Why now is a great time to visit Rome

Enjoy the wonders of Rome without the crowds.

Did you ever wonder what it would be like to visit Rome's greatest landmarks minus the crowds?

Ever dream of taking a uncrowded subway across the capital to join a minimal or non-existent queue into the Colosseum or the Vatican Museums, or to have breathing space to enjoy the Pantheon or the Trevi Fountain?

Now is your chance. An outbreak of Coronavirus in northern Italy has triggered the widespread cancellation of hotel and tour bookings in the capital where there are - to date - no active cases.

True, there is the story of the woman in Fiumicino - a coastal town south-west of Rome with a separate administration to the capital - who tested positive for the Coronavirus, along with her husband and one of her two children, after returning from northern Italy. However follow-up tests on 51 people in the family's closest circles have all proved negative.

There is also the new case of the diocese of Rome closing the central church of S. Luigi dei Francesi after a French priest (and former resident) tested postive for the virus in Paris, after driving home across Italy and France in mid-February.

However - for now - these are isolated cases and do not directly affect the capital, a vast city with a population of over four million, which attracts around 15 million tourists a year.

Tourism is the capital's 'bread and butter' and the sector has been left reeling after being hit out of left field by the Coronavirus. The industry has registered up to 90 per cent cancelled reservations, with a sharp decline in new bookings for the coming months.

The tables have now turned on a city which in recent years has experienced the negative effects of mass tourism and has even been accused by a minority of being complacent towards tourists.

Many policy-makers and holidaymakers abroad say the decision to cancel trips to Rome, and Italy in general, is about being prudent. Others throw out that old trope "abundance of caution." Other people are just plain scared. Many are misinformed.

However many Romans and foreign residents in Rome see this colossal drop-off in visitors as unfair and unjustified; some even see it as pure folly. The reality in Rome right now is that life goes on. The city is not in lockdown, everything works (or in some cases doesn't work) as normal.

While Romans are keen to get the message out that it is "business as usual" here, for many in Rome's tourism and hospitality sector it is anything but. Hotel rooms are increasingly empty. Tours are being cancelled. Jobs are on the line.

Italia.it, the national tourism website, states on its Facebook page: "Italy is a safe country, it is safe to live in Italy and it is safe to travel to Italy."

The agency credits Italy's national health system - "among the most efficient in the world" - for implementing emergency procedures to safeguard citizens and tourists, making it possible to monitor and contain the spread of the Coronavirus. It states that all services and "quality of life, for which Italy is famous world-wide", remain high.

Aeroporti di Roma

In the face of travel restrictions affecting the north of Italy, Rome's airport authority Aeroporti di Roma has issued a video campaign titled Non smettare di volare (Don't stop flying), featuring happy tourists visiting Italy, including the capital.

There have been political interventions too. Italy's foreign minister Luigi Di Maio has railed against the "misinformation" hitting the country's image abroad, while yesterday Giorgia Meloni, the leader of Fratelli d'Italia, posted a video message outside the Colosseum, urging tourists to visit Italy.

So for those planning on coming to Rome this spring - and indeed those living in and around the capital - now is the time to experience the city at its best: crowd-free and full of wonder.