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Reader question: How do you use the UK NHS Covid health pass in Italy?

Visitors to Italy need to show proof of their Covid-19 health status at many sites and venues under the country's 'green pass' system, and people from England can do this using the NHS Covid Pass. But some readers say they've recently had problems using it. Here's what you need to know if this happens to you.

Italy's Verifica C19 app checking a vaccination QR code
A bar owner uses the VerifyC19 mobile phone application to scan a Green Pass. Here's where the super green pass is still needed in Italy. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

Question: Our newly-generated NHS health pass QR codes were rejected while on holiday in Tuscany. Our previous QR codes worked fine in screenshot format. What’s the problem?

The NHS Covid Pass, which proves the vaccination status of those jabbed in England and Wales for travel and events, has been accepted in Italy since August.

Equivalent apps from Scotland and Northern Ireland have also been accepted as proof of vaccination to access Italy’s events and public spaces.

Since August 6th, Italy has required everyone to show a ‘green pass’ or ‘certificazione verde’ to enter indoor restaurants, museums, concert venues, gyms, spas, theme parks and many other cultural sites across the country. It has since been extended further to long-distance public transport, and is also a requirement for all workers in Italy to access any workplace.

EXPLAINED: Where do you now need to show a Covid green pass in Italy?

When it was initially rolled out to international travellers, many UK tourists reported they were turned away from Italy’s restaurants and public sites on presenting their health certificate – but this was subsequently fixed with a software update.

Two months on, UK-vaccinated tourists and second home-owners are reporting issues with getting their health certificates recognised in Italy once again.

As well as QR codes not being read, printed versions are also being rejected in some places.

One reader contacted us to say, “Many people in bars and restaurants can’t read the English version, and the NHS does not provide [the certificate] in any other language, so we have had to be served outside with only myself allowed into the bar to place an order.”

The surge in reports of the NHS Covid app suddenly not being recognised in Italy could be due to the service being temporarily down last Wednesday.

Users received error messages stating that high traffic volumes are “limiting access to the service”, according to news reports.

The outage caused travel disruption, with some people unable to board flights until the situation was resolved.

However, despite the NHS’s assurances that the glitch was fixed, people in Italy trying to use the UK Covid Pass reported that the service has continued to malfunction.

Members of the British in Italy Facebook group have also indicated there are problems with recognising the NHS Covid app, noting issues with their QR codes now suddenly not being read by Italy’s ‘VerificaC19‘ app.

What you need to check when getting your QR code read

Although the NHS reported that “the Covid Pass is now operational on both NHS App and the NHS website”, people in Italy continue to report problems.

So far, there have been no reports of bugs in Italy’s VerificaC19 app either – or that it’s not recognising UK vaccination certificates.

One other possible cause could be which QR code the venue is trying to read.

One reader told us that the restaurant scanned their first QR code, which came up as invalid as it was the first jab.

You have to show proof of your second shot. The pass generated from the first may not be recognised.

How you can check your NHS Covid Pass works

You can check that the app used by businesses and services in Italy will be able to read your QR code by downloading the VerficaC19 app yourself here.

However, if the QR code of your second dose is still not being read, what can you do?

One solution is to print out your vaccination records and present these as proof of your status and leave it up to the discretion of the business owner.

However, as a reader noted above, that doesn’t always work, while this traveller reported complications with her NHS Covid Pass in Italy in early October and the red tape that may follow.

What can you do if your app and paperwork is rejected?

Sticking to all outdoor activities might become less practical as the weather turns colder – and some outdoor events require a Covid health pass nevertheless.

Depending how long you are in Italy for, one option is to convert your UK health certificate into an Italian ‘green pass’ if you’re here for an extended visit.

UPDATE: What visitors need to know about getting Italy’s Covid green pass

However, the process can only be completed while you are in Italy and the rules vary depending on which part of the country you’re in.

The process was initially intended for Italian citizens who were vaccinated abroad, though many local health authorities are now opening it up to anyone who is currently in the area they cover, including visitors. Find out more about how this works here.

Travellers who were vaccinated outside the EU can also access the Italian health pass by getting a coronavirus test in Italy.

Find out how to get tested in Italy here, and learn how to download the green pass using your test number here.


Remember that passes obtained via testing are only valid for 48 hours in the case of rapid testing, or 72 hours if you take a PCR test.

