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EXPLAINED: What are the Covid-19 testing rules for travelling between the US and Italy?

Now that people can travel between the United States and Italy more freely, here's a look at the testing requirements you'll need to be aware of.

EXPLAINED: What are the Covid-19 testing rules for travelling between the US and Italy?
Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/ AFP

Italy’s recent easing of travel restrictions will have come as a relief to The Local’s American readers living in Italy, as they can finally make long-postponed trips to see loved ones.

After more than a year of tough travel restrictions, Italy dropped its quarantine requirement for US arrivals in June – as long as certain criteria are met.

EXPLAINED: How has Italy changed its rules on travel from the US and Canada?

Meanwhile however, travel to the US from Italy remains banned in most cases, though there are exemptions for US residents and citizens.

Travel between the two countries remains complicated, and many readers have been in touch to ask for details of the requirements both ways ahead of upcomng trips.

What are the rules on testing and travel to the US from Italy?

If you’re on the ‘eligible for travel’ list, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requires that you get tested and be able to show proof of a negative result – or show evidence of having recovered from Covid-19 within the last 90 days.

You’ll need to get tested up to a maximum of three days before travel by air into the United States, as detailed in the CDC’s order, which also lists all the requirements and exemptions.

Note that this is three days, not 72 hours, which gives you more flexibility.

“By using a 3-day window, test validity does not depend on the time of the flight or the time of day that the test was administered,” writes the CDC.

So if you take a flight on a Friday, you can take your test up to the prior Tuesday at any time of day.

Photo: Ezequiel BECERRA/AFP

According to the CDC, you must “show your negative result to the airline before you board your flight, or be prepared to show documentation of recovery (proof of a recent positive viral test and a letter from your healthcare provider or a public health official stating that you were cleared to travel).”

This rule applies to all passengers over the age of two years old.

The US accepts results of a ‘viral test’, which the CDC explains can be either an antigen test (which is available in Italy) or a nucleic acid amplification test or NAAT (which is not currently available).

READ ALSO: How and where to get a coronavirus test in Italy

Although the Italian Foreign Ministry’s website states that a PCR test is aso accepted, this more expensive test is not required according to the CDC guidelines.

Rapid test results are acceptable as long as they are one of the types of viral test listed in the order.

Any test result must be in the form of written documentation (paper or electronic copy), which must show:

  1. Type of test
  2. Entity issuing the result (e.g. laboratory, healthcare entity or service)
  3. Specimen collection date. A negative test result must show the specimen was collected within the 3 days before the flight. A positive test result for documentation of recovery from COVID-19 must show the specimen was collected within the 3 months before the flight.
  4. Information that identifies the person (full name plus at least one other identifier such as date of birth or passport number)
  5. Test Result

If, on the other hand, you have had Covid-19 within the last three months, the CDC confirms that you may travel instead with a letter from your healthcare provider or a public health official that proves this, and states you have recovered and been cleared for travel.

The positive test result from when you contracted Covid-19 and the letter together are referred to as “documentation of recovery.”

You’ll need to confirm that all the information you’ve provided and that your testing results are true in this attestation form.

Quarantine requirements on arrival in the US

Requirements change depending on whether you are vaccinated or unvaccinated.

If you’re vaccinated, you’ll need to take another Covid test between 3 and 5 days after arrival in the US and no quarantine is required.

If you’re unvaccinated, you’ll also need to take a new Covid test between 3 and 5 days after arrival in the USA. If the test is negative, quarantine is reduced to 7 days from the day of entry into the country. If you don’t take a test, this is extended to 10 days.

The CDC recommends delaying international travel until you are fully vaccinated.

What about the rules when travelling/returning to Italy?

Travel between the United States and Italy has got easier since the Italian government dropped quarantine for arrivals from the US, Canada and Japan last month.

As of June 21st, passengers from these destinations were permitted to enter Italy under the EU’s ‘green pass’ scheme.

READ ALSO: 

That means a ten-day quarantine rule will not apply to travellers who can provide proof of being fully vaccinated or having recovered from Covid-19, or who can show a negative result from a test taken within the 48 hours before arrival in Italy.

The new rules state that travellers now need two key documents to enter Italy: either a certificate of vaccination, a negative test result or a medical certificate of recovery, and a European Digital Passenger Locator Form (dPLF) for contact-tracing purposes.

People who were vaccinated in the US do not need an Italian ‘green pass’ but must be able to show equivalent proof of vaccination from the CDC.

For further information on when and where Italy accepts CDC vaccination cards, where you have to show your documents and whether these can be in paper or digital form, click here

Please note The Local is not able to advise on invividual cases. For further details, see the Italian Foreign Ministry’s website (in English), or contact your airline or the relevant embassy.

For more information about the current coronavirus situation and health measures in Italy please see the Health Ministry’s website (in English).

Member comments

  1. It is silly for Biden to not allow vaccinated people re-entry to the US, especially when you consider that Italy and every other sensible country is allowing visitors who have been vaccinated.

