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EXPLAINED: What you need to know about visiting Italy this autumn

What do you need to enter Italy and access essential (and non-essential) services as a tourist? Here’s a checklist of everything you need for travel to and within Italy.

A tourist walks past the closed Colosseum on March 10, 2020.
A tourist walks past the closed Colosseum on March 10, 2020. Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

It may be the off season, but the influx of foreign tourists to Italy remains high this autumn, providing a much-needed boost to the country’s tourism sector.

But with each European country setting its own guidelines and the rules shifting every few weeks, many would-be visitors have found themselves mired in confusion over exactly what’s required to enter Italy.

Here’s everything you need to know about entering Italy from abroad. These latest rules should remain in place until at least December 15th.

You probably need a test

Some visitors wrongly assume that if they are fully vaccinated, they do not a test to go on holiday to Italy.

This is currently not the case for anyone entering the country from anywhere not included on Italy’s List C (i.e., almost all non-EU countries), or anyone coming from an EU country who has been in a non-List C country in the fourteen days before entering Italy.

Anyone in this situation must be able to produce a negative Covid test result less than 72 hours old on arrival in Italy in order to avoid having to quarantine. That window of validity is reduced to just 48 hours for anyone arriving from the UK.

READ ALSO: Q&A: Answers to your questions about Italy’s updated travel rules

Those who fail to show a negative test result are technically required to self-isolate for five days on entering the country – even if you can demonstrate that you are fully vaccinated with European Medicines Agency (EMA)-approved vaccines.

While some tourists have said they weren’t asked to show a test result either on departure or on arrival in Italy, be warned that betting on this could lose you five days of holiday.

A tourist poses for a picture in front of the Spanish Steps in Rome on March 3, 2020

A tourist poses for a picture in front of the Spanish Steps in Rome on March 3, 2020. Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

Rapid antigen tests count

Italy accepts both rapid antigen tests and PCR tests for entry into the country – so there’s no need to fork out for a more expensive and time-pressurised PCR test.

You need to have completed your vaccine cycle for at least 14 days

Before this, you’re not considered fully vaccinated for the purposes of entering Italy, and will be required to quarantine for five days on arrival – even if you have a negative Covid test result.

A full vaccination cycle is one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two doses of any other vaccine.

Mixed doses are probably fine

The Italian government has yet to issue any formal guidance on whether it accepts mixed doses of Covid vaccines for entry into the country.

However, many Italian residents were given mixed doses of the vaccine, and anecdotally, those who received mixed vaccines have not reported any issues entering the country.

As of September, Italy officially approves the Indian-manufactured Covishield vaccine for travel, as well as R-CoVI (R-Pharm) Covid-19 vaccine recombinant (Fiocruz).

READ ALSO: Update: Italy recognises Indian-produced Covishield vaccine for travel

That’s on top of the basic EMA-approved vaccines: AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria), Pfizer/BioNTech (Comirnaty), Moderna (Spikevax), and Johnson & Johnson (Janssen).

You need a ‘green pass’ or its equivalent once in Italy to access most facilities (unless you’re under 12)

Once in Italy, you’ll need a Covid-19 health certificate or ‘green pass’ to gain access to most tourist sites and indoor seating at restaurants, and to use long distance public transport (children under the age of 12 are exempt from this requirement).

For those vaccinated in Italy or anywhere else in the EU, the green pass takes the form of a QR code that can be easily scanned.

A tourist wears a protective facemask and a Carnival mask in Venice on February 24, 2020, when Carnival festivities would normally be occurring.

A tourist wears a protective facemask and a Carnival mask in Venice on February 24, 2020, when Carnival festivities would normally be occurring. ANDREA PATTARO / AFP

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

While The Local has been contacted by at least one dual citizen living in the US who says they managed to obtain an authentication code to download a green pass, as a general rule this option is only available to Italian residents.

For foreign tourists, vaccination cards or certificates issued by the health authorities in any of the following five countries are officially considered equivalent to the green pass in Italy:

  • Canada
  • Israel
  • Japan
  • United Kingdom (including England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Gibraltar, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands and British military bases on Cyprus)
  • United States of America

If you have a certificate from another country in the EU or Schengen Zone, or one of the above non-EU countries, it should theoretically get you anywhere an Italian green pass would in Italy – and you don’t need to convert it into a green pass.

In reality, some readers have reported having been barred from boarding trains at the last minute because the conductor did not recognize their foreign-issued vaccination card.

If you’re from another non-EU country not listed above, or want an Italian version of the green pass for any reason, you may be able to have your foreign-issued certificate converted – however, this can only be done when you are in Italy, and rules vary around the country.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How can you get Italy’s ‘green pass’ if you’re not vaccinated?

With this in mind, if it’s very important that you gain access to somewhere under time pressure (e.g. for a domestic flight or long-distance train or ferry journey), it might be worth getting a temporary Italian green pass.

If you’re in this situation, there is some good news:

People wearing a face mask visit the rooftop of the Duomo cathedral in Milan, on July 12, 2021.

People wearing a face mask visit the rooftop of the Duomo cathedral in Milan, on July 12, 2021.
MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

You can get a 48-hour green pass relatively cheaply

Anyone in Italy can get a green pass that is valid for at least 48 hours by taking a rapid antigen test at a pharmacy.

In many pharmacies participating in a government scheme, these are capped at €15 for for adults and €8 for young people aged 12 to 18.

The pass’s validity is extended to 72 hours if you get a PCR test.

READ ALSO: 72 or 48 hours? How Italy has updated the rules on testing to obtain the Covid green pass

You will be issued with a QR code in paper and digital format that can be scanned in exactly the same way as a long-term green pass.

You don’t need a green pass everywhere

While you’d find it a challenge being a tourist in Italy without a green pass or its equivalent, you don’t need one everywhere you go.

Accommodation owners in Italy do not have to ask guests for a health certificate in order to let them stay. In fact, so long as you’re staying there you can also dine at your hotel’s restaurant or have drinks at its bar without a pass – even indoors.

However, you may be required to show a health certificate if the hotel opens its restaurant to non-residents too, Italian media have reported; and you might need to show a health pass in order to access certain hotel facilities, such as the gym, swimming pool or spa. You can also be asked for one if you’re attending a conference or wedding reception on the hotel’s premises.

You don’t need a green pass to take local, non-interregional public transport, such as trips on the metro, trams, or local buses or trains; and you don’t need a certificate to have a drink at the bar, provided you keep your mask on when you’re not sipping.

Finally, you don’t need one to go shopping or to go to the hairdresser, if that’s the kind of thing you like to do on holiday.

Ski season is open – with some provisos

As of late October, Italy’s slopes are once more open for business.

While Italy’s government did not specify that the green pass would be required on slopes or to take ski lifts this winter, this is one of the rules agreed in a protocol signed last month by Italy’s winter sports federation, association of chairlift operators and association of ski instructors.

READ ALSO: What are the Covid rules on Italian ski slopes this winter?

The green pass requirement applies to everyone aged over 12 when accessing ski lifts and slopes, according to Italian media reports.

Capacity is reduced to 80 percent for closed cable cars, while open chairlifts can operate at full capacity.

Ski slopes must use lanes which “guarantee interpersonal distancing of at least one metre” and staff should be on hand to enforce rules and check for areas at risk of overcrowding.

Surgical-grade or FFP2 masks will be mandatory “both in common areas and on the slopes”, according to Italian media.

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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.

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