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‘Fit to fly’: Are Covid lateral flow tests valid for travel to Italy?

Covid rules for anyone wanting to enter Italy from abroad vary from country to country, with non-EU countries - such as the US and UK - facing more stringent requirements than residents and citizens of EU member states.

What kind of Covid test do you need to enter Italy from outside the EU?
What kind of Covid test do you need to enter Italy from outside the EU? Piero Cruciatti / AFP

But exactly what kind of Covid tests are accepted for entry to Italy – and does this change depending on where you’re travelling from?

Here, we break down the rules for entering Italy from non-EU countries, including the UK and US.

The basics

On December 16th, Italy tightened its international travel restrictions with an updated health ministry ordinance.

All travellers from almost all countries on the Italian government’s Lists D and E (i.e., most non-EU countries) now require proof of a negative molecular PCR test taken within 72 hours of entry to Italy, or a negative rapid antigen test taken within 24 hours of entry to Italy. This applies regardless of whether or not the passenger is vaccinated.

READ ALSO: What are the Covid travel rules between Italy and the UK?

The one exception is the United Kingdom; travellers from the UK, Northern Ireland and the British Isles must have taken their PCR test within 48 hours of arriving in Italy. A rapid test taken within 24 hours of arrival is also accepted for passengers coming from the UK.

But exactly what kind of test counts? Is a home test sufficient? 

The answer to that last question is: sometimes, under specific circumstances.

Italy accepts rapid antigen tests and PCR tests for entry into the country.

In the UK in particular, a rapid antigen test is often referred to as an ‘antigen lateral flow test’ or just ‘lateral flow test’ (LFT).

In many countries, you can easily buy rapid antigen/LFT home testing kits, and might even receive them for free from the government or your employer.

But you can’t just use one of these basic home test kits for international travel.

If you want to use a self-test kit to enter Italy, it must be one bought from an official provider who will issue you with a certified, timestamped result that can be checked by a border official.

Here’s a closer look at the rules on travel from the UK and US.

UK ‘Fit to Fly’ tests

All travellers aged six and over coming from the UK – including those who are fully vaccinated – require proof of a recent negative Covid test to enter Italy. This must have been taken within 48 hours of entry to the country if it’s a molecular PCR test, or within 24 hours if it’s a rapid antigen test.

This proof of a negative Covid-19 test result is known as a ‘fit to fly’ test in the UK. It’s worth searching for this when you arrange your test with a private testing company.

But just getting any old antigen or lateral flow test won’t be enough if it doesn’t come with a certificate for travel.

Some of these companies will conduct rapid tests on site at testing centres at the airport or in shopping centres or private health clinics.

However, many UK-based Covid testing companies will instead send you a home test to be carried out during a guided video call.

If the result is negative, the company will send a travel certificate that can be used for boarding.

While France has said it will not accept results from self-administered Covid tests, Italy has issued no such guidance in its updated travel ordinance: a “negative test – molecular within 48h/ antigenic within 24h of entry” is all that’s required, according to the latest update from the Italian embassy in London.

The British government however states in its current travel guidance that travellers “must use a private test provider” and not an NHS test when returning to England from abroad.

“NHS tests cannot be used for the purpose of pre-departure testing before travel to England,” it states. “You cannot take an NHS test abroad with you to use on yourself before you return.”

Several readers travelling to Italy from the UK after December 16th report being denied boarding after showing the results of a free NHS test.

With that in mind, it appears that while Italy will continue to accept some home tests, the kit must be bought from a provider who is able to walk you through the process remotely and issue you with a certified negative test result at the end.

Italy accepts both printed and digital certificates, so a result contained in an email is fine.

It’s important to note that although such a test result is valid for entry to Italy, it can’t be used to obtain the Italian ‘green pass’ health certificate now required to access most venues and services in the country, including hotels and public transport.

For a green pass that lasts for 48-72 hours (depending on the type of test taken), you will need to pay for a rapid or PCR test at a pharmacy or other test provider.

READ ALSO: How to get a coronavirus test in Italy

Since December 6th, it has also been a requirement in Italy to produce a ‘super green pass’ – available only to those vaccinated against or recovered from Covid – to access many leisure venues, including indoor seating at restaurants, cinemas, theatres, concerts and sports matches.

The ‘super green pass’ can not be obtained via a Covid test – however, proof of vaccination from health authorities in the UK, as well as the US, Canada, Israel, and Japan, is considered equivalent to both a ‘super green pass’ and a basic green pass, and should give holders access to all the same spaces.

In addition to producing a valid test result, travellers from the UK (and all other List D and E countries) also need to fill out an EU passenger locator form before departure and show proof of having been fully vaccinated by the NHS in order to enter Italy. 

Unvaccinated travellers will need to quarantine for five days upon arriving in Italy, and take a rapid test at a pharmacy or other recognised provider in order to exit self-isolation on day five.

On return to the UK, passengers will need to take a rapid (or PCR) test within two days of their departure to be allowed back in the country.

Rapid tests are valid for this purpose and can be easily accessed at pharmacies or airport testing facilities in Italy. Self-test ‘fit to fly’ kits ordered before leaving the UK and taken on holiday are also valid, provided you take the test in the correct timeframe.

Piero Cruciatti / AFP

An air hostess waits to assist passengers going through a test rapid at Malpensa Airport in Milan on 3 April 2021. Piero Cruciatti / AFP

Covid-19 testing for travel from US to Italy

The US currently advises citizens against travel to Italy because of the recent surge in Covid-19 infections and concerns over the spread of the Omicron variant.

Americans are not banned from visiting a country under a level 4 travel advisory notice, but are urged to avoid unnecessary travel, and to make sure that they are fully vaccinated if they make the trip.

