(By Alvise Armellini, dpa)

Rome (dpa) – Italy took the biggest step towards a return to post-virus normality on Monday, with the resumption of most commercial activities as well as of religious services.

"Going back to normality is a bit like relearning how to walk," Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte wrote in a letter to Leggo, a free newspaper.

"One step at a time, with caution and attention, so as to avoid falling and going back. Italy will start running again," he added.

Shops, hair salons, cafes, restaurants, and several museums reopened, but they have to ensure social distancing of at least 1 metre. Going to the beach and attending Mass in church is also allowed again.

Retailers' association Confcommercio estimated that some 825,000 commercial activities could resume trading, but added that not all would. For example, it expected some 30% of cafes and restaurants to stay shut. Several business owners have complained of the cost of adapting to new health and safety measures.

PICS: Italy ends 10-week lockdown as shops, restaurants and cafes reopen

People sit on two benches apart from each other to curb the spread of COVID-19, in Piverone, near Turin, Italy, Monday, May 18, 2020. On Monday, Italians enjoyed a first day of regained freedoms, including being able to sit down at a cafe or restaurant, shop in all retail stores or attend church services such as Mass. (Marco Alpozzi/LaPresse via AP)

Some cafes and restaurants opened two weeks ago, but only for takeaways

Now they can do table service, and some venues installed plexiglas screens to separate customers.

At the Vatican, St Peter's Basilica also reopened, while some other tourist hotspots, like the Colosseum, are expected to wait until the end of May before welcoming back visitors.

People no longer have to fill out a form to justify being outdoors, provided they stay within their region. Travel to other regions is expected to be liberalized on June 3.

In Milan, people queueing to enter the La Rinascente department store had their body temperature scanned at the entrance. Staff applauded the first customers walking in.

Italy, the first country outside Asia to be overrun by the novel coronavirus, went into national lockdown on March 10. To date, it has reported nearly 32,000 deaths and around 225,500 infections.

Lockdown exit plans are due to continue with the reopening of gyms and pools on May 25, and of cinemas and theatres on June 15.

PICS: Italy ends 10-week lockdown as shops, restaurants and cafes reopen

A client gets serviced at a barber shop in Piverone, near Turin, Italy, Monday, May 18, 2020. On Monday, Italians enjoyed a first day of regained freedoms, including being able to sit down at a cafe or restaurant, shop in all retail stores or attend church services such as Mass. (Marco Alpozzi/LaPresse via AP)

Italy is also planning to welcome back foreign visitors from June 3.

The country's infection curve has been flattening since late March, but there is concern that the easing of restrictions could trigger a second wave of infections.

Announcing the reopenings on Saturday, Conte said the government was taking "a calculated risk," amid the need to mitigate the economic fallout of the epidemic.

"We must give it a try; people are fed up with being at home, many businesses risk dying," Massimo Galli, head infectologist at the Sacco hospital in Milan, told the La Repubblica newspaper.

Public health authorities are under pressure to improve their capacity to test, track and treat suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.

The government has approved the use of a mobile app for contact tracing, but it is not ready. Digitalisation Minister Paola Pisano told the Corriere della Sera daily that it would be by the end of May.

PICS: Italy ends 10-week lockdown as shops, restaurants and cafes reopen

People sit at a cafe in Milan, Italy, Monday, May 18, 2020. On Monday, Italians enjoyed a first day of regained freedoms, including being able to sit down at a cafe or restaurant, shop in all retail stores or attend church services such as Mass. (Claudio Furlan/LaPresse via AP)
PICS: Italy ends 10-week lockdown as shops, restaurants and cafes reopen

A boy gets his hair cut at the barber shop Bulli, in Rome, Italy, Monday, May 18, 2020. On Monday, Italians enjoyed a first day of regained freedoms, including being able to sit down at a cafe or restaurant, shop in all retail stores or attend church services such as Mass. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
PICS: Italy ends 10-week lockdown as shops, restaurants and cafes reopen

Faithful attend a Mass at the Milan Duomo gothic cathedral, Italy, Monday, May 18, 2020. On Monday, Italians enjoyed a first day of regained freedoms, including being able to sit down at a cafe or restaurant, shop in all retail stores or attend church services such as Mass. (Claudio Furlan/LaPresse via AP)
PICS: Italy ends 10-week lockdown as shops, restaurants and cafes reopen

People sit at a cafe in Milan, Italy, Monday, May 18, 2020. On Monday, Italians enjoyed a first day of regained freedoms, including being able to sit down at a cafe or restaurant, shop in all retail stores or attend church services such as Mass. (Marco Alpozzi/LaPresse via AP)
PICS: Italy ends 10-week lockdown as shops, restaurants and cafes reopen

Visitors wearing a face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 admire statues in the Rome Capitoline Museums, including the second century A.D. Roman marble statue "Cupid and Psyche", at right, Tuesday, May 19, 2020. In Italy, museums were allowed to reopen this week for the first time since early March, but few were able to receive visitors immediately as management continued working to implement social distancing and hygiene measures, as well as reservation systems to stagger visits to museums in the onetime epicenter of the European pandemic. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)