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Reader question: How can visitors use a Covid-19 recovery certificate in Italy?

Italy recognises some Covid-19 recovery certificates as valid for accessing venues and services that would otherwise require a vaccine pass. But where are they accepted, and what details should they contain? Here's what you need to know.

A woman enters an pharmacy in Italy.
A woman reads a sign advising clients in various languages, including Chinese, that respiratory masks are sold out on January 29, 2020 at a pharmacy in downtown Rome, in the wake of the 2019-nCoV coronavirus, a virus similar to the SARS pathogen, spreading around the world since emerging in a market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. - The Italian government said on January 29, 2020 it was sending a plane to evacuate citizens from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of a deadly SARS-like virus, as WHO chief called new emergency talks on the virus situation. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

Question: I recently recovered from Covid-19 and I have read that I’ll need to show proof of this when travelling to Italy. What kind of proof do I need and where is this needed?

Since January 10th, Italy has required proof of vaccination to access most venues and services in the country, including all public transport, hotels and restaurants.

Under certain conditions, a Covid-19 recovery certificate can be used in place of a vaccination certificate – but its uses are strictly prescribed.

If you are a resident in Italy and have recovered from Covid-19, your healthcare provider in Italy will log your recovery information with the health ministry and this will be used to automatically generate a green pass which can be downloaded and scanned, according to the health ministry’s green pass website.

If you are visiting or returning to Italy and you have recovered from Covid-19 in another country, things are less straightforward but you may also able to use your recovery certificate in Italy.

Here are the circumstances under which visitors can use a Covid-19 recovery certificate in Italy, and the information the document should contain:

What can I use a Covid-19 recovery certificate for in Italy?

For entry to Italy: Under the current rules for international arrivals, visitors arriving in Italy from anywhere within the EU or Schengen or area, as well as the US, Canada or Japan, can use a valid Covid-19 recovery certificate in lieu of a vaccination certificate to enter the country. 

Travellers coming from the US, Canada or Japan must additionally provide a negative result from a recent rapid antigen or PRC test to avoid a five-day quarantine on entering Italy.

READ ALSO: What are the latest rules for travel to Italy from the US and Canada?

Within Italy: All foreign visitors can use their valid recovery certificate to access venues and services which currently require a vaccine pass, such as hotels, restaurants, public transport, ski facilities, museums and cultural sites, provided it meets the government’s criteria.

A valid recovery certificate may also be used to access spaces in Italy that now require either proof of vaccination, recovery or a recent negative Covid test: this includes most non-essential shops, post offices and banks.

A Covid-19 recovery certificate is considered valid in Italy for 180 days (six months) from the date on which your Covid infection was first officially recorded.

What information should my recovery certificate contain?

The Italian health ministry stated on July 30th, 2021, that a recovery certificate should contain the following:

  • The holder’s name, surname, and date of birth.
  • “information about the holder’s past SARS-CoV-2 infection, following a positive test” (exactly what information isn’t specified, but as the certificate must be issued by a health authority, one or two lines from the authority summarising the nature of the holder’s past infection is likely to be what’s required).
  • The date of the holder’s first positive Covid test (the certificate is valid for 180 days from this date).
  • The name of the State and the health authority that has issued the certificate.

The ministry states that all recovery certificates issued in a foreign language should be accompanied by a sworn translation (presumably to Italian).

READ ALSO: How Italy’s international travel rules change in February

To be considered valid, your Covid-19 recovery certificate must have been issued by an official healthcare provider.

If you believe you had Covid-19 but never confirmed it, or confirmed it only with a home test, you will not be able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Italian authorities that you have recovered from Covid.

A bar owner uses the Verifica C-19 mobile app to check a customer's vaccination or recovery status in central Rome.
A bar owner uses the Verifica C-19 mobile app to check a customer’s vaccination or recovery status in central Rome. Photo: Andreas SOLARO / AFP

Is an expired recovery certificate useless then?

Far from it. Following a new decree that came into force in Italy on February 5th, an expired recovery certificate can still be used to access all venues and services that require a valid recovery or vaccination certificate, if used in combination with an additional time-limited certificate that can be obtained via a negative Covid test.

The test must be administered by a certified provider in Italy (e.g., a pharmacy), to whom you will need to provide your full name and proof of ID. Once you receive your negative test result, you will be issued with a certificate that takes the form of a QR code that can be easily scanned by public sector and service industry workers.

READ ALSO: How Italy has updated its Covid health pass rules for visitors

This short-term certificate obtained through a negative test result is known as a ‘basic green pass’ (green pass base, pronounced ‘green pass BAH-zay’, in Italian). The basic green pass will expire 48 hours after receiving a negative rapid test result, or 72 hours after a negative PCR test.

You will need to show both your basic green pass QR code and your expired recovery certificate in order to enter spaces that otherwise require a valid recovery or vaccine certificate.

It’s possible you may experience pushback from venue managers responsible for enforcing the restrictions who sometimes struggle to keep up to speed with Italy’s rapid rule changes. If this happens, try showing them this government press release which summarises the new rules.

Does Italy accept antibody tests as proof of recovery? 

The Italian government has not indicated it will accept antibody tests, which involve analysing your blood for antibodies to Covid-19 that indicate you have had an immune response to the disease, as proof you have recovered.

We don’t yet know for sure how long antibodies can remain in the body or how reliably they indicate immunity.

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For members


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.