Back to Lucca March 2020

3 March

Every journey starts with one step…and multiple mouse clicks to check the impact of Covid-19.

Stay away from northern Italy, wash your hands, don’t touch your face, stay well clear of sneezing people, face masks don’t really help, what about insurance cover if you cancel? And why are NZers and Aussies buying bottled water and toilet paper in such quantity?

Oh, to hell with them, I’m still going. And here I am in Lucca, watching the world get smaller as daily flight cancellations across Europe reduce options for travel.

Oddly, at Auckland International Airport, I saw no signs about Covid; heard no announcements; saw no stands with the now-unobtainable hand sanitiser.

People aren’t travelling, they’re cancelling their flights, they’re about to close Milan Airport. Really? Emirates flight to Dubai was chocka block in the sardine sections. Ryanair has cancelled my Berlin flights and Milan is missing some flights….but the view from here is quite different.

There is a virus, but there’s no panic-buying; very few people wearing masks; there’s the odd whiff of hand sanitiser.

No hot towel on take-off from Auckland, no announcements about Covid or handwashing. We fly blissfully into the night, uninformed and hoping that screaming child will soon go to sleep. Later we get hot towels. I wiped down the armrests and tray table with pungent antibacterial Domestos wipes.

Dubai is humming, maybe not as busy as usual, but there are still plenty of people on the move. More people on the plane wearing face masks, some tightly fitted with little plastic vents. Masks must come off to eat, so protection may be intermittent. Recent sinus surgery has left my sinuses a little more sensitive than usual. I try not to sneeze in case I’m branded as unclean.

The flight to Rome in untoward aside from a nasty headwind as we approach Fiumicino. Anyone who’s flown into Wellington will be familiar with the bouncy castle-style romping around the skies.

We reached the gate at 12.25 pm.

We disembarked at 12.30pm.

Three people in hazmat suits sat behind laptops with heat-sensing software just outside the immigration hall. That was the health check.

My bag was on the carousel when I reached it.

A 30-second wait at Immigration.

Nothing to declare.

Buy train ticket.

Walk seven minutes to train.

Nice Trenitalia man lugs my 29kg suitcase up a staircase (the up escalator wasn’t working and no elevator).

1.08pm and I’m on the train to Roma Termini with its usual assortment of uniformed and armed protectors.

Oh, the delight of Italy. The train conductor could be a contract killer, a cool dude or an undercover cop in his immaculate uniform, trimmed beard and aviator sunglasses.

After Rome, no one checks my ticket. The carriage has less than a dozen people in it. This is Italy without its usual horde of tourists. It’s all a bit strange really.