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TRAVEL: What to expect if you’re returning to Italy this Easter

After two years with limited opportunities to visit Italy, Covid restrictions are easing and travel is resuming. But what should you expect if you haven't visited for a while?

TRAVEL: What to expect if you’re returning to Italy this Easter
What does travel to Italy look like after two years of the pandemic? While tourism is back on, you might notice a few changes. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

After nearly two years of Covid emergency, Italy has finally relaxed most of its restrictions and the country is eagerly reopening its doors to tourism.

The Easter holidays, which, as far as holidays go in Italy are second only to Christmas celebrations in importance, mark the beginning of the tourist season and this year they’re expected to offer the usual wealth of village festivals, food markets, and other activities to enjoy in the warm spring sunlight.

So if you’re looking forward to a long-awaited return to Italy over the Easter holidays, here’s a breakdown of what you should expect from your upcoming trip.

Travel rules

The good news is that Italian government has recently relaxed most Covid-related travel rules – but some are still in place.

Quarantine-free travel to Italy is currently allowed from all countries, for any reason. But under extended rules and entry requirements in place until at least April 30th, you’ll need to show either a Covid vaccination certificate, recovery certificate or negative test result when entering the country..

READ ALSO: What you need to know about travel to Italy this spring

Italy also requires arrivals to complete a passenger locator form (download it here and here’s how to fill it out).

If you can’t provide the required paperwork, you can still enter the country but will have to undergo a five-day quarantine at the address specified on the Passenger Locator Form. Not the best way to spend the Easter break if you ask us.

You can check the latest official information on rules for arrivals to Italy from your country on the Italian Foreign Ministry’s website here.

Covid restrictions once in Italy

You should also expect to navigate the domestic Covid health measures still in place for the time being.

Though the rules have been eased in April, Italy’s health pass system is still in place. 

From April 1st, Italy has scrapped the requirement for hotel guests to show any type of Covid health pass. It is also no longer required to access museums in Italy, or to sit at an outdoor bar or restaurant.

Theatres, cinemas, concert halls, nightclubs, other indoor entertainment venues and indoor sports arenas, however, do require a valid vaccination or recovery certificate.

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

The good news is that visitors are unlikely to need to get hold of an Italian green pass.

All foreign-issued vaccination or recovery certificates are considered equivalent to the Italian super green pass and will give you access to all the same spaces.

You do not need to convert your vaccination or recovery certificate into an Italian green pass as a visitor to Italy.

You can find more detailed information about how the super green pass works for visitors in Italy here.

Masks

Italy no longer requires face masks to be worn in most outdoor public areas, but they’re still needed indoors for now.

Though not yet confirmed, Italy is expected to scrap the current rules on face masks on May 1st. That means that if you want to visit any indoor public venues during the Easter holidays, you will still need a face covering. 

READ ALSO: How tourists and visitors can get a coronavirus test in Italy

Specifically, FFP2 masks must be worn on all types of transport, whether that be interregional or local. Surgical masks are ok for most other indoor locations such as hotels, bars, restaurants, museums and shops.

What else to expect:

As well as the Covid rules, there are some other practical considerations for a trip to Italy over Easter.

Traffic and travel disruption

Motorway traffic is, as usual, forecast to be heavy in Italy over the long weekend. And no wonder, as a recent survey by the Italian hotel association Federalberghi found that around 14 million Italians are planning to travel within the country over the Easter period.

Good Friday is not a public holiday in Italy, but schools are closed from Thursday and many Italians take the Friday off work to give themselves a ponte (bridge) holiday that stretches into Easter Monday, which means traffic jams traditionally begin on Thursday night.

The worst times for traffic on Italian motorways are predicted to be Friday afternoon and evening, and Monday afternoon.

Photo by Laurent EMMANUEL / AFP

Do your supermarket shop early

Aside from the fact that Italian food shops and supermarkets are usually closed on Sundays and public holidays, this year the prospect of strikes in some regions could mean extended closures.

If you’re planning to do a big supermarket shop, make sure you check the opening hours at your local store in advance.

Bring an umbrella

While we may associate Easter with mild, spring-like weather – and some people expect nothing but blazing sunshine when they visit Italy – it can be wet and cold at this time of year.

