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TRAVEL: What to expect if you’re returning to Italy this Easter

After two years with limited opportunities to visit Italy, Covid restrictions are easing and travel is resuming. But what should you expect if you haven't visited for a while?

TRAVEL: What to expect if you’re returning to Italy this Easter
What does travel to Italy look like after two years of the pandemic? While tourism is back on, you might notice a few changes. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

After nearly two years of Covid emergency, Italy has finally relaxed most of its restrictions and the country is eagerly reopening its doors to tourism.

The Easter holidays, which, as far as holidays go in Italy are second only to Christmas celebrations in importance, mark the beginning of the tourist season and this year they’re expected to offer the usual wealth of village festivals, food markets, and other activities to enjoy in the warm spring sunlight.

So if you’re looking forward to a long-awaited return to Italy over the Easter holidays, here’s a breakdown of what you should expect from your upcoming trip.

Travel rules

The good news is that Italian government has recently relaxed most Covid-related travel rules – but some are still in place.

Quarantine-free travel to Italy is currently allowed from all countries, for any reason. But under extended rules and entry requirements in place until at least April 30th, you’ll need to show either a Covid vaccination certificate, recovery certificate or negative test result when entering the country..

READ ALSO: What you need to know about travel to Italy this spring

Italy also requires arrivals to complete a passenger locator form (download it here and here’s how to fill it out).

If you can’t provide the required paperwork, you can still enter the country but will have to undergo a five-day quarantine at the address specified on the Passenger Locator Form. Not the best way to spend the Easter break if you ask us.

You can check the latest official information on rules for arrivals to Italy from your country on the Italian Foreign Ministry’s website here.

Covid restrictions once in Italy

You should also expect to navigate the domestic Covid health measures still in place for the time being.

Though the rules have been eased in April, Italy’s health pass system is still in place. 

From April 1st, Italy has scrapped the requirement for hotel guests to show any type of Covid health pass. It is also no longer required to access museums in Italy, or to sit at an outdoor bar or restaurant.

Theatres, cinemas, concert halls, nightclubs, other indoor entertainment venues and indoor sports arenas, however, do require a valid vaccination or recovery certificate.

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

The good news is that visitors are unlikely to need to get hold of an Italian green pass.

All foreign-issued vaccination or recovery certificates are considered equivalent to the Italian super green pass and will give you access to all the same spaces.

You do not need to convert your vaccination or recovery certificate into an Italian green pass as a visitor to Italy.

You can find more detailed information about how the super green pass works for visitors in Italy here.

Masks

Italy no longer requires face masks to be worn in most outdoor public areas, but they’re still needed indoors for now.

Though not yet confirmed, Italy is expected to scrap the current rules on face masks on May 1st. That means that if you want to visit any indoor public venues during the Easter holidays, you will still need a face covering. 

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

Specifically, FFP2 masks must be worn on all types of transport, whether that be interregional or local. Surgical masks are ok for most other indoor locations such as hotels, bars, restaurants, museums and shops.

What else to expect:

As well as the Covid rules, there are some other practical considerations for a trip to Italy over Easter.

Traffic and travel disruption

Motorway traffic is, as usual, forecast to be heavy in Italy over the long weekend. And no wonder, as a recent survey by the Italian hotel association Federalberghi found that around 14 million Italians are planning to travel within the country over the Easter period.

Good Friday is not a public holiday in Italy, but schools are closed from Thursday and many Italians take the Friday off work to give themselves a ponte (bridge) holiday that stretches into Easter Monday, which means traffic jams traditionally begin on Thursday night.

The worst times for traffic on Italian motorways are predicted to be Friday afternoon and evening, and Monday afternoon.

Photo by Laurent EMMANUEL / AFP

Do your supermarket shop early

Aside from the fact that Italian food shops and supermarkets are usually closed on Sundays and public holidays, this year the prospect of strikes in some regions could mean extended closures.

If you’re planning to do a big supermarket shop, make sure you check the opening hours at your local store in advance.

Bring an umbrella

While we may associate Easter with mild, spring-like weather – and some people expect nothing but blazing sunshine when they visit Italy – it can be wet and cold at this time of year.

Unfortunately that has been the case for the past few years, and forecasts appear to confirm the ‘wet Easter’ trend again this time as well 

According to the latest reports, cold air currents sweeping down from northern Europe are expected to bring a drop in temperatures between Friday and Saturday.

Other changes

Italy has changed a lot over the past two years and many local habits and social rules might not exactly be the way you remember them. 

Arrivederci to the double kiss

During the pandemic, many Italians have kissed goodbye (pun intended) to the two-kiss greeting. While close friends and family members might still occasionally resort to the double peck, the days where you’d kiss complete strangers are far gone. 

In fact, the concept of personal space itself has considerably changed in what you may remember as a very touchy-feely culture.

That’s not to say people are now keeping their distance at all times. But, generally speaking, in public spaces such as post offices, public transport or shops, most people have developed a keen inclination to avoid pressing up against one another even when social distancing is not necessarily enforced.

Paying by card is now a realistic option

There were days not so long ago where placing Italy and technological progress in the same sentence would be enough to raise the eyebrows of most Ufficio Indagini officers. So you may be surprised to see that Italy has made some noticeable digital strides in the last two years

For instance, these days you’re far more likely to be offered the option of paying by contactless card, even for smaller sums.

This is not only due to people preferring card transactions for Covid-related hygiene reasons but it is also part of a wider government scheme to crack down on rampant tax evasion.

