EXPLAINED: What are the rules on travel between Italy and the UK?

With two different sets of coronavirus measures to navigate, plus new restrictions due to Brexit, travel between the UK and Italy is anything but simple right now. Here's what you need to know about the current rules.

EXPLAINED: What are the rules on travel between Italy and the UK?
Travel between the UK and Italy is heavily restricted due to coronavirus rules as well as Brexit. Photo: Niklas Hallen/AFP

EXPLAINED: Who can travel to Italy right now?

Here’s a detailed look at the current rules on travel between the two countries.

Travel to Italy from the UK:

(See the bottom of the page for information on travel to the UK from Italy)

Italy was among the countries which closed their borders to travellers from the UK in late December during the 'mutant Covid' scare.

Entry to Italy is still not allowed if you have been in or transited through the UK within the past 14 days, with the exception of those who are legally resident in Italy – whether or not they are Italian citizens – and those with essential reasons for travel, such as for work.

“Until March 5th, entry into Italy from the UK is currently only permitted for those with official residency in Italy or those with absolute necessity, which must be declared in writing,” the UK government’s website states.

Those allowed to enter Italy from the UK will be required to take two coronavirus tests – one before and one after the flight – and to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine after arriving in Italy.

What proof of residency is needed?

“If you are a UK national resident in Italy, we advise carrying proof of your residence when entering Italy,” the UK government states on its website, without giving further details.

The Italian government has not specified which documents are required to prove residency, leading to some confusion.

“Our advice is to carry your passport and an attestazione of registration in the anagrafe,” Citizens’ rights group British in Italy told The Local. 

This could be your residency certificate or the 'WA attestazione' form.

“If you are resident but do not have an attestazione yet because you only arrived recently, then take as much proof of residence as possible – employment contract, letting agreement, airline tickets, utility bills, etc,” British in Italy advised.

Italy's British residents cannot use their Italian ID cards as travel documents..

Some residents of Italy have reported being barred from boarding flights from the UK to Italy, apparently due to confusion among airlines about the paperwork required to prove Italian residency.

The British government recommends that travellers check requirements with their airline before flying.

Coronavirus testing and quarantine requirements

Italy requires all arrivals from the UK to show a negative test result, taken no more than 72 hours before travel, as well as to undergo a second swab test on arrival in Italy, and a 14-day period of mandatory quarantine.

Those who are eligible to enter italy must be able to show two negative test results.

A molecular or antigen swab test must be carried out in the 72 hours prior to entering Italy, the Italian consulate in London stated.

Photo: AFP

If arriving in Italy by plane, another test needs to be carried out at the airport. If you travel by car you must contact the health authority in the region you are in to arrange a test.

“Whatever the result of the two swab tests, those arriving in Italy from the UK must also report to their local health authorities on arrival and must self-isolate for 14 days,”  the UK government website states.

“Everyone arriving in Italy must also call the Covid-19 helpline for the region you are travelling within 48 hours.”

All travellers to Italy also need to download and complete a self-declaration form from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before travel.

You must give this form to your airline or to the border police if you are stopped for checks.

Brexit rule changes

The UK government has chosen to end freedom of movement for people from the EU and therefore its own citizens as a result, so changes to travel rules began on January 1st 2021.

These changes impact certain passport validity, border checks, EHIC cards and of course entry requirements.

Before December 31st, British nationals could travel freely throughout Europe and only needed to make sure their passport was valid for the duration of their trip.

On its website, the UK government states that British residents of Italy now need to show proof that they live there.

“From 1 January 2021, UK Nationals, resident in Italy by 31 December 2020, will need to show proof of residence when re-entering Italy.”

“This could include an identity card, a registration certificate or a utility bill in your name.”

Passport rules and border checks

“From January 1st 2021, you must have at least six months left on an adult or child passport to travel to most countries in Europe (not including Ireland),” the UK government says.

This requirement “does not apply if you are entering or transiting” your EU country of residence, however. So Britons returning to their homes in France, Spain, Germany etc in the New Year should be able to enter if they have less than six months validity on their passport.

As a non-EEA national, different border checks will apply when travelling to other EU or Schengen area countries. You may need to show a return or onward ticket and that you have enough money for your stay.

