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The last few weeks have been a whirlwind and not what anyone planning trips to Italy this year expected. As we post this update, Italy is in lockdown with schools, universities, shops, bars, restaurants, museums and attractions closed.
In this episode we share our disappointment at canceled trips, send a big hug to our friends over there and give you some practical tips for deciding what to do about your planned trip to Italy in 2020.
The coronavirus has hit Italy hard and with it many travel plans and dreams. I wanted to share my sadness about the situation and commiserate with all our listeners who had travel planned in the coming months and give you some practical tips on how to start reorganizing your trips.
In the minutes since I recorded this update changes to travel regulations for US citizens now mean that travel from Europe is suspended until mid April 2020 at least. The travel advice I have given in this episode still applies. Please consult your country travel advisory before commencing and continuing your trip:
You can read the full episode transcript below
What you’ll learn in this episode
- What things to consider if you want to cancel and rebook your trip
- How we are assessing our own chances of rebooking our planned trip to Italy
- What savings can be made for upcoming trips
Companies offering deals for rebooking or early booking
- Take Walks / Walks of Italy – 10% off 2 or more tours with code WALKSPARTNER10
- Eating Europe – 20% off all tours with code SPRING2020
- The Tour Guy / The Roman Guy – click this link for 5% off
- The best time to visit Italy – a month by month guide to seasonal differences across Italy’s regions
- How to plan a trip to Italy – our article that takes you step by step through trip planning
- Italy Travel Planning – our FREE Facebook community where you can ask questions and get inspiration for planning your trip
- Travel shop where you’ll find items mentioned in the show
Prefer to read along as you listen? Below is a full transcript of our episode conversation. Unfortunately it does not pick up our lovely Australian accents however!
Ciao everyone, welcome to the Untold Italy podcast and an episode I never thought I would record.
It’s Katy here and just weeks ago, Josie and I sat down to chat and record several episodes for you to help you plan your trips to Italy. We were so excited and happy to be sharing all our knowledge about travel in Italy with you. And I was just about to depart Australia for a month long trip to Sicily, Emilia Romagna and Puglia among other places in Italy.
But here we are with an episode that I decided to record at the last minute to update you on the situation in Italy with the coronavirus emergency and share some thoughts about what you can do about your upcoming trips.
I’m here to share my upset at the crisis unfolding in Italy and commiserate with those of you who have had to cancel, or may need to cancel, dream trips, honeymoons, anniversary and birthday celebrations and even weddings. It’s a truly awful situation that no one anticipated even 3 weeks ago. And it’s impacting people all around the world through no fault of their own.
I’ve had to record this episode a few times as I’m getting quite emotional about the situation in Italy so please bear with me.
Today Italy is in national lockdown implemented by the government to help stop the threat of the coronavirus which has hospitalised thousands and caused the deaths of hundreds of people. Schools and universities are closed, people are restricted to movement in their neighborhoods unless they have clearance to travel for work or family emergency reasons; cafes and restaurants are also closed. Everyone is being urged to stay at home. These actions are unprecedented in peacetime Italy and certainly have not been seen for over 70 years.
From a travel perspective, flights into and out of Italy are being canceled and borders are closing. Museums and attractions are shut, hotels are empty and tours are not running.
At this stage the lockdown is in place until April 3rd. From there we don’t know any more. No one does and there is not much point speculating. We are just hoping with all our might that things improve quickly soon. And of course sending all our love to family and friends in Italy. And our gratitude and support to the medical teams who are working tirelessly to help the sick.
But we do understand many of you are worried about your upcoming trips so I thought it would be useful to share some of the things I did prior to canceling my trip for March and my thought process around booking future trips to Italy – which I hope to do very soon.
If you’re worried about keeping up and taking notes, all the resources mentioned in this podcast and a transcript will be added to the show notes at untolditaly/12 You can also keep up to date in our Italy travel planning Facebook community where we have all been helping fellow travelers reorganize their upcoming trips.
For travel up to April 3rd
Most airlines are canceling flights into and out of Italy up to the 3rd of April at least. Many countries have not yet updated their travel advisories but many have placed a ban on arrivals (including those in transit) from Italy. If you have a trip booked to Italy with departure prior to April 3rd it makes sense to contact your travel agent, airline, cruise company,hotels, transport and tour companies to begin the cancelation process if they have not been initiated already.
