Federico Fellini’s film La Dolce Vita is forever tied not only to its translatable meaning, ‘The Sweet Life’ in Italian but to a model of cinematic success. It was originally condemned by the Vatican and subject to widespread censorship but still won the Palme d’Or in 1960, the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival.
One of its most famous scenes was filmed in the Trevi Fountain in Rome, and I had the opportunity to visit this iconic Italian landmark myself, only a few short weeks ago. It was heavenly. The air was warm, it was a classically beautiful Roman evening, and my good friend Rosario, knowing that the fountain would be even more beautiful by night, brought me there to remind me of my fondness for all things Italian.
I was already a week into my first overseas vacation of any kind since the start of travel restrictions in Canada in 2020, and I realized how much I had needed this experience; I needed to be inspired again, and of course, Italy had it all: food, art, culture, history and friendship.
I live in Toronto where we were also enjoying an unseasonably warm September. Traditionally, this is the month when the Toronto International Film Festival takes place, and here I was living in a world that felt much like a dream, or a movie to me. It was unnatural to feel this carefree and joyful during a period of such great difficulty for so many.
The pandemic has forced many of us to live in our own little worlds, often separated from friends and family, unable to enjoy the things that we once took mostly for granted: travel, parties, music festivals, indoor dining. Yet somehow the Italians transcended this mood with an air of indulgence, which interestingly was also happening in Toronto in our Italian community of Little Italy:
It can’t be a coincidence that our love of food, companionship, wine, and celebration, also happens to be such a big part of the Italian culture in both countries. There are some who are simply hard-wired to live in fear, and others who have a higher risk tolerance; it seems to me that the risk of enjoying life is one worth taking.
I was fortunate to have the chance to live in Italy in my early 20’s at the start of my career. I spent three months in Milan on assignment, and remember fondly the cobblestone streets, the fantastic nightlife, the weekend trips to coastal towns like Rimini, the ease of travel on their well-organized transit systems, the incredible food, and the brilliant architecture.
It never occurred to me that something like a pandemic could alter my life and plans so drastically. Returning to Italy this summer was a reminder of how lucky I was not only to live blissfully unencumbered by fear but to visit once again while following the well-orchestrated precautions that have allowed the tourism industry to thrive in this country. Italy has enjoyed a good run in positive PR this year, as a preferred destination for celebrities, and the Green Pass was enforced throughout Italy when travelling on trains, when dining indoors, and was efficiently processed by authorities upon arrival at Customs in the airport. As a Canadian tourist, my paperwork was required and accepted to demonstrate that appropriate health protocol was being followed, and there’s no doubt that this made it safer and less of a risk for travellers, tourists, and Italians alike.
There are those who have been resistant to the restrictions, both in Canada and in Italy and while I don’t disagree with protesters who wish to exercise their freedom to choose, it is undeniable that there are efficiencies in Italy related to the creation of the Green Pass app and the processing of visitors through airports that simply don’t exist in Canada. And the reward for Italy is a robust economic boost from tourism as a result.
As a tip for travellers to Canada, I highly recommend downloading the ArriveCAN app to save yourself the time and headaches at Customs and familiarize yourself with vaccine protocols to ensure what will hopefully be a seamless travel experience.