Return journey from Italy to UK

maz

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This is an account of our recent return journey to the UK from Italy via France and the Eurotunnel. Before anyone has palpitations :wink: we left the UK in mid-September last year and travelled through Belgium and Germany before heading down to southern Italy for the winter. All Covid requirements and restrictions were adhered to, so there has been no ‘wrong-doing’. I hope this account will be useful to others who may undertake a similar journey.

We spent most of our time in the region of Basilicata in southern Italy, and once local restrictions were introduced we stayed put at a simple campsite in a regional park just outside the city of Matera. Basilicata, and in particular the province of Matera, has had very few cases of Covid. Most of the time we had the campsite to ourselves, with just the odd German and Dutch vans passing through. We also pretty much had the park to ourselves right through the ‘orange’ and ‘red’ lockdowns. This park, the Parco della Murgia Materana, is an amazing place with ravines, rock churches, beautiful wild flowers and wild boar, porcupines and wolves.

On 20th March we left our winter haven to begin the long journey back to the UK. Travelling across regions in Italy required us to each complete a form stating our destination and reason for travel. This had to be written in Italian but wasn’t too difficult with the help of Google Translate. We were asked to show these forms on two separate occasions, once to the Polizia Locale and once to the Carabinieri. Both sets of officers were polite and friendly and wished us a safe journey.

We had pre-booked the necessary PCR test to enter France at the Synlab in Pavia, which had a very easy online booking system and a PCR test with results within 24 hours for 50€. As it is a city centre lab, parking could have been a problem but we were lucky enough to find an ‘allotment’ area on the Viale Venezia about 30 minutes walk away. At our appointment on 24th March the staff were very helpful and we got by with just a few phrases in Italian that I had cobbled together earlier. After the test we headed towards the French border ready to cross the following day. Our test results were available to download within the promised 24 hours and so we entered France on the morning of 25th March.

As well as the negative PCR test, to enter France we also needed to complete another form - this time a sworn statement that we had no symptoms of Covid. The French border guards who checked our documents were again polite and friendly and waved us on our way.

On 28th March we arrived in Laon shortly before the 7pm curfew, ready for our appointment the next morning at the vets. As well as the usual worming treatment I had arranged for our dog to be issued with a French pet passport to avoid any future nonsense with Animal Health Certificates. (We had hoped to get Nix a pet passport while we were in Italy but even with the help of Italian friends it was too much of a bureaucratic nightmare!) The French vet was uncertain about issuing the pet passport based on the existing rabies certification so Nix ended up with another rabies booster to be on the safe side. We used the Clinique Vétérinaire des Epinettes which has easy parking for large vehicles nearby. The total cost for the pet passport, rabies booster and worming treatment was 47,55€ - which I thought was pretty reasonable. Nix is now known as Fifi la Wooflette. :laughing:

After the vets, we walked a short distance to the Pharmacie de la Cité for the antigen tests needed to enter the UK. We were seen straight away and received our results in 15 minutes. The antigen test cost 33€. I must be a bit strange because I didn’t find the nasal swabs too terrible at all. We then headed off to a canalside aire about 50km from Calais, ready to spend the next day relaxing ....... and filling in yet more forms for our return.

There is now an ever-increasing list of Covid test package providers to choose from. We opted for Nationwide Pathology at £169 - still a lot of money for two tests but better than the £210 being charged by CTM when they were the only approved provider. The email with the all important booking reference came through immediately, so we were able go straight onto filling in the online Passenger Locator Form. This was tedious but not too mentally challenging. Finally we completed the handwritten form needed to leave France. So now we were all set up for our Eurotunnel crossing the following day.

31 March - Final day in Europe. We were booked on the 11.18am train and arrived at the terminal around 9.30am. Stopped off at Pet Reception and Nix sailed through on her new French pet passport. Then we joined the queue at check-in. Not a very long queue, only about 8 vehicles ahead of us, but only one lane open. However, there was a Spanish registered motorhome stuck at the barrier - problems with paperwork maybe. After about 15 mins of non-movement, a second lane was opened so we moved over into that. Thereafter it was straight through French and UK Border Control. No-one showed any inclination to stop and search us, or ask any awkward questions, and all officials were polite and friendly. Bit of an anti-climax really! We queued for a while in the boarding lane but right on schedule we were loaded onto the train, which left bang on time.

Back in England, the M20 and M4 were a bit tedious due to 50mph speed limits for Operation Brock and Smart Motorway roadworks respectively, but the M25 was surprisingly good. Soon after 4pm we arrived at Quackers Woodside Field CL where Brian and Helen have kindly offered to let us spend our isolation period. Please note: we are fulltimers so this is allowed. Our Covid test packages from Nationwide Pathology had already arrived there.

Maybe we were lucky but the journey back was much better than I had dared hope. Initially it was quite stressful with the need to meet deadlines for each stage of the journey and the potential for things to go tits up. Then there was the added worry as to whether France would be put on the Red List before we could get back but thankfully that didn’t happen. Now we have our 10 days to rest and recover! :Smile:
 

DBK

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Welcome back!

Thread hijack!

We didn't stop in that area on our return from Sicily and we should have - but that's a good excuse to return. :) What was the weather like in the winter down in the Heel of Italy?
 
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maz

maz

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Good to hear of a positive experience.
Would you recommend southern Italy for winter months?
We’ve been thinking of there/Sicily as an option for 2021/22 - covid restrictions permitting.
Because of the introduction of regional lockdowns soon after we arrived in Basilicata we were limited to the Matera area. This is at an altitude of around 400m so a bit cold at times. However we also had a lot of gloriously sunny and mild days even in January. Our original intention was to just pass through Basilicata on our way to Sicily, however Covid restrictions meant we never managed to get there. Sicily would be a good few degrees warmer than Matera. Also the coastal and lower altitude areas of Basilicata would be warmer than Matera.

