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HEALTH

TOURISM: Can you really visit Italy from the US if you fly via the UK?

After an Italian government travel website appeared to show no restrictions on tourists coming to Italy from the US if they spend two weeks in the UK or Ireland first, we take a closer look at what the rules actually are.

TOURISM: Can you really visit Italy from the US if you fly via the UK?
Tourists in the Italian city of Verona in August 2020. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

As Italy and other European countries continue to restrict travel from certain countries, depending on their Covid-19 infection rates, travel to Italy from the USA for tourism is currently not allowed.

There are some exemptions to this for certain travelers – including Italian citizens, people who have their permanent residence in Italy, and for types of travel deemed essential. A new exemption allows the partners of people living in Italy to travel.

See a full list of exemptions here.

READ ALSO: How have Italy's travel rules changed under the latest emergency decree?

But many readers in the US are anxious to return to Italy for vacation or other reasons which are not deemed essential.

Since the Italian government start relaxing some of its travel restrictions in June, we've been getting dozens of emails a week at The Local from people in the US hoping to travel to Italy, asking the following question:

“As an American resident/citizen, can I travel to Italy if I spend 14 days or more in an approved/”safe” country like the UK or Ireland beforehand?”

Here's a closer look at the rules.

What is allowed?

It's important to note that Italy does not have a blanket travel ban on all Americans entering the country. The restriction applies to anyone travelling to Italy from the US (except for those who are exempt, such as Italian citizens), rather than just those with US passports.

So a US citizen living in Germany, for example, would be allowed to travel to Italy now as there are no restrictions on the German-Italian border.

However, most countries in Europe continue to restrict travel from the US.

Many people are asking if they can get to Italy via one of the few European countries which is allowing travel from the US. Currently there are four such countries: The UK, Ireland, Croatia and Slovenia.

That doesn't mean there are no restrictions at all: the UK and Ireland require travelers from the US to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

Croatia requires a negative PCR test resuly, taken no longer than 48 hours before arrival. Slovenia requires a negative PCR test AND a 10-day quarantine upon arrival.
 
However, many Americans have contacted The Local saying they are willing to undergo quarantine in one of those countries so that they can travel onward to Italy.

IN NUMBERS: How important are American tourists to Italy?

Tuscany, one of the top Italian destinations for US tourists. Photo: AFP

In recent months, Italian government officials have not responded to repeated requests from The Local for clarification as to whether or not this would be allowed.

However, media reports about a new online tool published by the Italian government last week raised Americans' hopes by appearing to show that this was in fact possible.

In its Covid-19 'survey tool', a travel calculator intended to help make sense of the increasingle complicated set of travel rules, the Italian Foreign Ministry appears to state that American citizens/residents can enter Italy, as long as they have been in an approved country for at least the past 14 days

For travellers who have spent the past 14 days or longer in one of these four countries, the ‘Covid-19 Survey Tool’ produces the following answer:
 
“Based on your answers, you can enter Italy without restrictions.”
 
“Nonetheless, you must fill out a mandatory self-declaration form. The form must be shown to the carrier on boarding and to any other person responsible for checking it.”
 
 
While this site does appear to be saying tourists from the US can enter Italy as long as they have been in an ‘approved’ nation for the past 14 days, the website also features a lengthy disclaimer.
 
It states: “The result of the questionnaire does not guarantee entry into the Country, which remains subject to the assessment of Italian Border Officers (Ministry of Interior). The questionnaire has no legal value.”
 
“We recommend that you keep yourself informed on current rules and regulations before embarking on a trip. Should you need any further clarification, kindly contact Border Officers at your designated entry point, Italian “Prefettura” or “Dipartimento di Prevenzione” of the local Health Authority (Azienda Sanitaria) at your destination.”
A spokesperson for the Italian Embassy in Washington told The Local: “According to the Prime Minister's Decree of August 7, 2020 (and subsequent amendments and ordinances) whoever has been for 14 days in a EU country, and does not have symptoms of Covid-19, may enter Italy for any reason.”
 
“If a US citizen or any other person travelling from the US stays 14 days or more in one or more EU countries  he/she can enter Italy by filling in a self-declaration form.”

