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COVID-19 TESTS

How tourists and visitors can get a coronavirus test in Italy

Here's how non-residents can get a Covid test while they are in Italy.

How tourists and visitors can get a coronavirus test in Italy
Photo: PIERRE TEYSSOT / AFP

As of the beginning of March 2022, Italy is allowing arrivals to enter the country with just a negative test result after requiring both a test and proof of vaccination or recovery for many months.

READ ALSO: How Italy’s travel rules changed in March

But once in the country, the testing requirements don’t stop there – particularly if you’re unvaccinated.

You may need to test while in Italy for return or onward travel, depending on the rules of the country you’ll be travelling to. And until at least May 1st, you’ll also need to show proof of vaccination in order to access many venues and services within the country if you don’t have valid proof of vaccination or recovery.

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

Test types

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 at certain pharmacies and at testing centres.
  • 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 can be administered in most pharmacies and may not require an appointment. 
  • Home-testing kit (autotest or test fai da te) – These are also available in Italian pharmacies, and at around 10 euros cost much less than other options, though the results are not considered valid for either green pass or travel purposes. If you take one which comes back positive you should get the result confirmed with a PCR test.

How and when 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 than it was earlier in the pandemic.

The most common reason visitors will have for getting tested now is in order to access Italy’s ‘green pass‘ health certificate.

Italy has recently eased its health pass requirements meaning those who are not vaccinated can access more venues with only proof of a negative test result.

If you’re in Italy for a longer stay bear in mind that you will need to be tested every couple of days to retain access to a valid green pass.

Passes issued based on the results of PCR tests are valid for 72 hours (from the time of testing). For rapid tests, the validity period is 48 hours.

Photo: Gianluca Chininea/AFP

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 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.

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?

The service is now becoming widely available in English. Try searching “tampone Covid certificato in inglese” plus the name of your town to find 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 some English, but check out our guide to Italian testing vocab here.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Nine things to know if you’re visiting Italy in December

From strikes and public holiday dates to the best Christmas markets and Italian festive treats, here are some things to know if you’re planning to visit Italy in December.

Nine things to know if you’re visiting Italy in December

December in Italy is nothing short of magical. Most cities light up with twinkling displays and local life is energised by enchanting Christmas markets, which turn even the most ordinary of urban landscapes into a cheerful wonderland. 

READ ALSO: Lights out: How Christmas in Italy will be different this year

So if you’re planning on travelling to (or around) Italy in December, here are a few things you should know before you go.

No travel restrictions

People who travelled to Italy last December were required to show proof of Covid vaccination, recent recovery from the virus or a negative molecular (PCR) or antigen test result in order to enter the country.

The above mandate expired on May 31st, which means that travel to the bel paese for any reason, including tourism, is no longer tethered to any health requirements.

As for the requirement for arrivals to complete an EU digital passenger locator form (dPLF), that was also scrapped last May.

Face masks required in healthcare settings

The requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport lapsed on Friday, September 30th.

However, Italy does still have a requirement to wear face masks in all healthcare settings, including hospitals and care homes, until the end of the year.

So if you’re planning on paying a visit to a relative or friend who’s currently staying in one of the above facilities, you’ll have to wear a mask. 

Anyone refusing to comply with face mask rules can still face fines ranging from a minimum of €400 to a maximum of €1000.

Current quarantine rules 

Italy still requires anyone who tests positive for coronavirus while in the country to self-isolate, with the minimum isolation period currently standing at five days.

In order to exit quarantine, the infected person must be symptomless for at least two days, and must test negative to a molecular (PCR) or rapid antigen test at the end of that period.

Testing should be carried out at a registered pharmacy or testing centre as the results of home tests are not seen as valid for this purpose.

Should the patient continue to test positive, they must remain in isolation until they get a negative test result. However, the maximum length of the self-isolation period has now been cut to 14 days, down from 21.

National strike on December 2nd

Travel to, from and across Italy will continue to be disrupted by strikes during the last month of 2022. 

The demonstration that’s currently expected to create the greatest amount of disruption will take place on Friday, December 2nd and it’ll be a 24-hour national strike affecting airline and rail travel as well as some local public transport lines.

You can check the latest updates before your trip in The Local’s travel news section here.

Local public holidays 

Italy has three public holidays in December. Those are:

  • December 8th – Feast of the Immaculate Conception
  • December 25th – Christmas Day
  • December 26th – St Stephen’s Day (or Boxing Day in English-speaking countries)

As you might have already realised, December 24th (Christmas Eve) and December 31st (New Year’s Eve) are not official public holidays in Italy. However, most local companies do give their staff both days off as a gesture of goodwill. 

It’s worth noting that on all of the above-mentioned days the country will pretty much collectively stop, with all public offices and nearly all shops remaining shut. 

People walk across a Christmas market in downtown Milan as snow falls on December 8, 2021.

People walk across a Christmas market in downtown Milan as snow falls on December 8, 2021. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP.

Even transport services are usually very limited on the days in question, so, if you’re planning to visit around those dates, make sure to make all the necessary arrangements well in advance.

Christmas markets 

This Christmas looks set to be Italy’s first in two years without any Covid restrictions.

This means that the country’s traditional Christmas markets, a number of which were cancelled last year due to safety concerns, should be up and running again this December.

Italy’s most popular markets are located in Trentino-Alto Adige, the northern region bordering Switzerland and Austria – Bruneck, Bolzano and Brixen are all well known for their gleeful stalls.

That said, the northern mountain cities don’t claim complete ownership of Italy’s Christmas markets, as Rome, Perugia and Gubbio also have some of the best set-ups in the entire peninsula.

Galleries and museums’ special openings 

Most galleries and museums in the country tend to have special opening hours during the festive season, which means that you might be able to admire artworks by some of the most famous Italian painters and sculptors even on public holidays and as late as 10pm on some days.

For instance, in Venice, Palazzo Ducale, Museo Correr and Murano’s Museo del Vetro (Glass Museum) will be open every day (public holidays included) in December, with their doors remaining open to visitors until 9pm on some dates.

As always, you’re advised to check the websites of the museums you’re interested in visiting to know what they’ll offer visitors in December.

Christmas light in a street in Rome

Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

Christmas treats

The quality of Italy’s cuisine is no secret, but the country dishes out some of the best examples of its long culinary tradition over the Christmas holidays.

While the evening meal on Christmas Eve (known as ‘La Vigilia’) tends to be quite frugal, the Christmas Day meal is anything but.

READ ALSO: Six quirky Italian Christmas traditions you should know about

A pasta dish (tortellini, lasagne or baked pasta) is followed by a veal-, ox- or poultry-based second course accompanied by a variety of vegetables.

Finally, the festive meal is finished off with a scrumptious slice (more like, three or four for some) slice of panettone or pandoro.

Prosecco or another variety of sparkling wine is generally used to wash down all of the above.

Extravagant New Year celebrations

If you’ve never spent New Year’s Eve in Italy, you might be in for a surprise.

The Italians have a reputation for being a superstitious bunch, and some of the New Year customs can startle the uninitiated foreigner. 

READ ALSO: Red pants, smashed plates and bingo: Six reasons Italian New Year is awesome

Apart from wearing red underwear to fend off evil spirits and eating lentils by the bucketload to bring wealth and prosperity, some residents, especially in the south, throw crockery out of their windows to show that they’re ready for a new start in the new year.

An alternative tradition – which seems to be slightly more friendly towards passers-by – is crashing pots and pans together right by the front door to frighten away evil spirits.

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