Italy has reopened to travellers from Europe, three months after the country went into coronavirus lockdown, with all hopes pinned on reviving the key tourism industry as the summer season begins.

But there were fears many foreign tourists would be put off coming to a country still shaking off a vicious pandemic.

Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus and has officially reported more than 33,000 deaths.

It imposed an economically crippling lockdown in early March and has since seen its contagion numbers drop off dramatically.

With the country facing its deepest recession since World War II, it needs tourists to return, and quickly.

But it is still reporting hundreds of new cases a day, particularly in the northern Lombardy region, and experts warn the government may be being hasty in permitting travel between regions and abroad.

"We hoped to see some movement from today, but have no foreign tourists booked in for this week or next," said Alessandra Conti, receptionist at the Albergo del Senato hotel which overlooks the Pantheon in Rome.

"We've got a few reservations from mid-June... (but) are still getting lots of cancellations for this summer".

Tourists visit the ancient Roman city of Herculaneum


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An Irish journalist based in the Lombardy region said things are slowly returning to normal since lockdown was lifted over a week ago.

Hugo McCafferty said there is definitely a desire to get back to normal - both economically and psychologically.

He said the steady reduction in Covid-19 cases is very encouraging and gives people hope.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr McCafferty said that while some regions of Italy are totally dependent on tourism for business, Lombardy is an industrial heartland and would not be relying on international tourists for economic recovery.

International flights were only expected to resume in three main cities: Milan, Rome and Naples.

And there were concerns that those who usually come in by car, train or ferry from neighbouring countries would go elsewhere on their holidays.

Arrivals in Italy from Europe will not be required to self-isolate unless they have recently travelled from another continent.

At the border between the town of Ventimiglia in Italy and Menton in France, more people were trying to enter France from Italy than the other way round early today, but controls on the French side were very strict.

"The situation is a bit complex. There is a total reopening of the Italian borders, but the situation is not the same on the French side," a police source told AFP, as drivers stuck in long queues sounded their horns.

Italy's lockdown has had a particularly devastating effect on the tourism sector, which amounts to some 13% of GDP.

Historic sites were shut, restaurants closed, and hotels were used to care for coronavirus sick.

Passengers are checked upon arriving at Central Station in Milan

Restaurants, cafes and beach establishments have slowly reopened over the past two weeks - although the government has said it reserves the right to impose localised lockdowns if it sees contagion numbers rise.

But only 40 of Rome's 1,200 hotels have reopened, the Corriere della Sera newspaper said Monday, and just a dozen in Milan. It costs too much to open them if they will just stand empty.

"My hoteliers all want to reopen, but as long as the borders remain closed, it's not possible," Marco Michielli, deputy head of hoteliers' association Federalberghi, said on Saturday.

Italy's national tourism agency (ENIT) said some 40% of Italians traditionally travel abroad for their holidays, but could be forced this year to vacation at home, helping local businesses.

That may be little comfort to those running the country's costly historic sites, because most of the tens of thousands of visitors that usually flock daily to the Tower of Pisa, Pantheon or Pompeii come from abroad.

Germany to lift travel ban in Europe from 15 June

Germany will lift a travel ban for European Union member states plus Britain, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland from 15 June as long as there are no entry bans or large-scale lockdowns in those countries, the foreign minister said.

Speaking to reporters after a cabinet meeting, Heiko Maas said all countries concerned met those criteria except Norway due to an entry ban and Spain, where he said parliament was deciding whether to extend an entry ban.

Mr Maas said the travel warning would be replaced with guidelines, adding that Germans would be urged not to travel to Britain when not essential while a 14-day quarantine in place.

"Travel advice is not an invitation to travel - and we want to make clear that the travel guidelines may also strongly discourage travel, for example to Britain as long as there is a 14-day quarantine for all those arriving there," Maas said.
"We will continue to make the lifting of the travel warningdependent on how the situation on the ground develops," he said,adding new warnings could be issued if a country records morethan 50 newly infected people per 100,000 over seven days.

Switzerland has warned its citizens that if they go to Italy they will be subject to "health measures" on their return. The country will open its borders with Germany, France and Austria on 15 June, but not with Italy.

Austria has announced that the entry checks at its land borders introduced because of the pandemic would all be scrapped from tomorrow, except those at the frontier with Italy.

Other countries, such as Belgium and Britain, are still advising against, or forbidding, all non-essential travel abroad.

Spain is working on plans to gradually open its borders to tourists from countries deemed more secure in the fight against the coronavirus, possibly starting from June 22, the  country's tourism ministry said today.

After losing more than 27,000 people and months of economic activity to the epidemic, Spain had previously designated 1 July as the date to reopen to foreign tourism, which accounts for 12% of its economic output.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's government is due to lift a state of emergency on 21 June, meaning that Spaniards will beable to start to move more freely again as the epeidemicrecedes.

A tourism ministry spokesman said it was likely the same would start to apply to some foreigners on Monday 22 June or possibly as early as Sunday 21 June.

Officials have said Spain is keen for travel protocols to be agreed on at the European level.

The Balearic archipelago around the island of Ibiza and the Canary Islands off the northwest coast of Africa are the most advanced in their preparations to be offered as a safedestination, the tourism ministry spokesman said.