Q&A: Your key questions about Italy’s coronavirus rules at Christmas

Q&A: Your key questions about Italy's coronavirus rules at Christmas
A man dressed as Santa Claus wears a face mask as he ridesa scooter in Rome. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
As Italy's new restrictions mean many readers' Christmas plans have to change, we answer your questions about exactly what is and isn't allowed this festive season. (This article was updated on December 10th)

Under Italy's latest emergency decree, the goverment on Thursday announced it would tighten the coronavirus rules over the Christmas and New Year period, as well as keeping many existing measures in place, as it seeks to avoid a new spike in infections over the holidays.

 
The new decree (official text here, in Italian) is in force until at least January 15th.
 
It keeps the 10pm curfew in place nationwide, including on New Year's Eve, and gradually tightens restrictions on travel to and within Italy as Christmas approaches.
 
The decree also keeps in place the national three-tier system, which splits the country into red, orange, and yellow zones depending on the contagion risk in each area.
 
Christmas shopping in Rome. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
 
However, prime minister Giuseppe Conte stated last week that he expects all or most regions to be downgraded to lower-risk yellow zones by mid-December as the situation continues to improve – however there is no guarantee that this will happen.
 
As the new measures have cast doubt on many readers' Christmas plans, The Local has received a lot of questions about exactly what is and isn't allowed under the latest decree.
 
The government released clarifications on Sunday night and again on Wednesday regarding various points in the new decree.
 
We've sifted through all the official information available to try and answer your most pressing questions.
 
Please note that, under local and regional ordinances, the rules can differ from one region to another. The information below refers only to national measures under the government's emergency decree.

Questions about travel:

Can I travel back to my home in Italy over Christmas?

Yes, if the place you are returning to is where you have residency.

Travel in and out of red or orange zones is limited to essential reasons, while travelling between any regions will be restricted from December 21st.

READ ALSO: Italy bans travel between towns over Christmas

Returning home is considered an essential reason, so if you have proof you are a resident, you should be allowed to travel.

The Italian government has confirmed that you'll be allowed to travel to return home at all times even when the strictest travel rules are in place.

Travel “will always be possible, even from 21 December to 6 January, to return to one's residence or home” under the rules, a government statement read.

Can I travel to Italy to spend the holiday with family or friends?

Restrictions on international travel will be stepped up over the holidays, making it more difficult to join loved ones in Italy from overseas (if not impossible, depending on which country you're coming from.)
 
 
Arrivals from the EU between the 10th-20th of December will face mandatory testing before departure, while anyone travelling to Italy from December 21st to January 6th must undergo a two-week quarantine.
 
Domestic travel will be limited too, not only within the higher-risk zones classed as red or orange under Italy's tier system, but between any region from December 21st to January 6th, and between towns on Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year's Day.

Can I leave the country under these travel restrictions?

Yes – there are no restrictions on leaving the country.

Though there are travel restrictions in place in regions classed as higher-risk red and orange zones, travelling out of or through these areas in order to leave the country is not prohibited. Remember to take a completed self-declaration form explaining your reasons for the trip if it requires travel through a red or orange zone.

Note that some cities or regions may have their own restrictions in addition to the national rules.

Can we spend the holidays at our second home in Italy?
 
After appearing to state last week that travelling to second homes anywhere in Italy was forbidden between December 21st to January 6th, the government on Wednesday issued the following clarifications in an FAQ on its website.
 
“The rules on visiting second homes are as follows:
  • From 10pm-5am any movement is prohibited (under the nationwide evening curfew), except for reasons of work, health or necessity,
  • In yellow and orange areas, you can travel to your second home if it is located in the same municipality (as your ordinary residence).
  • In yellow areas only, if the second home is in the same region, but in a different municipality, you can travel there on any date except for December 25th and 26th 2020 and January 1st 2021”
If you're planning to travel from another country to reach your second home in Italy here are the travel restrictions you'll need to be aware of.
 
Can I travel to a different region to spend the holidays with a relative who will be alone?
 
From December 21st to January 6th you can leave the region to reach relatives who are “not self-sufficient”, the decree states.
 
The government clarified in a note on Sunday  however that you can't travel for “reasons of company”.
 
“Those who go to these people must go alone, it is not permitted to travel with other family members,” the statement reads.
 
Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP
Testing and quarantine:

What kind of test do I need to take, and when?

The new decree, signed on December 3rd, says that travellers to Italy between December 10-20th must be able to show the airline or other travel provider a negative test result from within the past 48 hours before beginning their journey. 

Either PCR or antigen swab tests are accepted, but not antibody (blood) tests.

See more details on the new testing rules in a separate article here.

The requirement applies to people departing from all countries in the EU or the Schengen Zone, as well as the UK. It applies to anyone who has stayed or transited through one of these countries at any point in the past 14 days. 

Those who are unable to produce a negative test result will have to observe a two-week quarantine.

The testing requirement is replaced with mandatory quarantine for all arrivals on December 21st.

How long is the quarantine period? 

The decree text states (under article 8) that the quarantine period is 14 days.

If I arrive on December 23rd, do I still have to quarantine if I can show a negative test result?
 
All arrivals from overseas between December 21 to January 6th will have to quarantine, regardless of test results.

If I have to quarantine, can I stay at a hotel or use public transportation to get from the airport to my accommodation?

You would need to check with your hotel or accommodation provider whether it would be suitable for you to quarantine on their premises.

Upon arrival in Italy, you will have to complete a form (available here or from your airline) giving your contact details and the address in Italy where you plan to quarantine. 