As is the case with travellers from the UK, passengers from the US must take a rapid test from a provider who can provide a certified result for travel. Unlike UK passengers, they have a 72 hour window in which to take their PCR test before arriving in Italy. A rapid antigen/lateral flow test must be taken within 24 hours of arrival.

READ ALSO: Reader question: What happens if I test positive for Covid-19 while visiting Italy?

Testing centres are widespread in the US and you will normally have to give your email address or phone number (some won’t accept foreign numbers) in order to receive your results. The system may vary from state to state and among each testing centre.

Passengers coming from the US must also fill out the EU passenger locator form before departure.

In the case of US travellers, Italy accepts either CDC vaccine cards or proof of Covid recovery from an official healthcare provider. Passengers who can produce either of these things, along with a valid rapid test result, are exempt from the requirement to quarantine in Italy.

Those who arrive without either proof or vaccination or recovery from Covid will need to quarantine for five days upon arriving in Italy, and take a rapid test at a pharmacy or other recognised provider to exit self-isolation on day five.

Those returning to the USA need to be tested for Covid-19 no more than one calendar day before their flight. The CDC’s website says it uses a one-day rather than a 24 hour time frame “to provide more flexibility to the air passenger and aircraft operator (…) For example, if your flight is at 1pm on a Friday, you could board with a negative test that was taken any time on the prior Thursday.”

Most types of rapid tests, which can be easily and cheaply obtained at many pharmacies across Italy, are accepted, but they must meet the CDC’s eligibility criteria.

If you need to be tested for travel to the US, both rapid antigen tests and molecular PCR tests can be carried out without a prescription at Italy’s airports, pharmacies, labs, testing centres, or via private doctors such as Med in Action or Medelit.

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.

Find more details about coronavirus testing in Italy here.

For more information on the requirements for travel to Italy:

You can also call the Italian coronavirus information line:

  • From Italy: 1500 (freephone number)
  • From abroad: +39 0232008345 , +39 0283905385

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 news updates via our homepage or travel news section.

Member comments

  1. I and several US travelers posting on Tripadvisor have been able to use Abbott Lab’s BinaxNow home antigen test – not the kind you can find in pharmacies but the kind you can buy only online from emed.com (6 pack) and optum.com (2 pack). The one that is proctored and has been accepted for travel is called the BinaxNow Covid-19 Ag Card. These have been accepted by the gate personnel in US airports, such as United Airlines and Delta Airlines. You won’t find information on their websites, however, specifically saying they are accepted for travel to Italy – only that they’re accepted for return to the US.

      1. You download an app called Navica. After you take the proctored BinaxNow Covid-19 Ag Card test, and the proctor confirms the test results (by seeing whether there is one bar or two bars on your test card) the results are updated to your app. They also send you an email with a link to a document you can print out showing the date and test result.

          1. I was able to use this test to get into Italy flying Delta Airlines from New York JFK. Several others that post on Tripadvisor have been able to use it flying to Italy from other US airports. No-one has posted on Tripadvisor NOT being able to use the test to fly to Italy. However, there is no official written statement either from Italian sites or the airline sites saying this test is OK to use flying to Italy. The airline sites (as well as the product site) just talk about it being accepted for return to the US. For that reason some are hesitant to use it. If you go to Tripadvisor, Italy, travel forum and then search “BinaxNow” there are a few threads discussing this. Note: The cost of the antigen test for travel purposes in the US is normally not covered by insurance and at the CVS pharmacy in person would have cost me $139. The 6-pack from emed.com was $150 plus shipping.

  2. I have no idea how my above comment got automatically edited so the numbers were changed. But instead of 9 the cost in the pharmacy would have been one hundred thirty nine. Instead of 0 the cost via the website would have been one hundred fifty for a six pack.

  3. My message got auto-edited for some reason. The nine should be one hundred thirty nine and the zero should be one hundred fifty.

  4. It’s probably obvious to most people, but there’s an ambiguity in the above report which might need clarifying for some.
    A test “…taken within 48/24 hours of arrival in the country…” (Italy) actually means pre flight/ before departure and not a test taken post arrival.

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COVID-19 RULES

Italy allows suspended anti-vax doctors to return to work

Italian heathcare staff suspended over their refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19 can now return to work, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni confirmed on Monday.

Italy allows suspended anti-vax doctors to return to work

Italy become the first country in Europe to make it obligatory for healthcare workers to be vaccinated, ruling in 2021 that they must have the jab or be transferred to other roles or suspended without pay.

That obligation had been set to expire in December, but was brought forward to Tuesday due to “a shortage of medical and health personnel”, Health Minister Orazio Schillaci said.

READ ALSO: Is Italy’s government planning to scrap all Covid measures?

Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, and has since registered nearly 180,000 deaths.

Schillaci first announced the plan to scrap the rule on Friday in a statement saying data showed the virus’ impact on hospitals  “is now limited”.

Those who refuse vaccination will be “reintegrated” into the workforce before the rule expires at the end of this year, as part of what the minister called a “gradual return to normality”.

Meloni said the move, which has been criticised by the centre-left as a win for anti-vax campaigners, would mean some 4,000 healthcare workers can return to work.

This includes some 1,579 doctors and dentists refusing vaccination, according to records at the end of October, representing 0.3 percent of all those registered with Italy’s National Federation of the Orders of Physicians, Surgeons and Dentists (Fnomceo) 

Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy party railed against the way Mario Draghi’s government handled the pandemic, when it was the main opposition party, and she promised to use her first cabinet meetings to mark a clear break in policies with her predecessor.

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