Expect the best, but plan for the worst, and it usually turns out OK.
One month in Europe, mid-pandemic. I can do this, I thought. Madly reviewing requirements to enter Italy, Croatia and Greece in late September 2021, I started questioning why I came up with the crazy idea to travel to three countries with different entry protocols for each one.
It all started in early 2021 when I was antsy to travel and had booked a week-long tour to explore Greece in October. I could take friends; so a few hearty and pent-up fellow travelers joined me. However, 7 days didn’t feel long enough after such a long dry spell from travel, so we added another week sailing on a yacht in Croatia, with another few days in Split. As soon as those plans were settled, we received word that Italy had opened!
Who else might want to wade into the international travel scene mid-pandemic? Turned out I wasn’t the only one ready for pasta carbonara and a Vespa ride around the Colosseum. Eight of us spent 11 glorious days breezing through an astonishingly empty St. Peter’s Basilica and catching sunsets on the Amalfi Coast.
Yes, there’s a little more paperwork. We wore masks indoors. We carried proof of vaccination. We scheduled tests to come back to the United States. Was it worth it? For me and most of my travel mates, that answer is a resounding “Yes!” Arriving in Rome, my driver friend Gigi greeted me with a cheek-to-cheek kiss-kiss – something I wasn’t sure they still did in a pandemic. It warmed my heart. All the paperwork was worth it right there. “Thank you for coming back to Italy,” he said. “We need visitors to return.”
We tasted our way along the coasts of three seas: the Tyrrhenian, Adriatic, and Aegean. We ate the “fresh catch” daily and learned the grapes and wines from countless wine regions between the 36th and 43rd parallel. We drank wine with my vintner friend Gaetano and walked under his trellised 300-year-old vines. His wife served us a delicious meal of lasagna and grilled local sausage to pair with four different wines.
We enjoyed so many highs, and very few lows. High points included much smaller crowds at the usual tourist spots, excellent food and wine, engaging guides, new languages, and meaningful cultural experiences.
The lows were mostly out of our control: cold, windy weather and a really rough ferry ride. Someone might consider the necessary paperwork and testing as a low, but if you do what’s required it really is a breeze. The United States continues to require a negative test result for re-entry. Expect that to be in place until COVID-19 numbers decrease dramatically around the world.
People in every country thanked us for traveling. “It’s a long way for Americans to come, especially under current conditions,” said Mirjana, our charming Croatian guide. “We appreciate that so much.” We left enriched by new friendships, new experiences, and more food than we ever eat in a day.
Lynette leads small travel groups celebrating culture, adventure, food and wine. Visit cypresstours.net to learn more.
PHOTO CAPTIONS IN ITALICS (not on top of photos):
Page 3: Our private boat, bottles of Prosecco and a beautiful sunset off the coast of Positano. (L to R: Haley Lamberth, Bend, OR.; Captain Alessandro; Gina Starr, Boise; Tammie Jauregui, Boise; Valarie Koss, Portland, OR.; myself; Jeff and Alaina Sayers, Boise; Carrie Cereghino, Boise.
Page 4: Our serendipitous night on the island of Sipan (SHE pahn), after dodging a storm. The family at the only open restaurant grilled fish for our dinner.
Page 6: St. Peter's Basilica in Rome is open and airy these days with smaller crowds.