Well, this wasn’t anything like I imagined. The coronavirus hit Italy hard and the situation has changed daily since we received our visas. But now we are settling into our new home.
We received the visas on Thursday, February 27th and made reservations that day to Pisa. We got a great flight from Orlando to Houston to Munich to Pisa. Crazy to go to Houston, but we needed only 3 flights to go from one medium-sized airport to a small one in about 15 hours. We got business class tickets with points that allowed us to check three 70 pound bags each. That’s 420 pounds of stuff and we could each take two carryons. We wanted to maximize what we could bring along with us.
We were in Ohio at the time, visiting family and friends. And keeping an eye on the news of coronavirus in Italy. Some of the northern towns were locked down, but we felt confident because there were no cases in Lucca and few in Tuscany.
On March 4th, I heard from an American couple that lives in Lucca returned on a flight from the US through Pisa. No problems but they said the flight was quite empty. New problem… flights were being cancelled because there just weren’t enough people flying. Sure enough, on March 5th, we received an email stating that our flight was changed to land in Florence with a 5 hour layover in Munich. We were also watching the news about the growing coronavirus problems which were spreading throughout Italy. If we didn’t travel soon, we were concerned that our move would be delayed for months.
So we completed our packing and rented a big SUV. Derek took us to the Orlando airport and helped us get it checked in. The maximum weight for each piece of luggage is 70 pounds. Boxes 1 to 3 were 68 pounds, 4 and 5 were a bit lighter, and the suitcase was exactly 70 pounds. Jim did a great job of preparing all of the luggage. 🙂
No problems with our flight. We had a good night’s sleep flying from Houston to Munich. This flight was about half full, so clearly people are just deciding not to travel. Upon arrival in Munich, they took a quick look at our passports, didn’t ask any questions and didn’t even look at the visas! We spent the long layover in the Lufthansa lounge and were thankful for the clean and warm showers. The flight into Florence was less than half filled. We had our temperatures taken then juggled our massive luggage out to the front where a driver with a van was waiting for us. Some of the boxes were wet and starting to break down, but we squeezed them into the van and headed off to Lucca, less than an hour away.
We were greeted by Debora, but there were no hugs or the typical Italian cheek kisses. With help from the driver and Casper, a member of our church, we got all the luggage into our apartment. Even though there is an elevator, there are still several steps up and down to get to the main area of our apartment. Debora briefed us on the apartment and gave us a warning that she expected all of Italy to be “locked down” within a day or two. Yikes! We had several critical tasks to be done the next day…
Tuesday, March 10th was our first full day in Lucca. A new set of rules were in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus by encouraging everyone to stay home. We weren’t allowed to leave Lucca without a good reason, pubs and restaurants closed at 6pm and everyone was to stay at least one meter apart. Despite these rules, we were able to go to the bank, cell phone store to order Wifi and get Italian phone numbers for our phone, buy essentials for the appartment and get some food into the house. We accomplished a lot and enjoyed our first dinner at home.
That evening we enjoyed the wonderful views from our kitchen and “altana” as the sun set. Life was going to be good in Lucca, once we get through all these new rules!
Today (Wednesday, March 11th) we felt like pros at these new rules. We ventured outside of the walls to stop at an electronic store, similar to Best Buy, to buy a Nespresso machine. Then to a much larger supermarket. Because we must stay a meter apart, the stores limit the number of people inside. This creates queues outside of many stores and we waited 30 minutes to get into the large supermarket. We buy only what we can carry and Jim has carried a bunch the last 2 days!
Tonight we created a plan for tomorrow, but as we prepared to go to bed we learned of the next set of rules. Only food markets and pharmacies will be opened starting tomorrow. So we won’t be going to the bank or other “essential” errands that we planned, but will turn our focus on organizing our apartment and finish unpacking. And staying home.
We don’t regret coming to Italy. We have everything that we need. We feel safe and still healthy. We felt called to come to Italy and are still at peace with our decision.