READ ALSO: Do Britons returning to the EU need to worry if their passports are stamped?

“You may also have to use separate lanes from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens when queueing. Your passport may be stamped for visits to these countries,” the UK government says.

The British Embassy in Rome told British nationals resident in Italy to show residency documents if border officials attempt to stamp their passports.

Travel from Italy to the UK

If you’re travelling back to the UK from Italy, restrictions also apply.

The UK on January 8th announced a testing requirement for all arrivals.

The requirement covers all travellers into the country, including British citizens, with only a small number of exemptions. 

The test must have been taken in the 72 hours prior to travel.

One aspect of the regulation has caused concern among Brits in Italy this week and no doubt in other countries.

“Your test result must be in either English, French or Spanish. Translations will not be accepted, and you must provide the original test result certificate,” reads the government rule.

The British Embassy in Rome confirmed to The Local that results in Italian are not accepted.

READ ALSO: Travellers to UK told Covid test results cannot be in Italian

Photo: AFP

The Embassy spokesperson was not able to give any specific information about test centres providing English-language results in Italy, but recommended that travellers check this list of labs which deliver Covid-19 tests in Italy as well as the Italian Health Ministry website.

The UK government says the result must include the following information:

  • your name, which should match the name on your travel documents

  • your date of birth or age

  • the result of the test

  • the date the test sample was collected or received by the test provider

  • the name of the test provider and their contact details

  • the name of the test device

“If the test result does not include this information you may not be able to board, and may not be able to travel to England. If you arrive without a test result that includes this information, you will be committing a criminal offence and could receive a £500 fine.”

“Your test result can be provided as a physical, printed document, or via email or text message, which you can show on your phone. Make sure that your device is charged.”

For more information click here.

People arriving with a negative test result will still have to quarantine for 10 days after arrival, according to the government.

People arriving into the UK will still have to fill in the contact locator form before arriving at the border. You can find the form here.

Are there flights available?

Italy initially imposed a ban on all air traffic from the UK in response to the discovery of the new coronavirus variant in December. As a result, flights in both directions were cancelled.

The Italian government has since allowed flights to resume. However, with few people currently allowed to enter Italy from the UK, demand for flights is greatly reduced.

This means airlines are now operating a limited schedule on UK-Italy routes, and travellers report far higher prices than normal.

While it is possible to book flights, airlines are not allowing passengers to board flights from the UK to Italy if they do not meet the Italian entry requirements (see top of page).

Member comments

  1. No disrespect to Italy here but everyone in Italy knows full well that Italy does not do paperwork of any kind in anything except Italian. So…something is going to give, and I suspect the UK are going to need to google translate some Italian COVID-19 test results. I know that ‘negativo’ is a tricky word to decipher… oh my goodness!

    1. Actually one other reader suggested Synlab and we did our PCR test with them yesterday. They do offer the results in English for an additional €10 (total charge €60). Now to see if we can drive back to the UK over the next two day with that – hoping the French will let us through…

  2. PS: I am such a fan of this website. You have been a lifesaver to so many UK nationals who are Italian residents living and working here. Keep up the good work!

  3. Hi everyone,
    I am an Irish Citizen in the UK trying to reunite with my partner in Italy. I have been refused boarding. Do we know when there will be any light? I have a flight booked for 6 March but I am concerned that Italy will move the date again.
    Thank you for any advice!

  4. We are planning to drive to Italy in 2 weeks as we have residency (Attestazione di Iscrizione Anagrafica di Cittadino Dell’Unione Europea). We will have done a private PCR in the UK 72 hours before arrival, and we understand the need for a second Covid test on arrival but if we are quarantining how do we organise this? It suggests that we need to call our regional health authority on arrival – is the test delivered to us? we are happy to pay for a private one. We are living in Umbria. Thank you, Julia