Unfortunately that has been the case for the past few years, and forecasts appear to confirm the ‘wet Easter’ trend again this time as well 

According to the latest reports, cold air currents sweeping down from northern Europe are expected to bring a drop in temperatures between Friday and Saturday.

Other changes

Italy has changed a lot over the past two years and many local habits and social rules might not exactly be the way you remember them. 

Arrivederci to the double kiss

During the pandemic, many Italians have kissed goodbye (pun intended) to the two-kiss greeting. While close friends and family members might still occasionally resort to the double peck, the days where you’d kiss complete strangers are far gone. 

In fact, the concept of personal space itself has considerably changed in what you may remember as a very touchy-feely culture.

That’s not to say people are now keeping their distance at all times. But, generally speaking, in public spaces such as post offices, public transport or shops, most people have developed a keen inclination to avoid pressing up against one another even when social distancing is not necessarily enforced.

Paying by card is now a realistic option

There were days not so long ago where placing Italy and technological progress in the same sentence would be enough to raise the eyebrows of most Ufficio Indagini officers. So you may be surprised to see that Italy has made some noticeable digital strides in the last two years

For instance, these days you’re far more likely to be offered the option of paying by contactless card, even for smaller sums.

This is not only due to people preferring card transactions for Covid-related hygiene reasons but it is also part of a wider government scheme to crack down on rampant tax evasion.

Interestingly, the contactless revolution seems to have spread to the farthest corners of the country; so much so that the next time you pay for a ghiacciolo (ice lolly) in a remote Apulian village you might be able to do so with a tap of your card. 

Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

Take-out has taken off

While a good number of restaurants in Italy’s major towns and cities offered takeaway food and drinks well before the pandemic, this seems now to be standard all over the country.

Surprisingly, it’s not just restaurants that have expanded their take-out offering. Home delivery in general is more of an option these days, with more and more supermarkets delivering their goods right to your doorstep.

This has been a major change for people in smaller towns and more rural parts of the country, where home deliveries were previously non-existent.

Watch out for e-scooters

Visitors coming back to Italy after a two-year hiatus are liable to be struck (quite literally, unfortunately) by one thing: monopattini (e-scooters) and e-bikes.

When the country started to relax its rules after the first Covid wave, people looked for ways to travel around their city without being crammed into poorly ventilated buses and trams, and app-controlled scooters and bikes offered themselves up as the answer.

In short, the entire country seems to now be in the grip of an electric vehicle craze which isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. So, while visiting, be sure to stop to appreciate the picturesque Italian landscape while also, perhaps, having a look over your shoulder every once in a while.

But don’t worry, most things about the Italy that we know and love are still recognisable – the food and the wine are great, the drivers are terrible, and there may very well be a strike. Viva l’Italia!

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TRAVEL NEWS

Nine things to know if you’re visiting Italy in December

From strikes and public holiday dates to the best Christmas markets and Italian festive treats, here are some things to know if you’re planning to visit Italy in December.

Nine things to know if you’re visiting Italy in December

December in Italy is nothing short of magical. Most cities light up with twinkling displays and local life is energised by enchanting Christmas markets, which turn even the most ordinary of urban landscapes into a cheerful wonderland. 

READ ALSO: Lights out: How Christmas in Italy will be different this year

So if you’re planning on travelling to (or around) Italy in December, here are a few things you should know before you go.

No travel restrictions

People who travelled to Italy last December were required to show proof of Covid vaccination, recent recovery from the virus or a negative molecular (PCR) or antigen test result in order to enter the country.

The above mandate expired on May 31st, which means that travel to the bel paese for any reason, including tourism, is no longer tethered to any health requirements.

As for the requirement for arrivals to complete an EU digital passenger locator form (dPLF), that was also scrapped last May.

Face masks required in healthcare settings

The requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport lapsed on Friday, September 30th.

However, Italy does still have a requirement to wear face masks in all healthcare settings, including hospitals and care homes, until the end of the year.

So if you’re planning on paying a visit to a relative or friend who’s currently staying in one of the above facilities, you’ll have to wear a mask. 

Anyone refusing to comply with face mask rules can still face fines ranging from a minimum of €400 to a maximum of €1000.

