‘Lost paperwork and changing rules: What it’s like to quarantine in Italy after arriving from the UK’

Some of those travelling from the UK recently say they’ve faced a string of bureaucratic problems and are now left ‘in no-man’s land’ while trying to follow Italy’s coronavirus quarantine rules.

‘Lost paperwork and changing rules: What it’s like to quarantine in Italy after arriving from the UK’
Almost all travellers to Italy are currently subject to quarantine as well as testing for coronavirus. Photo: Piero Cruciatti/AFP

Travel between Italy and the UK is anything but straightforward right now. Italy is still imposing tight restrictions on arrivals from the UK amid ongoing concern about a highly-contagious coronavirus variant first detected in England. Meanwhile, British authorities made all foreign holidays illegal from March 29th, with a fine of up to £5,000 for anyone travelling out of the UK without a “reasonable excuse”.

Essential travel is still possible, though some who have had to make trips recently say that even following quarantine restrictions back in Italy has been fraught with complications after the rules changed for UK arrivals last week.

EXPLAINED: Which travellers have to quarantine in Italy and for how long?

Julia Buckley, a British citizen who lives in Venice and recently had to travel to the UK for emergency reasons, told The Local she has encountered “an absurd ‘computer says no’ attitude” upon her return to Italy, despite her efforts “to do everything by the book”.

The day after Julia flew back to Venice from the UK on Sunday, April 4th, Italy’s government announced that it would be changing the quarantine rules for arrivals from the UK, cutting the required quarantine period from 14 days to five and changing the testing requirements.

“Obviously 14 days quarantine was required when I left, so I was prepared to do that,” Julia says, “but if the UK was moving to list C, I assumed my 14-day quarantine would be commuted to five plus a test.”

“It didn’t occur to me that it wouldn’t be.”

But the Veneto health authorities soon insisted that, as she’d arrived before the rule change came into effect on April 7th, her quarantine period “must be 14 days – and that, by law, I must test at the end of it.”

EXPLAINED: How has Italy changed its rules on travel from the UK?

Julia pointed out that the government’s decree itself doesn’t actually specify this.

“It talks about the UK being downgraded, not specific arrivals who come afterwards. But the ASL (Azienda Sanitaria Locale, or local health authority) told me “la legge non e’ retroattiva” (the law is not retroactive) and anyone who entered before April 7th must quarantine for 14 days.”

“I had also pointed out the original law was 14 days quarantine only – no test needed at the end of it.”

“At this point, the ASL said the 14-day test was now only voluntary, so they would “waive” it.”

Passengers at Manchester airport in the UK. Photo by Anthony Devlin/AFP

“A lawyer friend said their “la legge non e’ retroattiva” line is wrong, and he read the law as I did, but said that ASLs can impose their own rules on top of the national legislation so there was nothing I could really do.”

Julia added that 1500 (the Italian quarantine hotline) also told her the decision was up to the ASL.

“I’ve gone back and forth with the ASL – I even suggested doing five-day quarantine after the 7th, so eight days for me – which ended in them sending me a document saying that people breaking their 14-day quarantine are committing a ‘reato’ (offence).”

“I called the embassy, who said others have rung them, but they have no answer other than to say, keep calling 1500 and if enough people do they might do something to clarify this grey area.”

“I’ve complied with every rule,” she says. “It feels like we’ve been forgotten about.”


Julia says she’s now spending the 14-day quarantine in her cramped studio apartment, attempting to do yoga to relieve her chronic pain as she is not allowed to go out for exercise.

The ASL has meanwhile sent “documents for how to behave in quarantine, saying it was a legal requirement to read them and follow them.”

“I opened them – they are specifically headed as instructions for symptomatic people, and they are things like, I must take my temperature twice a day and write it down to tell the ASL if they ask me; I must promise to open all the windows and wash my hands every 20 minutes; I am not allowed to put out any raccolta differenziata (recycling). And if I break any of these rules, I could get a three-month jail sentence.”

On top of this, she says the ASL also lost the personal details she submitted to them ahead of being tested on arrival at the airport in Venice – and then accused her of breaking the law by not giving the information. (Travellers are required to give their contact information to the regional health authority upon arrival.)

“Of course, I signed up for this – I didn’t have any other option when I had to fly back,” Julia says. “But to keep us in 14-day quarantine after they’ve changed the rules for the UK seems an absurd ‘computer says no’ attitude.”

“From losing my details to changing the requirements, I feel like they’ve made it up as they go along.” 

Healthcare services are managed by local authorities around Italy under the country’s highly decentralised system

Each Italian region is also allowed to tighten the local emergency Covid-19 measures, meaning restrictions can vary significantly across Italy.

Here’s where to find the latest rules and contact information for each region.

For non-emergency information and assistance anywhere in Italy, you can also call the national, 24/7 coronavirus helpline on 1500.

Find more information about travelling to or from Italy on the Health Ministry’s website (in English). 

Member comments

  1. In a world where fear of this virus is still great and rules are constantly changing, it is easier for those having to implement them to stick to the ‘letter of the law’. Every exception is a risk, so easier to have follow the “computer says no’. I returned to the UK just over 2 weeks ago and had a call everyday by someone wanting to check i was quarantining. They all read off a script and some sounded like there had been a death in their family…thankfully some were quite cheery and human.

  2. As Julia was prepared to go into 14 days of quarantine on her return, I do not see the problem. Yes I understand that the rules (law) has now changed but no democratic country is able to retrospectively bring in any law, that would be shambolic.

  3. Sounds so familiar… and the document they share is so generic and not even updated from 14 to 5 day quarantine. Also, they treat us like we’re a real threat, not caring we came from a much safer country at the moment. They should really follow the EU color coding per country…

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Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”