Coronavirus Rome - Travel questions answered

Looking for the latest news about the Coronavirus Rome? What's the situation here? What's it like in Rome right now? Should you cancel your trip to Italy? Should/can you come to Rome Italy right now?


March 21, 2020 - the Italian government decreed that all non-essential places of work must close. Conte said "only production activities deemed vital for national production will be allowed". This includes factories and offices. Supermarkets, grocers, pharmacies, postal, banking and essential public transport and public services are all open. Clients must maintain a 1-meter distance between themselves and this sometimes means having to wait outside.

March 11, 2020 - the Italian government decreed that all cafes, pubs, restaurants, and shops must remain closed. Home delivery is still allowed, meaning you can order food from restaurants that provide this service.

March 9, 2020 - the Italian government decreed that the entire country of Italy is in the "red zone." This means travel is restricted into and out of Italy, and between cities and regions.

Read more details below about what it means that Rome is under "lockdown."

March 8, 2020 - the Italian Government decreed that all museums and archeological sites across Italy will be closed through April 3 as a precautionary measure.

Many (but not all) hotels, churches, grocery stores, pharmacies, newsstands, tabacco shops, and whole food vendors are still open as usual. So, obviously, are parks, fountains, and piazzas.

Coronavirus Rome - Answers to your questions

I've been getting these questions about Coronavirus Rome via email and across all my social media channels, so I wanted to create a place to answer them:

My take on the Coronavirus Rome

Please note I am not a medical professional or a public health official.

I have no authority to tell you what you should do about travel to Rome, Italy, or anywhere, now or in the future.

But since I've been getting asked so much about the situation here, I wanted to give you my perspective on how things are for those of us who live and work in Rome.

I'll also give you some links to authoritative sources you SHOULD rely on if you are trying to decide whether to travel to Rome, to Italy, or even at all.

Coronavirus Rome Italy - Campidoglio and the office of the Mayor of Rome on March 8, when sites and museums were closed across Italy.

Coronavirus Rome

What's the situation in Rome right now?

The lockdown affects the entire country.

Here in Rome, if you were to walk around, you'd find very empty streets and piazzas.

However, life is carrying on. People are walking their dogs, going to the grocery and pharmacy, and doing basic things to live life as best we can under the circumstances. But we are also staying inside as much as possible.

I have not come across a shortage of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, soap, or really any basic necessities.

Everyone I know in Rome is expressing a resilience and determination not to let this knock us down.

It's very difficult because I and so many people I know work directly in tourism, and as you can imagine, this has had a devastating effect on us. It also has ripple effects throughout the Italian economy.

Coronavirus Rome - What does it mean to be under lockdown?

Being on lockdown does NOT mean we are under marshal law.

We are not quarantined to the point of not being able to leave our houses at all.

According to the latest Italian decree, here are the main restrictions (I am translating from the official website of the Italian Ministry of Health):

  • Travel inside Italy only if necessaryAvoid moving into and out of your region except for work or health reasons. 
  • Even in your own city, limit your movements - You can leave the house for work, health reasons, and "needs"
  • Prohibition of assembly - All forms of people-gathering in public places are forbidden.
  • Cafes, pubs, and restaurants are closed
  • All non-essential shops are closed
  • Sports events and competitions suspended - This applies to all sports events, from amateur to Serie A soccer.
  • Gyms, swimming pools, and spas must close

Coronavirus Rome - why are we in lockdown?

It's important to understand that these measures are in place to help slow the spread of the virus.

While Italy has an excellent healthcare system, it also has a limit on the number of facilities, including hospital beds and medical staff to assist people.

And while the virus may be innocuous in many people, it can also cause serious illness and complications in many others. Those people need to have access to adequate treatment. 

So this lockdown is the best chance we have to slow the spread of the virus and keeping the number of new cases to a minimum while those in need are being treated.

Is it safe to be in Rome right now?

We feel safe going around Rome. We've been grocery shopping and taking very short walks in our neighborhood, as allowed by law. We are keeping more than the 1-meter (3-feet) distance from others, as decreed.

Just as this was unfolding, we had friends visiting from the US who had bravely decided not to cancel their plans before the entire country went on lockdown. While none of us felt in danger from each other, we sent our friends back home as soon as the entire country was declared in the red zone.

My husband and I personally feel safe. We are following the rules and common sense health and hygiene practices as we always have done.

Can you walk around Rome?

As you can see from the above rules, you may walk around Rome "as needed."

If you have to walk your dog, go buy groceries or medication, go to work, take your kids outside to let them play and get fresh air, or otherwise have something to do outdoors, including going for a walk or run, you may. On the other hand, the authorities are urging us all to stay inside as much as possible. So this means not just going out every single day for groceries or to stretch our legs. Most days, going outside for us means heading to our building's roof terrace to hang laundry.

We must all follow the rules whether outside or inside, and keep at least 1 meter (about 3 feet) distance between ourselves and others.

Coronavirus Rome - What is closed in Rome and what's open?

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 should be closed until April 3 (at least).

Coronavirus Rome - all museums and archeological sites across Italy are closed until April 3. This includes the colosseum.

