Coronavirus Is Turning Rome’s Tourist Spots into Ghost Towns
Italy has registered more than 4,600 cases of the coronavirus in the last two weeks, which has brought tourism to its knees, leaving the streets of Rome left to the Romans.
ROME—It has been just two short weeks since Italy became the “Wuhan of Europe,” registering more than 4,600 cases of COVID-19 and nearly 200 deaths. Most of the cases are concentrated in the industrious northern regions of the country, but even in Rome, which should be bracing for the Easter crush, the streets are empty and cancellations are close to 90 percent.
Less than a month ago, the mayor of Rome issued a new ordinance to put up a plexiglass fence surrounding the Trevi Fountain to keep back the estimated 1,200 people who visit the site each hour. On Friday, two weeks after the coronavirus epidemic hit the country, there are less than 100 people an hour who now throw their coins into the famous fountain.
St. Peter’s square is a must stop for tourists to Rome and the cobbled square in front of the famous basilica is usually surrounded by a line of people waiting to go through the metal detectors to get inside. On Friday, on the day the tiny city state announced its first infection, there were no lines at all.
The line into the Vatican museums generally snakes along the Vatican walls for nearly half a kilometer. But on Friday, no one was standing in line after the country ordered that everyone in a public space has to keep a three-foot distance from other people.
More than 7 million people visit the Roman Colosseum each year, which has prompted city officials to create an intricate system to keep people in orderly lines. On Friday, two weeks after the coronavirus epidemic took hold of Italy, no one was waiting to get in and only a few tourists, who were mostly from Rome, were milling around outside.
The Pantheon in central Rome is one of the city’s most beloved Catholic churches, and draws thousands of people who file through the ancient doors each day. On Friday, The Daily Beast counted 50 people inside the ancient temple.
Situated in the center of Rome, Piazza Navona draws Romans and tourists alike who stroll past the famous Bernini fountains. The cafes and gelato shops that line the oval space draw huge crowds all year round. But on Friday, the square was left to Romans trying to beat cabin fever and waiters trying to entice the few tourists still left in the city.