For us, Covid restrictions became a blessing in disguise because they meant we got to explore the Park in much greater depth than we would otherwise have done. We visited many remote areas, delighting in discovering the first wild flowers as they appeared and tracking the signs of wild boar, porcupines and wolves. For once we were more interested in poo than our dog! :laughing:
 

bobandjanie

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Sounds lovely (the park) great spot to spend the lockdown and winter. Tell me though, the Rabies booster, how many years is it for?!! Janie

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maz

maz

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Sounds lovely (the park) great spot to spend the lockdown and winter. Tell me though, the Rabies booster, how many years is it for?!! Janie
Hi Janie. Rabies booster - 3 years. :Grin:

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Thanks for the details.
I still get very riled that UK finds it necessary to charge £150 ++ for tests that most other country's only need to charge circa €50
 

Jenben

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Thanks for sharing your experiences , hope your quarantine goes ok .
 
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maz

maz

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We had our antigen test at Abberville and it was Free the chemist said the french goverment pay !
Yes, we had read that some chemists did the antigen tests for free even if you weren’t French. However the convenience of the pharmacy we used in the same town as the vet was worth the 33€ to us. A British van on the aire we used the night before the crossing had driven 50km into Calais and then back just to get a free test.

I would be more impressed if the British government managed to provide free tests during the mandatory isolation period for returning citizens and residents.
 
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Hi Maz, thanks for your report, glad you had a wonderful time and safe passage back.

We are thinking of staying down that way so I have a few questions if I may? How much was the campsite? Where the facilities open? Are the roads accessible with a larger van (8.7m)?

Thanks in advance

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maz

maz

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Hi Maz, thanks for your report, glad you had a wonderful time and safe passage back.

We are thinking of staying down that way so I have a few questions if I may? How much was the campsite? Where the facilities open? Are the roads accessible with a larger van (8.7m)?

Thanks in advance
The campsite we stayed at was the Masseria Radogna. I have put a link below but the translation from Italian into English is not brilliant. :Smile:

https://www.ceamatera.it/ospitalita/area-camper-matera/?lang=en

The campsite was 12€ per night with EHU at 2€ per night extra. Although the socket outlets are 16A, the voltage is low (around 180-200v) - hence the stated 600w power limit. However, if there are only a few vans on site you can use more than that. We were given a special discounted rate as we were there so long!

The facilities were not open but we never use them anyway. However I would not expect them to be too luxurious. :wink:

The access for a large van (ours is 8m) is not difficult at all.

The beauty of this campsite is its location. You can hike from there down the main ravine, across the suspension bridge and up into the city of Matera. Lots to explore in this fascinating city which was the European Capital of Culture in 2019. We were able to do this before lockdowns were introduced and can highly recommend it. We can also recommend the I sapori gluten-free restaurant (David is coeliac).

https://www.facebook.com/ISaporiSenzaGlutine
 
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Congratulations on your fuss free return!

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Feb 16, 2020
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The campsite we stayed at was the Masseria Radogna. I have put a link below but the translation from Italian into English is not brilliant. :Smile:

https://www.ceamatera.it/ospitalita/area-camper-matera/?lang=en

The campsite was 12€ per night with EHU at 2€ per night extra. Although the socket outlets are 16A, the voltage is low (around 180-200v) - hence the stated 600w power limit. However, if there are only a few vans on site you can use more than that. We were given a special discounted rate as we were there so long!

The facilities were not open but we never use them anyway. However I would not expect them to be too luxurious. :wink:

The access for a large van (ours is 8m) is not difficult at all.

The beauty of this campsite is its location. You can hike from there down the main ravine, across the suspension bridge and up into the city of Matera. Lots to explore in this fascinating city which was the European Capital of Culture in 2019. We were able to do this before lockdowns were introduced and can highly recommend it. We can also recommend the I sapori gluten-free restaurant (David is coeliac).

https://www.facebook.com/ISaporiSenzaGlutine

Thanks a million Maz, that's brilliant. Take care and have fun!
 
Aug 7, 2015
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Thanks for the positive account of your journey.

How does the rabies jag work on a new pet passport ?

I know that after primary jag you have to wait 21 days before entering UK. How did it work for you as you would have a new passport ? Did you have to show the old one ?

Sorry for so many questions. Have a Cypriot passport for our rescue and we would like to keep it.

Cheers

Sid
 
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maz

maz

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How does the rabies jag work on a new pet passport ?

I know that after primary jag you have to wait 21 days before entering UK. How did it work for you as you would have a new passport ? Did you have to show the old one ?
Because the French booster was given before the existing rabies vaccination expired, the ‘valid from’ date was the date the booster was given - no need for a 21 day wait. When I was chatting at Pet Reception I mentioned why I had a new Pet Passport for Nix and yes I did show the old one. The friendly woman on the desk thought an EU Pet Passport was a very good idea. :Smile:

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Armytwowheels

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Well done Maz and David. I am glad your journey went a tad smoother than ours.

How many phone calls have you had from Track and Trace? Our best day was 4 in one day!

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maz

maz

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Well done Maz and David. I am glad your journey went a tad smoother than ours.

How many phone calls have you had from Track and Trace? Our best day was 4 in one day!
Thanks Sandra & Colin. (y) I’m guessing that things have settled down somewhat since you made your return journey.

So far we’ve just had one phone call each from Track & Trace ........
 
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