Inside Italy in the coronavirus era as reported by Italian news agency ANSA:

(ANSA) – Rome, May 11 – Rome got a scary start today when a 3.3-magnitude earthquake shook the capital at 5:03 am, waking up many residents. The epicentre of the quake was 11 kilometres from the capital, near to the town of Fonte Nuova, at a depth of 10 kilometres. There have been no reports so far of injuries or major damage

(ANSA) – Rome, May 8 – Italy’s mafias will invest in tourism and restaurants hit by the coronavirus emergency, the government’s COVID-19 criminal infiltration monitoring body said Friday. The tourism and catering sectors will have a “lack of liquidity that will expose them to loan sharking” with the risk of the mafia taking over the activities with the aim of laundering money, the report said.

(ANSA) – Rome, May 8 – The government is thinking of setting up a fund for the hotel sector, one of the sectors hardest hit by the coronavirus emergency and one of those most at risk of mafia infiltration, sources said Friday. The idea is to set up a fund “from which hotel owners can quickly obtain liquidity after partially ceding ownership, temporarily and at face value, with the prospect of being able to repay the funding obtained in an easier timeframe”, the sources said.

(ANSA) – Rome, May 5 – Italians put on an average two kilos of weight during the 55-day coronavirus lockdown, farm group Coldiretti said Tuesday. Staying at home and unable to take their usual vigorous exercise, coupled with a boom in comfort foods filled with sugar, carbohydrates and fat, has bloated the average Italian, Coldiretti said. The amount of food on Italian tables rose by 18% during the lockdown, it said.

Italians have now started trying to shed that excess baggage after they have been allowed to jog, walk and take personal exercise in parks and along seafronts in phase two of the coronavirus emergency. Some 47% of Italians have said losing weight is one of their priority goals, according to the Ixè polling firm that says Italians have turned to diets and exercise to get back in shape.

(ANSA) – Rome, May 8 – Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio on Friday proposed giving a posthumous gold medal for civic valour to medical staff, priests and others who have died in the coronavirus emergency. “We must honour those who, while fighting against the virus, gave their lives to save those of so many other Italians, “Di Maio said. “A gold medal for civic valour awarded to these angels. Doctors, nurses, priests and many others. The country owes it to them. Let’s not give up”.

(ANSA) – Rome, May 7 – Italy is still in the “epidemic phase” of COVID-19, Higher Health Institute (ISS) chief Silvio Brusaferro told the Lower House’s social affairs committee on Thursday. “The fact that the curve for infections is dropping is positive and this is a result of the measures taken and the behaviour of Italians,” he said. “However, this does not change the fact that we have new cases and that the virus is still circulating in the country and thus must lead us to take the necessary measures” for containment.

He said the data available shows that the level of immunity to COVID-19 is still very low in Italy. Though this varies between the different areas of the country, “at an overall level we are very far from the 70% necessary for the herd immunity threshold”, he said. Brusaferro added that the “aim is to contain the virus. We cannot yet imagine eradication of the virus, which will only be possible with a vaccine”.

(ANSA) – Rome, May 6 – The Senate gave definitive approval Wednesday to a decree on holding the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan and Cortina. The decree was passed by 225 vote to nil with one abstention. The Games are scheduled to take place from 6 to 22 February 2026 in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo. This will be the fourth Olympic Games hosted in Italy and the first hosted in Milan. It will mark the 20th anniversary of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, the 70th anniversary of the 1956 Winter Olympics in Cortina d’Ampezzo and the 80th anniversary of the Italian Republic. It will be the first Olympic Games featuring two host cities.

(ANSA) – Rome, May 5 – A sinkhole that opened up in front of the Pantheon in Rome last week has uncovered ancient Roman paving stones, sources said Tuesday. The seven travertine blocks, which have been found about two and a half metres below today’s cobblestones, were part of the original paving when the Pantheon was built by Emperor Augustus’s friend Marcus Agrippa in 27-25 BC, Rome special superintendent Daniela Porro said.   “This is further evidence of Rome’s inestimable archaeological riches,” she said. The paving was first discovered during the laying of service lines in the 1990s.

More travel news:

A fascinating interview with Italian archaeologist Alfonsina Russo, director of the Parco Archeologico del Colosseo which, in addition to the Colosseum, includes the Roman Forum, the Palatine Hill and the Domus Aurea. A really good read, thanks to Wanted in Rome:

Fiumicino Airport debus portable thermoscanner to test passengers and staff:

Rome’s Fiumicino international airport has become the first airport in Europe to introduce a portable thermoscanner, known as the Smart Helmet, to screen passengers and staff for possible symptoms of covid-19. The airport says that the high-tech helmets, worn by authorised airport officials, are capable of checking body temperatures, at a distance. Fiumicino, also known as Leonardo da Vinci airport, is currently in possession of three of these helmets that will be used by staff walking around the terminals.

