‘A costly gamble’: One American’s advice on trying to enter Italy via the UK

'A costly gamble': One American's advice on trying to enter Italy via the UK
Travelers hug as they are reunited at Rome's Fiumicino airport. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
With Italy’s ban on “non-essential” travel from the US still in place, The Local has received a large number of emails from readers asking if they can get around the restrictions - and the 14-day quarantine rule - by travelling via another country in Europe. Here, one reader who flew to Italy via the UK shares his experience.
Travel from many non-EU countries is still restricted under Italian goverment rules. From the US, travel is allowed only in certain circumstances.
 
These are:
  • EU citizens and their family members
  • long-term EU residents and their family members (now including unmarried partners, under a new decree on September 7th)
  • travellers with an essential function or need, as listed in the recommendation

An essential need or function basically includes: certain categories of workers, studying and imperative family reasons. (click here for the full list)

In an update to the current rules on Wednesday, the Italian government stressed that travelling to Italy for tourism is not allowed.
 
 
Is it easier to travel into Italy via another European country?
 
Many would-be travelers wanting to reach Italy from the US have been in touch to ask The Local about a potential “loophole” that they hope would allow them into Italy, and possibly also to avoid having to quarantine for 14 days on arrival: Would they be allowed in if they travel via the UK, Ireland, or another part of Europe?
 
The official guidelines on this are not clear.
 
But one US traveler tells The Local he did exactly that – and he described it as a “costly gamble”.
 
After initially trying to take a direct flight from the US to Italy and being prevented from boarding, American Robert Wilson tells The Local how he flew to Italy via the UK instead – but wouldn’t recommend doing so to others.
 
He faced numerous difficulties getting to Italy – despite the fact he is married to an Italian citizen and therefore and has the right to enter the country, and wasn't travelling for tourism.
 
“My first attempt to travel to Italy on July 10th was a disaster,” he says.
 
“I had talked to the Italian embassy, researched all the rules, and had all the proper forms and documents. Even then the US airline refused to let me board. No amount of arguing would change their mind.”
 
Several other readers trying to travel from the US to Italy in July reported having similar problems.
 
“So on July 21st I tried a different, and hugely expensive, alternative which was to book a flight to the UK and then a separate one from the UK to Italy,” Robert explains.
 
“Basically I would exit in London and literally walk back into the terminal to catch my next flight.”
 
But even though Italian and European rules state that the spouse or child of an Italian citizen should be allowed to travel (though the quarantine requirement still applies) he says that getting into Italy was far from easy.
 
 
 
Photo. AFP
 
Though the flight from Washington, DC to London “went flawlessly” he ran into problems at London Heathrow.
 
“At the Alitalia ticket counter at Heathrow I was asked to complete two forms,” he explains. “One was the entry form which justifies the traveler's reasons for entering Italy. The problem is there are many versions of this form and each is subtly different,” he explains.
 
“I had the July 16th version which had all the recent rule changes and the EU exemptions for family members. Yet, the ticket agent insisted I use the July 9th version, and their website has a very outdated June version of the form.  After completing the form, the agent told me she didn't think I was allowed to travel.”
 
“Yet, after a 30-minute conference with higher ups they finally decided that I was ok to travel because I'm married to an Italian and returning home.”
 
But the difficulties didn’t end there.
 
“I thought everything was okay until I reached Rome. Travelers from the UK are required to go through Italian passport control, and the officer stopped me from entering.  They escorted me to a backroom where I spent the next hour being asked for various documents including my Italian marriage certification.”
 
“My situation improved when I showed them a letter saying that I already had an appointment with the Questura. In the end, they told me it was all just a misunderstanding and that I was allowed to enter. They escorted me back to the gate where they stamped my passport.”
 
Now in quarantine at home in Caserta, Robert warns other travelers thinking of making the same trip to expect difficulties.
 
“Getting to Italy now is a huge costly gamble even with all the correct forms and documents,” he said, adding that “the underlying problem is the lack of organization.”
 
“Italy's foreign ministry has tried to address this problem by providing clear guidance on their website, but this doesn't help much because the airlines get their info from IATA and the Italian civil aviation authority.”
 
Could I avoid Italian quarantine rules by spending two weeks in another country?
 
Many readers ask if they could avoid Italy’s quarantine requirement by first spending two weeks in a country such as the UK, which does not require travelers from the US to quarantine.
 
