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EXPLAINED: What you need to know about visiting Italy this autumn

What do you need to enter Italy and access essential (and non-essential) services as a tourist? Here’s a checklist of everything you need for travel to and within Italy.

A tourist walks past the closed Colosseum on March 10, 2020.
A tourist walks past the closed Colosseum on March 10, 2020. Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

It may be the off season, but the influx of foreign tourists to Italy remains high this autumn, providing a much-needed boost to the country’s tourism sector.

But with each European country setting its own guidelines and the rules shifting every few weeks, many would-be visitors have found themselves mired in confusion over exactly what’s required to enter Italy.

Here’s everything you need to know about entering Italy from abroad. These latest rules should remain in place until at least December 15th.

You probably need a test

Some visitors wrongly assume that if they are fully vaccinated, they do not a test to go on holiday to Italy.

This is currently not the case for anyone entering the country from anywhere not included on Italy’s List C (i.e., almost all non-EU countries), or anyone coming from an EU country who has been in a non-List C country in the fourteen days before entering Italy.

Anyone in this situation must be able to produce a negative Covid test result less than 72 hours old on arrival in Italy in order to avoid having to quarantine. That window of validity is reduced to just 48 hours for anyone arriving from the UK.

READ ALSO: Q&A: Answers to your questions about Italy’s updated travel rules

Those who fail to show a negative test result are technically required to self-isolate for five days on entering the country – even if you can demonstrate that you are fully vaccinated with European Medicines Agency (EMA)-approved vaccines.

While some tourists have said they weren’t asked to show a test result either on departure or on arrival in Italy, be warned that betting on this could lose you five days of holiday.

A tourist poses for a picture in front of the Spanish Steps in Rome on March 3, 2020

A tourist poses for a picture in front of the Spanish Steps in Rome on March 3, 2020. Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

Rapid antigen tests count

Italy accepts both rapid antigen tests and PCR tests for entry into the country – so there’s no need to fork out for a more expensive and time-pressurised PCR test.

You need to have completed your vaccine cycle for at least 14 days

Before this, you’re not considered fully vaccinated for the purposes of entering Italy, and will be required to quarantine for five days on arrival – even if you have a negative Covid test result.

A full vaccination cycle is one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two doses of any other vaccine.

Mixed doses are probably fine

The Italian government has yet to issue any formal guidance on whether it accepts mixed doses of Covid vaccines for entry into the country.

However, many Italian residents were given mixed doses of the vaccine, and anecdotally, those who received mixed vaccines have not reported any issues entering the country.

As of September, Italy officially approves the Indian-manufactured Covishield vaccine for travel, as well as R-CoVI (R-Pharm) Covid-19 vaccine recombinant (Fiocruz).

READ ALSO: Update: Italy recognises Indian-produced Covishield vaccine for travel

That’s on top of the basic EMA-approved vaccines: AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria), Pfizer/BioNTech (Comirnaty), Moderna (Spikevax), and Johnson & Johnson (Janssen).

You need a ‘green pass’ or its equivalent once in Italy to access most facilities (unless you’re under 12)

Once in Italy, you’ll need a Covid-19 health certificate or ‘green pass’ to gain access to most tourist sites and indoor seating at restaurants, and to use long distance public transport (children under the age of 12 are exempt from this requirement).

For those vaccinated in Italy or anywhere else in the EU, the green pass takes the form of a QR code that can be easily scanned.

A tourist wears a protective facemask and a Carnival mask in Venice on February 24, 2020, when Carnival festivities would normally be occurring.

A tourist wears a protective facemask and a Carnival mask in Venice on February 24, 2020, when Carnival festivities would normally be occurring. ANDREA PATTARO / AFP

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Where do you now need to show a Covid green pass in Italy?

While The Local has been contacted by at least one dual citizen living in the US who says they managed to obtain an authentication code to download a green pass, as a general rule this option is only available to Italian residents.

For foreign tourists, vaccination cards or certificates issued by the health authorities in any of the following five countries are officially considered equivalent to the green pass in Italy:

  • Canada
  • Israel
  • Japan
  • United Kingdom (including England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Gibraltar, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands and British military bases on Cyprus)
  • United States of America

If you have a certificate from another country in the EU or Schengen Zone, or one of the above non-EU countries, it should theoretically get you anywhere an Italian green pass would in Italy – and you don’t need to convert it into a green pass.

In reality, some readers have reported having been barred from boarding trains at the last minute because the conductor did not recognize their foreign-issued vaccination card.

If you’re from another non-EU country not listed above, or want an Italian version of the green pass for any reason, you may be able to have your foreign-issued certificate converted – however, this can only be done when you are in Italy, and rules vary around the country.

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

With this in mind, if it’s very important that you gain access to somewhere under time pressure (e.g. for a domestic flight or long-distance train or ferry journey), it might be worth getting a temporary Italian green pass.

If you’re in this situation, there is some good news:

People wearing a face mask visit the rooftop of the Duomo cathedral in Milan, on July 12, 2021.

