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Traveling to Italy during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go

Traveling to Italy during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go

Posted: Jul 29, 2021 4:31 AM
Updated: Jul 29, 2021 4:31 AM

If you're planning to travel to Italy, here's what you'll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The basics

Italy is currently in a state of emergency because of the pandemic. Although the country has emerged from a third-wave lockdown, case numbers are being studied, and individual regions could bring back restrictions at any point.

After being hit hard in the early stages of the first wave, the country was one of the first to reopen to visitors in 2020. For 2021, entry is largely limited to residents of the European Union, plus a select list of non-EU countries, including the USA, Canada and Japan. Travelers from the UK can also enter, but must quarantine on arrival.

Although Prime Minister Mario Draghi had announced plans to open the borders further, no action has yet been taken.

The current entry regulations are valid until July 30.

What's on offer in Italy

This is one of Europe's big hitters, known for its historic cities of art such as Florence, one-off wonders like Venice and the seat of the Roman Catholic Church in Rome.

Incredible food, fantastic wine, unspoiled countryside and a string of beach resorts mean it's always in demand.

Who can go

Following closures over the Christmas and New Year period, the borders reopened in January 2021.

Countries currently allowed in, some with quarantine, are divided into two lists:

Arrivals are permitted from most of Europe: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Until now, arrivals from these countries have had to produce a negative Covid-19 test result taken within 48 hours of arrival, and must report to the local health authorities on arrival. The five-day quarantine for these countries was dropped May 17.

Arrivals from the United Kingdom are also now allowed, but the quarantine rule that was dropped in May was reinstated on June 21. Arrivals must provide a negative test taken within 48 hours of arrival, quarantine for five days and then take another test.

Israeli arrivals are also now permitted, with no quarantine but must present a negative test.

Only Italian residents may travel to Italy from Brazil. They must present a negative test taken within 72 hours of arrival, test again within 48 hours, and quarantine for 14 days, before testing negative a third time to end quarantine.

Again, only those with Italian residence may enter from India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Arrivals from this country must quarantine for 10 days in a hotel managed by health authorities -- see below.

List D is for travelers from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Thailand and the US. These must present a negative PCR test taken within the 72 hours before arrival, register with the local health authority on arrival, and quarantine for 10 days. However, those coming from Canada, Japan and the US can skip quarantine, as long as they have either been fully vaccinated with an EU-approved vaccine more than two weeks earlier, have proof of having recovered from Covid-19 or can produce a negative test taken within the past 48 hours.

Travelers from Canada and the US are also allowed in quarantine-free if traveling on a "Covid-tested" flight, whether or not they have been vaccinated.

Tourism is not currently allowed from any other country. Since overnight stays must be registered with the authorities, there's no chance of sneaking in via a secondary country.

What are the restrictions?

Arrivals from Europe must provide a negative PCR test result taken within 48 hours of their arrival. They are also required to fill in a self-declaration form, and report to the local health authorities. The same rules apply to arrivals from the Israel, though with a test taken 48 hours previously.

As of June 21, travelers from the UK will have to present a negative test taken within 48 hours, then self-isolate for five days and take another test at the end, to finish quarantine. This rule will remain in place until at least July 30.

Leisure travel is now permitted from Canada, Japan the United States. To avoid 10 days quarantine, travelers can arrive on a government-approved "Covid-tested" flight or produce evidence of a completed vaccine cycle, recovery from the illness or a negative test taken within the past 48 hours.

Delta and Alitalia currently run Covid-tested flights from New York JFK and Atlanta to Rome, Venice and Milan. Boston to Rome will commence August 5.

United is now offering Covid-tested flights from Newark to Milan, and American Airlines is offering JFK to Rome and Milan.

Traveling from Canada? Air Canada has Covid-tested flights from Toronto and Montréal to Rome.

Those arriving on a "Covid-tested" flight must test negative 48 hours before boarding, then again at the airport, and a third time on arrival.

Arrivals from any other approved countries which have not been mentioned above must self-isolate for 10 days on arrival and take private transportation to their destination.

Anyone who has been to Brazil (of those permitted for entry) in the past 14 days, or transited through either destination for more than 12 hours, must present a negative test taken within 48 hours of arrival, and complete a further test on arrival. They must then quarantine for 14 days, with another mandatory test at the end of the period.

