As lockdowns begin to ease, many of us are thinking of travelling again.
Airlines are busy getting ready for more tourists – with reassuring messages about social distancing, wearing face masks on board and the efficiency of the air conditioning systems on aircraft. The latest systems now pump out fresh air every three minutes, so passengers are not breathing in stale air as they head off into the sunshine.
But what about then you arrive in cities like Rome? How do you make sure that you stay safe and enjoy the sights post-COVID?
The Eternal City is often crowded but there are a few ways you can return to Rome and take precautions against falling ill.
- Visit Rome out of season – the city is hot and packed with visitors in the peak season, but if you are prepared for some rainy days out of season, you can still enjoy glorious weather and see the ancient sites without being pushed and shoved by other tourists. March weather can be cold and wet – but by April the weather improves, though you should still take a coat for the evening. October can be gloriously warm and if you avoid half-term school holidays, the sites are relatively uncrowded and social distancing can be maintained. Trevi Fountain
- Visit the main sites like the Forum as soon as they open at 9am. Rome first thing in the morning is a treat in itself – the Trevi Fountain is cleaned early in the morning so if you get here by around 8.30am, you may see this secret event! The ticket office at the Forum opens at 9am and you can buy tickets for the Forum and the Colosseum and then make your way to the Baths of Caracalla for a day of sightseeing.
- Choose your sites carefully – the most spacious sites are the Forum and the Baths of Caracalla, which are on vast plots with lots of room for manoeuvre. The Colosseum is best seen first thing in the morning before the crowds arrive, as the passageways can be quite narrow. If you are visiting the Vatican or the Capitoline Museum, go early before the crowds build up. Capitoline Museum
- Walk Rome – the best way to see Rome is to walk round it and you can also control social distancing more easily. You can view quite a lot of the Forum without actually going into the site, as well as Trajan’s market opposite the Forum. From there you can walk to Circa Massimo – and from there onto Trastevere. Cross back over the River Tiber and visit the Ara Pacis. Out of season, the sites are much quieter and it is much easier to stay safe.
- Find small trattoria to eat at, rather than stay in the centre where others will be making their way to restaurants and cafes. A less busy eaterie may well be safer – or if you are nervous about being exposed to COVID, there are branches of the supermarket Coop in the centre of Rome, as well as delicatessens, where you can buy sandwiches to eat. Rome also has food wagons all over the city where you can buy sandwiches. Wipe any wrappings and bottles and bottle tops before using. Otherwise stay at a self catering apartment. I always take pasta pots and porridge pots with me when I travel, along with a travel kettle – just in case I wake up late or need to eat quickly before going to a concert.
- If you stay at an hotel, put the Do Not Disturb sign on your door every morning and clean your own room. I never leave home without a bottle of anti-bacterial cleaner and cleaning wipes for the room – and also am quite happy to make my own bed. You can buy bleach in tablet form which you reconstitute with water, so use an empty water bottle and wipe your room when you return, or if the room has been cleaned for you. You cannot take bleach on aircraft, so head for a supermarket and buy some when you get there.Image Pixabay
- Take face masks and hand wipes with you and use them, especially after handling money. This was a trick I picked up in the days I used to trudge round Egypt by myself and hand washing was essential to prevent Egyptian tummy! You can buy anti-viral as well as anti-bacterial hand sanitisers, so look for these. If you cannot find hand sanitisers or you run out, take baby wipes and a bottle of antibacterial soap to clean your hands. Wash your face masks every night – and you can also use disposable filters inside the face mask, which you can buy online. Luckily, wearing sunglasses will protect you further from COVID – there have been some instances where transmission was via the eyes, but you don’t have to go round wearing a full face mask over your eyes if you wear glasses and cover your mouth and nose with a mask. The Forum
- Take care in public lavatories – one scientist politely advised that the virus can infect via mucus membranes, as in your eyes, nose and mouth, and what he termed “your squidgy bits”. COVID lingers in the air for around three hours, scientists believe, so if you can avoid a public lavatory, do so – or take a spray of bleach with you. Take a spray bottle on holiday with you to carry diluted bleach around – keep it in a plastic bag to prevent spills. Bleach kills the virus quickly so you could also pre-spray some hand wipes with bleach and use this to clean public lavatories before using them. You will be searched on entering some sites, but if security questions your bleach, often there are lockers for rucksacks at museums and you can keep your sanitising supplies in these and take hand wipes with you round the museum.
- Wipe down surfaces around you in planes, trains, buses and taxis. I like to travel by train to other cities when in Italy – but always wipe surfaces like seat backs and tray tables, even windows, when I use public transport, as COVID can linger on surfaces. Flu viruses can be a risk if someone has sneezed onto a tray table or window and you sit in that seat. You cannot rely on transport being kept completely clean and safe, so wipe surfaces when you take a form of transport – I carry plastic food bags to place the used wipes in and tie them up until I can find a bin to put them in.
- Watch out for others – taking quiet backstreets can mean you not only avoid crowds, but also you can explore the city and find peace and quiet. It is tempting to stick to the main tourist routes, but look for quiet side streets to get you to your destination, rather than joining the throng and putting yourself at risk. I spend a lot of time wandering down backstreets and getting lost – it is how you get to know a city and it is also how I plot the routes the characters in my books take when in Rome.
You may feel I am slightly over zealous about cleanliness – there are still those who think COVID is nothing to worry about or even just a conspiracy theory. But you are not only protecting yourself, but others, by not taking unnecessary chances.
We hope that one day life will return to normal, but until then, take care and stay safe.
Colosseum from Temple of Venus, Forum
Plot your route round Rome with my Walk Rome guides – just add comfortable shoes (and take a spare pair)!
Walk Rome: Piazza della Repubblica to The Vatican
Walk Rome: Piazza di Spagna to The Pantheon
Walk Rome: Termini to Trastevere
Walk Rome: Temple of Apollo Sosianus and onwards
You can also find lots of information about Rome and Roman history by following this blog – as well as tips about visiting other Italian cities such as Verona, Venice, Milan and Mantua. Like me, the characters in my books like to get around!
Want to go to Rome now?
Join unhappy housewife Bee and newly-divorced Alzheimer’s specialist Dr Neil McCarthy as they embark on separate weekend breaks to the Eternal City to try and put marital woes behind them. What happens in Rome will change their lives forever.
Download the ROME ALONE series
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Arena di Verona
The story continues in VERONA ALONE and VERONA AGAIN, when newly divorced professional cellist Moira sets off to Verona for her first post-divorce holiday alone. There she meets a quirky American who takes her under his wing, but he is not all he seems – and Moira suddenly finds herself all at sea and in deep water.
Download VERONA ALONE
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The series is available to download free at Kindle Unlimited or for £2.40 each.
Note all the novels have sexual content and adult themes.
Author at work in The Forum