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TRAVEL: ‘Our tickets are booked’: the Americans who can’t wait to return to Italy

Italy has invited US tourists back this summer, and a new travel pass requirement does not appear to be deterring visitors.

TRAVEL: ‘Our tickets are booked’: the Americans who can’t wait to return to Italy
Customers at a cafe on St. Mark's Square in Venice. File photo: Andrea Pattaro/AFP

As Italy announced this week that it would allow travel to resume from mid-May onwards, the tourism minister said the country would open to “everyone”, but “above all” to those from outside the EU – adding that US tourists are some of the highest-spending visitors to Italy.

He did not give further details, or a firm date for travel to restart from the US.

The government did confirm that the long-awaited resumption of tourism into Italy from the USA will come with the requirement for a ‘health pass”, showing that the traveler is fully vaccinated, has recovered from Covid, or has recently tested negative. Further details of the scheme are yet to be announced. 

READ ALSO: ‘It’s time to book your holiday’: Italian PM announces new travel passes for summer

Meanwhile Italy is still under a US State Department ‘Level 4’ travel warning due to the health situation.

And it’s not yet known which coronavirus rules Italy will keep over summer, with restrictions including mandatory mask-wearing in public and a 10pm curfew still in place nationwide.

So have these rules and uncertainties put American travelers off visiting?

Well, they certainly haven’t deterred readers of The Local who responded to our survey. Your answers to the question ‘will you travel to Italy when it’s possible?’ mostly ranged from ‘yes’ to ‘absolutely yes!”

Restaurants are now reopening in most parts of Italy, though currently dining is only allowed outdoors. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Of around 150 people who answered our questionnaire within 24 hours, over 90 percent said that they intend to travel to Italy again as soon as possible, even though some have concerns.

Many told us they already had their flight and hotel reservations ready.

“100% ready. We are fully vaccinated and have booked a trip for July to Sicily. We are ready to provide any data needed, including getting a test if needed,” said Mark Herbert in Colorado.

“Although we can travel to Costa Rica or Hawaii, we miss Italy, the people and of course the cuisine. We have been worried that another summer shutdown could be hard for the restaurants to recover from. We would rather take our holiday funds to Italy.”

READ ALSO: 

“Undoubtedly. We cannot wait,” said Philip R. Piccigallo and Rose Giambrone-Piccigallo, who are also fully vaccinated. “We are Italian Americans, second generation, whose grandparents were born in Italy. We have visited more than 40 times.”

A large number of people said their long-planned trips had been rescheduled due to the pandemic.

“I’ve been wanting to take my parents on a trip, show them what it is I love so much about Europe. It’ll be their first time in Europe and my second trip to Rome. We had it all planned out last year for early summer, but then the pandemic happened and it was all canceled,” said Judith Negron in Middletown, Connecticut. 

“We’ve planned the trip again for this year and are hoping to have a go at it when the borders open.”

Visitors enjoy the Palazzo Ducale in Venice as coronavirus restrictions were lifted in some parts of the country from April 24th. Photo: Andrea PATTARO/AFP

Concerns about travel

Of those who do not plan to travel, the most common reason given was that people did not want to be vaccinated. 

Nine percent of those who responded were against getting vaccinated, and another seven percent said they believe the concept of vaccine passports is unfair, though some said they would travel if only a negative test result is required as expected.

A smaller number said they were concerned about the health situation in Italy.

The country is emerging from its third wave of infections, but still has a high number of new cases and deaths, and a relatively slow vaccine roll-out, with just over ten percent of the population fully vaccinated.

“My concern would be around how many people plan on travelling; realistically it will be busy given the state of everyone’s pandemic fatigue. I also am concerned about the focus on getting US tourists in for economic reasons, when Italy still needs to vaccinate the majority of their population,” said Carrie Borowy in Vermont, who plans to visit her partner in Italy.

Others were put off by the Italian health rules, currently including a 10pm curfew and compulsory mask-wearing in public, both indoors and outdoors, while some said they were concerned about how welcome tourists will be in the country.

“My family has done the right things during the pandemic and feel that since we have taken the correct precautions and gotten the vaccine, we are ready to see the world again,” said Heath Paukette in Allendale, Michigan, who is planning a family vacation. “My only concern is how Americans will be received in Italy.”

Reasons for visiting

While more than half of those who answered were planning a vacation, people gave a wide range of reasons for their planned trips.

There was a significant number of second-home owners and people who had family in Italy who they have not been able to see in more than a year, since travel from outside the EU was suspended in March 2020.

