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Italy’s COVID Lockdown Empties Tourist Hotspots, Again

St Mark’s Square in Venice empty after Italy’s first lockdown in the spring to curb the spread of … [+] COVID-19.

Rebecca Ann Hughes

Italy’s spring lockdown, one of the longest and strictest in Europe, gifted extraordinary experiences and photos of the country’s iconic tourist attractions devoid of people. As Italy’s latest COVID rules see regional borders closing and international travel continues to be restricted, these tourist hotspots are once more emptying. The situation is bittersweet. Many businesses, particularly those dependent on tourism, wonder if they’ll manage to survive a second travel hiatus. But with a full lockdown not yet imposed, it’s a unique opportunity for residents to reclaim the city for themselves. 

Venice Falls Silent

Once poster-girl for overtourism, the canal city of Venice was suddenly the domain of locals for several months this spring. Even at the height of summer, continuing travel restrictions preventing tourism from countries like America and China meant the city was still a radically different place from previous years. Now, areas of the city previously lost to crushing crowds of tourists are clearing again. 

Roberto Ferronato, chef de rang at the historic Caffè Florian, has observed Venice’s most iconic spot, St Mark’s Square, throughout these months. As he waits at the cafè’s tables set out in the square, he has been witness to its extraordinary emptiness. “In the city, at this moment, there are very few tourists,” Ferronato confirms. 

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