Current quarantine rules 

Italy still requires anyone who tests positive for coronavirus while in the country to self-isolate, with the minimum isolation period currently standing at five days.

In order to exit quarantine, the infected person must be symptomless for at least two days, and must test negative to a molecular (PCR) or rapid antigen test at the end of that period.

Testing should be carried out at a registered pharmacy or testing centre as the results of home tests are not seen as valid for this purpose.

Should the patient continue to test positive, they must remain in isolation until they get a negative test result. However, the maximum length of the self-isolation period has now been cut to 14 days, down from 21.

National strike on December 2nd

Travel to, from and across Italy will continue to be disrupted by strikes during the last month of 2022. 

The demonstration that’s currently expected to create the greatest amount of disruption will take place on Friday, December 2nd and it’ll be a 24-hour national strike affecting airline and rail travel as well as some local public transport lines.

You can check the latest updates before your trip in The Local’s travel news section here.

Local public holidays 

Italy has three public holidays in December. Those are:

  • December 8th – Feast of the Immaculate Conception
  • December 25th – Christmas Day
  • December 26th – St Stephen’s Day (or Boxing Day in English-speaking countries)

As you might have already realised, December 24th (Christmas Eve) and December 31st (New Year’s Eve) are not official public holidays in Italy. However, most local companies do give their staff both days off as a gesture of goodwill. 

It’s worth noting that on all of the above-mentioned days the country will pretty much collectively stop, with all public offices and nearly all shops remaining shut. 

People walk across a Christmas market in downtown Milan as snow falls on December 8, 2021.

People walk across a Christmas market in downtown Milan as snow falls on December 8, 2021. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP.

Even transport services are usually very limited on the days in question, so, if you’re planning to visit around those dates, make sure to make all the necessary arrangements well in advance.

Christmas markets 

This Christmas looks set to be Italy’s first in two years without any Covid restrictions.

This means that the country’s traditional Christmas markets, a number of which were cancelled last year due to safety concerns, should be up and running again this December.

Italy’s most popular markets are located in Trentino-Alto Adige, the northern region bordering Switzerland and Austria – Bruneck, Bolzano and Brixen are all well known for their gleeful stalls.

That said, the northern mountain cities don’t claim complete ownership of Italy’s Christmas markets, as Rome, Perugia and Gubbio also have some of the best set-ups in the entire peninsula.

Galleries and museums’ special openings 

Most galleries and museums in the country tend to have special opening hours during the festive season, which means that you might be able to admire artworks by some of the most famous Italian painters and sculptors even on public holidays and as late as 10pm on some days.

For instance, in Venice, Palazzo Ducale, Museo Correr and Murano’s Museo del Vetro (Glass Museum) will be open every day (public holidays included) in December, with their doors remaining open to visitors until 9pm on some dates.

As always, you’re advised to check the websites of the museums you’re interested in visiting to know what they’ll offer visitors in December.

Christmas light in a street in Rome

Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

Christmas treats

The quality of Italy’s cuisine is no secret, but the country dishes out some of the best examples of its long culinary tradition over the Christmas holidays.

While the evening meal on Christmas Eve (known as ‘La Vigilia’) tends to be quite frugal, the Christmas Day meal is anything but.

READ ALSO: Six quirky Italian Christmas traditions you should know about

A pasta dish (tortellini, lasagne or baked pasta) is followed by a veal-, ox- or poultry-based second course accompanied by a variety of vegetables.

Finally, the festive meal is finished off with a scrumptious slice (more like, three or four for some) slice of panettone or pandoro.

Prosecco or another variety of sparkling wine is generally used to wash down all of the above.

Extravagant New Year celebrations

If you’ve never spent New Year’s Eve in Italy, you might be in for a surprise.

The Italians have a reputation for being a superstitious bunch, and some of the New Year customs can startle the uninitiated foreigner. 

READ ALSO: Red pants, smashed plates and bingo: Six reasons Italian New Year is awesome

Apart from wearing red underwear to fend off evil spirits and eating lentils by the bucketload to bring wealth and prosperity, some residents, especially in the south, throw crockery out of their windows to show that they’re ready for a new start in the new year.

An alternative tradition – which seems to be slightly more friendly towards passers-by – is crashing pots and pans together right by the front door to frighten away evil spirits.

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