We made it! We made it!!! It still doesn’t exactly feel real, I’ll tell you that! We are so excited, but also trying to get over jet lag and take care of some business-y things that must be done right away.
I thought I’d give you all a little break down of the move, the flights, the COVID testing, and our arrival here. Then hopefully next week I’ll have a little more to say specifically about Vicenza!
The physical move from Denver consisted of three parts. First, back in March, we scheduled movers to come pick up our household items that would be staying in storage. Last time we brought literally everything we owned and that was a LOT to deal with. So, this time we decided to leave some things behind, like really big, heavy furniture, boxes of books, a lot of Chris’ collection of vinyl records, various appliances that are not dual voltage, a wine barrel and several glass demijohns that we brought back last time.
Later that same week we schedule what’s called an Unaccompanied baggage shipment (UAB). These are supposed to be things you’ll want to have access to pretty soon, but can’t fit in your luggage. For us that was extra clothes, extra toiletries, our bikes, and at this point I don’t even remember what else! My brain is a little fried from jet lag and just everything!!
Finally, right before we needed to be out of our place, we scheduled movers to come pack up all of our household goods (HHG) that would be coming over this time. This includes furniture, kitchen items, clothing, TVs and other electronics, etc. The really great thing is that they pack it all up for you. It still felt stressful living with boxes all over the place for a few days and with strangers all up in the house after a year with basically no one else being there with us! But overall, it went pretty smoothly! Chris is really good at working with them and giving directions about what should be packed how (he’s done this more than a few times). We had quite a lot of things broken when we unpacked in Naples, so hopefully that won’t happen again. But at the end of the day - it’s just stuff! (Remind me I said that when I’m freaking out about broken stuff!)
Also, we chose to hire a cleaning company to do a move out clean the day after everything was gone. They did an okay job, not the best. But I still feel like it was 100% worth it to not have to try to borrow cleaning supplies and do it ourselves.
We also shipped our car over and it should arrive mid-June. We were able to ship it from Denver, which was not the case last time. This was much, much easier than driving to St. Louis to ship it!
All of these things are organized through the Department of Defense (who Chris is now technically working for). Moving with the government/military is MUCH easier than just doing it yourself. I wouldn’t even know where to begin trying to do that kind of move. This way still has its stressful moments, but overall it could be a lot harder!
First Flight Since COVID
After staying in a hotel (which we will be reimbursed for) for the last few nights in Denver, we flew to NC to see family before we head across the pond! This was our first time flying since before COVID and I was a little nervous. But it actually went really smoothly. The plane felt super clean (we were on United) and we were given an anti-bacterial wipe upon boarding. I was surprised that it was a completely full flight from Denver to Raleigh/Durham. My biggest advice about flying is to choose carefully when it comes to your mask. Because I was nervous (even though we are both fully vaccinated) I chose a mask that Chris had made from a pretty heavy fabric and fit my face pretty tightly. It was only about 3.5 hours, plus however long we were in the airport. But on that flight, I started feeling really claustrophobic. I had on a hat, big Bose headphones, a tight mask, plus the packed plane. Thank goodness, I was in an aisle seat, so I didn’t feel completely surrounded! I did some breathing exercises and got through it, but it got me concerned for the MUCH longer flight coming up!
A Last-Minute Change of Plans
A couple of days after arriving in NC we got unexpected news from our Sponsor (a person who works in Chris’s new office who is assigned to help us transition. Ours has been really great! The one we had in Naples was terrible and it makes a huge difference!). Italy/the Army/Someone had updated the regulations and we no longer needed to quarantine or ROM (Restriction of Movement – the Army LOVES some acronyms) upon arrival. This was good news overall, but it threw me off a little because I had packed planning on being locked down for 10 days. I had also been kind of excited about having 10 days to get over the jet lag and not need to hit the ground running. But I already knew with a move like this you really just have to go with the flow and know that things change at the drop of a hat!!
Because we had been planning on being in ROM, where they provide an apartment for you, our sponsor had to scramble to find us lodging! He had already booked us at the hotel on the base, but not until the 20th and now we needed it starting the 10th. Initially the base hotel didn’t have rooms available for the first few days, so they booked us in an off base hotel. Which probably would have been fine, but it’s nickname is the Scary Mary. Used jokingly apparently, but let’s just say I was NOT looking forward to those few days! Then, a couple of days later we got word that a room had opened up on base, so we didn’t have to experience a “scary” hotel after all. I was thrilled!!
COVID Testing Complications
The most important thing we had to do was to get COVID tested before our flights. We were flying United again and they had fairly clear directions on what was needed. We had a layover in Frankfurt, Germany before getting to Italy so we had to make sure that we met the criteria for BOTH countries, even though it was literally just an hour and a half layover. Luckily, the criteria for Germany was the same as Italy. I had heard of other people moving to Italy (via a very helpful FB Group) that had a really hard time because they had multiple layovers in Europe countries with differing requirements.
We ended up booking our flights ourselves (we will be reimbursed up to a certain amount) because the orders from Chris’s new job said we were departing from Denver and we were actually departing from NC. That meant that the office/agency/department that usually books travel for people moving couldn’t do it because the departing locations didn’t match. That actually ended up being fine because they seemingly just go for the cheapest flight which means you have no control over what countries you fly through, how many layovers you have, and how long the total travel time is. At one point, we thought they could help and they were giving us options with like 3 layovers and 24-hour travel times!! NO THANK YOU! By booking it on our own we had two layovers (one more than I prefer when flying to Europe, but there were no one layover options) and just a 12.5-hour travel time!