Those that booked non-refundable fares and accommodation may find those costs are not recoverable per the booking terms and conditions. If that is the case, try for a credit and rebooking deal as many companies are offering that at this time including some of our favorite tour companies.
Also check any travel insurance policies you have. Unfortunately this event, now declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, may not be covered however.
For travel in April and May 2020
If you have a trip to Italy planned with departure after April 3rd and into May here are some tips to help with your decision making process:
Understand your financial position with respect to airline, cruise, hotel and tour bookings. Make sure you understand what terms and conditions you booked under from the end company, travel agent and any third party that you booked through. Learn what conditions will apply if you decide to cancel, or if the company you booked with decides to cancel your trip or if the end company cancels their service
Pay close attention to updates from all companies involved in your travel plans. Some airlines have canceled flights to Italy up to the end of April 2020 and some in May already. Many airlines, hotels and tour companies are offering generous rebooking conditions that you may be able to take advantage of.
Understand how you’re covered (if at all) by travel insurance. Unfortunately most insurance companies and policies will not cover events related to the corona virus under their force majeure clauses. It’s still worthwhile checking if your insurance can help you. If you booked tickets with a credit card, you may have cover that will help you recoup some costs if you decide to cancel
- Try to be patient. Airlines and travel businesses have not had to deal with a situation like this ever before. Policies and advisories are shifting by the minute. They need time to assess travel advisories, make their own business decisions and implement them with front line staff. Bookings for March and April will be their priority to resolve
- If you made reservations for flights, hotels and tours that are non-refundable then expect that policy to be enacted. If you manage to secure a refund that’s fantastic. However I think a credit for future use is a more realistic outcome. Companies are working hard to accommodate customers but at some point they will need to make hard decisions to save their businesses. Unfortunately not all travel companies will survive this crisis
- With respect to health concerns, I expect it is unlikely that the Italian government will lift restrictions until the health crisis is well under control. But, regardless of what happens you should seek the advice of your own medical professionals and team should you decide to travel to Italy.
If you are able to hold out then you can expect tour companies in Italy to offer attractive deals to win your business. Some already have some great offers which I’ll add into the show notes.
For travel in June 2020 and beyond
Everyone hopes this situation is well under control by the time summer starts in the northern hemisphere, both in Italy and our home countries. If you have bookings from June 2020 and beyond I would try to wait a few more weeks to see how the containment measures progress in Italy and your own countries before making a decision on your trips.
Assuming things improve, there will never be a better time to visit Italy as the crowds will likely be fewer than any other summer season in recent memory and travel and tour companies are offering incredible deals of up to 20% off with generous cancelation clauses to secure your business. I’ll add the ones I am aware of into our show notes.
Moving forward, we do not know what flight routes will disappear permanently from airline schedules. Most likely airlines will proceed with caution adding flights gradually to meet demand rather than anticipate it. For this reason I do not think there will be any great bargains to be had on flights once the recovery starts. In fact they are more likely to be more expensive.
Italian businesses and tourism
This crisis will have a huge knock on effect to the Italian economy. Tourism is 13% of Italy’s GDP and millions of small businesses and families rely on income from tourists just like us. We are all going to feel some financial impact of this health crisis and you have to do what is right for you and your family.
However, if you can, please try hold onto your bookings in Italy for this summer and beyond. No doubt you will have an amazing time, likely with fewer crowds and in the process you will help this beautiful country recover from a very dark time.
On a personal note, I look forward to returning to Italy as soon as I can. I definitely want to take the road trip we planned that took us from the food bowl in Emilia Romagna, down through beautiful Le Marche to Puglia and back through Tuscany. I want to see the Dolomites, swim in the sea off Sardinia, eat all the truffles in Piedmont and have a coffee with my friend in Le Marche.
I can’t wait to share more tips and adventures in the country I love with you. But for now, like all of you, we are waiting to see how things play out in our own country, Australia and around the world. Both Josie and I urge you all to stay safe and keep your families and loved ones close.
Forza Italia, be strong Italy. We stand with you and support you from afar and hope to be with you drinking wine and sharing stories very soon.
Ciao for now.