanced queue. You will have to go through airport-style security, and while inside, masks are obligatory at all times. Don’t forget to cover your knees and shoulders.
The archeological park that includes the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill have reopened, with most areas accessible. The exceptions to this are the SUPER sites and the platforms overlooking the Circus Maximus. You also cannot access the Imperial Forums.
There are new hours and rules, along with a new app - find out all the new information on the Colosseum's official website here.
The ticket office has now re-opened so you could buy tickets on site. I really recommend against this, as I always have done. Entrances are still timed and limited, and while the queues aren't as long as they have been in previous years, I am now seeing people lining up at the ticket booth. In the heat, it is far better to book in advance and save yourself the aggravation! Just remember to arrive promptly for your booked time.
However, some underground sites are now re-opening! The catacombs of San Callisto are open for visits (must be booked online in advance) in line with government guidelines.
Some of the requirements that are standard for visiting Rome museums/sites include:
For nearly all sites, advance online booking is mandatory. Visits will be staggered and timed to manage the number of visitors present at any given time. You must be punctual, and maintain social distancing throughout your visit, as well as wearing a mask.
Other new features include thermal scanners at the entrance, downloadable audioguides on smartphones, and frequent sanitisations during the day.
Some museums are extending their hours to allow locals to visit more easily and to avoid large numbers of visitors arriving at the same time - check each individual location's website for specific days and timings.
Watch my recent video to find out what life in Rome is like after the Coronavirus lockdown:
When everything went on lockdown on March 9, people across Italy complied. However, life carried on. People were walking their dogs, going to the grocery and pharmacy, and doing basic things to live life as best we could under the circumstances.
As of the second half of May, things began opening back up and restrictions started loosening (see above).
As of September, there is much more movement outside than before, with tourists starting to appear, but you will still find much emptier streets and piazzas than you would have seen in the past. If you follow me on social media, you will see my pix of quiet piazzas and monuments.
However, I have started hearing more non-Italian voices and seeing tourists starting to enjoy the city again, which I am very happy to see!
I think that a lot of the piazzas and monuments are quiet during the day because we have only a few tourists, and because Romans are busy working and taking care of their children. I think also that when Romans are going out, they are heading to the parks which are indeed full.
Many people tell me they love seeing my photos of an empty Rome. They say how nice it must be to see these sights with so few people.
Yes, it's nice. Sort of. It's also terrible. I hear so many business owners wondering if they are going to make it. Rome needs tourists. We miss you and we need you.
We feel safe going around Rome. We obeyed the law and at first limited our outings to grocery shopping and short walks in our neighborhood. As restrictions have eased, we continue to go out, maintaining a sense of caution.
We don't always wear masks when outside unless we see we are nearing other people. We are keeping more than the 1-meter (3-feet) distance from others, as decreed.
We ALWAYS wear masks inside.
Alessandro and I personally feel safe. We are following the rules and common sense health and hygiene practices as we always have done.
As of June 1, we can go anywhere in Italy without needing any papers to justify where we are going (as we did before).
We must all follow the rules whether outside or inside, and keep at least 1 meter (about 3 feet) distance between ourselves and others.
Just in the first 10 days of March, the situation changed dramatically.
At the beginning of March, I would have told you that it was ok to be here in Rome, because everything was open. Except for the catacombs.
On March 8 the government decreed that all museums and archeological sites would close until April 3. That moved to May 3.
Now it's mid-September. Almost everything has reopened, if slowly.
Indoor nightclubs and discos remained closed throughout this time, and the government decided to close outdoor clubs as of August 17. No other types of businesses have been closed however.
Saint Peter's Basilica and Saint Peter's Square reopened on May 18, with the Vatican Museums, Colosseum/Palatine Hill/Forum area, Capitoline Museums, Borghese Gallery, the Pantheon and many other major museums and sites now open also.
All types of shops are now allowed to be open.
As of the time of writing, there have been a total of just over 13,300 TOTAL confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in the Lazio region since tracking began in early March. You can follow this here:
No matter where you are in the world, you can take the precautions suggested by the Italian Health ministry and the World Health Organization. The most important of these are:
You can also check the website of your country's embassy for up-to-date information and notifications.
If you have a trip planned to visit Italy any time in the near future or later in the year, you may be wondering if you should cancel your trip.
Since the situation is continually developing, it's hard to know how it will effect travel plans in the near term. Nobody can know when this will all "blow over."
In part, it will be up to you and your family to decide what is right for you. In part, it may be out of your hands, as companies and governments place restrictions where they feel it's important to do so.