    1. Yes you should call the Umbria health authority and they’ll organise a ‘drive-thru’ PCR test. We had ours booked and done in Perugia. In fact we had to do two as we were flying in from Brazil. What I found handy was to also to send them an email on the day of arrival containing an ‘auto dichiarazione COVID-19’ along with your phone number. In our case they rung as the next day. As you probably know there are hundreds of self-declaration forms flying about. We were given one on our flight into Italy which I then pinged to the address below. Google ‘covid_form_estero_ita.pdf as this form seems to ask for the most relevant info.
      The drive thru centre will ask for your Codice Fiscale and tessera sanitaria (we don’t have one but wasn’t a problem). email is [email protected]

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Frustration grows as UK driving licence holders in Italy wait in limbo

British nationals living in Italy are becoming increasingly concerned by the lack of news about a reciprocal driving licence agreement post-Brexit, and say the current 'catch-22' situation is adversely affecting their lives.

Frustration grows as UK driving licence holders in Italy wait in limbo

There is growing discontent among UK licence holders residing in Italy who are currently playing a waiting game on the validity of their driving licences.

Those who are driving in Italy on a UK-issued permit currently have just over six months left before their licence is no longer accepted on Italy’s roads.

READ ALSO: Driving licences: How does situation for Brits in Italy compare to rest of Europe?

That is, unless a deal is reached between the UK and Italy, or another extension period is granted.

Another extension would mark the third time the authorities have deferred making an agreement on UK driving licences in Italy.

When Britain left the EU at the end of 2020, British and Italian authorities hadn’t reached a reciprocal deal on driving licences.

However, UK licence holders living in Italy were granted a 12-month grace period in which they could continue to drive on their British licences in Italy.

With just days to go before the deadline in December 2021, those still using a UK licence were granted a reprieve when it was further extended for another 12 months until the end of 2022.

But the situation from January 1st, 2023, remains unknown.

In the remaining few months, British nationals driving in Italy who hadn’t converted their licence to an Italian one before January 1st, 2021 face the same choice again: wait and hope for an agreement or start the lengthy and costly process of taking their Italian driving test.

There is still no confirmation on reaching an agreement on driving licences. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Many UK nationals have contacted The Local recently to express their frustration, anger and concern over the situation, explaining how the possibility of not being to drive in Italy would profoundly impact their lives.

For some, it would mean not being able to get to work, losing their independence, not being to reach supermarkets for the food shop in remote areas, or not being able to take their children to school.

And in the meantime, many readers told us it means ongoing worry and uncertainty.

Reader David (not his real name), who moved to the southern region of Puglia shortly before Brexit hit, tells us he now finds himself in a “horrible catch-22 situation”.

He summed up the feeling among many of those who contacted The Local by saying: “It is highly concerning and not at all helpful for mental or physical health in a period when we are trying to settle in to a new life in Italy.”

He points out that, for him, retaking his driving test and getting an Italian licence would also mean having to sell his car and buy one with a less powerful engine.

“I realise that if I pass the Italian driving test and obtain an Italian licence, then I will be a neopatente (new driver) with three years of serious restrictions,” he says.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about getting an Italian driving licence post-Brexit

Newly administered licences in Italy carry restrictions including on the maximum engine size of the car the holder may drive, tighter speed limits on the motorway and extra penalty points for breaking them.

“In this situation, I am honestly dis-incentivised to get the Italian licence unless there seriously is a real ‘no deal’ scenario on the table,” he says.

“Because if I get an Italian licence now – and of course I could choose now to invest a lot of time and money to get it – and then an agreement is reached to exchange licenses, then I might find myself in a worse position than if I just waited to do an exchange.”

“I am sincerely hoping for an agreement to be reached for experienced drivers with a UK licence.”

James Appleton lives in Milan and says he feels “frustrated about the situation”. Although he concedes that he lives in the city with all the convenience that implies, he is worried about having a car sitting outside his flat that he can no longer drive from January.

“The frustration now is with little over six months left of the year, advice from the authorities has continued to be quite unhelpful,” he tells us.

“We keep hearing, ‘consider your options’. I know my options: I have to start the process of taking a test, which is expensive and lengthy, and which may turn out to be unnecessary, or wait until the end of the year. Those have been my options for year and a half,” he adds.

Frustration for many British nationals still waiting on a post-Brexit driving licence agreement. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

“I feel very much in limbo. If it gets to November and we still haven’t heard anything, I risk having a car that I can’t drive from January as my licence may no longer be valid.

