During the first coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic wave, an unprecedented number of patients with respiratory failure due to a new, highly contagious virus needed hospitalization and intensive care unit (ICU) admission. The aim of the present study was to describe the communication and visiting policies of Italian intensive care units (ICUs) during the first COVID-19 pandemic wave and national lockdown and compare these data with prepandemic conditions. A national web-based survey was conducted among 290 Italian hospitals. Each ICU (active between February 24 and May 31, 2020) was encouraged to complete an individual questionnaire inquiring the hospital/ICU structure/organization, communication/visiting habits and the role of clinical psychology prior to, and during the first COVID-19 pandemic wave. Two hundred and nine ICUs from 154 hospitals (53% of the contacted hospitals) completed the survey (202 adult and 7 pediatric ICUs). Among adult ICUs, 60% were dedicated to COVID-19 patients, 21% were dedicated to patients without COVID-19 and 19% were dedicated to both categories (Mixed). A total of 11,102 adult patients were admitted to the participating ICUs during the study period and only approximately 6% of patients received at least one visit. Communication with family members was guaranteed daily through an increased use of electronic devices and was preferentially addressed to the same family member. Compared to the prepandemic period, clinical psychologists supported physicians more often regarding communication with family members. Fewer patients received at least one visit from family members in COVID and mixed-ICUs than in non-COVID ICUs, l (0 [0-6]%, 0 [0-4]% and 11 [2-25]%, respectively, p < 0.001). Habits of pediatric ICUs were less affected by the pandemic. Visiting policies of Italian ICUs dedicated to adult patients were markedly altered during the first COVID-19 wave. Remote communication was widely adopted as a surrogate for family meetings. New strategies to favor a family-centered approach during the current and future pandemics are warranted. © 2022. The Author(s).