You will need to organise your own transport from the airport without taking trains, buses, coaches or other public transport to reach your destination.

Once you're at your place of quarantine, you should not go outside unless there's an emergency, nor can you invite anyone over.

You are also required to inform the local health service, or ASL, so that they can monitor you. Depending on where you are, you should be able to do this by phone, email or by filling in a form online: consult your region's website for more information

Do the quarantine rules apply if I booked my flight to Italy before the restrictions were announced?

Yes, all those who return from abroad from December 21st-January 6th must remain in quarantine. 

A government note confirmed on Sunday that this includes those who had made plans before the new provisions came in.

What are the quarantine or testing rules after January 6th?

From December 21st to January 6th, all travellers to Italy (including returning Italian residents) must quarantine for 14 days. But what happens in you arrive after that?

READ ALSO: How Italy has revised its quarantine rules for travellers

As far as we know, EU travellers can go back to testing negative to avoid quarantine from January 7th until at least January 15th, when the current set of rules is due to expire.

Other questions:

How many people can we invite over for Christmas dinner?

While some other countries have set a number on how many people you're allowed to invite to Christmas dinner, in Italy there's no fixed rule.

Previous rules urged us not to have more than six people over at a time, but in the latest decree that has been upped to a strong recommendation not to host any guests at home at all.

“In private homes, it is strongly recommended not to receive anyone you do not live with, except for work reasons or situations of necessity or urgency,” the decree states. 

In his press conference introducing the new rules, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte acknowledged that “we can't go into people's homes and impose stringent limitations” – in other words, the police won't come knocking if they hear the strains of Christmas carols coming from your apartment a bit too loudly.

Instead the government is relying on people's sense of civic duty and concern for older relatives. Caution is “essential”, Conte said, “not only for us but to protect our loved ones, especially parents and grandparents”.

Can we travel to visit relatives in other regions?

Domestic travel will be limited, not only within the higher-risk zones classed as red or orange under Italy's tier system, but between any region from December 21st to January 6th, and between towns on Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year's Day.

READ ALSO: What are Italy's new rules for Christmas travel?

Unless you're officially resident in the same town or region in Italy as your friends and family, then, meeting up will be complicated – though Conte did say that people who usually split their time between two places, for example couples where one partner lives elsewhere for work, would be allowed to reunite.

The government travelled that you can travel to assist a relative who is “not self sufficient”, though not “for reasons of company”. If you travel to visit a relative who needs assistance, you should go alone – the government has warned against taking the whole family.

What will be open over Christmas?

Christmas celebrations in Italy usually take place mainly in the home as most businesses including bars and restaurants are on reduced opening hours, if not closed completely.

This year, even fewer things will be open: bars and restaurants are take-away only in orange and red zones, and even in yellow zones, where they're allowed to serve customers, they have to close at 6pm.

Will the 10pm curfew be lifted?

Italy's nightly 10pm-5am curfew has been extended throughout the holidays. Usually it runs until 5am, but to discourage New Year's Eve house parties it will be extended to 7am on January 1st.

SEE ALSO: The form you need to go out at night under Italy's national curfew

Will we be able to go to mass?

Apparently yes. Access to places of worship will take place “with organizational measures preventing gatherings of people, taking into account the size and characteristics of the place, and such as to guarantee visitors can maintain a distance of at least one meter between them”.

However the usual midnight mass is to be moved to around 8pm as Italy’s evening curfew remains in place over the holidays.

Is school restarting after the holidays?

Yes, although not all schools.

From January 7th 2021, “75% of the student population” in high schools will be allowed to go to class (the other 25% will continue with distance learning). In addition, universities will restart face-to-face lectures for first-year students and exams.

Note: Some rules may vary under local or regional restrictions in Italy. It is recommended that you also check the rules set by your town and region. Find out how to do that in a separate article here.
 
For further details on the current coronavirus restrictions in Italy, please see the Health Ministry's website (in English).
If I arrive on December 23rd, do I still have to quarantine if I can show a negative test result?

Member comments

  1. Yes, Clare..and you all are doing a great job of making a muddy situation, as transparent as possible. Most of the travel advisories, as you know, are for incomers, but, I can imagine that there are many others, like ourselves, who are hoping to leave Italy in these days. For our part, we have spent most of today telephoning for information. Functionaries at our provincial Prefettura, the seat of Italian government for Alessandria, told us that they had no idea, but suggested we call the office of the Region of Piemonte, where another impiegata, unable to offer any answers, gave us a number for the Ministero dell Estero. At that number, there is no response. So, while it may be true, that the national travel advisory website states that there is free, motivationless travel to some EU countries during this period there is no certainty that the police gatekeeper at Italy’s busiest international airport has been informed. I hope that The Local, and other would be travelers on this forum, will continue to share information garnered. Thanks, Toni

  2. Hi Toni, thanks for letting us know. The rules can vary from one region to another – as mentioned several time throughout the article – and the answers given are based on the national rules under the government’s emergency decree.

  3. As to the statement that:

    “Yes – there are no restrictions on leaving the country.

    Though there are travel restrictions in place in regions classed as red and orange zones, travelling out of or through these areas in order to leave the country is allowed. Remember to take a completed self-declaration form explaining your reasons for the trip if it requires travel through a red or orange zone.”

    We have been told by the police office at Malpensa airport, that ONLY travelers for work, necessity, study, health will be allowed to enter the airport to fly out of Italy.

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