Italy’s islands are leading the long-awaited return of tourism by mass vaccinating their entire populations. There are now several “COVID-free” locations off Italy’s coasts eager to welcome back holidaymakers safely.
Capri, a gorgeous island in the Gulf of Naples, announced last week that coronavirus jabs for the resident population had been completed. It is a big selling point to lure back visitors looking to vacation safely in Europe this summer.
Governor of the surrounding Campania region, Vincenzo de Luca, said last Saturday “We are preparing to welcome millions of tourists and to prevent them from going to Spain or Greece.” Tourism plays a significant role in Italy’s economy, representing about 13% of the GDP, according to government figures.
Capri is one of many destinations that relies heavily on tourism. The island has 15,000 inhabitants but around 60 hotels. Many of those languished empty for most of 2020. De Luca added, “It is essential not to waste time. The hotel sector must make its decisions by May, otherwise we will lose an entire tourist season.”
Capri is renowned for its air of luxury and glamor – with a wealth of 5-star hotels and private beach clubs – but it also offers plenty of natural attractions well suited to social distancing. The bewitching Blue Grotto has been on itineraries since Roman times, but there are also several less well-known wild hiking trails that lead to jaw-dropping panoramas.
Nearby Ischia, which also pushes high-end holidays though of a less glitzy nature to Capri, is hoping its COVID-free status will tempt vacationers too. Ischia has been holding “open days” to mass vaccinate the population now including all age categories from 18 years old. The island is popular for its thermal spas and commanding Aragonese castle.
Procida, the lesser-known neighbor of these two exclusive hotspots, completed inoculations a couple of days before Capri. The colorful island was recently awarded the title of Italian Capital of Culture for 2022. It is a little more rustic than its chicer island counterparts, with jumbles of candy-colored fishermen’s houses and a harbor filled with wooden boats and fishing nets.
Other island destinations are part of a mass vaccination campaign that began in early May and targets Italy’s smaller islands with limited access to healthcare. These include the Aeolian Islands off the north coast of Sicily, Lampedusa to the south and Giglio, off the coast of Tuscany.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has been strongly promoting a return of tourism. Speaking after a meeting of the G20 tourism ministers earlier this month, he said, “The pandemic has forced us to close but Italy is ready to welcome back the world.” Ahead of the European “green pass” or “green certificate,” Draghi announced Italy would launch its own tourist pass by mid-May.
This pass will permit arrivals to be exempt from the five-day quarantine provided they are vaccinated, have recovered from COVID-19 in the last six months or hold a negative test result.
Last Friday, the Italian government announced it was scrapping the five-day quarantine for arrivals from the EU, UK and Israel who can show proof of a negative test result. Italy also hopes to extend the “COVID-free flights” scheme already implemented with the US, Canada, Japan and United Arab Emirates.