 
“At the moment, however, if the traveler has been in certain areas in the EU that are considered at risk (including Croatia) he/she will have to take a swab according to the procedures specified in the law.”
 
The Embassy spokesperson advised readers to refer the Italian Foreign Ministry's website for further information.
 
 
A spokesperson for the US Embassy in Rome said they were not permitted to give recommendations regarding Italy's travel rules, but stated: “The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a Level 3 Travel Warning recommending travelers defer all non-essential travel to Italy due to the global impact of Covid-19.”
 
“The Department of State’s Level 3 Travel Advisory similarly recommends that travelers avoid non-essential international travel to Italy.”
 
The Embassy referred travellers to the US State Department website for further details of entry and exit requirements for US citizens in Italy.

 
The final say on whether any traveller can enter the country or not goes to Italy's border police. Ultimately you will need to convince the border guards you encounter that you have the right to enter the country.
 
For further information, contact the Italian border police before you travel. You can find contact information for border police in the part of Italy you plan to travel to here.
 
For more details, all travelers are advised to check the relevant country information on the Italian government's ViaggiareSicuri website
 
You may also wish to 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. Contact your embassy for official guidance.

Member comments

  1. I am a USA passport holder who was able to enter Italy, after doing my quarantine in Croatia for 15 days. It was a stressful process, but my Italian boyfriend actually flew to Croatia to cross the boarder with me, we entered through Rome. A week after I arrived the rules for people entering Italy via Croatia changed, people who entered via Croatia would now have to quartile upon arrival. Stressful but understandable.
    I also had to visit the UK for a day and a few days after my return from the UK the rules changed about the need to be swabbed upon arrival, you didn’t have to when I entered. Rules are changing all the time, any American looking to enter Italy during this time has to have patience and stay informed on new rules.

  2. I am a USA passport holder who was able to enter Italy, after doing my quarantine in Croatia for 15 days. It was a stressful process, but my Italian boyfriend actually flew to Croatia to cross the boarder with me, we entered through Rome. A week after I arrived the rules for people entering Italy via Croatia changed, people who entered via Croatia would now have to quartile upon arrival. Stressful but understandable.
    I also had to visit the UK for a day and a few days after my return from the UK the rules changed about the need to be swabbed upon arrival, you didn’t have to when I entered. Rules are changing all the time, any American looking to enter Italy during this time has to have patience and stay informed on new rules.

  3. I successfully quarantined in the UK for 14 days in July 2020. I hold a US Passport. Then flew from LHR to MXP (Malpensa) non stop without incident after my two weeks in the UK. Only question asked upon entry was where have you been for the past 14 days. I then stayed at my second home north of Milan for two months. I was prepared with mountains of paperwork showing proof of ownership of my second home but none of that was needed. At the time the Covid numbers were coming down and were quite good both in Italy and the UK and clearly we are in a different time now.My sense is that you really are at the mercy of whoever might be greeting you at border control. My thinking was also that my second home was my key to getting in. As they state, entering for tourism is not allowed yet. I might try the same thing again in December.

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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

What will a right-wing election victory mean for abortion rights in Italy?

The right-wing parties poised to win Italy’s upcoming general elections have a history of denouncing abortion. Could a new conservative government threaten reproductive rights in Italy?

What will a right-wing election victory mean for abortion rights in Italy?

When Italians go to the polls on September 25th, a coalition of three right-wing parties – Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, Matteo Salvini’s League and Forza Italia, led by former premier Silvio Berlusconi – are widely expected to win the vote and secure the opportunity to form Italy’s next government.

READ ALSO: Your ultimate guide to Italy’s crucial elections on Sunday

With all three parties to the right of centre – by quite some way, in the case of Brothers of Italy and the League – activists are concerned about what Italy’s most socially conservative government in years could mean for women seeking to access abortions, as they have had the legal right to do here for over four decades.

Here’s what Italian law says about abortion, what the right-wing alliance has promised it will – or won’t – change, and what all this could mean for people in need of abortion care in Italy.

What is Italy’s law on abortion now?

