This summer, I asked my husband to take me to the drive in. Rumor had it that with all the protocols, closures and unknown factors, the big screen would be outside drive in style and as an avid cinema lover, I was going to be there. It didn’t quite happen like that.
I went to a new kind of Drive In. Towards the end of August, PM Giuseppe Conte and Italy’s Health Ministry announced Covid rapid test facilities – drive in swab test centres facilitated by the Croce Rossa, and by September 2, Lazio Salute celebrated the very biggest Covid Drive In – 7000 square meters, 6 lanes , 24/7 and a 30-40 minute wait for results – at Rome’s Fiumicino FCO Airport Lunga Sosta (Long Term) parking, as well as a test facility inside at Terminal 3 specifically designated for those arriving into Fiumicino from ‘at risk’ countries (at time of writing- Malta, Greece, Spain, Malta, Croatia, parts of France). Both centres are antigen testing.
My dreams of a drive in were replaced by reoccurring nightmares of deeply penetrating nasal swabs. Lunga Sosta is the Covid test for anyone who needs an answer immediately. All that is required is a doctor’s prescription. We drove up, swabbed in and waited for 35 minutes (thank you, Netflix). Negativo said the official printed document. But the antigen test is not the answer to travel. According to my friends at ASL (local health offices), the Lunga Sosta test is great to confirm a negative result for work, to reconfirm a prior negative result or to catch a positive- in other words, it’s the test to make sure you aren’t negative so you can go back to doing what you need to do. From my research, if you want to fly, airlines are requiring negative results via a molecular/ PCR test (nasal and throat swabs), which means passport, plane ticket and prescription before you get swabbed, and the results are turned around (via email) in up to 48 hours, in which time you self isolate. So far so good.
So Can I Come to Italy?
So I test negative, now can I come to Italy? Nope, not if you are coming from the US, India, Russia and any other restricted country. And if entering from outside Europe or from a designated ‘high-risk’ country, you have to self isolate for 14 days.
At least once I day, I am asked in emails, social media, video calls and on FaceTime (thanks, mom) about when and if Italy will be allowing travellers from the US to return. My answer is always a consistent “Not Now, and most likely, not even the Near Future.” Italy is playing the long game, waiting patiently for US Covid numbers to notably flatten and/or drop, and more importantly, waiting to see a marked change in attitude. And by that, I mean respecting space and protecting oneself and others.
In Italy- a country that loves to avoid the rules- we wear masks*. We wear them inside every public space (offices, schools, gyms, elevators, restaurants, bars, trains, trams, buses, boutiques, supermarkets, and anything that resembles Target) because we have to. We wear them in outdoor spaces where people congregate like Campo de’ Fiori between the hours of 6pm and 6am because we have to. We wear them well and sometimes not so well like Nose-Exposer Man and Chin-Hover Dude (someone usually points it out and everything is covered up). Most importantly, we wear them because we don’t want to be locked down again. [Eric Sylvers breaks it down for Wall Street Journal]. The Italian government knows that no one wants another lockdown, which is one of the main reasons why we are going to wait out US tourism for a bit.
*As of October 3, the Lazio Region requires the wearing of masks outside as well.
The Good News: Five Star FCO and Alitalia Covid-Free
FCO has doubled down on protecting its travellers. SkyTrax, U.K.-based airport and airline review firm, just award FCO a “COVID-19 5-star airport rating”, the first in the world for its protocols, procedures, hygiene, staff and visual information. And to make things more fun, Alitalia just launched the very first Covid-free flights in twice daily FCO-Linate flights. In a nutshell, every single passenger has to confirm that they have tested negative for the virus either by PCR test (within 72 hours of flying), or by taking the rapid antigen test at the airport’s Covid testing facility (aka the drive in) – presenting negative result certificate.
Is this going to the be the new way of traveling into Italy? We’ll see. For now, it’s a sign that Italy is being incredibly proactive, progressive and prepping for a positive future.
Italy’s Health Ministry and Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the up-to-date specifics on the current Covid situation, and travel and traveller permissions. ViaggiSicuri [currently being updated] is Foreign Affairs handy online questionnaire to help answer your questions. Re-Open EU for information on Europe. IATA Covid Travel Regulation Map for information on any where in the world you want to travel.