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"Should I plan to visit Venice, Italy after the coronavirus quarantine is lifted ?"

So far, we'd say "Yes," if you aren't in a high-risk group and you want to enjoy one of Italy's most touristed cities without the crowds. But read our advice before planning your trip.

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 the epicenter of Italy's coronavirus scare, but as of early April, there have been a number of COVID-19 cases in the city, and deaths have occurred.

So far, the response from tourists could be characterized as "caution" or "overreaction," depending on your point of view. Judge for yourself: In late February, after the last two days of Carnevale were cancelled, the New York Times described Venice as a "ghost town" and reported that "Venice hotels have lost almost 70 percent of their international visitors." Since Italy declared a nationwide quarantine on March 9, tourists in Venice have become almost non-existent.

Should you postpone or cancel a trip to Venice and Italy this year because of the coronavirus pandemic? We can't give you a definitive answer, because (a) you need to make a personal decision based on your own judgment, and (b) the coronavirus situation in Italy and elsewhere changes from day to day. We suggest keeping an eye on news reports, which will help you assess the risk of traveling.

Things to keep in mind:

  • As we mentioned above, the entire country of Italy is on lockdown. We recommend that you avoid making firm plans until the quarantine has been lifted.

  • If you've already booked a trip, contact your airline, tour company, cruise line, etc. to learn what your options are.

  • Thanks to uncertainty resulting from the coronavirus, Venice is now less crowded than it's been in decades. Once Italy's coronavirus lockdown ends, the city should be relatively free of daytrippers and tour groups for at least a month or two. We think the period after the coronavirus pandemic fades will 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.

  • With so many hotel rooms and short-term apartments lying empty--and so many existing reservations cancelled--it should become increasingly easy to find good deals on places to stay.

Our advice for planning a visit to Venice after the quarantine:

  • 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 until existing coronovirus patients have recovered (or, in some cases, died).

  • 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.

    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.)

  • Dont 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 require advance booking. You'll see gondoliers standing alongside canals, saying "Gondola?" as prospective customers walk by.

Bottom line:

  • As of this writing, we think autumn or winter, 2020 will be a great time to visit Venice if you want to enjoy the city with less crowding than usual. Our prediction assumes that the quarantine has been lifted by then, and that you aren't in a high-risk group. However, the situation could change, so build as much flexibility as possible into your travel plans.

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