Grab Your Mask and Get Out There!

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Returning to international travel is not without its trials and tribulations but it’s so well worth the effort as well as the mild aggravation that is inherent in our COVID life. The ability to walk less crowded streets, eat in the restaurants that you’ve always dreamt of trying; to scratch that itch we call wanderlust is the prize unto itself.

Are there bargains to be had? Yes, some, but perhaps not as many as you would expect. The travel industry is trying to make up lost revenue to stay afloat. Set your sites on upgrades and travel perks, which seem to be much easier to obtain right now. If you belong to an airline frequent travelers’ program, ask for an upgrade in flight class. On a recent trip to Italy and Amsterdam, I watched as many who requested upgrades were called up before boarding. Hotel chain clubs can grant early check-in requests more readily and room upgrades seem less elusive while travel abroad is still on the slow side. Have you ever requested breakfast to be included for no upcharge? Now is the time. Lastly, but perhaps most tempting, are the exchange rates for Euro. At the time of this writing, it’s at the lowest point in a very long time.

Like the U.S., the European Union is changing travel guidelines frequently, sadly, even on a day-to-day basis depending on the member state (country). Airlines can only do so much to keep up with ever-changing dynamics and they’re giving you information as they receive and understand it. In your research, you may read a requirement that a negative COVID test is needed for entry into the country, but by the time your plane leaves, that same information may have changed. That was my experience, resulting in some hefty rapid testing fees; by the time we arrived at the airport, we learned tests were no longer needed due to rapidly changing guidelines.

Each European country has different rules on entry and the U.S. has stringent testing rules on reentry. You need to be aware of all rules. Factor in arrival times when determining when to test. If it is 72 hours, you will need to provide a negative covid test within 72 hours of arrival time, not departure time. Always have your vaccination cards handy for entry into restaurants, concerts, spas, larger cathedrals and museums. Some will ask for proof and others will not, but you will never know which way the wind will blow on this until you’re about to cross the threshold.

In addition to testing, a prepared traveler should plan to step up their mask game. Many sites in Italy are currently requiring a medical-grade mask in lieu of fabric and disposable ones. We found plenty of vendors selling them around the places they were required.

It seems funny that in cities like Rome or Florence there could be so many changes. After all, these are the cities of Caesar, the Medicis and Dante, but while everything you burn to see still delights the soul, they are often without crowds. Some hotels have closed, some permanently and some planning to reopen in spring 2022, so embrace trying new and exciting ones. One such discovery for me was the new Dimora Palanca in Florence.

The Dimora Palanca is a beautifully restored 18th-century villa that has been linked to the arts for many years through private ownership. The vibrant artistic heritage is clearly represented throughout the property today. The staff of the Dimora Palanca was brought together from top luxury properties throughout Italy with astounding results. From the professional concierge staff to Head Chef Giovanni Cerroni and his team at Mimesi, their fine dining restaurant, this new 5- star luxury hotel hits every sensory note in beautiful Florence.

New creative restaurants are popping up all over Europe, weaving together with the family-owned and operated treasures that have delighted us in the past. COVID has provided some talented people in Europe the opportunity to venture out and open the food establishment of their dreams, so experiment and enjoy as many as you can.

Is Michelangelo’s David still a 5.17-meter marble statue to gawk and enjoy? Yes, it has not changed a bit from Covid. Is the Vatican accepting visitors? Yes, even the audiences in the square have opened again for weekly glimpses of Papa Francesco. The opera at the world-famous Verona Arena is open, still thrilling to witness. The tower in Pisa is still tilting like crazy and the grapes of Chianti are about to be harvested. Life is pushing ahead as it always should.

Whatever your European sightseeing desire, it’s there for you. With a bit of fortitude and some patience, you can go in greater protective comfort. Do as I did; pull up your mask and don’t look back. 

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