Reet Härmat, make-up artist and the founder of the Öli Organic Skincare brand, spent an exceptionally nice week in Italy in July, enjoying luxury experiences without crowds of tourists.
I bought plain tickets as soon as I was convinced that travelling was safe and there were direct flights from Tallinn to Milan. I drew inspiration from the posts of a Facebook friend who had just been to Italy.
I took the direct Ryanair route to Bergamo airport from Tallinn. The flight was at a very convenient time and pleasantly short: we were there in just two hours and a half. I was flying with hand luggage because I had bought a ticket which allowed me to take two bags on board, which is especially nice for short summer trips as you don’t have to wait for your suitcase at the baggage carousel, and everything you need still fits in. another thing I particularly liked was that Ryanair offers an option of paying the tax for carbon emissions when one buys the ticket to give something back to the environment. It is good to know you are travelling with a responsible airline.
My good friend Maria, who had prepared the entire further itinerary, lives in Milan, from where we took a train to Venice. This was my first trip to Venice. I had long been dreaming about going to one of the most romantic places on Earth, but hordes of tourists and high prices had always been discouraging. To explore this place when I did, when the coronavirus outbreak was already under control in a number of places, was the right decision: the streets and canals were clean of litter, and there were no tourist crowds. The numbers of people were just right, and we didn’t have to wait for a table in restaurants and bargained a gondola ride for half the price! Hotel priced had decreased by two thirds! Casanova hotel was a very good choice as to the price and location. The islands of Venice have fast ferry connection, so we were able to visit several different places every day, staying in the same place for the night.
A dining experience which was out of this world was what we found in the iconic Locanda Cipriani on Torcello island; we also enjoyed the sandy Adriatic beach on Lido island. The famous Venice Film Festival takes place on this island every year. on our way back from Venice, we made a 3-hour stop in Verona. We took a walk by the Verona Arena amphitheatre and, of course took photos under the balcony of Casa di Giulietta and let our secret wishes take flight. Another memory from Verona is delicious boletus pasta in a perfectly ordinary street restaurant.
All my adventures in Venice, Verona and Milan were special, but what I value the most was an opportunity that arose in Venice quite accidentally. After making plans for the museums to go to, we set off for Teatro La Fenice because my friend and I are both great opera fans. Being on a guided tour in this magnificent building was an unbelievably powerful experience: we were allowed to sit in the royal lodge and take photos of the gorgeous halls that were empty and shining in their full beauty. Suddenly the guide asked us if we would like to come to the evening performance that day. It appeared the theatre was fully operational, and Vivaldi’s first opera “Ottone in Villa” was on that evening. Ticket were very cheap, and we got an entire balcony box to ourselves because there were restrictions as to the number of people in a box. We had to wear masks when entering the theatre but could take them off during the performance. This was one of the most memorable experiences of our trip. I could not have even dreamed about something this special. And, oh, just imagine the enthusiastic applause which just would not stop!
A had not been to these places before and have no reference for comparison, but I figure tourist attractions in Italy are normally packed with people in July. This is why travelling now is such fun. As there still are, unfortunately, travel restrictions in many countries, there are generally fewer tourists everywhere. For instance, we did not see any tourists from Asia or the US who normally love going to Venice. There are certainly fewer tourists this summer, and one could hear more of Italian, because locals are keen travellers themselves, as well as Dutch and German. There were very few Russians and Ukrainians. I believe this was due to quarantine requirements in some countries, and many are just afraid to travel, expecting the second wave if the pandemic.
My dream was to visit the roof of the Duomo but walk there proudly alone, and it came true! There were no queues or crowds, but many museums were already open. We could also feel it in the restaurant that tourists received special care as an old saying proved to be true: we only realise how important some things are after losing them. shop and restaurant owners really seem to be missing good old days and treat every client like a king. Prices, too, displayed some pleasant changes although this rather applies to cafés and small bars than top restaurants. But it was certainly easier to book a table at a popular place than before.
Personally, I felt travelling was safe. People wear masks where they are supposed to, nobody protests, and the rules of the specific place or country are generally followed. For example, the requirement to wear masks in the streets of Milan had been extended to 31 July, but there was no such rule in Venice. One has to wear a mask when entering a shop or hotel or using public transport. Keeping the distance while travelling is also possible, and it could be done on the plane and trains alike. There is hand disinfectant in all public institutions, and all safety requirements are observed.
I would like to encourage everyone to enjoy this special time and the experience Europe can offer in all its diversity. Unless you or your loved ones belong to risk groups, it is a pity to miss such a chance for an adventure.