EXPLAINED: Will Italy be on the UK’s ‘green list’ from next week?

As pressure mounts on the UK government to ease travel restrictions from 'amber list' countries, we look at how likely it is that Italy will move onto the 'green list' next week and what that would mean for travellers.

EXPLAINED: Will Italy be on the UK’s 'green list' from next week?
(Photo by Ben FATHERS / AFP)

With the peak summer holiday season fast approaching, the UK government is shortly due to review its traffic light system for international travel, with Italy and France among the destinations speculated to move into the lowest-risk ‘green list’ category.

Following the last review on June 3rd, the next announcement was expected on June 24th as the government planned to release changes every three weeks. However, UK authorities said the next review will now be on Monday June 28th.

With just days to go until the official announcement, how likely is it that Italy will make the cut?


How the UK government decides who makes the green list

When deciding which lis to put countries on, the British government takes into account the percentage of the population vaccinated, the rate of infection, the prevalence of variants of concern and the reliability of a country’s scientific data and genomic sequencing.

This system was introduced in May to restart international travel, with different parameters and measures set, classifying destinations as red, amber or green.

British authorities stressed that people should only be booking holidays to places on the ‘green list’, but only 12 made the final count, including Australia, the Falkland Islands and New Zealand.

Portugal was subsequently dropped from the lowest-risk green category and moved to ‘amber’ due to the country’s worsening health situation, leaving only 11 on the UK’s ‘green list’.

EXPLAINED: The European countries on England’s ‘amber’ travel list and what that means

The UK’s current ‘green list’. Source:

So are Italy’s data looking good enough to go green?

It’s unlikely that the UK government will be lenient when drawing up the new lists, as a government source told The Guardian, “My sense is that we’ll continue to be very cautious in thinking about how we take any steps that could increase transmission.”

But industry professionals have argued that some countries, including Italy, warrant being moved onto the UK’s ‘green list’.

Travel expert Paul Charles said that 10 countries, including Italy, justify being moved to the lowest-risk status based on vaccination rates and declining infection numbers.

He added, “The traffic light system is shot to pieces at the moment, because of the way they treated Portugal two weeks ago. They’ve either got to reinvigorate it or outline how they’re going to enable fully jabbed citizens to travel with more freedom when returning from Amber zones.”

The graph below shows how these countries stack up in terms of their vaccine rollout, based on at least one dose, compared to the United Kingdom and European Union average.

Italy’s health situation is improving, and almost all of the country is under light restrictions in the lowest-risk ‘white zone’ category, bar the region of Valle d’Aosta, -which is the only area to remain in the low-risk ‘yellow zone’.

The country has been reporting around 2,000 new daily infections on average nationwide since June 7th – the lowest figures seen since September 2020.

According to the latest weekly health data, the national average Rt reproduction number, which shows the rate of new infections, was steady at 0.69 (it was 0.68 the week before).

Italy’s national average 7-day incidence rate had fallen to 16 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, from 25 the week previously.

Regional authorities have also dropped most of the remaining coronavirus restrictions earlier than planned under the national roadmap for reopening as a result of the latest health data.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: How much is the Delta variant spreading in Italy?

And the vaccination rollout continues to gather pace too, with some 46.6 million shots administered and over 16 million people fully vaccinated, making up almost 30 percent of the population over 12 years old, according to the latest figures.

But concern over the so-called Delta variant might prevent the UK government from downgrading Italy from its ‘amber’ status.

Although the Higher Health Institute has estimated the variant, which originally originated in India, only accounts for around 1 percent of the country’s total cases, further data has suggested that the real figure could be as high as 26 percent, making Italy the fifth-highest in the world for the prevalence of this strain.

If Italy makes the green list, what are the rules?

Should Italy qualify for green status, it isn’t business as usual in the pre-Covid sense.

There’s still protocol to follow, but thankfully for travellers who may have been put off by lengthy quarantines, there’s no requirement to isolate on arrival.

