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

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.

EXPLAINED: The latest rules for visiting bars and restaurants in Italy
Lunch outdoors in Rome. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

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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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”