The Second Wave & A New Lockdown
It’s officially December and 2020 is almost over. After nearly six months of relative normalcy, Italy returned to various states of lockdown a month ago. The strict quarantine measures of March and April precluded extremely low COVID numbers throughout the course of the summer, allowing us to travel across four different regions, meeting with partners and visiting hotels in preparation for our Italian Origins small group trip next fall. In September, we flew to the Greek Isles and spent a week hiking and swimming all over the tiny island of Symi and discovering the thickly layered history of Rhodes. It was an amazing trip and we’re thankful that Italy, and Europe’s, serious response to the pandemic in those early months allowed us the opportunity to travel a bit this year.
But here we are again. A second wave has swept over Europe and Italy has once again responded with significant measures. We started as a Zona Gialla (yellow zone) in early November - the lowest in severity of Italy’s three-tier zone system - but became a Zona Arancia (orange zone) within a week, and then a Zona Rossa (red zone) just a few days later.
Italy's Lockdown. What it's like.
Italy’s national measures include a mandatory mask mandate, limited travel, a national curfew from 10 pm to 5 am, and some general travel restrictions. Tuscany just became an orange zone again, after having been a red zone for multiple weeks, meaning we’ve only been allowed to leave the house to go to the grocery store, pharmacy, or for exercise (only on foot or by bike from our house). We can go out for other needs or to go to other stores, but only with a ‘self-certification’ form, detailing the purpose of our ‘trip.’ We can only leave our comune (town) if the store we’re going to isn’t available in our town. Restaurants and bars are open for take-out only. There’s definitely no going to friend’s houses or visiting extended family.
For the most part, people seem to be following the rules. Everyone here wears a mask and we rarely see more than a couple of people together at a time. Once again, these measures are starting to show results. While the death toll has been devastating here (Italy has the world’s second oldest population), the number of daily new cases has gone from ~40,000 to less than 20,000 in recent days. Unlike our neighbors to the north in England, the government has just announced that travel during the Christmas holidays will be restricted as well. It’s not exactly a thrilling announcement and we fully expect this to be our most boring Christmas in the history of time, but it’s reassuring to know how seriously the government is taking the situation, especially with 2021 right around the corner.
- It’s definitely not an overstatement to say that this New Year’s Eve will be the most excited we’ve been for a new year in a long, long time!
Signs of Hope
The most inspiring news of the past few weeks has been the announcements of various COVID vaccines and the prospect of a return to normal in 2021. Italy has announced a plan to begin a major vaccination campaign beginning in January and has already secured 200 million doses through contracts with some of the most promising candidates. That’s enough to vaccinate 100 million people - plenty for a country with a population of 60 million. The vaccine will be free to all residents and the goal is to vaccinate a significant portion of the country within the first 6 months of 2021.
We know there’s a lot that’s still up in the air, but we’re feeling hopeful that 2021 will be a great year for travel, especially in the latter half of the year. We’re already planning a trip back to the states in June, visiting our families in Boulder and Sonoma, and planning an epic California road trip with some of our best friends who’ll be flying over from the UK. Flights, for the moment, are very inexpensive and nearly every airline is offering free changes through the end of 2021, offering some much appreciated peace of mind when booking airfare. We’re hoping that the strict measures Italy and other European nations are taking will give us the opportunity for spring travel as well - possibly a weekend in Poland or the Ukraine, both on last year’s untouched Travel Wishlist.
Italy’s serious approach to fighting COVID has also given us confidence that next year’s Italian Origins Guided Trip will go ahead without any problems. A 2021 resurgence will be vital to an economy like Italy's, where it's been estimated that the tourism industry will lose more than $100 billion before the pandemic is over. As a country with a massive number of really small businesses (~95% of Italy's businesses are considered "micro," with 9 employees or less), many of which are part of the travel sector, we're looking forward to being part of the recovery effort. We've built some great partnerships here and will be proud to travel across four regions with a small group next September, supporting each of them along the way.
In the meantime, we’ll be hanging tight at home, working on new Designed Trips, cooking up new recipes, reading, writing, running, and riding our bikes on sunny winter days. We’re thankful that our family and friends have been able to stay healthy throughout this horrible year. And we very much hope that everyone reading this is happy, healthy, and safe as well.
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