Travelling from Portugal to Italy in times of the COVID-19

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Published 2020-05-13 11:25

Umberto is an Italian expatriate who has lived in Algarve for a few years. He returned from Portugal to Italy last week. Here is how he organized his travels and the formalities at borders.

Tell us a little about yourself, how long have you lived in Portugal and in what area have you lived?

I moved to Portugal in 2017, to the Algarve, precisely in the Quarteira and Vilamoura area.

We are talking about the coronavirus health crisis that has also involved Portugal, how did you experience this particular situation being far from your country of origin?

Initially with a little fatalism. But I quickly understood how important it was and what the consequences could be. There is no doubt that when I realized the real consequences of being in a foreign country with a possible respiratory crisis I realized the seriousness of the events, and this prompted me to pay more attention.

What steps has Portugal taken to avoid contagion?

Simply those of common sense: avoid particularly crowded places and take care of hand hygiene especially when attending public places. I must say that living in the Algarve has increased the feeling of security compared to cities such as Rome or Valencia, which I have a habit of visiting. The Algarve has a low population density, solar and breezy climate, crystal clear air. All this has certainly contributed to a greater feeling of security and tranquility.

How did you spend your days during the quarantine? 

It was just a little boring to be honest, but nothing major. The large spaces of the Algarve still allowed me some walks on the beaches and the daily late afternoon jog. 

Tell us about your journey from Portugal to Italy? 

The return to Italy, overall, was easier than expected and without particular difficulties. To date there are two reliable alternatives for a return to Italy: car via Spain-France or ferry via Barcelona.The solution of a return by air route, in my opinion, is still too uncertain and subject to both sudden cancellations and triangulations between countries that make the return / going too long and uncertain. Anyone wishing to start today to leave / reach a foreign country must have a valid, credible and demonstrable motivation that attests to the real need for the move. It seems trivial but it is the key to everything. Without this, there is a real risk of being blocked and rejected at a border.Both in Spain and Portugal they do not require written self-certifications but only concrete reasons, and preferably demonstrable, if required.Having said that, I found the Spanish police at the border of Villa Real de San Antonio: they asked me for the documents and the reasons for the move. They were very kind and very quick.

During the transit through Spain I found no checkpoints or particular checks. When boarding the ferry in Barcelona they checked my temperature without requiring further checks. I then had to fill out practically the same forms, with the same data, three times before landing in Italy but we now know it ... paper bureaucracy is an irresistible temptation for us Italians. More problematic was finding an open structure in Spain in order to divide the Algarve-Barcelona journey (1200 km) into two sections.

Before booking, it is important to always make sure, by phone or email confirmation, that the structure is open and operational. Very often online booking portals make you make a reservation even if the facilities are closed. There is therefore a real risk of arriving in Spain and finding yourself literally on the street. I stayed in Ciudad Real, an excellent stop for those who leave Portugal. For those who leave Italy, a good point could be Valencia.

Did you undergo special checks when you landed in Civitavecchia and did you have to bring with you special documents such as a Portuguese medical certificate to certify your good health? 

Upon arrival in Civitavecchia I had to present the self-certifications which can now be downloaded a little everywhere. They did not ask me for further documentation. Least of all foreign medical certifications. The only real check was the temperature checks both at the start and the finish.

The self-certifications provide them directly at boarding or can be downloaded from the Italian Consulate website.

How did the journey by car from Civitavecchia go home, did you meet any checkpoints along the way? What was your mood? 

I have practically never met law enforcement officers to oversee traffic on roads and highways. Both in Portugal and Spain, and in Italy. 

The mood? Puzzled, disoriented and embittered in thinking about the consequences of suspending the economic activities of entire countries. In particular for young people and in general for all those people who have seen their work dismantled overnight, frustrating commitment and planning.

Back in Italy, do you have to undergo a period of isolation at home? 

Of course, 14 days of quarantine, but considering the situation it is the minimum.