Two days later, the government decreed that the entire country of Italy will be a "red zone".

This was previously only applied to regions in the north of Italy that were hardest hit.

And as of March 11, cafes, pubs, restaurants, and shops must close.

Coronavirus Rome - What's closed

The following are completely closed until (at least) April 3:

  • All museums and archeological sites across Italy. This includes the Colosseum, the Vatican Museums, and the Pantheon.
  • Cafes, pubs, and restaurants
  • Shops and shopping centers
  • Theaters, pubs, and nightclubs
  • Schools and universities
  • Hairdressers, nail and beauty salons, and spas
  • Stadiums, gyms, and anyplace where sports are practiced

Serie A soccer games have been suspended or postponed.

Coronavirus Rome update - as of March 10, Saint Peter's Basilica is closed to the public.

As of March 10, 2020, Saint Peter's Basilica is also closed to anyone not living or working in Vatican City until April 3. (So is Saint Peter's Square.)

Coronaviris Rome - What's open

Churches, piazzas, parks, hotels are all open. 

Public masses are not allowed but you can visit churches as long as you keep 1 meter distance between yourself and others. Religious ceremonies, including funerals and weddings had to be either cancelled or postponed. 

Follow my friend Mountain Butorac, @thecatholictraveller, on social media, for up to date information on masses and what's happening at churches around Rome.

Basically anything outdoors, such as parks, piazzas, and fountains are still open and not cordoned off.

Grocery stores and whole food vendors such as fruit sellers and butchers remain open.

While cafes and restaurants are closed, home delivery is allowed, so you will be able to order food in from any restaurant offering this.

Pharmacies, news stands, and tabacco shops are open.

Coronavirus Rome - what's open/closed. What to do/not do.

Is Coronavirus in Rome?

There have been a few confirmed cases of the Coronavirus Rome and in Lazio region. So far almost all of them have recovered. You can follow this here:

Coronavirus Rome - Will you be quarantined?

Right now, there is no quarantine IN Rome per se, other than the urging of the government to limit time spent out of doors to only necessary activities.

Will you face a quarantine when you leave Rome? This is something you will need to find out from your country's embassy and place of work. 

If you are in Rome, what should you do? What can you do?

Whether you are in Rome or anywhere else, you can take the precautions suggested by the Italian Health ministry and the World Health Organization. The most important of these are:

  • Stay indoors as much as possible
  • When around others, keep a distance of at least 1 meter (3 feet)
  • Thoroughly wash and dry your hands as often as you can, especially after you use the bathroom and after you have been outside.

Otherwise, there is not much you CAN do. Being a tourist right now in Rome is not recommended, so if you find yourself here as a tourist, you will need to either stay inside, or try to get back home.

You can also check the website of your country's embassy for up-to-date information and notifications.

Here is the website of the US Embassy in Italy, regarding Covid-19.

Here is the UK official statement on the situation regarding Covid-19 and Italy.

Should you cancel your trip to Italy?

If you have a trip planned to visit Italy anytime in the near future or even in the summer or fall, you may be wondering if you should cancel your trip.

Since the situation is 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.

How to help Italy and Italian businesses

The Italian economy has been devastated by this situation. Besides people working in tourism, this grinding to a halt of the Italian economy has trickled down to many people across socio-economic statuses, sectors, and geographic regions.

If you want to help, here are some options:

  • Italian Red Cross - There is a link right on their home page where you can donate towards the coronavirus crisis
  • The Cats at Largo Argentina - This volunteer organization depends on donations to care for and feed the cats who live there
  • Girl in Florence - Georgette Jupe has a really diverse list of options for helping local businesses.
  • Revealed Rome - Amanda Ruggieri also has some excellent suggestions about who to follow for Coronavirus Rome and Italy news, and how to help small businesses.
  • Elizabeth Minchilli just shared her insightful vies about life in lockdown while in Umbria, and gave some excellent resources and suggestions for how to help.
  • Gillians Lists - Gillian McGuire also has some superb ideas for how to help.
  • La Vita Roma - Abbie Stark has a great writeup of how we are coping, and also offers tips for how to help.

What is the Coronavirus? What is Covid-19?

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.


There is no correct statistic right now that tells us the rate of infection, the survival rate, or the death rate.

We only have some data telling us the number of infected people that WE KNOW ABOUT, and a definite number of people who have died.


This means we don't know the total population of people infected in a a given region or in the world, because testing people to see if they have the virus has been inconsistent.

Covid-19 symptoms

Symptoms of the Coronavirus Covid-19 show up 2-14 days after exposure. They include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

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. Many common-sense personal hygiene practices will go a long way towards preventing your exposure to the virus.

From the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to  others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).

Coronavirus and Italy

Why are there so many cases of Coronavirus in Italy

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.

Where is the Covid-19 virus in Italy?

As of March 8, 2020, most of the cases of Coronavirus in Italy were in the north. (They still are.)

In fact, that region was originally the only part of Italy considered a "red zone". Now, the entire country is in the red zone.

Coronavirus/Covid-19 - useful links and resources

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