People take a lunch in a restaurant in Campo dei Fiori square in downtown Rome

For the first time in months, Italians were finally able to enjoy the simple pleasure of eating in a restaurant on Monday.

The government has eased up on COVID-19 restrictions allowing restaurants in many parts of the country to serve at tables outside.

In the historic center of Rome, people sat outside to get their first restaurant meal after months with only take-out service.

Government restrictions that were imposed ahead of Easter holidays were lifted in regions where COVID-19 transmission rates, ICU bed capacity and other pandemic parameters have sufficiently improved.

70% of high school students also returned Monday to the classroom, museums opened their doors, and movie theaters were allowed to open with spectators seated one meter apart.

Italy is one of the worst-hit countries in the world with the total number of COVID deaths at nearly 120,000, the highest in Europe after the UK.

To date there have been nearly four million recorded cases of the virus in Italy.

But a recent downturn in the infection rate, as the vaccine distribution ramps up, has given the authorities the confidence to allow a gradual reopening of the economy.