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Wonderful time in France and Italy!

I am currently sitting on a Frecciarossa headed to Napoli from Padua. We started in France on July 23rd, and have since been in Normandy, Paris, Venice, a barge on the river Po, and are now en route to Sorrento. We were fairly anxious before we left, wondering what the landscape (and changing rules) would feel like. I thought I would post an update in case others are wondering how things are on the ground.

We flew to France out of Detroit. Our CDC cards were all that was necessary. We had filled out the French health form, but it was never asked for. We started in Normandy, where we were met with nothing but warm welcome. We were the first Americans in a few of the museums - and we kept hearing “welcome back.” We had a rental car, so we made a stop in Giverny on our way to Paris. Visited on a lovely rainy day, with far fewer tourists than our last visit. CDC card was all that was needed. On to Paris. Le Louvre, l’Orangerie: CDC cards got us in “pas de problème.” We booked a delightful motorcycle side-car tour of the city on our last day (I think we would all call it one of our favorite things to date! Retro Tours Paris). No CDC card necessary.

Then we were on to Venice. We were unable to convert our CDC cards to the Green Pass, so we had a rapid test (in case a scannable code was required for the inter-European flight). In the end, the agents at Paris Orly looked at our CDC cards and nothing else. We had filled out the Italian Passenger Locator form before leaving home - no one asked for it.

We happened to be in Italy when the new rules took effect for the Green Pass (now needed for museums, etc…). Before that date, no one checked. Now they are checking - and the CDC card with passport does the trick. Venice was wonderful. Then a week on the barge La Bella Vita with European Waterways. We were their first group in 20 months, and the whole week was a celebration - for crew and passengers alike. It was like a dream. Venice, Pellestrina, Taglia di Po, Ferrara, Mantua, and Padua. I looked at my husband at some point in Mantua and said “It’s like we are visiting in 1921, not 2021.” Fewer people, etc…

And like I said at the beginning, we are now in the train headed south. No one checked our CDC cards on the train, but there was a random temperature check on the platform (2 of our group of 9 were checked).

My overall thoughts: if you can be flexible, patient, kind, and open to the possibilities of the unknown - come. So far, we have been welcomed warmly each step of the way. This trip was planned at the very beginning of the pandemic. It was a brass ring to work for (we’ve got health care providers and educators amongst our group who have had very trying days - I know that we all have really!). At times we thought this trip couldn’t happen. Then we wondered if it shouldn’t. We are so glad we are here.

Posted by
889 posts

So happy for you that things are going so well! Thanks for the report!

Posted by
273 posts

Really wonderful to hear that your trip is going so smoothly!! I think we are all on this site hoping to soon have the same wonderful experiences as you've had 😊😊😊

Posted by
9855 posts

What a lovely, warm report you have taken the time to write, Heather. I am glad you are having such a wonderful time on your trip !

Posted by
6079 posts

Heather, so happy you are having a nice time! My opinion as someone that follows the science of COVID, travelers are going to be flexible, patient, kind and open to the unknown for at least another year. Although, I think we should be flexible, kind and patient when traveling in Europe, always. When I was in Florence a train strike was threatened. I went to the train and bus station by Santa Maria Novella. Some lady was almost screaming at a train employee about how lazy the employees are, I'm pretty sure she was not American. The employee I was talking to told me that he was pretty certain we'd get to Siena as planned the next day. Sure enough, the next day we were all good. Europeans are much more likely to help polite travelers.

Posted by
2499 posts

So happy for you your trip is going so smoothly. I hope you will write again about your experience in flying back to the states, testing, etc.

I’m going to Venice on 8/24-9/03 for a small group tour and debated for weeks about going, especially the negative test requirements for returning home and the possibility of having to isolate in a hotel room. I finally realized the chance of being positive (I’m fully vaccinated) is less than half percent and I decided I would have more fun in Venice than at home. It’s warm and humid here and I am wearing a mask indoors because of the Delta variant so not much different in Venice. Georgia is one of the states with less than 50% vaccination rate, hence my caution in wearing a mask.

Enjoy the rest of your journey!

Posted by
3961 posts

Your report made my weekend! Appreciated your overall thoughts- “If you can be flexible, patient, kind, and open to the possibilities of the unknown - come.” We’ve always traveled with the attitude of “expect the unexpected.” That said, this era means even more so. Thanks so much for sharing. Always nice to hear from those who are currently on the ground. Enjoy the rest of your journey!

Posted by
6670 posts

Thanks for this helpful and encouraging report, and best wishes for the rest of your vacation. By all means, please do a sequel about your experience in the south and your return home.

Posted by
145 posts

Heather Your report was so refreshing! It’s very difficult to remain positive about travel with so many reporting their unexpected cancellations and delays (although noteworthy). I am hopeful that the rest of your travels are wonderful and safe.

Posted by
2092 posts

Heather, I also want to thank you for your report because you have alleviated so much sadness I felt yesterday. I am once again hopeful that with caution I will be able to go on my September/October trip.
Enjoy every minute of yours!