The airport says that if the technology detects that a person has a high temperature, they will be informed immediately and invited to undergo a medical check. The helmet is part of a co-ordinated effort by the airport to increase its screening measures as Italy prepares to enter “Phase Two” of the coronavirus emergency. The airport says it has re-organised its spaces in line with social distancing measures and has made hand sanitiser and masks available. Fiumicino will have a total of 90 thermal scanners in operation to “guarantee maximum safety conditions and prevent the spread of infections.”

Important information in English for those who need to travel to, or through, Italy under the coronavirus travel restrictions:

Italy’s ministry for foreign affairs outlines the rules, requirements and various scenarios in which you can travel to Italy. The ministry provides detailed information in English on documents required, self-isolation and rules after arriving at an airport, ferry port or railway station in Italy. The ministry provides answers to a series of questions including: * I’m an Italian expat or a foreign national resident in Italy, may I return to Italy? * I live abroad and need to transit through Italy on my way to the country where I live. What must I do? * I’m a foreign national in Italy, may I return to my home country?

For full details, in English, see Ministero degli Affari Esteri website.


Apologies to my colleague Daniel Ibanez whose photos of the general audience I used yesterday in my column but failed to credit him! Grazie, Dani!

Holy See Press Office Director Matteo Bruni sent a brief message to journalists, stating, “This morning the Holy Father did not go to the Lateran for the penitential liturgy with the Roman clergy. Due to a slight indisposition, he preferred to remain close to Santa Marta (residence); other commitments proceed regularly.”

Pope Francis was scheduled to go to St. John Lateran basilica this morning for a penitential liturgy with the clergy of the diocese of Rome, In his stead, Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, vicar of the diocese of Rome, read the Pope’s prepared talk that was later posted on the Vaticannews website. A meeting scheduled to take place before the Pope’s departure for the Lateran was held with members of the “Global Catholic Climate Movement” in a small room of the Paul VI Hall.


Every time I go from my house to EWTN offices on Via della Conciliazione or to Vatican City, I pass by or through the colonnades of St. Peter’s Square and often walk through or close to the square. And every day, rain or shine, there are dozens of people (99 percent are men) accosting visitors, asking them, for example, if they want to “skip the line” to the Vatican Museums, the basilica, etc.

Frequently, I stop and watch these ticket hawkers. Occasionally I ask them who they are, what they are doing, who they represent, etc. With very rare exceptions, they are more or less self-appointed. Some might actually have a relationship with a travel agency and their job is to tell you to go to that agency to get your museum entrance tickets, etc. (tickets that will, in the long run, cost more than the official ones). These hawkers are more annoying than anything else.

TIP: ignore the hawkers and go to official websites for all the legitimate prices and information.

Maybe you are coming to the Eternal City – or perhaps you have family members and friends who have Rome on their schedule. If so, the following information is vital – it will save you time and money. Spread the word – send the link to this column to friends.

For all info on visiting the Vatican Museums, the Vatican Gardens and the weekly excursion to Castelgandolfo, go to the Museums official site. You will see prices, itineraries and be able to reserve your visit, thus, no standing in line!

For papal audiences or Masses (always FREE) you can request tickets through the Prefecture of the Papal Household. They have changed the procedure for requesting tickets and basically have made it more difficult but, as the Roman say, pazienza!

You may also contact St. Patrick’s church in Rome – the church for Catholic Americans and English-speaking Catholics:

For a great hop on-hop off bus experience around Rome I recommend ORP, Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi:

For city busses in Rome, you do have to have tickets to travel. That may sounds silly but you cannot imagine the people who get on without a ticket and then are surprised when ATAC bus officials fine them for not having one. There are very few busses with machines onboard for buying tickets. Tickets may be purchases at coffee bars, tobacco stores (they sell tons of things in addition to cigarettes) and some souvenir stores. IMPORTANT: Tickets must be validated (stamped) once on the bus. There are yellow and black machines in the front and back of busses for this.

On my blog, Joan’s Rome, you will find a link on the right side of the page that has tons more info for visiting the Vatican, etc: CLICK HERE FOR PRACTICAL INFORMATION ON VISITING THE VATICAN