“We’ve been carefully watching the news via outlets like The Local and took an “educated gamble” one month ago, booking flights from Denver to Turin via Frankfurt on Lufthansa,” said Tom Winter in Boulder, Colorado.

“This will be our first trip back to our property in the Val di Susa for over a year. We weren’t worried about the home, the structure is 400-years old and survived Napoleon. But it’s been tough not to be able to visit. We love the village and the people in it.”

READ ALSO:

Others said they plan to travel for work, to study Italian, to retire, to get married, or to buy property.

“My wife and I have been waiting to move to Italy,” said Michael Parr in Sacramento, California, who plans to “retire in Italy, get my dual citizenship, and buy a house.”

Several readers said they were planning their postponed weddings in Italy, or helping family members plan theirs.

Natalie dePasquale, from Miami, is particularly determined to travel as she is planning to get married in Tuscany this September.

“Nothing will stop me,” she said.

A big grazie to everyone who took the time to answer our questionnaire – it was great to hear from so many people who love Italy and can’t wait to return. You can keep up with the latest news updates in our Italian travel section.

Member comments

  1. Can we have articles for people living in Italy who want to go on holiday to the US, UK, etc or visit family there. It’s so hard to keep up with the rules

  2. We normally drive from UK to Italy as we bring our dogs to our holiday home. How complicated will this be seeing as we tend to go via France and Switzerland?

  3. ANSA is reporting today that American’s will have to quarantine if we come before the middle of June. Is this correct? Because of the statements made earlier “As Italy announced this week that it would allow travel to resume from mid-May, the tourism minister said the country would open to “everyone”, but “above all” to those from outside the EU – adding that US tourists are some of the highest-spending visitors to Italy.”, we have made more reservations to finalize our planned trip to Italy June 5th. this is so confusing, it would be nice to know, can vaccinated American’s come to Italy for holiday without quarantine, or not? If not, I need to know to cancel thousands of dollars worth of reservations.

    1. Hi Angela,

      Unfortunately we simply do not know at this point, as the Italian government has not yet published full details of the requirements for its green pass.

      Here’s all the information we have so far, which comes from statements made by the Italian prime minister and tourism minister: https://www.thelocal.it/20210505/green-pass-heres-how-italys-coronavirus-immunity-card-works/

      We’ll publish any further details as soon as they’re available, and we recommend checking the foreign ministry’s website for updates: https://www.esteri.it/mae/en/

    2. Hi Angela,
      I’m in the same predicament like you.
      We have planned a vacation long before the pandemic and our tickets are for May 21st.
      Minister Di Maio said earlier today that the quarantine requirements will be removed in mid-May for people coming from the EU, UK, and Israel, while for the US would be in June 🙁
      He posted that in his Facebook and Instagram page.

      https://www.facebook.com/522391027797448/posts/4023796347656881/?d=n

      1. Yes, they have made it so confusing. I suppose I will go ahead and cancel all of our reservations, as we can not change our dates. They put out a statement (even clarifying that American’s are included) then backtrack. I would just to know, yes or no. Now they talk about strengthening Covid free flights. What does that mean? Those flights now mean several tests and quarantine, so we are left completely confused. We could have changed our plans are went to Greece but because of their statements, I have held out hope.

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MONEY

How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

If you're visiting Italy from outside the EU you risk running up a huge phone bill in roaming charges - but there are ways to keep your internet access while avoiding being hit by extra charges.

How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

Travelling without access to the internet is almost impossible these days. We use our phones for mapping applications, contacting the Airbnb, even scanning the QR code for the restaurant menu.

If you’re lucky enough to have a phone registered in an EU country then you don’t need to worry, thanks to the EU’s cap on charges for people travelling, but people visiting from non-EU countries – which of course now includes the UK – need to be careful with their phone use abroad.

First things first, if you are looking to avoid roaming charges, be sure to go into your settings and turn off “data roaming.” Do it right before your plane lands or your train arrives – you don’t want to risk the phone company in your home country starting the clock on ‘one day of roaming fees’ without knowing it.

READ ALSO: Ten ways to save money on your trip to Italy this summer

But these days travelling without internet access can be difficult and annoying, especially as a growing number of tourist attractions require booking in advance online, while restaurants often display their menus on a QR code.

So here are some techniques to keep the bills low.

Check your phone company’s roaming plan

Before leaving home, check to see what your phone plan offers for pre-paid roaming deals.

For Brits, if you have a phone plan with Three for example, you can ask about their “Go Roam” plan for add-on allowance. You can choose to pay monthly or as you go. Vodafone offers eight day and 15 day passes that are available for £1 a day.

