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Reader question: Which Covid vaccines will Italy accept for tourists this summer?

As Italy plans to welcome back tourists this summer, some worry their Covid-19 vaccination won't get them over the border.

Reader question: Which Covid vaccines will Italy accept for tourists this summer?
Visitors by the Trevi Fountain in Rome. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

QUESTION: Italy says it will allow people who have been vaccinated to visit – will I be able to enter with the Moderna vaccine?

Italy has promised to “welcome back the world” this summer, starting with people who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

Frustratingly for those trying to finalize plans, the Italian government has not yet set a firm date for when vaccinated tourists can travel freely without quarantine – though ministers have hinted that it will be mid-May for travellers from the European Union, the UK or Israel, and June for visitors from the United States and other non-EU countries.

READ ALSO: How the Italian government has left tourists angry and confused about summer plans

This is in line with EU leaders’ promise to launch a travel pass valid across the entire bloc from next month, in the form of a digital certificate that shows you have either been fully vaccinated, have recently tested negative or have antibodies after recovering from Covid-19.

Italy’s equivalent, the certificato verde or “green pass”, is already valid for domestic travel when crossing in or out of regions that have been declared higher-risk orange or red zones (find a map of the zones currently in place here).

It’s essentially just a certificate issued by your local health authority or testing centre, either on paper or in digital form, but the idea ultimately is to create a uniform, scannable version that will also be usable abroad.

Passes issued in Italy will naturally show vaccination with one of the vaccines that are currently in use here: Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech (also called Comirnaty), AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria) or Johnson & Johnson (Janssen).

READ ALSO:

A passenger with a negative test result prepares to board a “Covid-free” train from Milan to Rome. Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

But what about people who have been vaccinated elsewhere?

“All 27 member states will accept, unconditionally, all those who are vaccinated with vaccines that are approved by the European Medicines Agency,” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said back in April.

Italy confirmed in its last emergency decree that “certificates issued in a third country following a vaccination recognised in the European Union and validated by a Union member state” can be used for travel within Italy just the same as Italian certificates.

READ ALSO: ‘Our tickets are booked’: the Americans who can’t wait to return to Italy

The European Medicines Agency has so far cleared four vaccines, all of which are in use in Italy (Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson).

It is currently reviewing four more: the Chinese vaccine Sinovac, German-made CureVac, American candidate Novavax, and Russia’s Sputnik vaccine. These will be approved if they stand up to the regulator’s requirements, but at present they are not in use anywhere within the EU. (Sputnik is currently in use in San Marino, which despite lying within Italy’s borders is neither part of Italy nor the EU.)

You can check which vaccines the EMA has authorised via its website

Whichever vaccine you get, for travel purposes you’ll need to have received all the doses required for full protection – so two shots for Moderna, Pfizer or AstraZeneca, and one for Johnson & Johnson.

The Italian government is expected to give further details about its plans to restart travel in the coming days.

Stay up to date with Italy’s travel rules by following The Local’s travel section and checking the Italian Health Ministry’s website (in English).

Member comments

  1. Delta and Alitalia have plans to return daily service and additional routes, starting the end of May. Light at the end of the tunnel, I think a semi summer is ahead!

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OPINION & ANALYSIS

OPINION: Why more of Italy’s top destinations must limit tourist numbers

A growing number of Italian destinations are bringing in rules aimed at controlling the summer crowds. Such measures often prove controversial - but they should go further, says Silvia Marchetti.

OPINION: Why more of Italy’s top destinations must limit tourist numbers

Each summer, as tourists flock to Italy, the question of limiting crowds and ensuring sustainable travel comes up. Especially so with Covid.

Placing a threshold on the number of visitors to some of Italy’s top spots has a two-fold goal: that of preserving the artistic and cultural value of the site, and of preventing out-of-control mass tourism from leading to accidents.

READ ALSO: MAP: Which parts of Italy will get the most tourism this summer?

Proposed crowd-control measures usually raise eyebrows, but they shouldn’t. They’re a good way to balance sustainability, and existing rules should be extended to more hotspots.

The Cinque Terre park, known for its stunning hiking trails connecting the area’s cliffhanging fishing villages, has introduced summer tourist limits to preserve its delicate ecosystem. A few parts of the trails, like the Lovers Path connecting Manarola to Riomaggiore, are closed due to soil erosion and landslides.