However, some testing remains in place. You have to take a Covid-19 test on or before day two after you arrive, with children aged 4 and under being exempt.

Quarantine only applies if the test result is positive. Alternatively, you must quarantine if the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) informs you that you’ve travelled to England with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.

(Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP)

What will happen if Italy stays on the amber list?

If UK authorities deem Italy’s health data isn’t favourable and the country stays ‘amber’, there could still be changes.

The current rules for arrival in the UK from an ‘amber’ country include the need to quarantine for 10 days and take a pre-departure test, as well as a PCR test on day two and day eight. You can also take an additional test on day five to end self-isolation early.

EXPLAINED: How has Italy changed its rules on travel from the UK?

Will the rules change for vaccinated travellers?

The British government is “working on” plans to drop the quarantine from amber countries if travellers are fully vaccinated.

The UK health secretary, Matt Hancock, said in an interview with ITV news that ministers are looking at how to scrap the 10-day quarantine on return from an amber list destination.

“We are working on what extra freedoms people can have when they are double vaccinated but we’re not there yet,” he said.

Reader question: What Covid-19 tests do I need for travel between Italy and the UK?

At this stage, there is no detail to the plan, and when asked if the system would be in place by the beginning of August, he said: “We’ll get there when it’s safe to do so.”

It was not clear from Hancock’s statement whether the rule change would also apply to people who had been vaccinated outside of the UK, as he was talking about British travellers returning from abroad.

From July 1st, the EU ‘green pass’ scheme will mean those fully vaccinated in Italy can travel freely around the EU and Schengen zone by using their vaccine passport.

No longer a member of the EU, however, the UK will not benefit from this.

Stay up to date with Italy’s travel rules by following The Local’s travel section and checking the Italian Health Ministry’s website (in English).

Please note The Local is unable to give advice on individual cases.

Member comments

  1. I don’t get it, UK have had a terrible time with Delta but they had taken the EU countries off the green list. Has it occurred to them that may be Italy doesn’t want to be on their green list at the moment?

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Yes, train travel across Europe is far better than flying – even with kids

Hoping to do his bit for the planet, perhaps save some money and avoid spending any time in airports, The Local's Ben McPartland decided to travel 2,000km with his family across Europe by train - not plane. Here's how he got on on and would he recommend it?

Yes, train travel across Europe is far better than flying - even with kids

Summer 2022 has seen the return of people travelling across Europe en masse whether for holidays or to see family, or both.

But it’s also seen chaos in airports, airline strikes and more questions than ever about whether we should be flying at all as Europe bakes under consecutive heatwaves caused by the climate crisis.

But are there really viable alternatives to travelling 2,000 km across Europe in a short space of time – with young kids?

The predicament

We needed to get from Paris to Portugal, or to be more precise the western edge of the Algarve in southern Portugal, for a week-long family holiday.

We didn’t have that much time to spend travelling there and back so the dilemma was how could we get there, fairly quickly?

“We” in this case being a family of four including two children aged 5 and 7, one fairly easygoing mum and a dad (me) who increasingly comes out in a rash when he goes near an airport.

Normally we’d have flown – as we did when we went to the same region of Portugal in October – but the stories of airport chaos, delays, cancellations, strikes and never-ending queues around Europe at the start of the summer made the prospect of taking the plane far less appealing.

Then throw in the climate crisis and the growing feeling that we, as a family, need to make an effort for the cause.

So the thought of flying, during what forecasters say was one of the hottest Julys on record in Europe and as rivers dried up and wildfires burn, just didn’t feel like an acceptable option – to me anyway – when there are alternatives.

There was the option of driving from France to Portugal, as many French and Portuguese nationals living in France do every summer. But driving nearly 2,000 km there and back for just a week’s holiday with two kids strapped in the back for hours on end would have been asking for trouble – either a breakdown or lots of meltdowns.

So that left taking the train. But would it be viable?  Would something go wrong as my colleague Richard Orange had warned on his own rail trip across Europe with kids this summer?