  2. If I test positive for Covid and have to wait to return to the US, will I be able to find a place to stay on short notice? A place that accepts covid-positive guests?

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TRAVEL NEWS

What’s it like travelling through Italy’s airports now?

As flight disruption continues in Europe during the August holiday season, passengers tell The Local how Italy’s airports are faring.

What's it like travelling through Italy's airports now?

Strikes and staff shortages have made air travel problematic across Europe since early June, but airports in some countries have been much more badly affected than others.

There are reports of ongoing serious disruption everywhere from Spain to Germany, with at least 15,700 flights already cancelled across the continent this month.

READ ALSO: Airport chaos in Europe: Airlines cancel 15,000 flights in August

Outside of Europe, more travel chaos has been reported in Australia this month, while passengers travelling to and from the UK have suffered months of disruption and cancellations.

Despite some limited strike action earlier in the summer season, Italian airports by contrast appear not to be badly affected.

Between June 20th and July 24th, some 3,600 flights from Italian airports were cancelled, or 1.8 percent of national flights and 3.6 percent of international flights, according to data from Italian National Civil Aviation Agency ENAC.

The most cancellations (377) were recorded on July 17th, the date of Italy’s last transport strike.

Fewer Italian flights are likely to be cancelled in August, with no strikes planned. However, travel to and from the country hasn’t necessarily been a trouble-free experience for everyone this month.

Passengers wait in Barcelona’s El Prat airport during the first wave of Ryanair strike action in July. Photo: Pau BARRENA/AFP

“It’s clear that the Italian airport system has reacted differently to the difficulties, even if the recovery was sudden,” ENAC president Pierluigi di Palma said in an interview with Italian national broadcaster Rai.

“I would say that we are mostly suffering the consequences of what’s happening in continental airports.”

The knock-on effect of flight cancellations and delays elsewhere has caused some disruption for passengers in Italy, while things are particularly busy this month as the number of people travelling to the country has shot up, exceeding 2019 levels.

Tania Davis, 41, travelled from London Heathrow to Venice with her two children in early August and tells The Local that while she found travelling from Heathrow “stressful and chaotic” everything was “fine” on the Italian side.

“We arrived very late at night because our flight was delayed by just over two hours, but once we got to Italy coming through arrivals and then getting our flight home a week later, everything went smoothly. I can’t fault the airport. It was as busy as you’d expect at this time of year but the lines moved quickly.”

READ ALSO: Airport chaos in Europe: What are your rights if flights are delayed or cancelled?

Some travellers reported facing long delays going both ways, for different reasons. Reader David and his wife flew from Manchester to Brindisi in late July and back again two weeks later.

“We made the mistake of arriving at Brindisi for our flight home three hours before flight time as we had done on the way out, advised by Ryanair,” he tells The Local.

“We sailed through security at Brindisi, no staffing issues there unlike in Manchester where it took 90 minutes to get through.

“But our flight was then delayed, by three hours in the end. Arriving early just meant we had to spend even more time waiting in departures,” he says.

“t’s a really small airport and every flight on the board was delayed, so we were packed in like sardines in this small space with no ventilation.”

“The pilot said our flight was late arriving due to missing an air traffic control slot at Manchester,” he adds.

Other than delays apparently caused by disruption across flight networks, there have been very few reports of problems such as long security queues and lost baggage at Italian airports.

The government warned Italian passengers last month to take hand baggage only when travelling – but this was due to concerns about luggage being lost at destination airports, not at those within Italy.

Passengers wait at Rome’s Fiumicino airport during a strike airline company staff on July 17, 2022. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

Italy has escaped the worst of the travel chaos “both for structural reasons and for the measures that the government has taken to limit the consequences of the pandemic”, writes Italian financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore.

Airport staff shortages are not a major problem in Italy, where “there are generally more worker protections and restrictions on dismissal than in other countries such as the United Kingdom,” Il Sole explains.

Italy was also the only EU country to ban layoffs amid the pandemic, Il Sole points out, with the government in 2020 forcing airline companies to keep their staff on even when flights were grounded.

This ban lasted until 2021, when it was replaced with financial incentives for companies that refrained from laying off staff.

Di Palma said the government’s interventions meant “we have been able to stem the haemorrhage of ground personnel that occurred at foreign companies during the pandemic, saving precious resources”.

READ ALSO: Italy’s summer tourism boom driven by American arrivals

While this is good news for passengers flying to and from Italy’s airports this summer, the ongoing situation across Europe means some disruption to travel plans remains likely.

The passengers we spoke to advised anyone flying this month to pack light, dress for comfort, and “lower your expectations”.

If your flight is cancelled or significantly delayed, you may be entitled to receive compensation from your airline. Find more information here.

Have you travelled to or from Italy in August? How did your experience compare to those featured in the article? Please leave a comment below to let us know.

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