Abortion – formally referred to in Italian as interruzione volontaria di gravidanza or IVG, ‘voluntary termination of pregnancy’ – has been legal in Italy since 1978.

Passed after years of protests and several other failed bills, Legge 194 (‘Law 194’) decriminalized the procedure and entitled women to request it for any reasons of physical or mental health within the first 90 days after conception.

Women can continue to seek an abortion after 90 days if a significant foetal abnormality is present, or if continuing the pregnancy would endanger the woman’s life.

READ ALSO: The long road to legal abortion in Italy

The procedure is offered free of charge to those who qualify for public healthcare in Italy.

To access it, women first must consult a doctor and discuss options “to help her to overcome the factors which would lead her to have her pregnancy terminated”.

If the patient continues to affirm her original choice, she will be issued a certificate either stating that the termination is urgent and can be carried out immediately, or, if it is not deemed urgent, that she can seek the procedure after a obligatory seven-day wait.

Campaigners in front of a banner reading ‘Don’t touch law 194’. Photo by FABRIZIO VILLA / AFP

In reality, the wait for an appointment is likely to be far longer. Law 194 also affirms the right of health workers to refuse to carry out abortions on the grounds of “conscientious objection”. 

This has translated into serious gaps in coverage across Italy, with some facilities staffed mostly or even entirely by personnel who decline to deliver abortion services.  

READ ALSO: Why abortions in Italy are still hard to access – despite being legal

In fact, a majority of gynaecologists in Italy – 64.6 percent, according to 2020 figures from the Ministry of Health – are registered objectors, as well as 44.6 percent of anaesthesiologists and 36.2 percent of non-medical staff at health facilities. 

In several parts of the country, including the regions of Sicily, Basilicata, Abruzzo, Molise and the province of Bolzano, the percentage of gynaecologists refusing to perform abortions is over 80 percent.

These doctors are probably out of step with public opinion in Italy. A 1981 referendum gave voters the opportunity to reject the new abortion law; 68 percent of them voted to keep it. 

More recently, an Ipsos poll conducted earlier this year found that 73 percent of people surveyed in Italy said abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

What election promises has Italy’s right-wing alliance made about abortion?

No doubt sensing the lack of appetite for a full-scale repeal of Italy’s abortion law, the right-wing coalition has made clear that that’s not on its agenda. 

Abortion doesn’t get a single mention in the joint platform put forward by the Brothers of Italy, League and Forza Italia. 

Law 194 does appear in the Brothers of Italy programme, which promises “full application” of the legislation, “starting with prevention” of abortion.

To this end, it pledges the allocation of funds to support single and economically disadvantaged women to carry pregnancies to term, a proposal echoed by the League and presented by both parties as part of a broader drive to reverse Italy’s plummeting birth rate.

The League’s platform also calls for implementation of Law 194’s provisions on the “effective promotion of life”, including by involving non-profit groups – presumably Catholic and other pro-life ones – in pre-abortion counselling.

Forza Italia, historically the most centrist of the three, hasn’t broached the subject at all. 

READ ALSO: Salvini vs Meloni: Can Italy’s far-right rivals put differences aside?

Both Meloni and Salvini have faced questions on the campaign trail about their position on abortion, given previous comments calling abortion “a defeat for society” (Meloni), loudly professed Catholicism (Salvini) and support for European allies who have restricted access to abortion, such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (both). 

“Law 194 isn’t to be touched,” Salvini told reporters this week. “The last thing Italy needs is a country divided and arguing over the laws in place – which can be improved and updated, but certainly not scrapped.”

Meloni, meanwhile, told a recent interviewer that “I never said I want to modify Law 194, but that I want to apply it”. That includes supporting women who feel obliged to abort for economic or practical reasons, she said – as well as supporting health workers who refuse to provide the procedure. 

Why are activists worried a new right-wing government could threaten abortion rights in Italy?

The problem is that Law 194 perhaps does need an overhaul if it is to guarantee access to safe, legal abortions across Italy. 

Those who support women’s right to choose have long complained that the 44-year-old law – whose primary objective, the Italian Health Ministry’s website states, “is the social protection of motherhood and the prevention of abortion” – is not fit for purpose.