READ ALSO: What I learned taking the train through Europe with two kids

Planning the route

With the help of some really knowledgeable European rail experts like Jon Worth and information from the excellent The Man in Seat Sixty-One website we looked at the various rail routes through France and Spain to southern Portugal.

One problem was the line from southern Spain to the Algarve no longer runs which meant the best we could do was get to Seville and then hire a car.

At one point the best option looked like a night train (fairly cheap with a whole cabin reserved for the family) down to the Pyrenees (Latour-de-Carol) and then a local train to Barcelona before onwards travel to Portugal.

But in the end we settled on the direct train from Paris to Barcelona, spend the night in the Catalan city before taking the train the next day to Seville and picking up the car.

READ ALSO 6 European cities less than 7 hours from Paris by train

It would be mean Paris to Portugal in two days – or to be precise 7 hours to Barcelona, one night in a hotel, before a five-and-half-hour train journey to Seville and a three-hour car journey. It was the quickest way without flying, as far as we could see.

We were about to book the tickets when friend who was travelling by rail through Europe mentioned the Interrail option.

I did Interrailing as an 18-year- old and it was a great way to spend a month travelling around Europe (and Morocco) but had never thought it could be an option for a quickish trip to Portugal and back.

But Interrail has changed a bit since 1996 and indeed since 1972 when it was first launched for under 21s.

Now it offers passes that can be used for 4, 5 or 7 days a month – perfect for travel to a few destinations in a short space of time.

And, this was the clincher – Interrail passes for under 11s are free if they are with an adult.

Well almost free, because in certain countries like France and Spain you still need to pay for seat reservations for anyone travelling.

But the cost of the passes for two adults, plus seat reservations were cheaper than just booking direct trains and much cheaper than flying (more on costs below).

The high-speed train from Barcelona to Seville. Photo: The Local

The Upsides

Let’s start with not having to wake up at 4am and arrive at the train station three hours before the train leaves just to check in a bag and then spend the next three hours queuing in various lines – bags, passport, security, boarding etc..

We arrived at Gare de Lyon around 30 minutes before the train left and boarded without queuing and the train departed on time.

Compare this with having to get a taxi or the RER train to Charles de Gaulle airport and then still find yourself in Paris three hours later as you queue to board. (I know this is not always the case but this summer the advice was to arrive three hours before your flight to check in bags.)

Plus there was no luggage limits on the train and no having to empty your bags at security because you left an old roll-on deodorant at the bottom of your bag.

Although rail stations in Spain do have airport style x-ray machines to check all luggage, they were very rapid and didn’t result in any long queues.

Add to this comfortable seats with leg room, a bar you can walk to and spend hours watching the beautiful French and Spanish landscape whizz by.

You arrive in the centre of town – in our case Barcelona – so there’s no need to get public transport or taxis to and from out of town airports. 

Spending a night in Barcelona was a great way to break the journey – albeit a bit expensive (see below).

And it all ran pretty much on time. Over five train journeys in four days we had 15 minutes of delay. Spain’s high-speed trains were fantastic.

To sum it up: when flying your holiday only really begins when you arrive at your final destination because these days the day spent travelling is one big headache, but with the train the holiday begins as soon as you leave the station.

It’s just far, far more relaxing.

heading back to Barcelona Sants station after a night in the Catalan capital. Photo: The Local.

The Downsides

But what about the kids, you say?

Yep this can be an issue. Travelling for 7 hours on a train is not easy with two young kids but if you come prepared and can think of 75 different ways to occupy them from drawing and playing cards to I-spy and “count my freckles slowly” then it’s possible the journey will be tantrum free. (Playing hide and seek on a train with 12 carriages isn’t advisable.)

And kids adapt, so the following day’s five and half hour journey from Barcelona to Seville was a breeze because they settled into the pace of life and by that point had worked out the code to get into my mobile phone.

One complaint was how long the TGV train took to get along the southern French coast. Does it really need to stop at Nimes, Montpellier, Beziers, Agde, Sete and Perpignan? Can’t local trains serve these stations and the TGV just head straight to Spain?

