EXPLAINED: How tourists and visitors can get a coronavirus test in Italy

EXPLAINED: How tourists and visitors can get a coronavirus test in Italy
If you're visiting Italy you may need to present a negative Covid test at the border, but chances are you will also need one to return to your home country. So here's how non-residents can get a Covid test while they are in Italy and how much you can expect to pay for one.

Many people entering Italy will need a negative Covid test taken within the previous 72 hours and there are also restrictions on travel from some countries – click here for details of Italy’s entry requirements.

Depending on your home country’s border policy you may also need a test to return home, with some countries also imposing quarantine on arrivals from Italy at the moment.

READ ALSO: Which countries can use a Covid health pass to avoid quarantine in Italy?

And, if you have to follow quarantine rules on arrival in Italy, you may also need to take a test at the end of your isolation period.

Here’s what you’ll need to know to get a coronavirus test in Italy:

Test types

If you’re getting tested for travel home, the type of test you need to take depends on your country’s border rules.

The following types of test are available in Italy:

  • PCR test – also called a molecular test, or in Italian simply un tampone (“a swab”) a nasal swab test performed in a testing centre with the swab sent off to a lab for processing and the results emailed out later (usually within 48 hours).
  • Antigen test (test antigene or test antigenico, or sometimes just tampone rapido, “fast swab”) – These tests are referred to as ‘lateral flow tests’ in some countries. This is also a nasal swab, but the results are given within 15 minutes of the test being taken. These are available in pharmacies and pop-up testing centres, most of which do not require an appointment. 
  • Home-testing kit (autotest or test fai da te) – These are also available in Italy, with kits on sale in supermarkets and pharmacies for around €10. They are rapid antigen tests that involve taking a nasal swab. The results are not considered official, and if they come back positive you should get them confirmed with a PCR test.

Different countries have different policies on the type of tests they will accept – all countries accept PCR tests but only some accept antigen tests and home testing kits are generally not accepted as a border requirement, so check your country’s testing policy carefully.

READ ALSO: What kind of coronavirus test do I need to take for travel to Italy?

Most countries say the test must have been taken within 72 hours of your journey, but again check the testing policy of your home country.

Photo: Gianluca Chininea/AFP

How to get tested

You can get a test for any reason in Italy, there is no limitation to only those with symptoms or contact cases, and getting tested here has become a lot easier over the past year.

If you need to get tested while in Italy because you suspect you may have Covid-19, you need to minimise your contact with anyone else.

The Italian health ministry says you should Isolate yourself where you’re staying and call a doctor, Italy’s nationwide Covid hotline (1500), or the regional helpline where you are (full list here) for assistance.

They will help you arrange an emergency test. Do not go to a medical centre or pharmacy in the meantime.

If you need to get a test at the end of a quarantine period after arriving in Italy, you will need either a molecular or antigenic swab test. In some regions of Italy there are rules stating that this must be organised by the local health authority (which you will need to report to when you arrive – see here for details).

You may also be allowed to get a test done privately. Provided you do not have symptoms, you are allowed to leave your accommodation the day after your quarantine ends (so on the 11th day if it was a 10-day quarantine) to get tested. 

If you need to get tested to access Italy’s ‘green pass‘, you’ll need to have tested negative via a molecular or rapid swab test within the previous 48 hours.

READ ALSO: Italy confirms it will recognise Covid certificates from five non-EU countries

If you simply need to get a test for travel, you have several options.

Tests can be carried out without a prescription at Italy’s airports, pharmacies, labs, testing centres, or even at your accommodation via private doctors such as Med in Action or Medelit.

If an antigen test is accepted by your country, you can find these at most pharmacies in Italy. 

Look out for signs saying ‘test Covid-19’ in the window. 

Most pharmacies offer testing without appointments, but some, especially the smaller ones, may require booking in advance. You can usually just walk in and make your reservation.

READ ALSO: The essential Italian phrases you need to know for getting tested and vaccinated

Photo by Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Many international airports in Italy, including Rome Fiumicino, Milan Malpensa, Venice, Florence, Pisa, Bari, Cagliari and others, have on-site Covid testing facilities. Tests are usually rapid antigen swabs, though others may be available, and fees range from around €20 (Florence and Pisa) to €50 (Milan). You can find further details on the relevant airport’s website.

At train stations in larger Italian cities you can also get tested for free at pop-up centres run by the Red Cross (Croce rossa). 

Their pop-up testing centres usually offer a rapid antigen test.

If you need a PCR test you will probably have to book one at a specialist Covid testing centre, a medical lab, health centre or doctor’s office. 

Will test results be in English?

Find a list of test centres that provide results in English here. The service is becoming more widely available, so try searching “tampone Covid certificato in inglese” plus the name of your town to find more places that offer it near you.

You can book directly by phone or email and most, if not all, should now be able to issue the test results in English if that’s a requirement under your home country’s rules.

