Before I get into this post, I want to make clear that this was written on the 7th of March whilst I was still in Venice, and edited and posted on the 11th of March. Bear in mind that the situation changes every day and whilst I have tried to affect that, make sure you are always checking the relevant local government sites if you are planning on travelling during the Corona Virus Venice.
Corona Virus is obviously a hot topic around the world at the moment and as soon as people realised I had an upcoming trip to Venice the rumours, speculations and panicked comments started coming in. I had the trip booked for Venice way before the outbreak started and over the last week or so I’d really ummed and ahhed about whether or not to make the trip. Some of the flights after ours were cancelled, there were museum closures the week before and the rumours were rife. However, our flights were still going ahead, we couldn’t cancel without losing our money and after some thought and hearing of the increasing outbreaks here where I live here in London, I weighed up the risks and decided to go for it. Whilst some towns in Northern Italy were in lockdown, at the time of our trip the nearest case to the city was 80km away and I’m closer to a case than that in my own office. There was, and still is, a lot of hyping up and irresponsible journalism going on by the UK media especially regarding what it is currently like in Venice, so as I have just got back from the city myself I thought I’d address some of the truth behind the rumours:
Rumour one: There are crazy health screenings at the airport
The closest airport to Venice is the Venice Marco Polo Airport, on arrival, there are people in hazmat style suits who take your temperature, so that part is true. However, these aren’t those huge crazy gun-type devises you’ve spotted all over the Daily Mail and similar sites. It’s a small digital device that they point at your forehead, it never touches you, and it takes less than a second. Then that’s it, your through and it’s business as usual.
Rumour two: Venice is a ghost town
This is a rumour largely fulled by articles on The New York Times, The Guardian, The Daily Mail and by the time I’ve written this probably another thousand more. The truth is simple: It’s not. Now it is a lot quieter then it usually is at this time of year, and there are likely more locals around then tourists, but there’s still plenty of people around. If you are looking for that totally empty shot in the Piazza San Marco at midday you are still going to struggle but there are definitely fewer people around. So far we’ve not had to queue for everything. Our first day was Friday and Saturday as definitely busier in the main island of Venice (we spent most of the day on the islands of Murano and Burano before heading back there in the evening) as people headed in for the weekend. We got speaking to a local in a bar who worked at one of the city museums and he told us it was mostly locals in the area currently in the city due to peoples fears of the virus.
Rumour three: Everyone is wearing facemasks, even the police!
I’ve seen a handful of people wearing facemasks, less then I’ve seen in London over the last week and the police aren’t wearing them. In fact, I’ve not seen any workers of any kind wearing them in the city.
Rumour four: Everything is closed
Nope, almost everything is open at the time of writing this. There were some museums closed last week but all are open now. I have seen a couple of closed restaurants on small side streets on Friday but outside of that everything is open. It’s business as usual in Venice.
Rumour five: They won’t let tourists in bars and restaurants
I got asked about this on Twitter and I don’t know where this came from but this just isn’t the case. It’s quieter than usual so everywhere is happy to see tourists and everyone has been really friendly.
Rumour six: The gondolas aren’t running
They are, and the gondoliers are in need of the work with it being quieter than usual due to the Corona Virus Venice so we’ve had a few give us decent offers as we’ve walked by. In fact, on our last day, we decided to take a plunge and try one, we got one for €40 instead of the usual €80.
Rumour Seven: The city is under quarantine
At the time of writing Venice isn’t currently under quarantine, it is under ‘lockdown’ which is different, let me explain. Quarantine means you can not leave an area at all and is designed to confine an area which already has a large problem with the virus, lockdown is to stop the disease spreading to areas where it isn’t currently active and so you can leave your house. You can visit restaurants, and you can travel between towns or cities as long as it is for work, to get home, or to visit the hospital, in short, essential travel. This is incidentally is how we were able to travel to Bologna to get a flight home after our flight was cancelled on our last night, but that’s a story for a different post. During my visit, Venice wasn’t classed as either of these and it wasn’t until our final night when the Prime Minister of Italy changed the red zone to include the Venice area. So take the Facebook headlines with a pinch of salt and make sure you check out the government website for up to date information.
Rumour eight: If you’ve been to Venice you need to self-quarantine for two weeks
Again this wasn’t true when we were there but it did change once we got back. Confusingly 111 said we didn’t need to isolate, the government website said we did, and later it changed to say anyone who arrived back in the UK Monday evening did. We arrived before that but I am choosing to self isolate anyway. AIf in doubt check the government website, call 111 and make sensible choices.
The important notes here are to ignore the exaggerated, fear-inducing and completely irresponsible journalism given by some tabloid newspaper headlines. Oh and stop bulk buying toilet roles and hand gel! The abundance of both in Italy has made me realise this is a uniquely British reaction. As the saying goes ‘keep calm and carry on’, so maybe we should take our own advice!
If you have any more questions on travelling during the Corona Virus Venice, drop it in the comments and I will answer as best I can.