Okay, back to the tests… we were required to get tested no more than 48 hours before arrival in both Frankfurt and Venice. So, we calculated and saw that we could get tested Saturday morning, before our Sunday afternoon flight, and Monday morning arrival in both Germany and Italy. Fortunately, both countries accept the rapid antigen tests, so we wouldn’t have to wait on PCR test results that can take anywhere from 24-48 hours and risk that we wouldn’t have them back in time to show at the airport!
Sounds easy enough, right? Well, it looked like CVS had the most testing options, although not every location does antigen testing. We were able to find one that did and we each scheduled our tests for Saturday morning. Well, I woke up Saturday morning to a text saying that our tests had been cancelled!! And obviously, I totally freaked out! I called to see if it was a mistake and they just said, “Sorry we’re not doing those tests today.” WTF?! Why were we allowed to schedule them?!?! After a lot of calling around and checking if we could walk in somewhere (we could not), we finally found appointments for noon, in Benson, NC, about an hour’s drive away. Not ideal but we booked them. Fortunately, a super nice lady name Tiffany called to let us know that the address on their website is wrong, so she gave us the correct one and told us to come on in (well before noon!). We jumped in the car and took off to Benson! She was there when we arrived, it went really quick and was not bad at all. Well, for me it wasn’t. Someone else acted like it was the worst thing to ever happen to them! LOL
We got the results by that evening – Negative! Wooohoooo! It took several tries to get them uploaded to United’s app. It was a little glitchy, but it worked in the end. I spent some more time re-reading everything to make sure we hadn’t missed dotting an “i” or crossing a “t”!
The day our travel started we got to the airport SUPER early. Like, really early. I would always rather be way too early that too late, that’s for sure! But like, there was literally no one in front of us in the security line. It was TSA pre-check, but still… no one!
All was going well, we got on the plane – first stop Washington/Dulles. I learned from the flight from Denver and wore a mask with much softer fabric and more adjustable ear straps, so that felt much better. That flight was full too, but no big deal, it was going to be short one. Then, after we had taxied for a good distance we stopped and the pilot came on and said there was going to be a 40-minute delay due to weather in DC!! Uuuuuuggggghhhhh! I definitely started to panic! Our layover was only like an hour or so. WOULD WE MAKE THE CONNECTING FLIGHT?!! Dude… I was stressed. But we ended up taking off after about 30 mins and the pilot said he’d try to make up some time!
The Actual Flight to Europe
We arrived in DC late, but not 40 minutes late, so we speed walked to the gate, which could have been farther, but still wasn’t exactly close by. They were already boarding and we’d missed the announcements, so it was kind of confusing because there were a bunch of people still lined up at the desk. We figured out that we had to get a physical stamp on a paper boarding pass in order to get on the flight. Even though our test results had been uploaded to United, they still needed to physically look at them and give us the stamp.
We were prepared though and got our stamps! That flight was not full, so we got a row to ourselves and that was extremely nice! Also, because we had booked it ourselves, we had upgraded all the way to *Premium* Economy! LOL Which we will NOT be reimbursed for. It basically just gave us extra leg room and we didn’t have to be at the very back of the plane. But we agreed it was worth it for that long flight!
We were a little late taking off, but not enough that I was worried. Once in Frankfurt, we had just enough time to use the bathroom and Chris got us a pretzel to share and me a Coke Zero, then we were off again. I wasn’t sure at first if we’d need to recheck our bags in Frankfurt, because there have been times we’ve traveled and they were not checked all the way through to the end destination. But this time they were and I was VERY glad. We did go through customs there in Germany, but it was quick and painless!
It was not a full flight to Venice either, so we didn’t have to be cramped. One odd thing was that we had to fill out an Italian form about COVID, which we had printed out and done before we even left NC. So, when the flight attendant came around to pass them out, we didn’t take one. She then collected them all. But right after we exited the plane there were people there to take the papers. We were like, “But she took them…”. LOL Anyway, they just made us go over to a table and re-fill them out. Which was fine, but just odd! Welcome to Italy!
Officially in Italy
After that we grabbed our bags, which were actually already on the conveyor belt, and our sponsor was there to pick us up! Yay! There IS a shuttle from the base to the airport to pick up in-coming folks, but since we no longer had to ROM, we didn’t have to take it.
The highway was pretty busy between Venice and Vicenza, but it was still just about 45 mins to an hour. Not bad. Not much to be seen on the drive. But our sponsor took us to a little spot near the base for lunch where we had delicious, huge salads with Asiago cheese (So good! And the town of Asiago is not far from here, so we’ll definitely be visiting!) and Valpolicella wine! (The Valpolicella region is very nearby too, so I’m excited to learn more about it. The one we had was light and fruity – very easy to drink!)
Next, we checked in to the hotel on the base. It was a little muddled because we hadn’t been through some other building first because we didn’t ROM and it seemed like no one was on the same page about the new procedures around that. Not surprising, since things change so quickly!
But we got in and it’s decent. We have a two-room suite, one with a little kitchenette/dining table and living room/desk area, then a separate bedroom with a good amount of storage space. The main downside, for us, is that they have not turned the air conditioning on yet! Chris and I both run hot and hate to be hot, so I thought he was kidding at first. But no. Luckily, they did give us two pretty nice fans and they do help. We are also able to have the windows open because they actually have screens! Which is not always the case over here! So, we’ll make the best of it!
Chris has had a lot of in-processing to do and I have had a few things to take care of this week too, like getting the right ID and studying for the driving test!
We are trying to decide what to do for the weekend. It’s supposed to rain from now until… like literally it looks like forever! It seems like that’s pretty usual here, so I guess we just have to adapt from Denver, where it almost never rains!
I’ll keep you posted. Don’t forget to follow Tyler Traveling on FB and Instagram for more updates! (Click the icons on this page!) Ciao for now, friends!
*Disclaimer* I wrote this in a hurry and without my copy editor (my sister, Evan) looking at it first, so please forgive any typos or grammatical errors!