Posted by
63 posts

Heather, thanks for taking the time to provide an update as you travel at 180 miles an hour to Napoli. My wife and I depart Thursday to Rome for two months and are encouraged by the optimism. In fact, we will be in Sorrento for five days beginning August 16.
My wife’s sister lives south of Rome so we will be using her home as a base while we go all over Italy. Our extended family is really excited to see us. She continues to update us on the restrictions (just masks indoors) and we are ok with the rules. We haven’t wore a mask here in AZ for months so a mental adjustment will be needed and we’re fine with that.
Keep the updates coming especially relative to Sorrento and the coast. Any limitations on train and bus capacities? Still packed with Italian holiday makers in August? Probably and I hope. Need for restaurant reservations, etc.
Grazie e buon viaggio

Posted by
104 posts

Thank you for all the well wishes! I just want to quickly reply to some of the thoughts expressed above - and then I’ll provide a more detailed report on our Southern Italy experiences and the return home in a few days (we fly home on the 13th).

First of all, I completely understand the sadness/anxiety/frustration that some of you are expressing. The weeks leading up to our departure were fairly stressful: Would Italy let us in from France? Would France require an actual Passe Sanitaire? Would our flights be cancelled again (we’d had cancellations on two of our flights in the months leading up to our trip - both were rescheduled, albeit to less optimal time schedules)? Etc…. I love the RS forum, but it was also adding to my stress with daily negatives and disappointments. We finally just decided that we would follow (to the letter) whatever each government was asking, and then just go. Knowing that something/many things would go sideways, and to just expect it. No one else would have a crystal ball as to where things would go, etc…. It was kind of freeing when we made that decision. We went with plans in place, but were ready to make changes on the fly! And so far, we have been pleasantly surprised by the relative smoothness of things now that we’re here.

Re: train capacity/restaurant reservations…. The Frecciarossa was booking (as of today) at half capacity. We reserved our seats at least a month ago. I’m glad we did - the seats were disappearing as we were making the reservation (keep in mind we are a group of 9! - extended family). The reduced capacity means a very pleasant ride - but less availability. With that said, the Circumvesuviana that we picked up in Napoli was most certainly not at 50%. Very busy and full. Masks necessary everywhere in trains/stations/inside. Venice and surrounding areas were definitely lower in crowds. Sorrento is busy. I think we’ve discovered the spot that all the Europeans have come to! 😁. We’ve had no trouble finding restaurants to eat in without reservations - in every city/country we’ve been in.

Re: relative safety. I agree with Judy B. above. We are also all fully vaccinated. Europe is taking Delta very seriously (at least France and Italy are). Masks are mandatory indoors. We know now that masking really does work, so we’re feeling like masking plus vaccination is really not that much different than being home (and possibly even safer now that many states have dropped their mask mandates). Obviously, crowded airports and train stations are the exception (at least in our personal lives). So, we’ve tried to be careful about where we sit in an airport, etc…. We seek out less crowded spaces. We have felt like we’ve been able to do that everywhere with the exception of the Napoli train station today.

Hope that answers some of the questions! I’ll post more at the end of the trip. Ciao!

Posted by
118 posts

"be flexible, patient, kind and open to the possibilities of the unknown" .... excellent words by which to live.
Thank you so much for posting and enjoy the rest of your trip!

Posted by
63 posts

Great to read, but I’m a tad concerned the Amalfi Coast will be packed when I arrive on 8/26! Heather, I’d love to hear more about what’s happening there in terms of crowds and social distancing. Thanks!

Posted by
7447 posts

Heather, thank you so much for posting! Your words were a breath of fresh air to read. I’m leaving for Italy in less than two weeks and finally feeling like “this could happen”. I appreciate the reminder further down in the posts to reserve my train tickets. I usually bought them very early for the economy discount; now I just want a seat. ; )

And thank your fellow healthcare passengers for me! I hope it’s a wonderful, relaxing, rejuvenating trip for all of you!

Posted by
104 posts

Hi Crystal and Jean-

I hope you both have a great time when you come in a few weeks.

Crystal, we won’t make it over to the Amalfi on this trip, but I can tell you that Sorrento is quite busy. However, we are still able to get beach chairs and are able to get dinner without reservations. Social distancing down in (this part of) Southern Italy is not happening, but masks are absolutely mandatory indoors. Hotels, restaurants, museums, etc…. The hotel breakfast is a bit different (masks/sanitizer/personal tongs for taking food from the “buffet”, etc….). Last night was our first meal eaten inside - the restaurant carefully checked our CDC cards before letting us in. We had the interior to ourselves (the patio was packed and we couldn’t get a table). We actually feel very good about it. It’s crowded, but almost everything we’re doing is outside. Went to Pompeii yesterday, and it was not overrun - we had some of the more remote spots to ourselves. So, I guess it depends a bit on what you’ll be doing.

Jean, have a great time! Where will you be heading?

Posted by
93 posts

Great email!
Nothing more to say!


Posted by
43 posts

I can only echo what so many have said about your encouraging words. Being flexible, patient, kind and open is the only way to go.
P.S. Can I go with you on your next tour!!

Posted by
9436 posts

Heather, really happy for you. I’ll be in France in Oct. Your post is such a welcome counter-balance to the overwhelming negativity about going to Europe this year from others on this forum.
My son and 3 friends were in France, Italy (including Sorrento) and Greece in June and July and they had a great time. Virtually no tourists anywhere in France and Italy. Versailles was empty, as was Pompeii… virtually no one there.
They didn’t listen to the naysayers here and were so happy they went.

Posted by
380 posts

Heather, can you post about how your return (testing, flights) to the U.S. went on the 13th? Thank you!!

Posted by
5260 posts

Hi Heather,
Thanks for sharing your trip report!
Looking forward to reading about your adventures in Napoli & Sorrento : )