While the EU has said that all test results should be issued in both the local language and English, some test centres may charge extra for a certificate in English. Check the terms with the facility before booking an appointment.

Italian tests give a certificate of results with a QR code as standard, so there is no need to request a special test or a fit-to-fly certificate.

If you’re in a tourist area it’s likely that staff at the vaccine centre will speak a bit of English, but check out our guide to Italian testing vocab here.


How much does it cost?

The Italian government has earmarked €14 million to bring down the cost of testing until the end of September, according to reports, but the price will vary depending on the rules set by the region you’re in, and molecular (PCR) tests are typically more expensive than rapid antigen swabs.

You can expect a rapid swab in private laboratories to cost up to €50 and a molecular swab around €100.

But this varies from region to region. The price is set at €15 for a rapid antigen swab in Emilia Romagna for instance, while in the Lazio region around Rome, antigen tests cost around €20 and a molecular test is around €60. House calls or same-day results can cost considerably more.

Self-testing kits are available in pharmacies and these you will have to pay for – the price is capped at €6. These are a useful diagnostic tool, but bear in mind that most countries don’t accept the results of self-test kits for travel purposes.

Member comments

  1. As a subscriber to The Local Italy I would like to share my personal experience of my arrival in Italy and my five days of self isolation which should be followed by a Covid Test. SHOULD BE! But where to go for that test having confirmed my presence in Italy? I believe that we have done everything possible to ensure that all instructions have been adhered to.

    • Travelled by car via France, leaving Eurotunnel UK on Tuesday Aug 10th, entered Italy via Frejus Tunnel on same day.
    • In possession of all required documents, including Vaccination certificate, Negative Covid tests performed on August 9th and EU Locator form.
    • At Frejus tunnel, no border staff present. Therefore no documents were requested.
    • Travelled directly to my second home address in Piemonte to self isolate for 5 days.
    • Wednesday August 11th, after three attempts to contact the Piemonte Health line by telephone (first attempt was terminated by operator abruptly ending the call), I managed to report my arrival into Italy for the previous day.
    • Telephone operator asked for name, date of arrival in Italy, date of birth, my telephone number and email address. Operator advised me that my arrival had been recorded and I would receive a telephone call that afternoon or the following morning, advising me the procedure for isolating and where to obtain a covid test for release from isolation.
    • It is now Friday afternoon August 13th, four days after arrival in Italy and NO TELEPHONE CALL FROM PIEMONTE HEALTH AUTHORITIES.
    I am now in the situation where I do not know when to end the five day self isolation period and where to visit to obtain a Covid test to be released the isolation period.

  2. So what would happen if you take the ‘Test to Fly’ and it comes back positive? Do you have to go to a ‘Covid Hotel’ to recover? Call the authorities? How do you ‘hand yourself in’ and does anyone know how much it costs to stay in one of these places? I have a group of students with mr returning to UK from Rome at the end of this month and although they have all tested negative so far….well, anything can happen in the next couple of weeks! It could happen to me (though I’ve been vaccinated)

  3. @Brad. Not so stupid when you consider you can still catch COVID-19 vaccinated or not and pass it onto others.

  4. It is true if you’re vaccinated you are less likely to become as ill compared to not being vaccinated, it still doesn’t stop you passing it onto others who are not vaccinated and the impact it has on them. It is a big call to say at this point, anyone who needed to be vaccinated have had their chance to do so.
    At this stage there are –
    36% fully vaccinated in Italy
    51% fully vaccinated UK
    48% fully vaccinated USA
    By the way it isn’t only about deaths, it is about having long covid as well and all the horrors that come with that.

  5. I am sorry to hear about your cousin. I do hope she eventually starts feeling better. I had a distant relative who was in their 20’s who died from it. I know it’s serious. I just simply think it must be recognized that the situation we face is not a choice between harmless restrictions and life saving restrictions. There are consequences for both. I won’t debate anymore either. I don’t want to take up more of your time. I just think it has become a political issue as much as a issue driven by public health which explains the ludicrous situation that it is easier for me as a US citizen to travel to Italy than it is for me to travel back to the US when the US has administered more 2 dose vaccines.

  6. I am pleased your aunt got over it in two months. Our cousin who is a doctor in the UK, in her 30’s fit and healthy no underlying health issues, got it and 15 months later, she says it is still like an elephant sitting on her chest. It was 6 months before she could go back to work and she struggled. COVID-19 isn’t a one size fits all.

    Your initial statement was about the stupidity of being tested with regard to flights. I am not going to get into a debate about covid vs flu, think the science speaks for itself and not going to debate keeping things open vs lockdowns.

  7. That’s frustrating particularly because it’s so unnecessary. At least we can travel but come on at this point.

  8. @Brad. Not so stupid when you consider you can still catch COVID-19 vaccinated or not and pass it onto others.

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