Categories: Travel Stories

Day in the life: Vol 6 – Italy’s Opening Up

by John Giebler - Monday, June 29, 2020

Updates From Staff – Italy Opening Up

With many countries beginning to loosen quarantine restrictions and open in phases we have been checking in with our staff and tour leaders to see how things have changed. Here is John’s report from Italy about how things are “almost” feeling normal!

Where do you live?
I live in Italy near our base (the “Farm”) – which has almost completely moved to Faenza now as we needed more space. It is also farther from home but a better, longer bike ride to work!

Now that regulations are starting to lift across Europe, what limitations do you still have in place? 
To be honest, if it weren’t for seeing people in masks, I’d forget we could still be at risk. People are leading normal lives now, just wearing masks when appropriate and washing their hands more often. There is a good deal of respect for others here – better than before COVID in my opinion – and in some cases the whole situation has brought people together a little more. Say what you might about the Italian government – and we do say plenty – they seem to have handled this thing as well as possible. They kept us seriously locked down for a couple months, almost under house arrest, but that’s how we got COVID-19 (hopefully!) behind us. People are still cautious. Last week there was a spike in daily cases but we had been hovering around 200-300 new cases per day in the whole country for a while.

What ‘normal’ activities have you been able to resume?
Everything! Well, except that bike ride I lied about in the first question, because I still haven’t done it! We’re still mostly working from home here.

I was also curious to see what it’s like to stay in a hotel and I’ve stayed in a couple now. They’ve replaced a lot of the documents they usually give you with messages to your cell phone. For example hotel rules, hours, wi-fi code, restaurant suggestions, and what to do or see in the area. And breakfast has been surprisingly normal with the full choices I’m used to. But now, if there’s a buffet, there’s one person staffing it, wearing a mask, and you go up (also wearing a mask) and order what you want to. Or sometimes instead of a buffet you order off a menu like at lunch or dinner.

Where was the first place you went when restrictions were eased? 
We went to visit my wife’s family in Domodossola, near the Swiss border. We drove though because we were still concerned about taking the train.

Does your city seem to be getting back into its normal rhythm? 
Yes, sometimes too much for my taste. I live in the city center and it was beautifully quiet during the lockdown. Now we’re back to the hustle and bustle of a medium-sized city.

What are you most grateful to have access to again? (This can be a daily routine, favorite restaurant, less travel restrictions…) 
Gelato!!! On one of the first days when businesses were open again, I was walking by my second-favorite gelateria in town. The owner signaled for me to come in, but I said, “no, thanks, I was just looking to see if you were really open, and I don’t have any money with me anyway.” He insisted I go in anyway and gave me the gelato for free! Now it’s my favorite gelateria in town.

Are there any habits or past times from lockdown that you will keep as restrictions ease? 
A weekly Zoom call with my parents, who live in Colorado.

How many house projects did you complete while you were on lock down? 
None! But did some good cooking!

Lock down was certainly difficult but what is one fond memory you will take from being cooped up at home?
It was a time for reflection and slowing down. A beautiful opportunity to spend more time with my wife.

Read John’s update from when he was in lockdown in April.

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John Giebler - has led tours in France and Italy and has been with ExperiencePlus! since 2000. When he’s not leading bicycle or culinary tours, he enjoys putting his sommelier skills to to practice. In 2013 he became ExperiencePlus!'s Director of Tours where he will oversee the quality and development of all of ExperiencePlus's guided bicycle tours. John loves music, cooking, and travels with his friends/colleagues in Italy. John was Head Produce Buyer for Whole Foods Market in the Boston area until – having always had an intense passion for food, wine, and travel – the travel bug became too strong in 1996. John got a great price on a round-the-world ticket that eventually led him to Europe. Getting back to his love of food and wine, he delved into the French culture working on small farms and harvesting grapes in Burgundy. After relishing several years living in France, John moved near to our Italian headquarters in 2006. In the past few years, John’s European roots have grown deeper; in October 2011, he married in the charming medieval town of Brisighella.

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