What I can tell you is that we in Italy all hope you will come to Italy as soon as you can.
The economy, in particular the tourism-based economy, has been crushed because of this situation. We need you now more than ever before.
If you have tickets for sometime this fall or later in the year, I suggest waiting to see what happens.
Check flights now:
Many of you are asking WHEN you can come visit Rome and Italy.
I wish you could come right now.
The summer heat is still here but is starting to ease, the days feel slightly cooler but the sun is still setting late, and the evenings are beautiful and pleasant, perfect for enjoying a stroll through the streets of Rome or sipping on cool drinks in a piazza or on a rooftop.
We need you here and miss you so much.
As to when you will be allowed to come...
Italy has never banned travel into the country. There has been, however, a 2-week mandatory quarantine for anyone coming in from outside. Also, many flights were reduced (but not completely cancelled as people were allowed to travel to repatriate and/or for work or medical reasons).
Another factor is that YOUR country may have cut off flights to Italy and/or issued travel advisories that urged people not to visit Italy.
As of June 3, if you are from an EU country (including the UK, Switzerland and Monaco), you are allowed to come freely to Italy without any 2-week quarantine! We can also travel to other EU countries.
This is very exciting for all of us and we are so happy to welcome you back.
If you are from a country outside the EU, at the moment travel into Italy from elsewhere without a quarantine is not allowed. As of July 1 some EU countries have started allowing visitors from non-EU countries, and while Italy has allowed visitors from the approved list, they have to quarantine for 14 days on arrival.
The EU-wide travel advice is being reviewed regularly, so the situation is likely to change. Once travel is allowed, the country where you live may have different rules about what you are allowed to do. It may depend on the airlines, and it will surely depend on your personal situation.
All I can say is to please keep following me, here and on social media, as I update you. Just know how much we want you to come back to visit us.
The Italian economy has been devastated by this situation. Besides people working in tourism, the grinding to a halt of the Italian economy trickled down to many people across socio-economic statuses, sectors, and geographic regions.
I and so many people I know work directly in tourism, and as you can imagine, this has had a brutal effect on us all.
If you want to help, here are some options:
Coronaviruses have been around a very long time.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), "Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV)."
The most recently identified virus is called Novel Coronavirus, which basically means "new Coronavirus." Covid-19 is the disease caused by the Novel Coronavirus.
Covid-19 is something like a regular flu virus, except it's likelier to be deadlier (but we don't know), and it seems to be more contagious (although we don't know), and we do not yet have a vaccine for it.
Symptoms of the Coronavirus Covid-19 show up 2-14 days after exposure. They include:
Do not panic! These symptoms can also indicate any number of other illnesses including the cold, flu, and other viral infections.
What can you do to protect yourself? The following is true anywhere in the world, not just in Rome, Italy.
So far, we don't have a vaccine to prevent Covid-19 but many common-sense personal hygiene practices will go a long way towards preventing your exposure to the virus.
When we first learned of the Coronavirus, Italy was at the forefront. It was in Rome that scientists first isolated and identified the virus. And Italy began immediately to test people for it. As a result, they quickly found many people infected.
The World Health Organization has praised Italy's reaction, and actions taken by the Italian Ministry of health:
"Dr Dina Pfeifer, in charge of clinical management and team lead, highlighted Italy’s commitment, since the beginning, to tackle to the outbreak. “We appreciate the difficulties that the current situation poses and acknowledge the efforts of the Ministry of Health as well as other national and regional authorities to address it. This is indeed a whole-of-government collaboration, and we are grateful for the transparent information-sharing that is critical for us to better understand this outbreak and support response efforts,” she said."
So, thanks to Italy's aggressive testing, it was easier to get a handle on the number of people infected, and to begin addressing the situation.
It may be that Italy does not have proportionately more people with Coronavirus. It may turn out that they simply counted more people with it right from the beginning. But we don't know yet.
As time has gone by, Italy's cases have stabilized due to the measures taken by the government. Compared to other countries in Europe and around the world, Italy's case numbers do not now look as unusual as they did at the start of the pandemic, with the vast majority of Italians complying with the measures designed to help stop the spread of the virus.
As of March 8, 2020, most of the cases of Coronavirus in Italy were in the north. (They still are as of the time of writing.)
In fact, the region of Lombardy was originally the only part of Italy considered a "red zone". On March 9, the entire country was considered a red zone.
As of September 15, the majority of the cases remain specifically in the region of Lombardy (where Milan is). Here again is the link to the data map. It's in Italian but it's easy to understand and you can see the regions and the numbers.