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Why to Go to Europe Now: France and Italy Are Empty

I am just back from three weeks in France and Italy, and I can tell you that in my lifetime I don’t think there has been a more magical moment to be a traveler in Europe. Cities like Paris, Florence, Venice and Rome, which are usually packed this time of year are empty. Traditionally, the top hotels are crammed with American, British and Asian travelers in early summer, but not this year. Almost all of the hotels I visited are running at 30 to 40 percent occupancy but with 100 percent of their staff; unlike in the U.S., where top resorts are packed but operating short-staffed because of hiring constraints. So not only can you visit the Louvre or the Uffizi without the crowds, but the staff in the hotels, restaurants and shops are thrilled to greet and assist you. “I feel like I traveled to Italy in the 1950s,” said one friend who just spent two weeks in Positano. “It was so quiet and so elegant.” Another member who I bumped into in the airport in Rome on my way home, showed me a photo of his wife with the Spanish Steps to herself. “Our friends were still worried about what it would be like here,” they told me. “But I don’t think in our lifetimes there will be a better moment to visit.” I concur wholeheartedly.

That said, in the the past few weeks, the situation has once again changed. Extra precautions should be taken to account for the Delta variant. As always, I—and Indagare as a company—encourage individuals to behave responsibly wherever in the world they may be, especially as countries continue their vaccination efforts. I have been so impressed with President Macron’s handling of the evolving landscape, and applaud France’s upcoming requirements for proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test for entering planes and trains as well as establishments like bars, restaurants, cafés and shopping centers. It’s through steps like these that, hopefully, we can continue to safely visit our favorite destinations—and discover new ones.

Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer to start planning a safe and meaningful trip to France and Italy—this year and beyond. Our team can provide information on destination requirements, hotel policies and insurance options, transportation and much more.

Why are France and Italy so empty? Reduced demand and reduced capacity. While Americans are now allowed to enter these European countries with only a negative Covid test, many other nationalities are still not allowed to enter. China, for instance, has not opened its borders to travel; nor Japan nor Australia; and travelers from India, Brazil, South Africa and the UK may enter the EU only for essential reasons and are required to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival or test again after five days, due to the current “landing ban.” While British citizens may travel to France and Italy, they must quarantine upon return, so most are staying home. Traditionally, many of the top hotels and resorts on the Mediterranean cater to American and British guests in the summer. This year, many Americans were unsure of border openings or restrictions in Europe, so they booked trips within the U.S. Additionally, the flight capacity still remains vastly reduced. (Remember, even though Americans can travel to Europe, Europeans are still not allowed to enter the U.S., and business travel has yet to pick up.) Rome, which usually operates three departure terminals and has planes landing every few minutes in summer, has only one terminal open at the moment and less than 50 percent of its normal flights and those are rarely full. 

Related Traveling to Europe in 2021

Who should go? 

Those who travel now will be rewarded for their initiative, but travel is much less predictable than it was in years past. Those who can handle more hoops to jump through (Covid tests, which usually mean longer times for check-in and forms to download and fill in) and some anxiety (no matter if you are vaccinated and careful, there is a chance for a false positive Covid result or even an accurate one, and there is a higher probability of canceled flights) are the ones who should come now.

What to know 

Rules continue to change. When I left for France on June 9, Americans were required to present proof of vaccination. A week or so later, the entry requirements changed to only a negative Covid test. Initially, Italy required Covid-free flights, which meant you tested before the flight and also upon arrival, which could mean long queues on arrival. Now, only proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test is required to enter Italy. Traveling between EU countries requires a negative Covid test, but no one checked mine when I left France or entered Italy. In addition, France required a signed “Attestation d’Honneur,” whereas Italy uses a digital form that you must sign, swearing to your Covid safety compliance. Because things change and many of the tests and forms can be done only within a specific timeframe, you cannot just go on vacation and vacation. You will need to be on top of the changing rules and make time to prepare the paperwork and protocols. 

Even shopping has been affected. I found that the sales in France and Italy had started earlier than usual this year, but the Tax Free offices at the airport in Rome have not reopened. The stores will fill out the paperwork, as usual, but the customs office at the airport stamps the paperwork. So while there were no lines (with so many fewer international travelers), the process was much less smooth, and for the first time in years, I actually had to show the goods purchased. Again, not a moment for everyone, but I wouldn’t have traded it. 

Related Postcards From Italy: What It’s Really Like to Be There Now!

Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer to start planning a safe and meaningful trip to France and Italy—this year and beyond. Our team can provide information on destination requirements, hotel policies and insurance options, transportation and much more.

– Melissa Biggs Bradley on July 15, 2021

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Quotable

Not only can you visit the Louvre or the Uffizi without the crowds, but the staff in the hotels, restaurants and shops are thrilled to greet and assist you.

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