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Christmas travel between Italy and the UK: What not to pack in your suitcase

The Local Italy
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Christmas travel between Italy and the UK: What not to pack in your suitcase
If you're planning to travel between the UK and Italy this Christmas, the rules on taking festive goodies with you have changed. Photo: FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP

If you're travelling between Italy and the UK and planning on taking some festive goodies with you, there are some rules to remember about what you can't pack since Brexit came into force.

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If you’re heading home to spend Christmas with family or they’re coming out to stay with you, be aware of the rules regarding food and drink, and what you can and can’t bring in and out of Britain and the EU.

Some rules changed for the first time last year following Brexit and many are still catching up with the changes, so read the Local’s guide below to make sure you aren’t caught out at customs.

Flying to the UK from Italy

For those returning to the UK from Italy, the rules are relatively lax.

Note, if you’re spending Christmas in Northern Ireland there are different rules on food and animal products. Find them here

You can bring the following products from Italy into the UK without worrying about any restrictions:

  • bread, but not sandwiches filled with meat or dairy products
  • cakes without fresh cream
  • biscuits
  • chocolate and confectionery, but not those made with unprocessed dairy ingredients
  • pasta and noodles, but not if mixed or filled with meat or meat products
  • packaged soup, stocks and flavourings
  • processed and packaged plant products, such as packaged salads and frozen plant material
  • food supplements containing small amounts of an animal product, such as fish oil capsules

Meat, dairy, fish and animal products

If, like many of us, you have friends and family already putting in their orders for Italian treats, know that the rules on bringing meat, dairy, fish and other animal products into the UK are relatively relaxed. 

You can bring in meat, fish, dairy and other animal products as long as they’re from the EU, so your Parmigiano Reggiano or finocchiona is safe. 

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Note that you can't bring in these foods from another non-EU country when travelling to the UK with a connecting flight via Italy.

Vegetables, fruit and olive oil

The UK government website states that from the EU, Switzerland or Liechtenstein you can bring in "fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds", for "personal use":

Anyone who produces their own olive oil in Italy or buys it to take back to family and friends in the UK may have noticed that there doesn't seem to be a specific rule stating how much of it you're allowed to bring.

Since olive oil is classed as a condiment derived from a vegetable, it doesn't fall into any inadmissible categories; therefore, it's safe to assume that you can bring it as long as it's for personal use and not for sale.

Again, you can't bring any fruits or vegetables from another non-EU country into the UK via Italy.

READ ALSO: EU confirms timeline for rollout of EES and ETIAS border systems

Your friends and relatives in the UK won't have to go without Italian cheese and salumi this Christmas. Photo: Getty Images/AFP

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Alcohol allowance

For many, the big one, but there are some limits on how much booze you can bring in from Italy and the EU more generally.

How much you can bring depends on the type of alcohol, so get up to speed on the limits and make sure your Prosecco or Barolo isn’t taken off you or heavily taxed:

Limits:

  • beer – 42 litres
  • still wine – 18 litres
  • spirits and other liquors over 22 percent alcohol – 4 litres
  • sparkling wine, fortified wine (port, sherry etc) and other alcoholic drinks up to 22 percent alcohol (not including beer or still wine) – 9 litres

It’s worth knowing that you can split your allowance, for example you could bring 4.5 litres of fortified wine and 2 litres of spirits (both half of your allowance).

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Tobacco allowance 

When bringing tobacco into the UK from Italy, you can bring in one from the following:

  • 200 cigarettes
  • 100 cigarillos
  • 50 cigars
  • 250g tobacco
  • 200 sticks of tobacco for electronic heated tobacco devices

As with alcohol, you can split the allowance - so, the UK government specifies, you could bring in 100 cigarettes and 25 cigars (both half of your allowance).

Flying into Italy from the UK

While British borders are laid back when it comes to travelling with food and drink, the rules on food and drink are much tougher when entering the EU from the UK.

Importantly, tea bags – longed for by Brits the world over – are allowed. Marmite, which is vegan, is also OK but Bovril, which contains beef stock, is not.

Travellers arriving in the EU from Britain can, according to the European Travel Retail Confederation (ETRC), bring the following quantities of alcohol, so if you fancy a British tipple in Italy over Christmas it is possible, within reason: 4 litres of still wine and 16 litres of beer, 1 litre of spirits, or 2 litres of sparkling or fortified wine.

READ ALSO: What Brits in Italy need to know if they move back to the UK post-Brexit

Italy is generous when it comes to importing tobacco products; the EU has a lower limit and a higher limit, and Italy has opted for the higher limit. That means you can bring any of 200 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 50 cigars, or 250g of smoking tobacco.

If you arrive in the EU from a non-EU country, you cannot bring any meat or dairy products with you. That means no Wensleydale, no Cornish Brie, and no British bacon to enjoy in Italy over Christmas.

The EU’s strict rules mean that all imports of animal-derived products technically come under these rules, so even chocolate is now banned because of the milk.

Don't pack mince pies if you're travelling from the UK to the EU.
Don't pack mince pies if you're travelling from the UK to the EU. Photo by Daniel Morris on Unsplash

Similarly, if you’re planning on asking a friend or family member to bring you over some sweets, cakes, or other home comforts, be aware that the ban includes all products that contain any meat or dairy as an ingredient – which includes things like chocolate, fudge, custard and sweets (because of the gelatine.)

You are allowed to bring a small quantity of fruit and vegetables as well as eggs, some egg products, and honey. 

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Restricted quantities of fish or fish products are also allowed: eviscerated fresh fish products (gutted, with all the organs removed), and processed fishery products are allowed up to 20 kg or 1 fish, so you can enjoy some Scottish smoked salmon in Italy over Christmas if you want.

If you’re travelling with kids, note that powdered infant milk, infant food and specifically required medical foods are allowed up to 2kg, as is the case for pet foods.

READ ALSO: When to send Christmas gifts from Italy

Even classics like Christmas pudding and mince pies are banned because they contain suet, so if you’re planning on a British-style Christmas abroad, these won’t be making an appearance this year.

It is worth noting that these strict EU rules also apply when sending products by post, so if you were hoping to get around the newly applicable legislation by having someone send you a delivery of mince pies, they will probably be intercepted and confiscated by Italy’s postal service, unfortunately. 

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Comments (1)

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Rosemarie 2023/11/29 21:08
Most Christmas puddings and mince pies are made with plant based suet nowadays, so they should be OK, I guess?
  • Anonymous 2023/11/30 08:58
    Good point.

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