Groups of no more than 15 hikers are allowed inside the Cinque Terre park in rotation, and there’s a cap of 200 available boat tickets for those preferring to admire the views comfortably from sea while bathing.

Liguria remains a popular destination for visitors coming to Italy this summer.

The Cinque Terre remain a popular destination for visitors coming to Italy, attracting huge crowds. MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

Many locations across Italy are reverting to, or are considering, some kind of restricted access to offset high demand with ‘green’, safe travel. 

The Amalfi coast has a summertime limit on driving along the route connecting Positano to Vietri sul Mare to ease congestion, while a few years ago the mayor even banned tourist selfies to stop massive crowds of people invading the whitewashed alleys and sitting on brick walls.

There are currently strict limits on the number of people allowed to visit the Tuscan archipelago national park each summer, mainly the protected islands of Montecristo (uninhabited other than a caretaker), and the two prison islands of Gorgona and Pianosa (boasting a hotel run by inmates on probation). A maximum of 150-200 tourists are admitted annually to each of these isles.

You also need to move fast if you want to spend a weekend in Sardinia, touring its tropical-like baby powder beaches and paradise isles. The number of restrictions in place is on the rise.

On Budelli island, the pearl of the La Maddalena archipelago, other than the pink coral beach, the Cavalieri beach is also now totally off limits, meaning landing on the entire island is forbidden.

READ ALSO: MAP: Which regions of Italy have the most Blue Flag beaches?

The beaches of Lu Impostu and Brandinchi along San Teodoro’s coast will allow just 1500 and 3300 sunbathers each, while Stintino’s popular La Pelosa beach allows 1500, making tourists pay €3.50 per day and wear a yellow bracelet for identification.

The paradise archipelago of La Maddalena is seeing more tourist restrictions imposed. Photo by Leon Rohrwild on Unsplash

The abandoned former prison island of Santo Stefano, off Rome’s coast, which is part of a protected marine park brimming with barracudas and groupers, is currently undergoing a transformation into an open-air museum with a tiny hostel. Project managers have already pledged daily tourism will be “contained”’ to preserve the unique habitat.

In the mountains too, authorities are eyeing tougher limits. At Lago di Braies in the Dolomites, 14 tourists recently fell into the freezing water trying to take awesome, but silly, selfies of their acrobatic skills despite warning signs.

READ ALSO: TRAVEL: Why now’s the best time to discover Italy’s secret lakes and mountains

In my view, all of Italy’s tourist hotspots should have some kind of regulation and police patrols, including top city highlights like the Trevi Fountain, Florence’s Duomo, and Venice, which in fact is expected to become Italy’s first city with a tourist limit from January 2023. People will have to book and buy a special pass to see the canals, bridges and piazzas.

If Venice succeeds in doing this, then it will show other cities that they too can control access to at least their biggest hotspots.

In Rome, the Pantheon has done a great job in introducing mandatory (but free) reservations on weekends, putting a stop to visitors just stepping inside to take a peek.

READ ALSO: Ten ways to save money on your trip to Italy this summer

The Fontana di Trevi, Piazza Navona and especially Piazza di Spagna should be more heavily patrolled, and Rome authorities should really consider a set tourist limit.

But just the idea is controversial, seen as a no-no depriving tourists of the thrill of throwing coins inside Rome’s iconic fountain to make a wish.

The Trevi fountain in Rome attracts a constant stream of tourists. (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP)

There is a constant, sterile discussion within the city council and the national arts department on tougher regulations and limited entrances to Rome’s main sites.

Culture minister Dario Franceschini is pushing for a more sustainable ‘fountain experience’ that limits crowds and prevents heat-struck visitors from diving inside. He recently argued that allowing “1,000 or 100,000 visitors in front of the Trevi fountain” puts both them and the masterpiece at risk.

Ugly red tape, orange nets and rusty fences are occasionally placed around the Trevi Fountain without much of an outcome.

There are architectural barriers to stop people from sitting on the edges and dangling their feet inside the water at Fontana delle Tartarughe and Bernini’s Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi in Piazza Navona, but it’s not enough. 

Setting a daily cap on visitors is the best solution; even better than introducing a ticketing system, because any tourist, once in the Eternal City, would pay to get in, and it would not be fair to discriminate based on money.

After all, if Italian universities can restrict enrollment for medical students, when new doctors are vital during Covid, I see no reason why tourist attractions can’t set limits when their own survival is at stake.

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