A demonstrator holds a sign reading ‘free to choose’ at a rally in defence of Italy’s abortion law. Photo by FABRIZIO VILLA / AFP

Law 194 “does not establish in a strong sense women’s right to choice and self-determination: it establishes when access to it is permitted and granted,” Chiara Lalli, a writer and academic with a focus on abortion, told Il Post

The multiple doctor visits, mandatory counselling session and seven-day “reflection” period are attempts to interfere with women’s decisions, activists say. 

READ ALSO: ‘Ugly act’: Outrage in Italy over discovery of foetus graves marked with women’s names

Separately, watchdogs including the United Nations Human Rights Committee, Human Rights Watch and the Council of Europe’s committee of social rights have flagged the high rates of conscientious objectors as a persistent barrier to abortion access in Italy.

While authorities are supposed to ensure that women can access terminations and that objecting doctors can’t refuse care beyond the procedure itself, with no mechanisms to enforce these requirements specified in the existing law, in practice women report facing long delays or being denied assistance altogether. 

In the past, both Brothers and Italy and the League have resisted attempts to help the problem, such as by recruiting specifically non-objecting doctors.

While these problems are longstanding, there have been attempts in recent years to put more obstacles between women and abortions – mainly from regional or municipal politicians, who tend to be more explicit in their opposition than those on the national stage.

Many of these have come from members of the three main right-wing parties, which together have governed 14 of Italy’s 20 regions for the past two years.

And with each region largely in charge of managing its own public health service, regional governments have the power to make decisions that significantly affect how and where women can access abortions.

In Le Marche, headed by the Brothers of Italy, the regional government refused to implement 2020 national guidelines from the Ministry of Health that would have extended the window for medical abortions from seven to nine weeks and made it possible for women to obtain abortion pills in outpatient clinics and family planning centres instead of going into hospital. 

Abruzzo, whose council is also led by Brothers of Italy, as well as Piedmont and Umbria, two regions governed by the League, resisted the change too.

Priests join an anti-abortion demonstration on May 21st 2022 in central Rome. The placard reads “Human Rights are born in the womb”. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

Piedmont has further allowed anti-abortion groups to set up stands in public hospitals, and councillors have proposed funnelling public funds to groups that would pay women not to abort

The League-run council in Verona declared it a “pro-life city” and called for funding for anti-abortion projects to be written into the town budget, as well as authorizing anti-abortion groups to display promotional material in council buildings. 

In the wider region of Veneto, such groups are allowed to offer family counselling services alongside those providing neutral information – a move the League’s manifesto suggests extending when it talks about involving non-profits in “the promotion of life”. 

To those who support abortion, it all starts to look like a pattern. “As soon as a right-wing council takes charge, it seems like these issues are at the top of the agenda,” Beatrice Brignone, head of the small left-wing party Possibile, told L’Espresso back in 2020.

READ ALSO: Why an Italian woman was forced to go to 23 hospitals to have an abortion

With threats to abortion access in Italy emerging locally and unchecked at national level, some activists say they would in fact welcome putting Law 194 up for debate under the next government.

“As much to better implement it as to make the necessary modifications … it is time to begin an informed discussion on abortion and free ourselves from the prejudice that the law is untouchable,” comments the Luca Coscioni Association, which advocates for freedom of scientific research and backs abortion rights.

Meloni and her allies have already made clear that such a discussion will not be among their priorities if they win this weekend. 

What do other parties say about abortion?

Abortion isn’t an issue for either the centrists Italia Viva or Azione, nor for the populist Five Star Movement.

The centre-left Democratic Party promises the full application of Law 194 throughout the country, without going into further details.

The only concrete proposals come from much smaller parties on the left: Possibile proposes establishing a quota of at least 60 percent of non-objecting staff in each health facility, as well as tracking the service provided by each region and punishing those who fail to meet minimum standards. 

The Greens and Left Alliance wants to change recruitment rules to hire more non-objecting medical staff, while +Europa suggests partnering with private clinics to expand access and making medical abortion more widely available as an outpatient procedure.

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