People wearing a face mask visit the rooftop of the Duomo cathedral in Milan, on July 12, 2021.
MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

You can get a 48-hour green pass relatively cheaply

Anyone in Italy can get a green pass that is valid for at least 48 hours by taking a rapid antigen test at a pharmacy.

In many pharmacies participating in a government scheme, these are capped at €15 for for adults and €8 for young people aged 12 to 18.

The pass’s validity is extended to 72 hours if you get a PCR test.

READ ALSO: 72 or 48 hours? How Italy has updated the rules on testing to obtain the Covid green pass

You will be issued with a QR code in paper and digital format that can be scanned in exactly the same way as a long-term green pass.

You don’t need a green pass everywhere

While you’d find it a challenge being a tourist in Italy without a green pass or its equivalent, you don’t need one everywhere you go.

Accommodation owners in Italy do not have to ask guests for a health certificate in order to let them stay. In fact, so long as you’re staying there you can also dine at your hotel’s restaurant or have drinks at its bar without a pass – even indoors.

However, you may be required to show a health certificate if the hotel opens its restaurant to non-residents too, Italian media have reported; and you might need to show a health pass in order to access certain hotel facilities, such as the gym, swimming pool or spa. You can also be asked for one if you’re attending a conference or wedding reception on the hotel’s premises.

You don’t need a green pass to take local, non-interregional public transport, such as trips on the metro, trams, or local buses or trains; and you don’t need a certificate to have a drink at the bar, provided you keep your mask on when you’re not sipping.

Finally, you don’t need one to go shopping or to go to the hairdresser, if that’s the kind of thing you like to do on holiday.

Ski season is open – with some provisos

As of late October, Italy’s slopes are once more open for business.

While Italy’s government did not specify that the green pass would be required on slopes or to take ski lifts this winter, this is one of the rules agreed in a protocol signed last month by Italy’s winter sports federation, association of chairlift operators and association of ski instructors.

READ ALSO: What are the Covid rules on Italian ski slopes this winter?

The green pass requirement applies to everyone aged over 12 when accessing ski lifts and slopes, according to Italian media reports.

Capacity is reduced to 80 percent for closed cable cars, while open chairlifts can operate at full capacity.

Ski slopes must use lanes which “guarantee interpersonal distancing of at least one metre” and staff should be on hand to enforce rules and check for areas at risk of overcrowding.

Surgical-grade or FFP2 masks will be mandatory “both in common areas and on the slopes”, according to Italian media.

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COVID-19 RULES

Reader question: What are Italy’s Covid quarantine rules for travellers?

Italy's quarantine rules have changed so many times over the past couple of years, it can be hard to keep track. Here's the latest information on when and how visitors need to self-isolate.

Reader question: What are Italy's Covid quarantine rules for travellers?

Question: “One of your recent articles says you can exit quarantine by testing negative for the coronavirus. But you can also exit quarantine by obtaining a certificate of recovery from Covid-19… true?”

Unfortunately, official proof of having recovered from Covid-19 won’t get you out of the requirement to self-isolate if you test positive for Covid while visiting Italy – though it can shorten your quarantine period.

The health ministry’s current rules state that anyone who tests positive while in Italy is required to immediately self-isolate for a minimum of seven days: that’s if the person in question is fully vaccinated and boosted, or has completed their primary vaccination cycle, or was certified as being recovered from Covid less than 120 days ago.

That period is extended to 10 days for those who aren’t fully vaccinated and boosted, or those who recovered from Covid or completed their primary vaccination cycle more than 120 days ago.

In either case, the infected person must have been symptomless for at least three days in order to exit quarantine (with the exception of symptoms relating to a lost sense of taste or smell, which can persist for some time after the infection is over).

READ ALSO: Travel in Italy and Covid rules this summer: what to expect

The patient must also test negative for the virus via either a molecular (PCR) or rapid antigen test on the final day of the quarantine in order to be allowed out.

Read more about getting tested while in Italy in a separate article here.

Quarantined people who keep testing positive for the virus can be kept in self-isolation for a maximum of 21 days, at which point they will be automatically released.

Italy does not currently require visitors from any country to test negative in order to enter its borders, as long as they are fully boosted or were recently vaccinated/ have recently recovered from Covid.

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

Some countries (including the US), however, do require people travelling from Italy to test negative before their departure – which means visitors at the tail end of their journey could be hit with the unpleasant surprise of finding out they need to quarantine for another week in Italy instead of heading home as planned.

It’s because of this rule that a number of The Local’s readers told us they wouldn’t be coming on holiday to Italy this summer, and intend to postpone for another year.

If you are planning on visiting Italy from a country that requires you to test negative for Covid prior to re-entry, it’s a good idea to consider what you would do and where you would go in the unlikely event you unexpectedly test positive.

Please note that The Local cannot advise on specific cases. For more information about how the rules may apply to you, see the Italian Health Ministry’s website or consult the Italian embassy in your country.

You can keep up with the latest updates via our homepage or Italian travel news section.

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