Only those with Italian residence may enter from India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, presenting a negative test taken within 48 hours of arrival. Anyone who has traveled through India or Bangladesh must now take a further test on arrival, then quarantine for 10 days in a hotel managed by local health authorities (this is likely to be a military facility or a converted building rather than a standard hotel). They must take a further test on day 10 before leaving quarantine.

Any arrivals traveling for essential reasons, from countries which are normally barred from entry, must quarantine for 14 days on arrival.

What's the Covid-19 situation?

As the first hit European country, Italy has been through a lot. However, a strict lockdown brought things under control and it held out against a second wave for longer than its European neighbors. The third wave, however, has had a big impact, despite the country going into more or less full lockdown for the first quarter of 2021.

Italy holds Europe's second highest death toll (after the UK), passing the milestone of 100,000 deaths on March 8. However, the numbers are slowing right down as summer continues. Over 4.3 million people have been infected to date, with the death toll at 128,010 as of July 29. Infection rates were 33,402 in the week leading up to July 20 -- down from a peak of 243,425 from November 8-14, 2020, though double the infection rates of the previous week, which were themselves about triple the numbers of the start of July.

The much delayed vaccination campaign has also picked up speed, finally. Anyone over 12 can now book, though appointments for some are weeks away, and many over-80s are still waiting for their second dose. Around half the population has now been fully vaccinated.

App Immuni uses Bluetooth to track contact with potential infection.

What can visitors expect

Italian regions are currently graded by their infection and hospitalization rates, running from white (lowest risk) through yellow and amber to red (highest risk). As of July 29, all regions are white zones.

Everywhere in the country, masks must be worn at all times inside or on public transport (though the outdoor mask mandate has now been lifted). Social distancing restrictions may remain in place, including on public transport.

Previous restrictions on travel between regions have also been lifted -- at least, between white and yellow regions. If traveling to, or coming from, an orange or red region, essential reasons must be proven.

White zones are almost back to normal, qualifying as extremely low risk -- where there are under 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. These areas are exempt from restrictions, but regions can bring in their own rules.

In yellow zones, bars and restaurants can stay open throughout the day, but only for outdoor consumption. Indoor dining restarted June 1. Diners must be home for the 11 p.m. curfew (which has effectively been abolished since all regions turned white, but could presumably be reinstated if regions turn yellow again).

In yellow, shops are still open. People can have guests at home -- up to four adults, plus an unlimited number of children. Trips to second homes are allowed, and sports have resumed -- you can now have up to 1,000 spectators outside, and 500 inside, socially distanced. Museums can reopen but on weekends and holidays tickets must be booked at least one day in advance. Theaters, concert halls and cinemas have also reopened, with 50% capacity, 1-meter social distancing, and obligatory advanced reservations.

In orange zones, it is up to local authorities as to whether people can have home visits. Trips to second homes are allowed, though without mixing with others. Restaurants offer takeout only and people can move freely within their own towns, but cannot leave their area unless for work or an emergency.

In red zones (highest risk), all shops are closed other than grocery stores and pharmacies. People may only leave their homes for work, health reasons, to go to a place of worship or to take exercise once a day.

Although all regions are currently classified as white, several are thought to be at risk of turning from white to yellow, including Campania, Lazio, Sardinia, Sicily and Veneto.

From August 6, a "certificazione verde," or green pass, will be needed to enter cultural sites such as museums or galleries, entertainment and sports venues, theme parks, spas, and to eat indoors.

The pass shows that the holder has been vaccinated, has tested negative within the past 48 hours, or has recovered from the virus within the past six months.

Those vaccinated in other countries are not eligible for the Italian pass, but those with EU vaccination passports will be fine, as there is a reciprocal agreement. It is expected that vaccination certificates from other countries will be valid, but firm details have yet to be released on how tourists can use the scheme.

For those needing to test, the government will cap the costs of rapid antigen tests until September, to see them through the tourist season.

Useful links

Italian Health Ministry

Immuni track and trace app

Countries currently allowed in

Our latest coverage

Can't get to Italy right now? You can always buy a house for 1 euro -- the price of a cup of coffee.

A new website has just launched offering visit-free sales around the country. If you're not looking to buy, the country's alberghi diffusi, or scattered hotels, are the perfect travel solution in the time of Covid-19. Or check out our list of small towns perfect for social distancing.

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