Reader question: How likely is Italy to change its restrictions on travel from the UK?

With Italy set to review its Covid restrictions on travellers from the United Kingdom by July 30th, dozens of readers have contacted The Local to ask whether the existing quarantine and testing rules are likely to be extended or scrapped from that date. Here's what we know so far.

Reader question: How likely is Italy to change its restrictions on travel from the UK?
Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Question: Do you know when an announcement will be made about whether the five-day quarantine for visitors from the UK will remain in place after July 30th? Do you think this will be included in the decree announcement this week?

Italy reinstated quarantine and double-testing requirements for all arrivals from the UK (including anyone who has transited there within the past 14 days) on June 21st amid concern about the Delta variant-driven surge in coronavirus cases in Britain.

As Italy is not currently making any exemptions for those who are vaccinated, and with steep fines for anyone found not following the rules, this abrupt change has proven a big problem for many of The Local’s UK-based readers – particularly those who had been planning to visit Italy this summer for shorter periods to attend weddings and other events.

READ ALSO: How should travellers from the UK quarantine in Italy?

Even those who were planning longer trips have had to rethink plans, not least because low demand resulted in airlines slashing the number of flights available on UK-Italy routes.

As well as waiting for the UK to remove Italy from its ‘amber’ travel list, would-be travellers have their hopes pinned on the Italian government’s own planned review of its rules before they’re set to expire on July 30th.

Unfortunately there has been no indication yet from any official sources as to whether the government is likely to extend the measure, change it, or scrap it altogether from that date.

If previous reviews of similar travel rules are anything to go by, it’s unlikely that the government will announce anything until a few days before the July 30th deadline.

Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

The Italian government is currently preparing a new decree containing changes to the country’s health measures, but this appears to cover only domestic restrictions.

Any updates to the international travel rules are usually announced separately via ordinances from the Italian health ministry, often just a few days before the deadline.

What’s likely to happen then?

Unfortunately, with no official indication either way it’s impossible to tell which way things will go when the rules are up for review.

While summer travel and tourism is important to Italy’s economy, authorities here have so far been more cautious when it comes to travel restrictions than some other southern European nations such as Spain.

REVEALED: How strictly is Italy enforcing rules on Covid testing and quarantine for UK arrivals?

Italy still has tight restrictions in place on travel from many non-EU countries. It is allowing entry from all EU and Schengen zone countries using the Europe-wide  ‘green pass’ scheme, and has allowed entry from some non-EU countries under the same terms – namely the US, Canada and Japan.

Italy’s health ministry said it had relaxed the rules for these countries due to their high vaccination rates and lower rate of infections.

This doesn’t sound like positive news for people in the UK, with Italy now entering its own Delta-driven fourth wave with more than 3,000 new cases daily, and contagions rising further in the UK as the English government scraps all precautions within the country.

But there is some hope for those who’ve been fully vaccinated, as talks are reportedly still ongoing between the EU and UK on the mutual recognition of vaccine passports.

Will Italy start recognising the UK’s proof of vaccination via the NHS app?

While there have been no updates on a possible EU-UK agreement for several weeks, France has this week begun to independently recognise proof of vaccination in the UK – triggering speculation that other countries may follow suit.

France is allowing UK visitors who were vaccinated to upload their NHS certificates to the French health pass app – even though this recognition only goes one way, as the UK is not currently recognising France or any other EU countries’ health passes.

Whether or not more countries might start recognising each others’ health passports may depend on whether their apps are able to “communicate” with each other, as much as on international relations.

There has been no word yet from Italian authorities or either the British Embassy in Rome or the Italian Embassy in London as to whether the two countries are working on a bilateral agreement on recognising or using each others’ health passports.

On Monday, the Italian Embassy in London updated its website and posted on social media to stress that the UK’s health pass is not currently recognised in Italy, and vice versa.

“The ‘Covid pass’ contained within the NHS app does not guarantee an exemption from the health rules (fiduciary isolation and testing obligation) for travellers to Italy,” the embassy wrote.

Some travellers may be eligible to skip quarantine in Italy under certain exemptions – see the Italian Foreign Ministry’s official travel website here for more information.

And anyone vaccinated under the NHS can currently return home to the UK after a trip abroad without facing a quarantine period – though people who were vaccinated in Italy would still face quarantine in the UK under current ‘amber’ list rules.

Note that these rules are based on which country you travel from, and not which passport you hold.

The Local will continue to follow the travel restrictions closely. Please check our homepage or travel news section for the most recent reports on any changes to the rules.

For more information about the current coronavirus-related restrictions on travel to Italy please see the Foreign Ministry’s website (in English).

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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.