Venice Is Open to Tourists—and It’s a Steal

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The first year of the pandemic deprived Italy of its foreign tourists. Visitors are streaming back now, but if you time it right, you can find one of the country’s top destinations unusually cool and affordable.

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According to the latest government data available, Venice welcomed nearly 60% fewer tourists in June and July of this year than in the same two months of 2019. But while the number of foreigners dropped by 70% in those two months, almost 50% more Italian tourists came to Venice, many on weekend day trips.

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As Italy’s tourist destination par excellence, Venice has become a bellwether for the country and Europe more broadly. What happens here is likely to happen in Rome, Paris and to a lesser extent in Barcelona.

In Italy and across Europe, tourism activity in August and September was about 70% of 2019 levels, according to Oxford Economics economist Tomas Dvorak. According to Oxford Economics, this is an improvement for most of Europe and a relief for Italy, where tourism revenue fell by 50% last year.

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“We’re still far from where we were in 2019, but that’s okay because right now I’m happy we’re working,” said Giulia Zanon, co-founded with her brother of a pub on a Venetian canal. Owner. and restaurant.

Italy’s long and strict lockdown, the first in the West, began in early March 2020 and almost completely halted Venice and the rest of the country. Venice recorded 667 overnight visitors in April 2020, down from 488,000 in the same month of 2019.

The number of new infections in Italy has been declining since August. More than three-quarters of the population in Italy has received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, while about 65% of tourists arriving from the US must have a recent negative COVID test, and those who have not been vaccinated should also have five. – Day quarantine and then test negative. To enter most indoor places in Italy, including restaurants, bars, museums and churches, you must show the country’s so-called Green Pass – which confirms that the holder has been vaccinated, recently tested negative have or have been recovered from covid. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Vaccine Card is accepted in lieu of a Green Pass. Masks are mandatory for indoor spaces in Italy.

While the number of foreign tourists visiting Venice has been increasing since the spring, shop owners are missing out on non-European visitors who tend to stay longer and spend more. Sharif Kanzad is particularly sorely missed by Americans, Koreans and Russians, all big buyers of the handmade traditional Venetian masks she has been selling in her shop for 22 years. “I am optimistic – as a business owner you should be,” Ms Kanzad said. “But we’ve learned during this pandemic that things change quickly and not always as you’d expect them to.”

That optimism is not shared by Emanuele Tagliapietra, who has been a gondolier for more than three decades and says it’s never been so bad except last year. He and the other gondoliers work two days, followed by three days off, compared to three days and two off before the pandemic. “How’s the business? Look at all these gondolas here, it’s your answer,” said Mr. Taglipietra, pointing to the long line of gondolas docked in the Venetian lagoon behind him.

During the summer, double rooms at many four-star Superior hotels were priced at about $173 a night, less than half of what they’d get in the summer of 2019, said Vittorio Bonacini, president of the Associazione Veneziana Albergatori, which operates the city’s capital. represents about 85%. hotels. He is expecting three- and four-star hotels to follow similar price cuts by the end of the year. Currently, hotels are busy about 35% during the week and 65% on weekends.

The city is still accommodating the Italian government’s decision in July to forbid large cruise ships from passing or docking near Venice’s historic center. The city is evaluating how to implement a plan next year to allow tourists who visit that day to pay an entrance fee, the price of which will depend on how many visitors are expected on a particular day. .

While most of Venice’s attractions are yet to recapture pre-pandemic levels of visitors, the Architectural Biennale is an exception. The Biennale, for which countries send artists to exhibit in the pavilions, is on track to attract more visitors than ever before. The huge, partly outdoor exhibition, one of the first large-scale events in Italy since the start of the pandemic, kicks off on 21 November after a six-month run. Tickets are still plentiful for all days, including weekends. “We showed that with the right precautions, large events can be safe,” said Biennale President Roberto Cicuto. “This is a message to the whole country.”

But as the pandemic persists, tourists face challenges, Helen Di Folco found this month. She and her husband flew from Toronto to Venice for a weeklong trip to Italy, beginning with a 24-hour stay in Venice followed by a bike tour on Italy’s Adriatic coast. They stayed at London’s Heathrow Airport for eight hours after their connecting flight was missing due to long COVID-containment lines. His stay in Venice became one evening and one morning. “When we booked in May we thought things would get better as time went on and by the summer it would all be clear,” said Ms. Di Folco. “Then Delta happened.”

While tourist numbers are still well below 2019 levels, the limit on people allowed in closed spaces across the country and the influx of weekend day-trippers has led to long lines. Tickets are sold out on weekends for some locations.

When Valentin Bordariat and Antoine Lafargue visited Paris on a recent weekend, long lines at the Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica prompted them to revise their sightseeing plans and head to the Guggenheim Museum, only to get away. The Guggenheim and Doge’s Palace take reservations. “I never thought you’d have to reserve a visit to the Guggenheim, but that’s okay, we’re happy to be here,” said Ms Bordarite. “It can be a hassle with documents, figuring out what the rules for COVID are in a different country, but once you’re here it’s all worth it.”

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