Travels in Italy - Departure and Arrival


I had planned to write about our travels in Italy while we were actually out there, and lugged my iPad around for three weeks on that basis; but the long shadow of a shocking new war made it impossible to find words that didn’t seem disrespectful to the horrors that others were enduring while we were indulging ourselves. To be honest, as the war rages on, I’m no more comfortable writing about it now, but I also felt it might be a small gift of hope to share a little joy in these dark days. For whatever extraordinary evil that occurs in this world, there is always hope to be found - and that we must find - if we are to find the strength to continue. Darkness must not prevail. The flame of hope for better things must keep burning. 

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Many of us have not travelled for two years or more. My family have determinedly battled to get away during these times. It has not been easy and sometimes we have wondered if it was worth it; but we have persevered despite all the obstacles and hoops we’ve had to jump through, and I think we all agree that, on balance, it has been. 

There is nothing like visiting another country, experiencing a different culture, history, language and climate, to re-ignite one’s zest for life. Two years of induced torpor have certainly taken their toll on me - even with a few trips away, my energy levels and sociability have dramatically decreased. Alarmingly so in fact. It has become so much easier NOT to do anything. And the less you do, the less you want to do. But then I take a long hard look at myself and think: ‘What have you become?! You used to have so much energy, dashing from one thing to another, going shopping, doing chores, meeting friends, hosting meals, running the house and family, gardening, exercising, always another project on the go etc etc etc.’ Now I get done in a whole day what I used to achieve in the first half hour…

So I am on a slow but determined route to change things for the better; to re-find that zest for life and the energy I used to have. 

Going away is always troublesome: whether you have a lock-up and go home or one that requires more time and effort, there is always the laundry, the packing decisions, the sorting care for domestic animals, the paperwork and admin for travel, the bills to pay and business to attend to before you leave etc etc. In fact, even if I’m going away for just a week, I always feel like I may as well be going to my own funeral: I do jobs and tackle admin which have been left unattended to for months! Completely irrational, but it’s just how it is. With Covid, the admin and organisation side of things quadrupled - especially travelling with the whole family: five sets of pre-departure tests to be ordered, paid for, undertaken and results logged online; five sets of post arrival home tests to be ordered and paid for and taken and sent off to the labs; pre-departure forms, passenger locator forms, country of destination rules and regulations to be researched and fulfilled - goodness, it was a nightmare which mercifully my husband took charge of. One holiday we actually decided to scrap because it was all becoming too much - the stress of going away outweighing any benefits to be had from the holiday - only to find that we couldn’t get our deposit back, so we had to go anyway. 

Thankfully those times are broadly behind us, certainly from the UK perspective, but there are still many countries where Covid rules and regulations are still in place. So for our recent trip to Italy - thankfully just the two of us - we had to fill in an Italian form ahead of departure and take Covid tests, but by the time we came home, we no longer had to fill in the UK passenger locator form or do any tests or self-isolation. So, armed with a ton of paperwork, including proof of vaccinations, we landed at a very quiet Verona airport on 1st March, 2022, around 6.30pm. After a no-doubt busy day, the authorities seemed to have had enough - not one aspect of our paperwork was actually checked. The luggage came out almost instantly and beyond showing our passport, nothing more was required. Easy. A relief - though frustrating that we’d spent so much time and money getting everything in order only for no-one to bother to check…

Car hire was equally queue and trouble-free and soon enough we were in the middle of the ‘Centro Storico’ (Historic Old Town) of Verona, checking into our hotel. Here we had to show our ‘Green Pass’ (proof of Covid vaccinations) and masks were still obligatory in Italy (and on our Ryanair flight) - not any old mask mind you, but the FFP2 variety, which we’d had to purchase rapidly just ahead of our departure. For reasons unknown, they gave us an upgrade to a small suite with a terrace, which was much appreciated, even if it was only for one short night! Still, a great start to the trip…

We’d seen there was a roof-top bar too, so we headed straight up there for a celebratory drink and to admire the amazing views of Verona’s Roman Arena, beautifully illuminated, which you could practically reach out and touch, a higgeldy-piggeldy landscape of ancient terracotta rooves, and a carpet of twinkling lights in the dark night from homes and lit-up monuments. It was pretty special, and as we sipped our Prosecco and Negroni and tucked into fat green olives, dips and nibbles (all complementary), we finally breathed a sigh of relief and could properly look forward to the delights which awaited us in the next three weeks. This was a trip that was planned to celebrate my husband’s retirement last year, but had had to be postponed due to Covid lockdowns. We were visiting old haunts from when we lived in Italy in the 1990s, catching up with friends we hadn’t seen for 30 years, dipping into Lake Garda, skiing in the majestic and breath-takingly beautiful Dolomites, and ending up where our Italian story had first begun - in the beautiful university city of Padua, just a stone’s throw from Venice, the jewel in the Veneto crown. 

So after quiet contemplation and appreciation of the unique nightscape that surrounded us, we went to go and enjoy our first authentic Italian meal since we were last in Italy in late February 2020, just as the Covid-19 pandemic first took hold in northern Italy…

(To be continued…)


Aperitivo time

Cafe tables on the Piazza Bra at midnight


Piazza Bra

Traditional Pasta Fagioli soup & a glass of local Valpolicella

Arena



Our hotel street in the Centro Storico

‘Empty chairs at empty tables’ 



The traditional trattoria next to our hotel where we dined

Pas un chat dans la rue…

Roof top terrace



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