On a recent trip to the European Union, Gina Bach, Exclusive Resorts’ Vice President of the Experience Collection, traveled throughout Italy to research and scout new Residences for the Europe 2021 and 2022 Collections. Gina was constantly asked by friends and family what it’s currently like to travel internationally—and specifically to safe vacation destinations in Europe. After waiting 18 months to travel to Italy (one of her favorite destinations), Gina’s major takeaway? The experience was positive, inviting, and fun (why we cherish travel most!). Her trip highlights and tips will help you navigate international destinations during ever-changing, country-dependent restrictions (Please note: Check with your Covid Navigator and/or Ambassador prior to any trip, as CDC mandates are consistently evolving and changing).
What documents were needed?
“Admittedly, I was apprehensive about traveling, and really wanted to make sure I was on top of things, as the airline website wasn’t clear. It stated you needed to have a Covid test, and in addition, a vaccine card. Because it had that “in addition” clause, I thought you may need both. I wanted to make sure I was crystal clear and not stuck at Denver International Airport for the departure. So just in case, we all got tests prior to departure (in addition to having our vaccine cards). Turns out, we never had to show our Covid test results pre departure.”
Were there additional checkpoints along the way?
“You did have to show your passport more, so be sure you always have that readily available, both on and off the plane. When we transferred via Frankfurt airport, you had to show your vaccination card there as well, but we never had to show vaccination cards again once we got into the EU.”
Did you give yourself extra travel time, while in route?
“It was by far the earliest I’ve ever arrived at the airport for an international flight, so definitely give yourself some extra time. It doesn’t ever hurt to have some padding, as there’s more checkpoints and documents to show along the way—yet overall, it was very smooth, seamless travel.”
What was the experience in Italy like once you arrived?
“A big bonus was there were no crowds and no buses. Especially in Florence—you weren’t three people deep in lines to see things, and we were easily able to get into nice restaurants. It was extremely lovely!”
How was the return trip home?
“The whole experience—including being on the plane, both ways—was positive, and it felt really good. The plane to Italy was pretty full, yet the plane coming home was rather empty.
Coming home, the U.S. requires a negative Covid test, so we took that in Italy (with the mandated time frame prior). If you’re a Member, this is easily taken care of by the Club—we set that up. And I’d advise to get into the airport early again on the departure.”
Did you wear masks more or less while abroad?
“We did wear masks in the airports, of course, and in the Italy airports, they mandate the blue medical masks (they will give you one if needed). While traveling throughout Italy, the country requires masks a little more than we do currently in the U.S. As an example, they require them in the boutiques or when walking to your restaurant table.”
Where to Go: Gina’s Florence Discoveries:
- La Buchetta. This is a little restaurant right below the Club’s Florence apartment, and the Pici Special is the dish to order.
- Prada Space Outlet. It's a day trip from Florence, located in Montevarchi Tuscany, and so worth it!
- Handmade embossed stationary boutique in Florence—and was less expensive than normal. Great souvenir.
- All' Antico Vinaio’s prosciutto sandwich with shaved truffle spread (no wait, typically there can be lines).
- Gelateria de' Medici is my favorite gelato place. So yummy!
Where You’ll Stay
“We are offering Members additional Europe inventory for 2022. We have two- to three- bedroom apartments in the city centers that are walkable to shops, sites, and restaurants. Additionally, the collection has numerous three- to six-bedroom sprawling villas with sweeping sea views. After this recent trip to Italy, I’m most excited about our new villas in Sicily for 2022. They have full resort amenities and include an in-residence cooking class that sources farm-fresh ingredients to make local dishes.” – Gina Bach