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EXPLAINED: The latest rules for visiting bars and restaurants in Italy

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EXPLAINED: The latest rules for visiting bars and restaurants in Italy
People have a lunch at a restaurant in Pantheon square in downtown Rome on April 26, 2021. - Bars, restaurants, cinemas and concert halls will partially reopen across Italy on April 26 in a boost for coronavirus-hit businesses, as parliament debates the government's 220-billion-euro ($266-billion) EU-funded recovery plan. After months of stop-start restrictions imposed to manage its second and third waves of Covid-19, Italy hopes this latest easing will mark the start of something like a normal summer. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)

How many people to a table? When is closing time? And can you order your espresso at the bar? As restaurants, bars and cafes across Italy reopen, here's a guide to the latest rules.


Dining out in Covid times takes some planning.

Italy continues to announce new changes to the rules for restaurants and other business as vaccinations pick up and infection numbers fall, with further concessions planned for next month.

READ ALSO: Italy’s new timetable for easing Covid-19 restrictions

While restaurants are now back to serving customers in almost every part of the country, safety measures remain in place. 

Here's a primer on the latest regulations. 


Are restaurants open everywhere in Italy?

Yes - with all 20 of Italy's regions now "yellow zones", you can eat out almost everywhere in Italy.

READ ALSO: All of Italy’s regions now ‘low risk’, health ministry says

In yellow zones, the second-lowest of Italy's four tiers of coronavirus restrictions, bars, restaurants, bakeries, pizza parlours, gelaterias, enotecas and any other establishments are once more allowed to serve customers on the premises.

Indoors or outdoors?

Currently bars and restaurants in Italy are only permitted to serve customers outdoors, not inside.

But that's set to change from June 1st, when indoor dining will be allowed once more.

Until then, many establishments have set up improvised outdoor seating on pavements or in parking spaces, and tables are often limited – so it's worth reserving ahead of time if you want to be sure of getting a spot. Check the weather forecast too, as outdoor tables with rain or sun shelter may be in high demand.


How late are restaurants open?

Bars and restaurants are allowed to serve outdoors until Italy's nightly curfew begins. It was pushed back this week from 10pm to 11pm, which gives you an extra hour to eat but may require an earlier start than usual if you're planning to fit in an antipasto, primo and secondo and still have time for a dolce

Once indoor dining resumes next month, it will be subject to the same closing time.

Meanwhile all establishments are allowed to begin serving as soon as curfew ends at 5am.

The curfew will be extended to midnight from June 7th, and scrapped altogether from June 21st.

There will also be further changes to Italy's regional rules in the coming weeks, with regions classed as lowest-risk "white zones" free to relax the rules on dining further if they choose.

MAP: Which parts of Italy will be Covid-19 ‘white zones’ in June?

Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

How many people can sit at the same table?

Under current rules, no more than four people are allowed to share a table, and each table is supposed to be at least one metre away from the next or separated from it by a divider. 

More of you can sit together if you all share the same house (or say you do, though we don't encourage you to lie).

The government has not yet said when it plans to revise those rules, but from June 15th it will allow large groups to eat together at weddings and other celebrations – including indoors – provided that all guests have been vaccinated or tested for Covid-19.

Can I drink my coffee at the counter?

Not in most cases, since bars are only allowed to serve their patrons outside and at tables for social distancing purposes.

READ ALSO: ‘An attack on tradition’: Italian bar owners protest rule against drinking coffee at the counter

But if you get your espresso at one of Italy's many outdoor kiosk bars, you are allowed to drink it standing at the counter, the Interior Ministry clarified in a recent circular

A kiosk bar in Rome back in 2016. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

Regular bars can go back to serving coffee al banco when indoor dining resumes on June 1st.

Can I go inside to use the toilet?

Yes – you may not be allowed to eat or drink inside, but the rules say you are allowed to go in briefly to use the bathroom, settle the bill, pick up takeaway and so forth. Just remember to put your face mask back on.

When is takeaway allowed?

Despite extending the hours for dining in, the government has kept its previous time limit on picking up takeaway (asporto) from restaurants, which is only allowed until 6pm.

However, you can still order in for delivery to your door (consegna a domicilio) whenever you like. 



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