THE FOUR GREAT ESCAPES from Italy

How we got out from, Italy just in time, from COVID-19 lockdown – 24 FEBRUARY 2020

On Saturday February 22nd, we checked into the town of Oristano for two nights to attend the Sartiglia Festival.  What followed was one of the best decisions I ever made.

That evening, we got the news from Bangkok that Italian Government locked down 11 towns in northern Italy’s Lombardy region to contain COVID-19 infections.  As we were on an island almost 1,000 Km south of the locked down area, I did not pay much attention to the news.

But during the day on Sunday 23rd, during the festival, more news filtered out that the situation in the Lombardy region is very serious.

So I thought that if we stayed with our itinerary and spend another 7 days mountain.biking around Sicily, we would have no way of returning home until the end of that segment as we will be in fairly remote areas.  I contacted Bangkok and have my secretary check the availability of seats on Thai Airways back from Rome to Bangkok.  Four seats were available on Monday 24th but there is no flight on Tuesday.  So we changed our ticket from Rome to Bangkok, contacted all the hotels in Sicily and cancelled our arrangement with the mountain bike guides.  For the domestic tickets from Cagliari, Sardinia back to Rome, we had no way of contacting Alitalia so we decided to go ahead and buy new tickets.

Actually, our luck started on Saturday as we traveled to Oristano.  Because I booked the hotel right in the centre of the town square where the ceremony was to be held, we cannot drive to the hotel and were told that we had to park on the streets and dragged our luggage to the hotel.  As we got there on Saturday afternoon, we felt really lucky that we found a parking spot less than 200 meters away from the hotel.

The next morning after breakfast around 8:30, my ears were itching and I felt that I should go check on our van so I walked over to look.  Walking over, I became worried because all the streets were empty and all the other cars parked there were all gone.  When we got to our parking spot, our van was the only car there.  There was a paper announcement in Italian pasted on the parking area signs.  I took a picture and sent to the gang to ask the receptionist to translate for us (Google Translate was useless and the translation to English did not make sense).  The receptionist said that the sign said that parking was prohibited after 7 am and violators would be towed away !!!  We moved the van a bit further away where there are other cars parked there.  So we had our Great Escape Part 1.

On Monday, we booked a noon flight from Cagliari to Rome but I saw that there was also an earlier flight around 9 am so I thought that if we leave at 5 am and drive for two hours from Oristano to Cagliari, I told everyone that we should leave no later than 5 am.  Well, as three of us were ready to leave at 5 am sharp, Jung said that Chakri was still packing and we were finally able to get rolling after 5:15.  Driving in the dark, it tool a bit longer than what Google said and we did not get to the airport until almost 7:30.  We did not have time to fill up the tank and rushed to drop off the gang to do the flight change and checking in while I went to drop off the rental car.

When I got to the terminal, we found that as the timing was really tight, the ticket changes took a lot more finagling than normal.  We finally got on the plane as the last four passengers all sweaty.  In fact they were actually announcing Jung and Chakri’s names in the terminal.  Finally we left on the earlier flight to Rome.  Great Escape Part 2.

We arrived Rome Airport and found out that we were a bit too early to check into the Thai Airways flight so we had to wait in the terminal for about 2 hours.  The terminal was quite empty and there were very few people waiting to check in at the Thai Airways counters as well.  Finally we checked in at around 10:30 and headed to the Business Class lounge.  It turned out that it comprised of two long walks through extremely empty terminals plus a ride on the connecting trams with the total time of around 45 minutes.  We were just thinking that if we did not make the earlier flight from Cagliari, we would not have been able to make the TG flight.  Great Escape Part 3

We arrived in Bangkok the morning of Tuesday February 25th and that afternoon the Thai Government announced that Italy as one of the four high risks countries that arrivals must go through strict checks and a mandatory 14-days quarantine.  Great Escape Part 4.  

Although we were not required to do self-quarantine, we did that anyway for 14 days.

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