Italy at Christmas Despite the Pandemic

During Christmas time 2020, we had planned to go to Italy as a family. Of course, this plan was cancelled along with everyone else’s plans once the pandemic struck us hard starting in March of that year.  We decided to try again to see this culture-rich country in 2021. The original plan was that our sons Alex and Andy were going to fly over from San Francisco and meet us in Rome for a two-week tour of Italy with their significant others for the second half of December.

All was well in the fall of 2021 until the Omicron variant arrived in the US and Italy. Alex’s wife decided she wasn’t comfortable coming. Then Alex got worried about getting stuck in Rome with Covid and not being able to get back to work by January 3rd. We decided instead that he could just come the first week of the trip. So he was able to change his return flight without paying too much. But the day before Alex was to leave, his wife was notified that she had been exposed to two coworkers with Covid. So Alex decided not to come either. Ugh! Such is life during a pandemic. Plans change at the very last minute.

Andy, our second son, was determined to come to Italy no matter what. He had an ulterior motive. He planned to propose to his girlfriend Sabrina on the trip so nothing was going to get in the way of that!

So hubby Rick and I met up with Andy and Sabrina at the airport baggage claim area in Rome on December 18th. We had flown in from Spain where we were informed we would have to present a negative Covid test despite being fully vaccinated. We spent time and money to take care of this the day before we left but no one asked to see our negative results in Spain or Italy. Such is life during a pandemic. Published decrees may be one thing but the reality on the ground may be something else.

Our first full day in Rome the four of us did a guided tour of the Colosseum and Roman Forum. Here are some photos of that.

Inside the Colosseum
The Roman Forum

From Rome, we traveled to Naples by private car. I discovered a handy app called MyDayTrip.com that allows you to easily arrange transport between cities in Italy. I highly recommend this service. We used it three times in Italy and always had a very good experience. All drivers were professional and spoke English. They also came in vans for us. This was important with four people, four suitcases and four backpacks, plus several shopping bags.

Our son Alex had wanted to go to Naples to try the pizza. Of course, he was not on the trip now but we forged ahead anyway. I do not recommend Naples. It was noisy, crowded and dirty. Sirens blared constantly on the main street through town and there was graffiti everywhere we looked. I likened the experience to a bad dream. Only the views of Mount Vesuvius from the Naples Bay redeemed the town slightly in my view.

However, Pompeii and Herculaneum are both near Naples so that was a bonus. We had seen Pompeii in 2010 so we opted for a private guided tour of the ancient city of Herculaneum. This town was destroyed by lava flow a day after Mount Vesuvius erupted and covered Pompeii in smoke and ash in October AD 79.

Here are a few photos from that visit.

Some well-preserved columns
Herculaneum street scene
Ruins of Herculaneum
Intact art inside a building in the ancient city

After visiting Herculaneum, we traveled by hired car to Sorrento. There was no way I was planning to drive on the narrow and twisting roads in this part of Italy.  We spent a quiet Christmas Day in an Airbnb in Sorrento. The day before that, we had arranged to see Positano on the Amalfi Coast. Although it was a beautiful city, it didn’t seem like a place with much to see or do, especially in the wintertime.

Positano, Italy

After a three day stay in Sorrento, we took a train to Florence from Naples. It was a high-speed train and it only took us 2.5 hours to get there. While in Florence, we stayed at the Hotel Pitti Palace. It’s nothing fancy but it’s right next to the famous Ponte Vecchio (old bridge) and was within walking distance of all other major sights, including the must-see Uffizi Art Gallery.

Here are some sights of beautiful Florence.

Ponte Vecchio
The birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli
The Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci
In the halls of the Uffizi Museum

Although you can’t tell it from these photos I took, the Uffizi Museum was very crowded with mask-wearing tourists. No one was allowed in without proof of a Covid-vaccine passport. Nonetheless, social distancing was non-existent in the museum.

The next day was when we did a Tuscany vineyard tour. This day was critical for Andy to carry out his plan to propose to his girlfriend. Everyone knew of the plan except Sabrina. We were supposed to be nearby and take photos of the big moment. We happily complied.

Sabrina said Yes!
The happy couple with onyx ring on display

After this exciting day in Tuscany, we took a train back to Rome for a few more days of sightseeing. Thousands of other tourists were also there to celebrate New Year’s Eve in this most special place. Look at this photo of the Spanish steps overrun by tourists on New Years Day.

OMG! Very crowded scene

On our final day in Rome, January 1st, I found less people in the beautiful Borghese Gardens. There were still thousands of people out on this public holiday but the space we occupied in this garden was vast. Here are a few final photos of the garden. It has a zoo and art museum on the property as well as a lake and paths to walk on or even ride a bike.

One of many statues you can see in the garden
Fountains by the Borghese Art Museum
Pretty herb and flower garden by
Borghese Museum

So that’s how we spent our Christmas vacation. We decided to go enjoy ourselves in a lovely country rich in history, art and culture. We did it despite the existence of the pandemic. After all, Covid cases are now high in Spain too, just as they are in Italy and in the US. But we are fully vaccinated and wear our masks, especially in indoor spaces. We remain cautious but determined to keep enjoying life!

10 thoughts on “Italy at Christmas Despite the Pandemic

  1. Such a great post, and we’re so glad you got to spend Christmas in Italy finally! (And congrats to your son and his new fiance.) This is especially inspiring to us because we’re hoping/trying to finally visit Spain in February. At this point, we’re going hell or high water – UNLESS Spain closes its borders and UNLESS our pet sitters decide coming to Colombia is just too risky, now that Omicron cases are going up here. Since we’re fully vaccinated and boosted, we’re hoping we can stop letting Covid dictate our travels so much (within reason, of course!!). Happy New Year to you, and here’s hoping for better days in 2022!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sorry you didn’t enjoy Naples which I found a very exciting city to explore – and I loved the noisy Neapolitans! Do you think that maybe you were trying to do too much in a short time? Anyway, the rest was good and even if it was winter, there’s a magic about Sorrento and that glorious Amalfi drive at any time of the year. Florence and Rome, of course, cannot fail to impress, I only hope the weather wasn’t too cold as it can be in Rome in winter. Those 7 hills don’t protect as much as blow cold winds down on the city. Happiness to the newly-engaged couple and a Happy New Year to you.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply to Andrew Petcher Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s