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"Have Venice and Italy reopened for travel?"

Our take: planning a trip for for 2020 is no longer wise, but 2021 may be more promising.

body bag in Venice, Italy

ABOVE: No, the body parked outside this funeral parlor isn't a coronavirus victim--but it could be, given the high death rate for older people and the fact that pensioners make up nearly 20 percent of Venice's population.


Venice isn't at the epicenter of Italy's coronavirus scare, but there have been plenty of COVID-19 cases in the city, and deaths have occurred. A "third wave" of coronavirus infections has been spreading across Europe, so travel to Venice probably is likely to be unwise in the months ahead. Still, that doesn't mean you can't start thinking about a future trip to Venice!

Things to keep in mind:

  • The bad news: Although Italy is nominally open to tourists from the EU and the Schengen Area, visitors from many other countries--including the United States--may have to wait for a while.  (The European Union's Re-open EU Web site has up-to-date, country-by-country information in 24 languages.)

    A shortage of flights and a "third wave" of COVID-19 infections in Europe will complicate matters in the next few months.

  • The good news: Because of the pandemic and its economic fallout, tourist arrivals in Venice should be lower (even next year) than they have been in decades. We think the second half of 2021 could be a wonderful time to enjoy the city without having to bump shoulders with mass-market tourists. What's more, Venetians--who have been hit hard financially--will be grateful for your business.

Our advice for planning a visit to Venice:

  • Watch the news media and Re-open EU for up-to-date information on infection rates, lockdowns, etc. The pandemic isn't likely to recede fully until a vaccine is widely available, so (as much as it hurts us to say this) we can't recommend planning a vacation trip to Venice until next spring or even later in 2021.

  • If you're in a high-risk group (e.g., over 60, especially with underlying health problems), use common sense in deciding whether, when, and where to travel. The coronavirus probably won't disappear overnight, and Italy's healthcare system is likely to remain under stress for some time.

  • When you book hotels, B&Bs, or apartments, make sure that your reservation can be canceled without penalty. (This year is a good time to avoid low prepaid, non-cancellable rates.) For maximum savings, keep an eye on rate changes and be prepared to cancel and rebook if you can get a better deal closer to your visit.

    Tip:
    Hotel rooms are usually easier to cancel without penalty than apartments are.

  • Be aware of cancellation policies or change fees when you book your airline, train, or cruise tickets. Airline fares and other transportation tickets vary in their cancellation and change policies.

    If you can't afford a fully-refundable ticket, budget some money for ticket changes just in case. (Good news: Many airlines offer waivers on change fees during periods of severe weather, epidemics, etc.)

  • Don't expect travel insurance to protect you if you need to cancel your trip because of coronavirus fears. Most insurers are treating the current outbreak as a "known event" and are turning down coronavirus-related claims unless travelers have bought high-priced "cancel for any reason" plans.

  • Avoid prepaid sightseeing tours unless they're fully cancellable. Instead, book excursions when you come or immediately before. (Gondola rides don't need to be booked ahead--just hire a gondolier on the spot.)

Bottom line:

  • If you've already booked a trip for 2020, check with your airline, hotel, cruise line, etc. to learn their plans and what your options are: e.g., rebooking, getting a voucher for future travel, or obtaining a refund.

  • As of this writing, we think late spring, summer, or fall of 2021 could be a great time to visit Venice if you want to enjoy the city with less crowding than usual. Our prediction assumes that the coronavirus pandemic has faded, tourism has resumed, and you aren't in a high-risk group. (The situation could change at any time, so build as much flexibility as possible into your travel plans.)


Event cancellations and postponements:

  • The Biennale Architettura (previously scheduled for 2020) has been postponed until 2021.

  • The Biennale Arte (previously scheduled for 2021) has been postponed until 2022.

 

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