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Italy reopens its borders to tourists 'in message to the world'

Italy yesterday reopened its borders to European tourists after a three-month lockdown in which 33,500 people lost their lives to coronavirus.

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Reunited: Andrea Monti hugs his girlfriend Katherina Scherf who just arrived from Duesseldorf, Germany at Rome’s Fiumicino airport. Photo: Reuters

Reunited: Andrea Monti hugs his girlfriend Katherina Scherf who just arrived from Duesseldorf, Germany at Rome’s Fiumicino airport. Photo: Reuters

AP

Reunited: Andrea Monti hugs his girlfriend Katherina Scherf who just arrived from Duesseldorf, Germany at Rome’s Fiumicino airport. Photo: Reuters

Italy has become the first European country to fully reopen its borders, and visitors from the UK and the EU will not have to go into 14-day quarantine upon arrival.

A ban on travelling between Italy's 20 regions was also lifted - since March such journeys were prohibited unless they were for urgent work or health reasons. It meant families could be reunited after three months of separation.

"We did it, with the sacrifice of everyone," said Francesco Boccia, Italy's minister for regional affairs.

Like all countries, Italy has had to weigh the dangers of opening up too early against the need to rebuild its shattered economy.

The national government had to overrule objections from some regions - Tuscany and Campania among them - which were worried about new infections being carried from Lombardy, Veneto and other northern regions that were worst affected by Covid-19.

"Right now, it's a disaster. I can't afford to pay my normal staff because we're doing so little business," said Maria, owner of a trattoria in Trastevere, a fashionable area of Rome near the Vatican.

"We just hope tourists start returning in the next week or 10 days. But I wonder if they have the will, psychologically and economically, to come."

The virus has by no means been vanquished in Italy - on Tuesday there were another 55 deaths and more than 300 new cases. On Monday, there were 60 deaths.

While 160,000 people had recovered from the virus, 40,000 remained infected.

Some of Italy's most famous attractions were reopened, including the Vatican Museums and the Colosseum in Rome and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

An exhibition in Rome of 120 Raphael works, which had to close after just a few days due to the lockdown, was reopened and its run extended until the end of August.

The ruins of Pompeii reopened to visitors last week.

With Italy facing a predicted 10pc contraction of its economy, the government was desperate for tourism to return, as it accounted for 13pc of its GDP.

"Italians can move freely around the country again," said Luigi Di Maio, the foreign minister.

"This is an important message of reassurance to the world. The opening of the country allows us to show to other countries an Italy that is united and solid."

But it was unclear if and when tourists would start to arrive in any significant number.

Rome's main airport, Leonardo da Vinci, handled just a few thousand travellers yesterday, compared with 110,000 this time last year.

While shops, bars and restaurants had been open since May 18, cinemas and theatres have to wait until June 15.

The majority of people in cities like Milan and Rome were continuing to wear face masks when they left home, and social distancing protocols were being maintained in shops, restaurants and offices.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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Irish Independent