(Editor’s note: Below is an account of my friends Robert and Dori and their recent flight from San Francisco to Italy ending up in their Lucca condominium (ownership of which along with their residence permits allows them to bypass the restrictions of travel from the US to Italy. I’ll let Robert and Dori tell the rest of the tale.)
Dori and I just finished our air travel to Italy and I can share some impressions with you. We started from San Francisco. The crowd of people there was much thinner than usual.
This gave United Airlines personnel more time to thoroughly scrutinize the travel credentials of the passengers. Arguably such scrutiny was necessary because of the EU’s newly announced policy of excluding visitors from the United States. Several travelers became engaged in lengthy confabs with 5-6 airline personnel. I didn’t overhear their exact issues but I did observe a lot of scrambling and looking in bags, apparently seeking whatever it was that the counter staff were demanding. Later on I saw these passengers on the plane so I figured their persistence must have borne fruit.
Dori and I were apprehensive, but the counter staff let us through without much cross-examination when we each presented all of the following: US passport, Italian permesso di soggiorno; city of Lucca carta d’identità. They recognized that “returning home” is an allowed basis of entering the EU.
In the gate area and on board we adopted a strategy of “wearing two masks,” surgical over cloth, which may or may not improve the quality of filtering but it certainly increased the level of energy needed to breathe. We also brought on board a whole bunch of disposable medical gloves, which I donned on the occasional visits to the restroom. In general all the passengers wore masks and a few had face shields. Dori and I eschewed the shields in favor of goggles. I also had a hood to cover my head. Overall our degree of PPE was an outlier substantially above the average flier on this flight. (Dori adds: “We changed the top mask every few hours.”)
The views as the plane swooped around San Francisco were absolutely stunning. For most of the 10 hour flight though they had the windows dark and cabin lights dim. It indeed went pleasantly and quickly. Part of the time was taken up with completing an entry form that the EU now requires. We also had to submit another form on the second leg going into Italy. (Dori adds: “United from SFO was not totally full. Lufthansa FRA to Rome was full.”)
When we eventually reached Frankfurt, we had to be screened again, this time by the normal German passport control. They readily accepted our identity documents although they did ask how long we had been Italian residents. Overall they seemed to consider the situation mildly amusing.
The only times we were screened in any way for “health” was at the United counter, where “fever” and “cough” questions now predominate over “who packed your bag” type queries, and just before we got on the SFO to FRA (Frankfurt) flight, when we had to smile at a machine that gave you a green light when it liked what it saw. There were no health screenings in Germany and none on our arrival in Rome.
Now we have reached Lucca, traveling by rented car. We dutifully reported to the health authorities and were placed into a 14 day quarantine. Meaning, we cannot leave our apartment. Fortunately we like the apartment, although the hot water heater wasn’t working when we arrived. That’s Italy! You’ve got to have a certain amount of tolerance for that kind of thing to survive being a long term resident. The quarantine appears to be basically an honor system. They aren’t testing us and they don’t want to see us.
(Dori adds: “You initially call them to sign up on the phone, etc….
You do speak with a person initially. In other words, after we arrived, we initiated the phone call. They then had us go online to fill out a form and read info that tells you what to do or not do. Example: don’t leave the house for 14 days, take your temp 2x day, look for symptoms like fever, coughing, etc.”)
I hope this adds to your understanding of the “new normal”.