Hello from Montepulciano, Italy. Patti and I have been in Tuscany for 12 days now. This is the second of two international trips we wanted to take in 2021. I usually write blogs to post ahead of time when we are traveling, but I didn’t for this week’s post. So, this post simply describes what it is like to travel in Italy at this time of COVID-19.
Patti and I booked a self-guided walking tour through this company: Girosole. A driver met us at the Rome airport and drove us about 2 1/2 hours north to Siena where we stayed four nights. One half day was a guided tour of Siena. One half day was a guided tour of San Gimignano, about an hour away. Then we transferred south to Montalcino, and we basically walked east through San Quirico d’Orcia and Pienza to Montepulciano. Very scenic. We had not been to this part of Tuscany before. The weather was good for walking. The highs have been in the 60s. I’m not sure we could have done this earlier in the year. It would have been too hot for us just a few weeks before.
For most all of the pandemic, Italy has had the highest cumulative death rate of wealthy western countries. Unfortunately, the US just this week surpassed Italy’s cumulative death rate. We’re number one where we would have wanted to be last.
To get into Italy you have to have proof of double vaccination and a negative NAAT-PCR test taken in the US within 72 hours of arrival. We landed in Rome at 3 AM our time on a Monday, so we took our test Friday morning at the drive-through at CVS and received our results the next morning. You also have to complete a passenger locator form. These steps were basically the same as for our recent trip to the UK.
Italy has strict rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19, much stricter than any state or city in the US. You must wear a mask to enter any public space: airport, museum, church, store, hotel, or in any restaurant before you are seated. Our driver wore a mask, and we had to wear a mask. You must present proof of full vaccination at each hotel, museum, and restaurant. All employees wear masks. Everyone we see complies without complaint.
The proof is in the pudding. Italy’s rate of new cases is about 1/5th of the US. Its rate of new deaths is about 1/8th of the US. 71% of Italians are fully vaccinated. This compares to 58% in the US.
Patti and I feel safer here than at home: we don’t feel comfortable indoors at restaurants at home. I still stay away from our favorite coffee shop where I’d routinely meet friends.
Conclusion: Italy has strict rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19. From what we observe, compliance is very high. The payoff for Italy is low rates of new cases and new deaths relative to the US. Patti and I feel safer in Italy than we do at home.