Before heading to Italy on September 6 from Los Angeles, California, I had a few things to prepare before my departure. At that time, Italy and my airline (Delta) required:
And that's it! I opted to get only the rapid test for my flight. At the moment Italy is requiring negative results from either a rapid OR a PCR test. Since I also had a connecting flight through a different country, I also had to adhere to what their entry requirements were too. Luckily my connecting country France was also loose on which test you present but I have friends who had to get a rapid test for Italy and a PCR for their connection in Spain.
Since I was leaving on a Monday/holiday, I wasn't confident I'd get back PCR results in time within the 72 hour window so I did a rapid test 48 hours before departure. This was very easy to find a clinic offering them nearby in Pasadena and booking an appointment online was easy.
I got to the airport at the recommended 3 hours ahead of time. LAX is massive, and the international terminal is huge so this was a good call. It wasn't too crowded and it was moving efficiently but it took some time to drop off my bag and get my tickets since there's more forms and things for the attendants to check.
Once I reached the counter, they did ask for everything: my PLF, my vaccine card, proof of a negative test and my passport so it's good to have everything printed out in a designated envelope to hand over when asked. You could also have the QR code ready on your phone but I'm very analog and prefer to just have hardcopies.
After checking in and dropping my bag, I promptly found the nearest bar serving sparkling rose to celebrate making it through the first check-point! Boarding was also very simple. Delta/Air France had standard boarding, no proof of tests or vaccines was asked for before we got onto the planes. And then we were off!
Aboard the flight:
The flight was relatively full albeit I was in the cheap seats towards the back where it usually feels the most full. On the flight they announced a recommendation/requirement to change out masks every 4 hours but no one enforced this during the flight. I was asked to put on the provided surgical mask instead of my fabric one and they were checking throughout the flight to make sure everyone had theirs on but that's about it. They also passed out packets of sanitizer and wipes. Overall it felt very calm and most everyone was respectful of the masking rules. Yes, it sucked wearing a mask that long but it was doable and worth it to get to Italy.
Since I had a connecting flight through Paris, France, I had to pass through Customs there. France has a full check point where they ask you to go through security again (get ready to dump or drink any water you have) but the passport control was very efficient.
Before boarding my 2nd flight to Italy, they asked for my PLF and my vaccine card but that was it. France was oddly relaxed about everything.
Arriving in Italy was no problem. Nothing checked or asked for since I had already completed customs in Paris. And then I was free to go!
While in Italy:
Italy now has a Green Card system. Since our group was pretty small, I wasn't too concerned about getting tables to sit at restaurants. It didn't hurt to message/email ahead of time though just to give everyone a heads up about our vaccination status! Since we all had our vaccines and were keeping our cards on us at all times in our plastic sleeves, we got used to showing them off and explaining it was a CDC vaccine card. I think we only got questioned about the legality of them once in one of the smaller towns but the larger touristy areas were already used to seeing these cards.
I would say the majority of Italians were also very good about wearing masks indoors and when it got crowded. You could definitely tell who the tourists were...or just the teenagers. I did see a woman chastise a teenager on the metro in Florence about his lack of a mask and it was nice to see people enforcing the mask rules on their own and getting support from the other passengers.
Heading home also had its own hoops and requirements, including another negative covid test. For 2 of my guests, we had appointments books through one of the pharmacies in Castiglion Fiorentino so they would have their tests within the 48 hour window of departure. We booked these appointments a week out but I had heard of friends popping into pharmacies in big cities the day before to get an appointment for the "tampone rapido" (aka quick swab) the following day. In smaller cities it's best to book as early as possible since smaller towns may have rotating pharmacies open on the weekends and are just less prepared for tourists at the moment. Tests at the farmacia were €22.
Since I was flying out of Florence (at 6:50 am on a Monday...che palle) I booked my appointment at the airport! The Florence airport has a big testing tent out front for incoming and departing passengers, as well as anyone who just wants a test. It was €20 for the rapid test if you had proof of an upcoming flight! I booked my appointment in advance but you could likely just walk up because they were so efficient at getting people checked in, tested and on their way.
Checking in for my flight was about the same...they wanted my negative test, passport and vaccine card. Arrival at LAX was long because the lines are always long at customs but they didn't ask to look at anything besides our passport to stamp!
And that's it! Overall, it was a very smooth few weeks considering all the variables we were working with. I would recommend bringing a couple N95 or surgical masks with you if you normally wear a fabric one since Italy (and the airlines) seem to trust their efficacy more than a fabric mask. I packed two and used the one on the plane and felt like I wasn't totally smothered for nearly 20 hours of wearing a mask on the flights, and it was good to just have some extras for the busy days when I didn't have time to wash my fabric mask.
To be honest, if it weren't for masks and vaccine cards, it felt like another regular flight to Italy. Yes, it sucked wearing a mask for this long but it was manageable and worth it to be able to step foot in Italy again after 798 long days! If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below!
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