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Q&A: What will Italy’s Covid restrictions be this Christmas?

Shoppers in downtown Rome
Shoppers wearing face masks in downtown Rome. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP
As the winter holidays approach, Italy has put more health restrictions in place. Here's what you can do this holiday period, and what you can't.

With a recent tightening of restrictions on the unvaccinated, Italy’s government is hoping that Christmas will be able to go ahead this year with as much resemblance to normality as possible – at least, for everyone who has had their jabs or recently recovered from Covid-19.

As of December 6th, those who are unvaccinated or have not recovered from Covid are banned from accessing a range of leisure facilities and venues, including indoor dining at restaurants, cinemas, theatres, and sports events; while proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test is required to access hotels and public transport.

READ ALSO: At a glance: How Italy’s Covid rules are changing this week

The government hopes that these measures will contain the country’s rising infection rates and allow those spending Christmas in Italy to celebrate with relative freedom.

That means that, unlike last year’s locked down celebrations, this year Christmas in Italy is not likely to involve curfews, form-filling or limits on guest numbers.

But there are still some rules to be aware of, and they apply equally to visitors and residents. Here’s what restrictions are currently set to be in place in Italy this Christmas – with the caveat that things can change at short notice.

What are the rules on wearing masks in Italy?

One of the first things to be aware of if you’re travelling to Italy from abroad this winter is that rules on wearing masks apply in all public places and are strictly enforced, with fines of between 400-1,000 euros for non-compliance.

As most of Italy is currently classed as a low-risk ‘white’ zone, masks are a requirement in shops, restaurants, public transport and all other indoor public places, as well as any crowded outdoor areas – such as markets and main shopping streets.

In regions classed as ‘yellow’ zones, masks are required in all indoor and outdoor public places.

No specific type of mask is required under nationwide rules, though local authorities can – and often do – mandate additional, stricter rules. This can include an obligation to wear FFP2 or surgical-grade masks in certain environments or a requirement for masks to be worn in places other than those covered by national government decrees. Check the local government website for the Italian region you’re visiting to make sure you’re up to date on local restrictions.

What are Italy’s international travel rules?

The Italian government has updated the international travel rules from December 16th. From that date, all arrivals to Italy from the EU and most non-EU countries (List C and D countries) must take a pre-departure test, regardless of vaccination status. Those who are not vaccinated must quarantine for five days on arrival, regardless of test results.

The pre-departure test can be either a rapid antigen (also known as lateral flow) test or molecular (PCR) test.

PCR tests must be taken in the 48 hours before travel. Rapid antigen test results must be taken in the 24-hour period before departure and test results are only valid for travel if shown on a timestamped certificate issued by the test provider, meaning rapid home test kits can’t be used.

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

Those travelling to Italy who have not completed a full vaccination cycle must take a pre-departure test, undergo a five-day quarantine period on arrival, and then test for release. PCR or rapid antigen tests can be used. See a guide to getting tested while in Italy here.

Italy defines a full vaccination cycle as two doses of a jab approved by the European Medicines Agency (Pfizer, Moderna or Astrazeneca) or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

All travellers from most non-EU countries (on the Italian government’s Lists D and E) were already subject to the testing requirement regardless of vaccination status.

Those who cannot provide evidence of being fully vaccinated must quarantine on arrival in Italy for five days and take a Covid test on day five to leave quarantine (for List C and D countries) or isolate for ten days and take a Covid test on day ten (for List E countries, from which travel for tourism purposes is not permitted).

Travellers from the US, Japan and Canada can supply official certification of recovery from Covid in the past six months in place of a ‘green pass’ vaccination certificate.

Find official information about the current rules on travel to Italy from any country here

Italy’s new international travel rules will be in place until at least January 31st.

What about travel within Italy?

Under Italy’s four-tiered system of Covid restrictions, movement within and between less-restricted ‘white’ and ‘yellow’ zones is currently unrestricted.

If a region is placed under more restricted ‘orange’ zone rules, movement will be limited to your comune, or municipality,  and travel will only be allowed to other municipalities or regions for work or health reasons, or for “reasons of necessity”, such as to access services unavailable in your own area.

READ ALSO: What are Italy’s new rules for Covid ‘yellow’ zones?

Based on current projections, Friuli Venezia Giulia looks likely to be the sole Italian region that risks being placed under orange zone restrictions by Christmas.

Regardless of which zone you’re in, a mask and a basic ‘green pass’ health certificate, available to those who are vaccinated against, recovered from, or have recently tested negative for Covid, is required on all forms of local and long-distance public transport.

No green pass is required for private transportation (including taxis). But unless everyone in a vehicle is cohabiting, masks must be worn, the front passenger seat must be kept empty, and there should be no more than two passengers per row behind the driver – even in the lowest-risk ‘white’ zone.

Who can celebrate together?

The government has not as of yet imposed a limit on the number of people who can gather in private homes to celebrate Christmas this year.

However, health experts have recommended taking precautions. 

Speaking recently to Adnkronos, Massimo Andreoni, head of infectious diseases at Tor Vergata Polyclinic in Rome and scientific director of the Italian Society of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, suggested separate tables for grandchildren and grandparents as a ‘safety cordon’ for the elderly and more frail, as well as maintaining distance and wearing masks “in moments of maximum celebration”.

The immunologist Mauro Minelli, who serves as South Italy director for the Foundation of Personalised Medicine, advised the elderly to avoid close and prolonged contact with anyone who has yet to receive a double dose of the vaccine.

“Indoor masks, well-ventilated rooms and a limited number of guests at the table would be common sense measures that can still help us,” he added.

No health certificate is required to eat outdoors in restaurants in Italy.

No health certificate is required to eat outdoors in restaurants in Italy. Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

Are bars and restaurants open?

Bars and restaurants will remain open across white, yellow and orange zones, with restrictions in place.

A ‘super green pass’ health certificate, available only to those who are vaccinated against or recovered from Covid, is required to dine indoors at restaurants across all zones.

Vaccination cards or certificates from health authorities in the UK, as well as the US, Canada, Israel, and Japan are recognised as equivalent to the ‘super green pass’, as well as the basic green pass.

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

No health certificate of any kind is required to dine at restaurants outdoors or consume food and drink while standing at the bar.

What are the rules around shopping and Christmas markets?

Shopping is currently unrestricted in white and yellow zones, with no green pass required to enter any shop.

Limited green pass requirements are in place for orange zone areas: no pass is required Monday-Friday to enter non-essential stores in malls or shopping centres, but a ‘super green pass’ is required on weekends, as well as public holidays and the days directly preceding them.

There are no national rules currently in place for Christmas markets in Italy, but many towns and regions have imposed their own localised restrictions on markets and town centres.

READ ALSO: Five of Italy’s most magical Christmas markets in 2021

Mayors of some larger Italian cities like Milan and Rome have introduced an outdoor mask requirement for certain parts of the city centre.

Some Christmas markets require a green pass to enter, while some are accessible without a pass. If you plan to visit a market, you should check beforehand what the requirements are.

Can I go skiiing over Christmas?

Ski slopes will remain open across white, yellow and orange zones, with just a few restrictions.

Facilities in white and yellow zones require users to show a basic green pass (that can be obtained via negative test result).

In the orange zone, customers must show a ‘super green pass’ (available only to the vaccinated or recovered from Covid) to gain access.

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

Local authorities can decide to impose stricter rules at short notice. Always check the latest restrictions in your province or town: find out how here.

For further details about Italy’s current Covid-19 health measures please see the Italian Health Ministry’s website (available in English).


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