Free at last! Finally, I’m free at last!
Oh stop moaning, David. It was only five days and you were getting brilliant delivery food throughout and mapped out most of the remaining narrative for a book. It wasn’t exactly a jail sentence. Nothing close.
But I did promise you a report on entering quarantine in Venice and exiting it. Here it is. I’d hoped it would be a guide to how you might navigate the system yourself, if indeed that’s needed after the present regime ends tomorrow (July 30). But that’s not possible because the authorities don’t really present you with a detailed roadmap to follow. So all I can do is tell you what happened to me in the hope it may inform what happens to you should you find yourself in the same situation.
So let’s recap. You’ve arrived in Venice at Marco Polo airport with all the incoming paperwork and, in my case, been told nothing more at immigration except, ‘You know you need to quarantine?’
You’ve done what research you can online and discovered there’s an 800 number you need to call to notify the local health authority of your presence.
When you try to do that you soon work out you can’t call an 800 number from a UK mobile phone.
Now it starts to get complicated because health is dealt with by different regions in Italy and I can only talk about the one that affects me here in the Veneto. If you scroll down this pdf document you will find a series of email addresses to contact the various departments of the Veneto. The one that covers Venice (not that newcomers would know) is email@example.com.
On Saturday, hours after I arrive, aware I could never get through by phone, I emailed that address with all the details I had. Just got an autoresponder in return.
On Monday, still with no reply, I emailed again. And again no reply.
On Tuesday, I checked the conditions of my continuing quarantine as far as they’d been explained. No contact with the outside world, notifying the relevant health authorities and, at the end, a rapid antigen test, which a friend booked through a pharmacy for €22. So that, I thought, was it.
Then, Wednesday lunchtime, the last day of quarantine, I got an email from that Veneto Covid address saying they were waiting for me to fill in this form (which no one had asked me to do, because, as I said, no one had been touch). After which they’d phone me.
I filled it in. No one called. Instead I got an email asking me to go and take a free rapid antigen test at Piazzale Rome that same day. Which surprised me because as I read things my quarantine didn’t end until midnight. But if that’s what they wanted…
It’s in a small office right by the entrance to the car park on the road into Piazzale Roma, not the more signposted vaccination centre on the other side (where I went first, naturally). A bunch of people were waiting outside. I handed over my passport, waited for 30 minutes, was invited in by the very pleasant staff, did the swab thing then a while later got a negative test form which I emailed back to the Veneto health authority.
Still a bit gobsmacked I was doing the end of quarantine test before the end of quarantine I asked… does this mean I’m free now? Eight hours before the end of day five?
No, I was told. I was still in quarantine until midnight even though I was walking back to my apartment with a negative test under my arm.
No. Me neither.
I’ve no idea if that will help anyone who has to go through quarantine here in the future. All I can do is tell you what happened to me. Everyone throughout was polite and helpful. The bureaucracy and the broken links, though, seemed quite shocking. My Italian isn’t bad and I have friends here to lean on. I can understand how a complete novice here would feel terribly lost. Also if you don’t have a smartphone and you’re not OK dealing with things online I fear you could be stuffed.
But let me be selfish here. I am free in one of the most beautiful cities on the planet.
Venice is mine!*
*Not a in a literal sense you understand. Only the crappy Bluetooth portable speaker I left in an apartment in Castello a while back and they can keep that.