Find the latest updates in our green pass news section and further details on the Italian government’s official website (currently only available in Italian).

Member comments

  1. Hi, I have just done this from UK to Italy. Download the app NHS Covid Pass. I had to verify with passport and taking a photo. You then have access to a dometic and travel. You will get a pass with two qr codes one on the left with 2 of 2 and one on the right 1 of 2. Before I left for Italy I checked it would work by downloading the Verifca19 app and scanned the QR code (make sure everyone scans 2 of 2) and it worked. We went to Italy and it was accepted everywhere, trains, museums, restaurants etc. Hope this helps.

  2. By the way I screen shot it as well as downloading the paper format and also saving the PDF in files on phone. Increase the image so the QR code can be read.

  3. In August 2021 we were experiencing difficulty with our NHS Covid Pass being recognised by the scanners being used in Italy. The difficulty vanished when we discovered that scanning the second page ( there are 2 separate pages one for each of the vaccinations ) instead of the first page was the secret. Throughout August and September, until we returned to the UK, scanning the second page always worked.

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Italian government begins talks on Covid ‘super green pass’

Italy is set to tighten the rules on its health certificate scheme from December as Covid-19 contagion and hospitalisation rates continue to rise.

Employees in Italy must show Covid health passes to access workplaces.
Employees in Italy must show Covid health passes to access workplaces - but are the rules about to get stricter? Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

Note: This article is no longer being updated. Please find the latest news here.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi will hold a meeting with regional leaders on Monday evening, beginning several days of talks on a new government decree which is expected to be announced by Friday, reports national broadcaster Rai.

As the health situation has worsened across Italy in recent weeks – particularly in the north-eastern regions of Friuli Venezia Giulia, Veneto and the autonomous province of Bolzano – leaders of local governments are increasingly pushing for new measures, mainly in the form of further restrictions on the unvaccinated under a so-called “super green pass” scheme.

KEY POINTS: Italy’s new plans to contain the Covid fourth wave

Italy began rolling out its health certificate or ‘green pass’ for domestic use in August, initially making it a requirement at many leisure and cultural venues such as cinemas and indoor restaurants, before extending its use to workplaces and some forms of public transport. 

The certificate shows that the bearer has been vaccinated against Covid-19, has recovered from the disease within the last six months, or has tested negative in the last few days.

Instead, the proposed ‘super green pass’ would only be issued to those who are vaccinated or recovered, with passes issued based on testing in future only valid for entry to workplaces.

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

While no concrete decisions have yet been made, sources within the health ministry have indicated that it is considering the measure for any region declared a higher-risk ‘orange’ zone.

“Closures and restrictions must not be paid for by the vaccinated,” said Health Undersecretary Andrea Costa, adding that the ‘super green pass’ plan would “guarantee the unvaccinated access to workplaces and basic needs, but certain activities such as going to a restaurant, cinema or theatre should be reserved for the vaccinated if the situation worsens.”

“It is clear that we must bring in new initiatives,” he said in an interview with Sky TG24 on Sunday.

EXPLAINED: Will Italy bring in a Covid lockdown for the unvaccinated?

At the moment all of Italy remains in the lowest-risk ‘white’ zone, with few health measures in place.

However several regions are now nearing the thresholds at which they would be moved into the ‘yellow’ zone next week, and – if the situation continues to worsen – then risk being placed under orange zone restrictions two weeks later.

Costa said a planned third dose obligation for health workers “is already foreseen and I think it will be approved this week.”

Health Minister Roberto Speranza put forward proposals last week to make third doses obligatory for the healthcare staff already subject to a vaccine requirement, and also to cut the validity of Italy’s Covid-19 health certificate – the so-called green pass – from 12 to nine months for people who are vaccinated, including with a third dose.

READ ALSO: Italy to start Covid boosters for over-40s on Monday as infection rate rises

The changes have not yet been formally approved, but are expected to come in from December 1st under the planned new decree set to be signed into law by the end of the week.

Other measures the government is reportedly considering include cutting the validity of green passes based on PCR test results from 72 to 48 hours, and those from the results of rapid testing will be reduced from 48 to 24 hours.

There have also been calls from health experts and regional leaders to stop issuing green passes based on rapid test results altogether, as these are less reliable than the results of a PCR test.