Another little gripe was the train food. Whilst buffet cars on SNCF and Renfe trains are great for a coffee or a beer they don’t really offer a selection of healthy meals, so you need to come prepared. We weren’t and spent a lot of money on crap food and drink during the trips.

But if you know this in advance you can bring whatever you like onto the train, with no nonsense about 100ml limits on liquid.

Cost comparison

Working out cost comparisons are hard and anyone looking to do a similar trip will need a calculator at hand. 

It’s hard to do a direct comparison between flying and taking the train because so much depends on what the prices are when you book, the route you want to take and how quickly you want to travel and whether to go first class or standard.

But for us at the time of booking (roughly two months in advance) flights from Paris to Faro were about €1,500 for four people, train tickets booked directly with SNCF and Renfe (not interrail) for four people were around €1,200 (this probably could have been much cheaper further in advance), whilst the Interrail option – 4 day passes plus seat reservations was around €810.

So on the face of it travelling by train, especially using Interrail passes, was cheaper – but then add on the cost of two nights in hotels in central Barcelona and there was no real financial benefit of going by train.

But then it was never all about money – what price on not having to spend three hours at Charles de Gaulle airport?

How easy is it to Interrail?

Interrail proved a great option for us, even though it was only a relatively short trip. It’s more suited to those looking to do multiple journeys through various countries, perhaps at a slower pace. But the kids being free was crucial for us, so other families should definitely explore the option.

The one downside to Interrailing through France and Spain is the requirement to book seat reservations for the high-speed trains.

Whilst this sounds fairly straightforward we couldn’t do it through the Interrail app or website so had to be done with Renfe directly. For most countries you can reserve seats through the Interrail app (more on this below).

With SNCF it required a lengthy phone call because we reserved the seats to make sure there were some available before getting the Interrail passes.

For Paris to Barcelona the reservations cost €34 for standard class seats or €48 for first class.

With Renfe it was more complicated although much cheaper (Around €10 to €12 a seat). We were told on the phone that to reserve seats with Interrail you have to do it either at a Spanish train station or by phone but only if you can pick up and pay for the reservations at a Spanish train station within a certain amount of time.

Neither of these were possible when booking from Paris back in May/June. But the helpful website Man at Seat 61 recommended going via the man behind the AndyBTravels website, who charges a small fee. A few emails were exchanged and our reservations for Barcelona to Seville arrived in the post a few days later. 

Renfe and SNCF could make it easier for Interrail passengers.

The Interrail mobile pass on the the Rail Planner app was very easy to use. It was just a case of adding the days when we were travelling and then adding the specific journeys.

This brought up a QR code for each trip but the ticket controllers were always more concerned about the seat reservations we had on paper.

But all went to plan.



Those days spent sitting drinking coffee, orange and beer (in separate cups) starring out of train windows at fields, hills, mountains, villages, beach and train platforms were part of the holiday.

I’d say that if you have a day or two to spare then travelling across Europe by train instead of plane is well worth it – yes, even with two young kids.

They might even thank you for it one day if we all help avert a climate disaster. 


It’s hard to give advice because each person has different requirements that need to be taken into account – whether number of passengers, time needed for travelling, destinations, cost etc.

But plan ahead and do the research to see what’s possible.

One bit of advice if you need to travel quickly is try keep connections to a minimum or give yourself plenty of time to make them.

My colleague Richard Orange had problems on his trip from Sweden to the UK via Denmark, Germany and Belgium because of delays and missed connections.

Useful links and extra info

You can explore Interrail pass options and prices by visiting the Interrail site here. The site offers plenty of info to help you plan your trip and reserve seats on trains if necessary.

The fantastic Man in Seat 61 guide to train travel across Europe is a must-read for anyone planning a trip. It has pages and pages of useful up to date info and can be viewed here.

It also has loads of information on how to use an Interrail pass and calculations to see whether it’s the best option – if you need help with the maths. The page can be viewed here.