Travelling Safely to Tuscany and Bologna in 2020 #ReturnToTravel

Our Managing Director, Julie, recently visited Tuscany and Bologna to prepare for our holidays to Italy resuming in autumn (but she still had time to catch the sunshine and see some sights while she was there!) I caught up with her on her return to chat about her return to travel. We discussed what made her feel safe travelling to Italy and what it was like to be in Italy itself. Read on to find out more!

Did you prepare any differently for your travel to Italy?

Of course, but not as much as I thought I would have to. I researched the guidelines and rules for Italy, and for the regions of Tuscany and Emilia Romagna initially, but the airline gives you a lot of information and includes any links to what you need to know to help you prepare.

Italy has a self-declaration form you fill out for each passenger, so because I was travelling with my son I filled this in for myself and for him. It asks where you’re staying, how long you’re there for, what flight you came on and if you’ve visited any other countries in the last 14 days. You also have to confirm that you don’t have any symptoms, and provide your telephone number for track and trace.

The only other thing I did differently was to make sure I had hand sanitiser and face masks for myself and my son. Other than that packing and check-in was much the same, especially as I always do it online anyway.

What was it like going through the airport?

It was really smooth, there’s a clearly marked one way system and it’s clearly marked where you can and can’t go. It actually made the airport experience more enjoyable! Everyone is wearing their masks and socially distancing the whole way through the airport. In security, if the detectors beep when you go through, you go through the full body scanner instead of getting patted down – to adhere to social distance guidelines.

It’s nice to see things opening up again. The duty free and some shops were open, and some bars and restaurants – all with social distancing. It was quieter but still seemed quite normal.

Julie wearing face mask on plane

Julie and her son onboard their flight to Italy

What was the flight like?

The flight was relatively quiet, about one third full, and it was very well organised in terms of getting on and getting to your seat. It was clear that social distancing was prioritised by the airline. To board, they bring you on per row so no one is having to squeeze by anyone else. You can still use the bathrooms, but there’s no queuing allowed, and they’re still serving food and drink but it’s all individually packaged.

Other than the fact that people were wearing facemasks, the flight was very much as normal – people were watching tv on their phones, reading books, chatting & having drinks.

Were you able to go out and explore like normal?

They’re ahead of us in terms of coming out of lockdown, and they’ve been very careful in their phased approach. So, for us, we were able to get out and about and visit places like the cathedral in Siena. We bought our tickets online, so we were able to skip the queue, but it was all socially distanced anyway. They had hand sanitisers everywhere and you had to wear your masks in shops and museums.

We went out to eat at a few lovely restaurants, and all the tables were 1 metre apart. Another thing that made us feel safe is that, to enter certain places, they would do a temperature check. They were taking extra precautions to make people feel safe.

There’s a real sense of people living again and enjoying travelling again – you could see there were more tourists. Everybody was respectful of the rules and peoples’ space and distancing.

We stayed at La Martina, which is also owned by one of our villa owners, and we felt so well taken care of. Everything was extremely clean and perfectly set up for guests – it was a beautiful place to stay for my first time back in Italy since March.

Sunny view of the path and gardens at La Martina

The beautiful sunny view at La Martina

What was most different about travelling during this trip to Italy?

I would say it was definitely the wearing of masks, and being conscious of keeping your distance from people. Naturally, Italians are very warm people, and I was visiting people from the Flavours team – our chefs Livia and Pier Luigi, host Milena and villa owner Contessa Maria Teresa. So it was really different to be so very conscious about keeping your distance and being respectful of other peoples’ boundaries.

Flavours team at villa in Tuscany

Julie with Mauro and Milena in Tuscany

The health and safety of our guests is our top priority, so while I was in Tuscany and Bologna I was speaking to our team about our Safety First campaign. The team is so excited to be welcoming guests in September, and have worked really hard to put all the necessary measures in place.

Was the trip worth navigating the new travel requirements? For example, the self-declaration form.

Most definitely – I didn’t find it a particular hassle though! They’ve made everything as easy as they can, and, in fact, it’s a lot simpler going through the airport than it is normally. Everyone is all set up for the changes, so it was very smooth and there really was no extra hassle. It was definitely worth it to travel, to see new things and to get out there in sunshine and interact with other people. It’s a pretty good process to travel now.

What is life like now in Italy?

I would say they’ve got comfortable in their new normal in Italy, and everything is pretty much back. You can do everything you could do before, like using swimming pools and going to the beach, just with some parameters around it. You can go and experience all the things you’ve experienced before, you just need to be mindful of the guidance while you’re doing so. The people are so warm, so friendly and so pleased to see you – they’re so happy to be opening back up to the world!

Flavours team at villa in Bologna

Livia, Contessa Maria Teresa, and Pier Luigi in Bologna

It feels more like getting back to some level of normality in Italy. For instance, you can just drop into a bar or a restaurant and don’t have to book. I think this is because there’s more outside dining options, the distancing is easier for them to adhere to.

It really was a lovely five days. We were out and about and saw a lot, and we were still able to enjoy Tuscany and Bologna, and felt completely safe doing so.

Group of guests smiling and posing in front of pool on holiday

Our 5 Tips for Travelling to Italy in 2020

  1. Make sure you check the FCO travel advice in the lead up to your trip.
  2. Fill in your self-declaration form ahead of time and make sure it’s filled in for anyone travelling with you as well!
  3.  Pack your face masks, hand sanitiser and disinfectant wipes so they’re easy to access, such as in your carry-on, to use them during the trip as necessary.
  4. Check the guidelines provided by your airline before you head to the airport.
  5. Take a credit card with no international fees so you can pay contactless in shops and restaurants.

If Julie’s trip has inspired you, make sure to check out our last-minute availability for holidays to Italy in 2020!

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Flavours Blog

Italian food, lifestyle and culture blog – by the Flavours Holidays team.