Churches, beaches and restaurants in Italy open their doors as tough lockdown rules eased

The cornerstones of Italian life have opened their doors after three months of lockdown as the government's tough restrictions were cautiously lifted.

Restaurants, bars, shops, church, museums, hairdressers and beaches reopened on Monday as life outside the home slowly returned to an altered normal in one of Europe’s hardest hit countries.

Some churches welcomed worshippers to Mass as the second phase of the lockdown allowed the faithful to attend religious ceremonies.

Nuns wearing face masks at the Vatican. Credit: AP

But life is still some way from being normal; under the new regulations the congregation must respect social distancing rules and wear face masks and gloves.

Priests must also wear gloves when giving communion, while the sign of peace - shaking hands with those in neighbouring pews - is forbidden.

"It was quite emotional after three months in which we were obliged to stay far away from the Mass," parishioner Antonio Picano said.

Cyclists in Rome. Credit: AP

"This is a Mass that we go to normally in the morning before going to work. It is a group of people who are friends, who know each other and we now find ourselves back together after a long time, it is a deep feeling."

Italy’s 4,600 miles of coastline was also declared open as the government allowed people to swim and sunbathe.

Seaside restaurants are also allowed to dust down their tables and serve customers, as long as they follow strict distance and hygiene rules.

More than four million Italians were allowed back to work May 4 when construction sites, factories and manufacturing jobs deemed to be at lowest risk for contagion were reopened.

Cafes were also allowed to open for takeaway only, but now Italians can enjoy their cappuccinos on a sunny terrace - two metres apart of course.