For Americans, T-Mobile offers you to add an “international pass” which will charge you $5 per day. Verizon and AT&T’s roaming plans will charge you $10 per day. For AT&T, you are automatically opted into this as soon as your phone tries to access data abroad.

READ ALSO: Seven things to do in Italy in summer 2022

These all allow you to retain your normal phone number and plan.

Beware that these prices are only available if you sign up in advance, otherwise you will likely be facing a much bigger bill for using mobile data in Italy. 

Buy a pre-paid SIM card

However, if you are travelling for a longer period of time it might work out cheaper to turn off your phone data and buy a pre-paid SIM card in Italy.

In order to get a pre-paid SIM card, you will need your passport or proof of identity (drivers’ licences do not count).

READ ALSO: TRAVEL: Why now’s the best time to discover Italy’s secret lakes and mountains

Keep in mind that you will not be able to use your normal phone number with the new SIM card in, but will be able to access your internet enabled messaging services, like WhatsApp, Facebook and iMessage. Your phone will need to be ‘unlocked’ (ask your carrier about whether yours is) in order to put a new SIM card in.

Here are some of the plans you can choose from:

WindTre

WindTre, the result of a 2020 merger between the Italian company Wind and the UK network provider Three, currently offers a “Tourist Pass” SIM card for foreign nationals. For €24.99 (it’s sneakily marketed as €14.99, but read the small print and you’ll see you need to fork out an additional €10), you’ll have access to 20GB of data for up to 30 days.

The offer includes 100 minutes of calls within Italy plus an additional 100 minutes to 55 foreign countries listed on the WindTre website. Up to 13.7GB can be used for roaming within the EU. The card is automatically deactivated after 30 days, so there’s no need to worry about surprise charges after you return from your holiday. To get this SIM card, you can go into any WindTre store and request it.

A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.
A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.

Vodafone

Vodafone has had better deals in the past, but lately appears to have downgraded its plan for tourists, now called “Vodafone Holiday” (formerly “Dolce Vita”), to a paltry 2GB for €30. You get a total of 300 minutes of calls and 300 texts to Italian numbers or to your home country; EU roaming costs €3 per day.

Existing Vodafone customers can access the offer by paying €19 – the charge will be made to your Vodafone SIM within 72 hours of activating the deal. 

READ ALSO: MAP: The best Italian villages to visit this year

The Vodafone Holiday offer automatically renews every four weeks for €29 – in order to cancel you’ll need to call a toll-free number. The Vodafone website says that the €30 includes the first renewal, suggesting the payment will cover the first four weeks plus an additional four after that, but you’ll want to double check before buying. You’ll need to go to a store in person to get the card.

TIM

TIM is one of Italy’s longest-standing and most well-established network providers, having been founded in 1994 following a merger between several state-owned companies.

The “Tim Tourist” SIM card costs €20 for 15GB of data and 200 minutes of calls within Italy and to 58 foreign countries, and promises “no surprises” when it comes to charges.

You can use the full 15GB when roaming within the EU at no extra charge, and in the EU can use your minutes to call Italian numbers. The deal is non-renewable, so at the end of the 30 days you won’t be charged any additional fees.

READ ALSO: MAP: Which regions of Italy have the most Blue Flag beaches?

To access the offer, you can either buy it directly from a TIM store in Italy, or pre-order using an online form and pay with your bank card. Once you’ve done this, you’ll receive a PIN which you should be able to present at any TIM store on arrival in Italy (along with your ID) to collect your pre-paid card. The card won’t be activated until you pick it up.

Iliad

Iliad is the newest and one of the most competitive of the four major phone companies operating in Italy, and currently has an offer of 120GBP of €9.99 a month. For this reason, some travel blogs recommend Iliad as the best choice for foreigners – but unfortunately all of their plans appear to require an Italian tax ID, which rules it out as an option for tourists.

Contract

Though buying a pre-paid SIM card is a very useful option for visitors spending a decent amount of time in Italy, as mentioned above, there’s a significant different difference between buying a one-time pre-paid SIM versus a monthly plan that auto-renews.

Make sure you know which one you’re signing up for, and that if you choose a plan that will continue charging you after your vacation has ended, you remember to cancel it.

UK contracts

If you have a UK-registered mobile phone, check your plan carefully before travelling. Before Brexit, Brits benefited from the EU cap on roaming charges, but this no longer applies.

Some phone companies have announced the return of roaming charges, while others have not, or only apply roaming charges only on certain contracts.

In short, check before you set off and don’t assume that because you have never been charged extra before, you won’t be this time.

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