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What Brexit has changed for British visitors to Italy

As Covid-related travel restrictions are now being eased, summer 2021 is likely to mark the first post-Brexit trip to Italy for many Brits. Here's what you need to know about what has changed.

What Brexit has changed for British visitors to Italy
Italy has started welcoming back British tourists, but some things have changed. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

British tourists can now return to Italy without needing to quarantine after the country on Friday scrapped restrictions in place since late 2020.

But, as well as pandemic-related travel rules, British travellers will need to be aware of other changes if their last visit was before the Brexit transition period ended (on January 1st 2021).

READ ALSO: What are the rules on driving between Italy and the UK right now?

While those who are just visiting are spared the Brexit bureaucracy faced by Italy’s British residents (such as with driving licences and residency cards) there are some things to keep in mind when planning a trip.

Passports

Your British passport of course remains a valid travel document, even if it no longer makes you a citizen of the EU. However, two things have changed.

Firstly, your passport now needs to have at least six months of validity left for travel into the EU.

Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

Secondly your passport is likely to be stamped as you enter Italy, so that authorities can see clearly your date of entry.

The passports of Brits who are permanent residents in Italy should not be stamped but they will need to show proof of residency such as a carta di soggiorno, a receipt acknowledging the application for the carta di soggiorno or other paperwork that shows proof of residency – here’s what to do if your passport is stamped in error.

Visas

If you are entering Italy for a short holiday, visit to family or friends, or trip to a second home you do not need a visa. 

However if you are moving to Italy to live or intending to stay longer than 90 days you will need either a visa or a residency permit. (find out about the visas available to Brits HERE).

If you’re coming to Italy to work, you may need both a visa and a work permit depending on the type and duration of your work.

Italy is thankfully not actually locking up Brits who don’t have the correct paperwork, unlike the Italian and other EU nationals detained in UK detention centres, but there are still checks and you may be turned back at the border if you try to enter Italy for a longer stay without the correct paperwork.

Extra paperwork

When entering Italy as a non-EU national you may now be asked to provide more documents at the border.

While enforcement varies, border guards have the right to request any of the following:

  • Proof of accommodation during your stay (booking for hotel, Airbnb or B&B for tourists, second-home owners may need to provide proof of ownership)
  • A return ticket or the means to acquire one
  • Insurance that covers health costs and the cost of repatriation if required (see health cover section below)
  • If you are transiting through Italy you may be asked for proof of your right to enter your final destination

Registering British guests on arrival

You may have seen reports that anyone who is hosting a British guest in their home has to register their presence with the Italian police.

This is true and, in fact, it’s  not a new rule – it has long been in place for non-EU nationals entering Italy.

READ ALSO: Do you really need to register British visitors with the police in Italy?

“If you host a UK national (or any non-EU national) as a guest, you must inform your local immigration office (questura) within 48 hours after they arrive at your property. You could be fined if you fail to comply with this Italian immigration law,” the British government website states.

The UK government’s advice for British nationals living in Italy confirms that Brits now join Americans, Australians, and anyone else not from an EU member state or the Schengen travel zone in being legally required to declare their presence in Italy to the Italian authorities – even if they’re only here for a brief visit.

While the British government advises people living in Italy to register guests with the questura, there is some confusion about the rules as the Italian police website appears to say that it’s enough for arrivals to get a passport stamp at the Italian border.

The Local has requested clarification on the rules and the registration process from the British Embassy in Rome.

If you’re staying in a hotel, the registration procedure will be taken care of for you.

This rule applies for stays of under three months. Anyone who stays for longer than that must apply for a residence permit.

90-day rule

With the ending of freedom of movement comes the 90-day rule, which states that out of every 180 days, Brits can only spend 90 of them within the EU without a visa or residency permit.

You can find an explanation of how it works HERE, but essentially it limits trips into the Schengen zone to 90 days out of every 180. People who want to stay longer than 90 days in every 180 must apply for a visa (find out about the visas available to Brits HERE).

READER QUESTIONS:

You can find the Schengen calculator that allows you to work out our allowance here.

It’s worth pointing out that the 90-day limit applies to the whole EU and Schengen zone, not just Italy. 

Health cover

In case you need healthcare while in Italy you will need either an EHIC or a GHIC health insurance card.

Be aware, however, that those only cover emergency care and do not include the cost of things like repatriation. 

If you are travelling without a visa or residency card you may need to show proof that you have cover for repatriation costs, but this can be through either health insurance or travel insurance. There is no requirement for a separate health insurance policy to enter Italy.

Photo by Jure Makovec / AFP

Driving licences and car insurance

While British residents in Italy have been told they need to exchange their driving licences due to Brexit, there is better news for visitors – you can continue to drive on your UK or NI licence in Italy and there is no need for an International Drivers’ Permit.

Depending on your insurance provider, you may need to get a Green Card to drive in Italy, so check with your policy provider before travel.

Ham sandwiches and other British delicacies

There are now strict rules on what products you can bring into the EU from the UK, which rule out almost all animal products (meat, fish, dairy etc) as well as flowers and plants.

These restrictions are not due to customs tariffs, but come under what is known as sanitary and phytosanitary rules – measures that aim to protect humans, animals, and plants from diseases, pests, or contaminants.

As with most Brexit regulations, these are not new rules – it is just the first time that people or goods arriving from the UK have been affected by them.

Find the full list of banned items here.

Pets

It’s not just people who now face stricter travel rules: the European Pet Passport is no longer valid for UK-dwelling pets to travel into Italy. 