My hope would be if there’s not to be a deal, let us know so there’s time to take the test,” James says. “I don’t want to find out with a week to go, like last year.”

He points to the fact that many other non-EU countries have reciprocal driving licence agreements with Italy, so why not the UK? Meanwhile, Italy is one of only two countries in the EU still not to have made a deal on driving licences.

While he said he didn’t want to sound “entitled”, the lack of clarity was simply confusing.

READ ALSO: Q&A: Your questions answered about driving in Italy on a British licence

Like many others, he tried but didn’t manage to convert his British licence in time as he moved to Italy shortly before the Brexit deadline.

James registered as a resident in December 2020, leaving little time to begin the conversion process. He admitted it was partly his fault “for not having realised the consequences of what was going to happen”.

But “there are some people in a position where it wasn’t so straightforward to convert your licence,” he notes.

This was true for another reader, who wished to remain anonymous. She tells us that she tried to begin the conversion of her UK driving licence three times in Imperia, where she lives, but was told to “wait and see what is decided”.

“No one has taken a note of my requests and attempts so I cannot prove my attempts to get this sorted or listed,” she says.

READ ALSO: How to import your car or motorbike to Italy

In her case, it would therefore be difficult to prove that she began the conversion process before January 1st, 2021.

She also faced setbacks when trying to convert her licence in time after applying for residency before Brexit.

On being told that she needed her final ID card (carta d’identità) proving her residence, she returned to her town hall but couldn’t get the card for another seven months due to no appointments being available.

“Then I couldn’t get the licence exchanged as the person dealing with this was not at work on the day I went. I had to fly back to UK then Covid restrictions kicked in, hampering travel and by then UK was out of Europe and the Italian/UK driver’s licence issues remained unsolved,” she added.

The question on a UK-Italy driving licence agreement rolls on. Photo by FABIO MUZZI / AFP

So is there any hope that an agreement will be reached and those driving on a UK licence won’t need to sit an Italian driving test?

At this point there are no indications as to whether a decision will be reached either way. The British government continues to advise licence holders to sit their Italian driving test, while also stating that they’re working on reaching a deal.

The latest update to the driving guidance on the British government’s ‘Living in Italy’ webpage in January states:

“If you were resident in Italy before 1 January 2022 you can use your valid UK licence until 31 December 2022,” however, “you must exchange your licence for an Italian one by 31 December 2022. You will need to take a driving test (in Italian).”

The guidance then states: “The British and Italian governments continue to negotiate long-term arrangements for exchanging driving licences without needing to take a test.”

So far, so much conflicting advice, as many readers point out.

Of those who have decided to take the plunge and sit the Italian driving test, some say it’s “not as difficult as it sounds” while others report having trouble with the highly technical questions in the theory test, not to mention the fact that the test has to be taken in Italian.

If you speak French or German better than Italian, the test may be available in those languages – but not in English.

READ ALSO: Getting your Italian driving licence: the language you need to pass your test

“My question is why can’t you take your driving test in English? Adding it as an option for taking the test would help,” says Njideka Nwachukwu, who moved to Italy in 2019. She failed the theory test and has to try again, at a further cost.

Even if you find taking the test a breeze, the process is known to take around six months – if you pass everything first time – and to set you back hundreds of euros.

At the time of writing, neither Italian nor British government officials have given any indication as to if or when a deal may be reached, or an explanation of why the two countries have not yet been able to reach an agreement.

Nor has any explanation been given as to why this important aspect of life in Italy was never protected under the Withdrawal Agreement in the first place.

When contacted by The Local recently for an update on the situation, the British Embassy in Rome stated: “rest assured the Embassy continues to prioritise the issue of UK driving licence validity in Italy and we continue to engage with the Italian government on this issue.”

The Local will continue to ask for updates regarding the use of British driving licences in Italy.

Thank you to everyone who contacted The Local to tell us how they are affected by this issue, including those we couldn’t feature in this article.

Find more information on the UK government website’s Living in Italy section.

See The Local’s latest Brexit-related news updates for UK nationals in Italy here.