The UK's decision to withdraw Italy's travel corridor flitted briefly across Italian news sites on Thursday, sinking swiftly beneath analysis of the country's new case load which had risen to 8804, the highest daily figure since the coronavirus pandemic began.
In the quieter corners of rural Italy, however, the change in British rules barely registered at all. Ater all it's olive harvest season, and masked locals have picking and pressing on their minds.
In this year of anomalies, Italy outside its better known tourist destinations enjoyed a modestly successful summer, with visitor numbers up slightly on previous years in many more secluded areas. These weren't, in the main, foreign visitors though. An estimated 93 per cent of Italian travellers prudently opted to stay in their own country, filling hotels and rentals in small towns and country areas through August.
The Italian tourist board ENIT reports a drop of almost 80 per cent in air travel between Italy and the UK this year over 2019. But still, a steady trickle of travellers – including owners of holiday properties – arrived from Britain, to enjoy the relatively relaxed atmosphere of summer in Italy.
A slow drip has continued into autumn, despite concern in Italy about the United Kingdom's far greater incidence of Covid-19. Italy's 14-day incidence per 100,000 stood at 106 yesterday, compared to the UK's 320. Last week's Italian ruling that travellers from the UK must have tested negative in the 72 hours previous to arrival, or take a rapid antigen test at their point of entry was welcomed in both countries as the kind of precaution which helped travellers and the struggling tourism sector simultaneously. The contrast between Italy's policy and the UK's has drawn sharp criticism.
"We did our tests and they came back negative," one crestfallen friend in London told me. She had sorted her busy work schedule in order to travel to her home in Italy for a few days to pick her olives. "Now I've had to cancel our tickets. Why can't the UK get itself organised?"
Others, on the other hand, grudgingly admit that the new requirements finally bring some clarity after months of uncertainty over whether you'd have to pack your bags and scramble home in the middle of an Italian holiday due to a sudden policy change. According to hotelier John Voigtman, lack of clear messaging from the UK government caused an underlying nervousness through the season at his properties – La Bandita and La Bandita Townhouse – in Pienza, Tuscany. "I sensed a real terror among British travellers about what might happen," he said.
The change has, however, taken its toll. "In the past half hour I've lost €10,000," said Voigtman shortly after Thursday evening's announcement. Cancellations from British travellers loathe to face a fortnight's quarantine on their return home were immediate. "That would have paid my staff's wages for weeks," he added.
Emily FitzRoy of Bellini Travel organizes high-end trips and tours in Italy. She counted Thursday cancellations at a higher figure still. She admits to being surprised that Brits didn't rush en masse back to Italy when restrictions were lifted earlier in the summer. Since then, she has been encouraging clients to take advantage of the chance to experience the country's extraordinary sights with a fraction of the usual crowds.
She has only praise for the way Italy has handled the pandemic and fails to see why the country should be penalised.
"There's no rationale to this," she complained. "Italy's attitude has been far more robust and sensible through this situation. Why can't we do tests? That way people could still head to Italy for half-term then go back to work and send their children back to school straight after."
In the small Umbrian town where I live, our positive Covid-19 cases dropped from three to one this week, but though we feel we're keeping things under control, our guard is high. It's difficult for Italians to forget the scenario that unfolded last spring as panicked authorities struggled to get to grips with Europe's first major coronavirus outbreak. Our lockdown was bleak but our efforts paid off: after a summer of relief, Italy's second wave has been slow in coming.
As the local population takes to their olive groves for the harvest – in what might prove to be the last collective outdoors activities for the year – there's some grumbling but much resignation too. Everyone realises that the coming months will present new challenges.
An uncertain futures doesn't, it seems, stop some visitors with fewer time constraints from accepting sacrifices in order to flee what they view as UK confusion for the clearer anti-contagion rules (and of course the great beauty) of boltholes in Italy.
One British homeowner who plans to travel to Italy from the UK in the next few days pointed out that the word quarantine comes from the Italian 'quaranta' (40).
"It was originally forty days," she said. "I think we're doing just fine with 14."