Instead, you will need to see your vet ahead of your trip to get an Animal Health Certificate. Unlike the Pet Passport, a new AHC is required for every trip.

For all the latest information and updates from Italy, see our Travel or Brexit sections.

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TOURISM

OPINION: Why Italy should let the rich pay for ‘private moments’ at tourist hotspots

Instead of criticizing actor Jason Momoa over his VIP visit to the Sistine Chapel, Italy should encourage wealthy visitors to pay large sums for such experiences, says Silvia Marchetti.

OPINION: Why Italy should let the rich pay for ‘private moments’ at tourist hotspots

Signing a generous cheque in order to enjoy a private, exclusive moment – without crowds – at the Colosseum, the Pantheon, or sitting on the Spanish Steps should not be seen as scandalous nor outrageous.

Imagine taking in the view of the Trevi Fountain at sunset, by yourself in a deserted Rome, after having splashed out ten or hundreds of thousands of euros, just to see the sun go down and relax for an hour.

READ ALSO: ‘I love Italy’: Jason Momoa apologises over Sistine Chapel photos

The big fuss over American actor Jason Momoa taking pictures of the Sistine Chapel recently during his Roman stay while shooting his next movie has raised eyebrows worldwide and caused much ado about nothing. It even made global headlines.

The main complaint was that the actor had been granted the privilege of taking photos. in spite of the ‘no-photo’ ban, which many said apparently applied only to ‘ordinary people’.

Personally, I don’t see what the big deal is about Momoa’s not-so intimate moment in the Sistine Chapel.

We Italians tend to look down on tourists who are constantly grabbing their camera to take pictures. We consider our artistic heritage untouchable, or in a way, non-reproducible through photography. 

But Momoa was not committing a crime. 

He later apologized, and explained that he had paid for an exclusive “private moment” by giving the Vatican Museums a large donation.

I think this is something positive: a ‘mechanism’ that could be exploited to raise cash for city coffers and urban projects – instead of raising local taxes that weigh on Italian families.

Rome, and all other Italian cities, should rent out such locations for events – even for just one night, or one hour – in exchange for a high fee.

The rich and famous would be more than happy to pay for such an opportunity to enjoy Italy’s grandeur. As would ordinary people who may decide they can afford it for a special occasion.

These are solo, one-in-a-lifetime experiences in top sites, and must be adequately paid for. 

Rome’s Colosseum in February 2021. Lower visitor numbers amid the Covid-19 pandemic meant Italian residents were able to see the country’s major attractions without the crowds. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

Italy is packed with historical, artistic and archeological gems that the entire world envies, people flock here just for a selfie in front of the Looming Tower of Pisa.

So why not make a leap forward and raise the bar for ‘private moments’; something Momoa, despite the unknown sum of money he paid, did not even actually get.

I’m not suggesting Italian cities lease monuments for weeks or months, for they belong to all humanity and everyone has a right to enjoy them. But allowing exclusive, short private experiences at Pompeii, or Verona’s arena, or just time to stare at Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus or Michelangelo’s The Last Judgement, should be seen as a source of extra revenue, not a taboo.

Italy should economically exploit its infinite artistic treasures as a powerful money maker, unleashing the full potential of it. 

If offered the chance, I think Elon Musk would not mind paying hundreds of thousands of euros, or even millions, for a private corporate cocktail party at the Colosseum.

OPINION: Italy must update its image if it wants a new kind of tourism

Of course, you’d need rules: a strict contract with specific clauses in case of damage or guest misbehavior; a detailed price list; and surveillance to safeguard the site during the private event. And extremely high fines if any clause is breached.

It’s a matter of looking at a city from a business and marketing perspective, not just a touristic one.

Today you can already take a private tour of the Vatican Museums for a higher ticket price, but it’s mostly for groups of 10 people, and there’s always a guide with you. You’re never really ‘still’ in your favorite room, so forget having a completely ‘private moment’.  

Taking photos inside the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel is usually forbidden, except for members of the media with special permission and, apparently, celebrities. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

One model city to take as reference is Florence, which in the past few years has done a good job of promoting the city brand.

The mayor’s office has set up a special committee that rents out Renaissance piazzas for private wedding celebrations and birthday parties, as well as several key historical spots like the Giardino delle Rose, and Palazzo Vecchio, the historical headquarters of the town hall.

There is an online menu with all the locations available for weddings and other private events, depending on the number of guests and type of celebration. 

Those interested should contact the town hall’s special ‘wedding task force’ if they want to book frescoed rooms in ancient palazzos or other buildings owned by local authorities. Last time I enquired, some elegant rooms are available to hire for as little as €5,000.

Would you pay big money to have major attractions, such as Rome’s Colosseum, all to yourself? Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

Venice, too, has attempted to raise cash by renting the façades of public buildings overlooking the Canal Grande to global fashion brands for advertisements, but the move raised eyebrows among locals. 

Even in Florence, residents weren’t so pleased to see huge, lavish billionaire Indian weddings celebrated in front of their palazzi, blocking access to their homes.

Italians need to reset their mentality. If anyone is willing to pay big money to enjoy the solo thrill of a site or location, we should be more than happy to allow it. 

As a result, we might end up paying lower city taxes for waste removal, water and other services. Every day, for free, we share the Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navona with masses of noisy, coin-throwing, gelato-slurping tourists; why not occasionally accept a generous donation from a VIP or philanthropist eager to pay for a moment alone in the company of Bramante and Brunelleschi? 

We would only be helping our cities to maintain their artistic heritage, which fills us with pride.

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