At the time of writing The Local has yet to receive confirmation from Italian foreign ministry officials as to whether doing this would be viewed as acceptable by border guards. However, the Italian Foreign Ministry’s website gives the following advice:
 
“Persons travelling to Italy from France on July 1st will be required to self-isolate if they had travelled to France from the United States, for example, on June 20, but will not be required to self-isolate if they travelled from the United States to France before June 10, or if they stayed in Germany between June 15 and 30.”
 
The rules depend on the country you’re travelling into Italy from, rather than on the country which issued your passport.
 
And Robert noted: “The passport police in Rome asked me how long I'd been in the UK before traveling to Italy.  I got the feeling that if I'd said +14 days (and been able to prove it) that they would have let me pass.”
 
 
“Travelers might want to have a plan B where they are prepared to return to the UK for the quarantine period,” he advises, “It's important that they know they'll be challenged at two points: on departure from the UK and on arrival in Italy.”
 
He said airline ticket agents are now the main obstruction.
 
“The airlines have placed agents in the role of border guards to avoid getting hit with fines and repatriation costs.  And they rely on IATA data to decide who can travel.”
 
It is not known when Italy could relax the rules on travel from the US and elsewhere.
 
The Italian government issued a new emergency decree on September 7th, keeping the restrictions in place until October 7th, when they will be reviewed again.
 
For more information, check the Italian Foreign Ministry's website (in English), as well as the latest advice from the government of any countries you're travelling to or from.
 
Please note The Local is not able to advise on specific cases – please contact your embassy for official guidance.
 

 

He faced numerous difficulties – despite the fact he is married to an Italian citizen and so and has the right to enter the country, and wasn't travelling for tourism.


Member comments

  1. I entered Italy two days ago from Croatia. I spent 17 days there. I took the ferry from Split to Ancona. I had a negative test result within the 72 hours required. Getting the ticket from the ferry office on the day of departure involved some uncomfortable moments. I do own property here but that was not important to the Croatian staff. They wanted official EU residency. I noted that the official Italian travel health form states “transit from an EU country” or similar. So in the end, I boarded. No problem at the immigration counter in Italy. I was admitted without showing my home ownership to them. Croatia was fantastic and this worked for me. I am not visiting as a tourist however, I just wanted to go home!

  2. Hi Kellie…we had a car reserved at FCO, and we drove. We initially planned to stop at an Airbnb on the way, but instead drove straight through (which included a lovely detour due to the Autostrada being closed near Benevento!). I always rent a car here and have driven all over Italy, I like the freedom it provides. Plus, my understanding is that arriving foreigners aren’t allowed to travel on public transportation.

  3. On July 21, my family departed from JFK to Rome, with a layover at Heathrow. My wife and kids are Italian citizens, but only she has an Italian passport at this time. The rest of us (two teenagers and me) only have U.S. passports.

    Our flights were with British Airways (we’ve always had good experiences with them). Our justification for traveling was to visit her mother, who is not in good health. Customs didn’t give us too much trouble at FCO, but we did have to sign statements about where we’d quarantine. We’ve been in Salento for a week and a half now, had blood tests taken the first night here (negative), and have been enjoying the time with family, and at the beaches, every day since.

    We did the blood tests for our own peace of mind, to keep her mother safe, and because we really had no intention of quarantining for 14 days…so we figured the certificates of negative results would suffice if we were questioned. But, as I suspected, there has been zero follow up whatsoever from authorities here in Salento.

    For perspective, there have been less Covid cases in all of Puglia compared to the PA county we live in. And Puglia is 10 times the size of said county (near Philly.) Frankly, I’m more comfortable being here than I would be in America with everything going on there at this point!

  4. My experience in Italy would make me hesitate to try anything the success of which would depend upon the decisions of individuals. There are a whole lot of authoritarian personality types that seem to gravitate to exactly the kinds of positions you would be encountering during a trek like this. You might luck out —I have—but I wouldn’t count on it. Especially with Trenitalia.

  5. We have a number of friends who have simply driven in. On the roads border checks seem to be non-existent. Of course, first of all you have to get yourself to somewhere on mainland Europe.

  6. This seems odd. I thought that the UK didn’t accept people from USA.We certainly shouldn’t – it’s chaotic over there.

  7. hi! thank you for this great and informative article… I have some questions for the author if I may ask!
    what was the airline in DC that didn’t let you fly to Italy? Even with your marriage certificate and your spouse’s ID they turned you away?
    and what other documents were you asked to provide when you were pulled aside in Rome?
    How did you reach your final destination, train? I would be flying to Milan and taking a train to rome and the consulate said that would be ok but after reading this article all of the advice the consulate gave me seems like it’s actually at the discretion of a number of people at any given time and whatever mood they are in! thanks again

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