(Thanks to both Lydia Grotberg, adventurous traveler and longtime family friend, who recently returned from Italy and Ann Hinrichs, trip planner and expert on travel to Italy for sitting down with us for this article.)
Early July, after a rough week both at home and at work, Lydia found herself with an unexpected break in her schedule. What to do? Fly to Italy of course!
Within a week, Lydia and her friend Lily boarded a flight to Milan and spent 17 days crisscrossing one of Europe’s most beloved destinations.
Well before she stepped on the plane, though, Lydia went into action. She knows that travel these days means being proactive. And the biggest step toward proactivity is keeping informed.
How you can be proactive
Ann Hinrichs, travel expert to Italy, says the biggest proactive step is to read, read and read again. Keep up to date on 1. airline requirements, 2. Italian government requirements, and 3. Travel requirements for the USA on different sites and be on the lookout for discrepancies between 1, 2 and 3 because they won’t always agree.
“Every time your airline sends a link regarding your upcoming trip, check for changes. You can’t read once and be done. Keep reading.”
Ann also recommends flights that go directly from the US to Italy. It’s better to fly from Minneapolis to JFK then directly to Milan’s Malpensa, then it is to fly from Minneapolis to Milan via Paris. Traveling through a different country means being on top of more requirements.
Several airlines have international partnerships too. So if you’re traveling Delta to Italy and Alitalia is the subsidiary partner, keep on top of Alitalia’s requirements.
Building in longer layovers is also key. That gives you extra time for the unexpected, like a long line at the airport’s covid testing center when leaving Italy to come back to the US.
On one recent flight to Italy, travelers weren’t aware they had to have a QR code of their negative covid test to show the airline agent. That meant scrambling last minute to pull up emails and access their tests online.
Adventures in Italy
Italians are just as ready to welcome guests as Americans are to travel there.
“There’s a lot of happiness and joy now, with things opening up,” said one recent traveler. “Stroll around in the piazzas in the evening and you see families and friends out having a drink, talking and laughing.”
Smaller towns were busier and more relaxed. Bigger cities were more formal with their social distancing. Places in the north seemed to stick to protocol more than in the south, like around Amalfi Coast. Although many shops were closed, plenty others were open as were many museums, just with fewer hours and sometimes fewer days of the week.
What hasn’t changed, though, was Italian hospitality. Lydia and Lily stopped to get a quick coffee before leaving for the day. The coffee shop was closed. An elderly gentleman nearby noticed their disappointment.
“My favorite coffee is down the street,” he said. “Please allow me” and offered up his arm. He escorted the two women down the road and introduced them to his favorite shop. Absolutely delicious!