Tourists turned away from Italy’s restaurants and museums amid confusion over Covid ‘green pass’ rules

Tourists turned away from Italy’s restaurants and museums amid confusion over Covid ‘green pass' rules
Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
Italy has said it will recognise health certificates from several non-EU countries - but many of The Local’s readers visiting Italy at the moment report that theirs have been refused. Here’s why and what you can do if this happens to you.

The Italian government made its health pass mandatory to enter indoor restaurants, museums, concert venues, gyms, spas, theme parks and many other leisure and cultural sites across the country from August 6th.

Q&A: Your questions answered about Italy’s new Covid health pass

Medical proof of vaccination against Covid-19 issued in another EU country, or in Canada, Israel, Japan, the UK or the US should be accepted for green pass purposes throughout Italy, according to a recent health ministry ordinance.

But dozens of readers have contacted The Local to report that they’ve been turned away when attempting to use a health certificate from one of the five approved non-EU countries.

Of the readers we’ve heard from who said they had no trouble using their non-EU passes, the majority were in Rome or Milan and had used their documents when visiting major attractions such as the Colosseum or the Vatican Museums, where police are often helping staff to check documents.

Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

Elsewhere however, things don’t always seem to be working as smoothly.

From Sicily to Veneto, people have reported being turned away at bars, cafes, museums and more despite having proof of vaccination issued by an approved non-EU country.

“Multiple restaurants and museums immediately refuse entry when we are recognised as British as they know we don’t have access to the Green Pass,” said Carl Hunt in Tuscany.

EXPLAINED: How can you get Italy’s ‘green pass’ if you’re not vaccinated?

In many cases, the problem seems to be happening because business owners and staff simply aren’t aware of the rules.

Vincent Castro from the US said, “I am stationed in Naples with the navy and had trouble with local restaurants and Ikea not accepting my CDC card.”

Others have reported trying to use QR codes issued by states in the US or Canada and having them refused.

“I tried to use my vaccination certificate from Ontario, Canada to enter two restaurants in Rome. The staff said they could only accept an Italian green pass,” said reader Viviana. “They were not aware of any directives from the Italian government to accept vaccination certificates from Canada. I was able to eat at an outdoor table.”

In the case of the UK’s NHS certificate, another problem appears to be that business owners are attempting to scan the barcode using the Italian ‘green pass’ verification app, Verifica C-19.

“I went to a restaurant and they wouldn’t let me in because the local Italian app wouldn’t recognise the code. If restaurants are meant to accept the UK code without scanning it with the local app, lots don’t seem to know,” said David Hewson.

The Italian health ministry’s ordinance does not state that non-EU passes must be scanned – since some types (like the US CDC card) do not feature a QR code, and those that do (as in the case of the NHS app) are not compatible with the Italian system.

Visitors wait in line before showing their Covid-19 certificates to enter the Ancient Colosseum in central Rome. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

There has been considerable confusion about this, as business owners have been instructed not to let people in without a verified QR code and may not realise that there’s an exception for certain non-EU passes. 

EXPLAINED: What documents can non-EU visitors use as a Covid pass in Italy?

As they risk fines of up to 1,000 euros if they are found not to be enforcing the rules, no doubt many business owners are applying the rules cautiously.

“The restaurant staff were trying to use a green pass code reader to scan our NHS QR code. I told him that it wouldn’t work for non-EU codes. He eventually gave up and let us into the restaurant,” said Brian from the UK.

The problem could soon be solved for UK readers with the NHS pass, as a fix is reportedly in the works that would allow the Italian app to scan the UK code.

Several readers have reported that it is in fact already working for them after the second vaccination dose was registered.

But if your pass doesn’t have a QR code at all, what then?

“Some places have accepted my vaccination receipt from Canada. However, some places have a QR code reader on their smartphone and will only accept a green pass with the QR code,” said one reader who left an anonymous comment. 

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

“My double vaccination receipt from Canada doesn’t have one so I was denied entry. I’ve only experienced this so far at a Starbucks in Milan.”

US visitors from states which issue digital passes say they’ve had mixed results when trying to use them.

Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

“We visited the Domus Aurea and showed our New York State pass on the phone but it was not accepted, nor was a photo on the phone of the paper form. Only the paper would do, even though the NY pass is not forgeable, unlike the paper,” said Kevin Crowston.

“The NY pass was accepted by Swiss immigration, the Galleria Borghese and other museums, so perhaps we’d just been lucky before.”

READ ALSO:

For readers from all countries, the biggest problem appeared to be that people checking passes weren’t always aware of the rules.

Several readers have written in to say they are carrying around printed copies of the Italian health ministry’s ordinance with the relevant section highlighted, and pleading their case.

But when this tactic hasn’t worked, readers report missing out on planned trips and events.

While at restaurants you can simply sit outside instead, this is obviously not always a realistic option at the moment with a heatwave sweeping the country.

Some visitors have found they were left with no choice but to get tested during their trip in order to access the Italian green pass, despite being fully vaccinated.

EXPLAINED: What happens if I test positive for Covid-19 while visiting Italy?

Peter Grogan from the UK said he and his wife both have the NHS pass and it has so far “failed completely – with the same ‘Non valida’ result – on every occasion we have tried to use it since Friday.”

“We have a number of non-refundable bookings up to next Sunday and will have to do tests every 48 hours if we are not to be treated as undesirables. After that, we will have no choice but to go somewhere else.”

He also pointed out that tests are not always readily available, as there can be a wait for appointments at pharmacies where booking is required, as well as a wait for the result.

In some cases, people say they have cut their visits short due to the problems they’ve experienced.

“Only once in the past five days has a venue understood that they could accept my NHS certificate with my passport ID. I had a long wait at even the Accademia in Venice, which says on their website you can use it, before they let me in. I am now afraid to go out to eat knowing there will be a debate,” said reader John Giusti.

“I have decided to leave Italy for Austria tomorrow as it is just too difficult here right now.”

The Local will continue to follow any updates to the health rules closely. Please check our homepage for the most recent reports.


Member comments

  1. I’m trying to decide whether it’s worth it to try to get a green pass from my CDC (USA) vaccine card. It depends on how onerous it is to get my codice fiscale and then the green pass. And also whether indeed it’s still a problem using the CDC card where green passes are required. I’m a traveler, not a resident (although I’ll probably do a couple 1-month long trips this year). But I’m not spending time in the touristy places where the CDC cards are presumably now widely recognized (like major museums, Florence restaurants, etc.). Any updates from this month of people having problems using their CDC cards?

  2. I have been in Pesaro for the Rossini Opera Festival and have had no problems using the NHS covid certificate from the NHS app

  3. I believe you need to highlight Article 7 and show restaurants.. What I don’t understand you would think they would know the rules when they see angry tourists walking away. They do know that the Green Pass is not available to non Europeans. C_17_notizie_5580_0_file (1).pdf

  4. The VerificaC19 app works well with the UK NHS Covid pass, but you have to scan the QR code for your SECOND vaccination. It won’t accept the QR code for the first vaccination. You can download VerificaC19 from the App Store in advance and try it for yourself (and show it to the venue if they need convincing)

  5. I’m also hoping someone can highlight the section of the health ministry report that allows vaccinated Americans, etc. to enter venues in Italy. I’d be happy to carry around a copy, but I can’t tell what to highlight. Thanks.

  6. Can anyone point me to the relevant section of the Italian version of the health ordinance so I can highlight it? Given that my Scottish version of the Covid vaccination certificate doesn’t have a digital version with QR code, I guess I’m just going to be waving paper at people!

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