Italy travel post-covid

Italy Travel Post-Covid and Masks

What would traveling to Italy post-Covid be like, I thought, as my departure date approached. I was going from stay-at-home to full-out international travel. In my mind, a big hurdle was the trip itself. Traveling to Europe from the west coast of the United States was a long haul without a mask, but with one?


The amazing thing about human nature is that we’re surprisingly adaptable. We can get used to almost anything, well almost… I was thankful that I didn’t have to witness any of the unseemly airplane behavior that has made so many headlines. Instead, the pieces all fell into place. The airport personnel were a bit strained at the gate, what with one person checking the armloads of passenger documents, giving particular attention to the time frame of the Covid swab results, another taking temperatures, another guarding the boarding area to make sure that everyone had their cards in order. Too bad the powers that be didn’t think of assigning someone to actually organize the boarding process. Passengers were left to their own devices, trampling over the floor markers, spaced six feet apart, twenty or so people for every piece of measured tape.

Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have bat an eye. However, post Covid, or perhaps better said, on the down curve, my brow was raised. And a few weeks later when I saw this lovely fragment of the face of Agrippina the Elder in marble with traces of color on her curls at the Scolacium Archeological Museum on my Calabria Cultural Tour, I somehow felt akin, 2,000 years after her creation. Ciao, bella! Well, I suppose I would have had to have been more formal with a lady of such high ranking within the Roman dynasty, especially since she apparently possessed a high moral character, as well.

Italy travel post-covid

Agrippina the Elder, marble fragment, 1st century AD


Further along in the museum, I ran into another type of mask, and it struck me that the beauty of the theater mask was the mouth opening, which was fashioned rather large in order to amplify the voice. Of course, that’s not our purpose today, but I took this selfie as post-Covid travel seemed to call out for it. By the way, this reproduction Greek mask represents Pseudocore, a dissolute, female partier.

Italy travel post-covid

Author Karen Haid with reproduction theater figure

The Archeological Museum in Reggio Calabria has numerous small theater masks on display, miniature terracotta reproductions that would have been given to the sanctuaries as religious offerings. Below are male and female comic masks from the ancient Greek period.

Ancient Greek theater masks

Miniature, ancient Greek, terracotta theater masks

A few days later on a visit of Fiumefreddo Bruzio, one of the Borghi più belli d’Italia (Italy’s most beautiful villages), I noted another type of mask on the frescoed cupola of the hexagonal church dedicated to San Rocco, which was built in the 17th century on a pledge made many centuries earlier during the time of the Black Plague. More recently in 1980, Sicilian artist Salvatore Fiume frescoed the church’s dome with scenes of the terrible pestilence, including several people with masks.

Fiumefreddo Bruzio

The Church of San Rocco in Fiumefreddo Bruzio with dome painting that depicts the Black Plague by Salvatore Fiume

I ran into a completely different sort of mask at the new Ceramics Museum in Seminara, which exhibits numerous examples of the maschera apotropaica. The apotropaic mask allegedly has the power to ward off evil, and I felt invincible with these two guys behind me.

Italy travel post-covid

Author Karen Haid at the Ceramic Museum in Seminara


Back in contemporary society, as I walked around outside, I couldn’t help but notice the trend of carrying anti-Covid masks (mascherine) on the wrist, or even further up the arm, depending on the weather and clothing, to have at the ready, even when being interviewed on national television.

Italy travel post covid

Italian men with covid masks

Everywhere you go, there are containers of disinfectant for your hands, in front of elevators, hotels, churches, etc. On occasion, they’re empty, which makes you wonder how many people had pressed that pump bottle before you. Little signs to indicate where to sit and where not to sit are propped on chairs and even strapped across them, at times reminiscent of a crime scene.

Italy travel post-covid

Church of San Francesco in Potenza, Basilicata

But perhaps the biggest trend to have overtaken Italy during my almost two-year hiatus (and here I briefly deviate from the post’s theme) is the pistachio. Before Covid, the coveted pistacchio di Bronte was a prestigious nut from the area of Catania, and pasta with pistachio pesto was a dish to be consumed in eastern Sicily. Cannoli with ends covered in pistachios were a bit more widespread. Post Covid, however, the pistachio may appear in three or four items on a single menu. And often, most often, they are not Italian, as Italy produces fewer than 1% of pistachios on the world market. Here are photos from a friend’s meal at a Rome Airport Hotel… ’nuff said.

Pistachios in Italy

The Pistachio Craze in Italy!


A final note on masks. It’s no secret that breathing is, shall we say, less pleasant with a mask. At times, when outside in an uncrowded area, life felt normal. Of course, the mask must be donned when inside, even if you’re in a completely empty museum, as it so happened on my visit to Reggio’s Art Museum. As I walked around, revisiting familiar paintings and taking in newer additions, I came upon one of my favorites, “Aspromonte” by 19th-century Reggio artist Giuseppe Benassai. The expansive landscape has always inspired me to breathe deeply, but not on this occasion.

Italy travel with mask

Karen Haid in front of “Aspromonte” by Giuseppe Benassai

In the end, when you do finally take your mask off, with a steaming plate of pasta in front of you, perhaps even seaside, all seems right with the world. And what a glorious feeling it is.

Author Karen Haid

Karen Haid enjoying a plate of pasta in Calabria … Italy travel post-covid

Interested in traveling to Calabria or Basilicata? Check out my Calabria Tours and coming soon, a new tour to Basilicata!

Read all about the fascinating Calabrian region in my book Calabria: The Other Italy, described by Publisher’s Weekly as “an intoxicating blend of humor, joy, and reverence for this area in Italy’s deep south,” and explore Calabria’s northern neighbor in my book Basilicata: Authentic Italy, “recommended to readers who appreciate all things Italian” by the Library Journal.Italy books

Follow me on social mediaBasilicata Facebook pageCalabria: The Other Italy’s Facebook pageKaren’s Instagram and Karen’s Twitter for beautiful pictures and information.
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Comments 4

  1. I love this mascherina post! I just returned from 3 weeks (finalmente!) at our little place in Maierà. Many hoops to jump through coming and going and long flights with a mask definitely strain one’s flexibility muscles, but you are right: it’s 100% worth it. Thank you for this blog and your insights.
    By the way, I have adopted the always fashionable over-the-elbow mask-carrying technique! ;-).

    1. Post

      Glad you enjoyed my post! Ooh-la-la, over the elbow! Many in my tour group embraced the wrist-forearm technique, but congratulations for inching past the elbow. I arrived with the chain method and stuck with it. Although I received a few compliments, I wasn’t able to start a trend.

  2. I’ve lost track of time-your Calabria tour is already done! I really enjoyed this mascherine post-I’m a wrist mascherina wearer myself! Hopefully when I will be travelling to italia in May / June things will have improved. Buon viaggio, Cristina

    1. Post

      Yes, time sure has flown by! It sounds as though you’re stepping out in style. Despite my focus on masks, it was surprising how normal most everything else felt. Could that be because we spent so much time eating…?

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