Interestingly, the contactless revolution seems to have spread to the farthest corners of the country; so much so that the next time you pay for a ghiacciolo (ice lolly) in a remote Apulian village you might be able to do so with a tap of your card. 

Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

Take-out has taken off

While a good number of restaurants in Italy’s major towns and cities offered takeaway food and drinks well before the pandemic, this seems now to be standard all over the country.

Surprisingly, it’s not just restaurants that have expanded their take-out offering. Home delivery in general is more of an option these days, with more and more supermarkets delivering their goods right to your doorstep.

This has been a major change for people in smaller towns and more rural parts of the country, where home deliveries were previously non-existent.

Watch out for e-scooters

Visitors coming back to Italy after a two-year hiatus are liable to be struck (quite literally, unfortunately) by one thing: monopattini (e-scooters) and e-bikes.

When the country started to relax its rules after the first Covid wave, people looked for ways to travel around their city without being crammed into poorly ventilated buses and trams, and app-controlled scooters and bikes offered themselves up as the answer.

In short, the entire country seems to now be in the grip of an electric vehicle craze which isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. So, while visiting, be sure to stop to appreciate the picturesque Italian landscape while also, perhaps, having a look over your shoulder every once in a while.

But don’t worry, most things about the Italy that we know and love are still recognisable – the food and the wine are great, the drivers are terrible, and there may very well be a strike. Viva l’Italia!

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TRAVEL NEWS

Easter travel between the UK and Italy: What services are up and running

The Easter holiday is traditionally a busy time for travel between Italy and the UK - but this year several issues have combined to make travel tricky. Here's what is up and running if you have a trip booked.

Easter travel between the UK and Italy: What services are up and running

Flights

Companies including EasyJet and British Airways have been cancelling a high number of flights in recent days, because many of their staff have Covid.

More than 1,100 flights have been cancelled over the past week, including some 200 EasyJet flights to popular European locations.

If your flight is affected, you will be contacted directly by your airline.

Airports

If your flight is running as scheduled, be aware of issues at several UK airports.

Airports including Heathrow, Manchester and Birmingham have been hit by disruption because of staff shortages caused by Covid, affecting everything from airport security to luggage handlers. Passengers risked missing their flights because of lengthy delays, according to reports in the UK press. 

READ ALSO: Q&A: Your questions about travel to Italy and Covid rules answered

Passengers have been advised to make sure they are at the airport as early as possible to allow for delays, and unions have warned that the disruption could last for some time.

In the case of Manchester, the advice is to arrive three hours early.

No major disruptions have been reported at the Italy end, so departures from Italian airports should be comparatively straightforward.

Ferry services

For those planning to start their journey to Italy with a ferry ride over the English Channel, there are other disruptions in place.

P&O ferries may not resume cross-Channel services until “after Easter” – traditionally one of its busiest periods as holidaymakers look to make the most of the two-week school break – after its controversial decision to lay-off 800 members of staff in the UK, according to the RMT union.

National secretary of the union, Darren Proctor, told KentOnline: “The information we have is that individuals have tried to book crossings between Dover and Calais and the earliest they are being offered is April 19th.”

READ ALSO: What you need to know about travel to Italy this spring

P&O has not confirmed the union’s claims – but they will not be welcomed for thousands of holidaymakers looking to get to France and elsewhere over Easter. And it has been reported that one of its ships, the Pride of Kent, failed a safety inspection, and services on the short crossing are not expected to restart for several days, at the earliest.

This has, obviously, had a knock-on effect on other cross-Channel ferry services.

The ferry company P&O's decision to lay off 800 staff members has caused chaos for holidaymakers.

P&O’s controversial decision to lay off 800 staff members has caused chaos. Photo by Ben Stansall / AFP.

DFDS is putting on additional services, but has warned it will be operating at close to capacity over the busy four-day Easter period. P&0 has previously said that booked who had booked tickets should go to the port as planned, and head for the DFDS check-in.

However, DFDS has said that it cannot not take any more P&O passengers from April 8th to April 10th – a situation likely to expand into the bank holiday weekend for return journeys.

READ ALSO: What to expect if you’re returning to Italy this Easter

Eurotunnel

For those holidaymakers intending to road trip from the UK to Italy through France, Eurotunnel has also been experiencing the most traffic it’s seen since 2019, as cross-Channel passengers and freight have been switching to the undersea service since the start of the P&O crisis.

On Monday, one of its freight trains broke down en route to Calais, and needed to be repaired in the tunnel before returning to Folkestone, leading to additional temporary delays. 

Normal service resumed later the same day, but – like ferry operator DFDS – Eurotunnel is operating close to capacity. Existing bookings will be honoured, but don’t assume that you will get a crossing if you book at the last minute.

Traffic within Italy

While Italian airports and train stations are operating at normal capacity, motorway traffic is forecast to be heavy in Italy over the next few days. A recent survey by the Italian hotel association Federalberghi found that around 14 million of Italians are planning to travel on holiday over the Easter period.

Good Friday is not a public holiday in Italy, but schools are closed from Thursday and many Italians take the Friday off work to give themselves a ponte (bridge) holiday that stretches into Easter Monday, which means that as of Thursday afternoon some motorways are already seeing major blockages.

Traffic flows are likely to be at their highest on Friday 15th and Saturday 16th April, according to the trade publication Infomotori, so if possible, it’s wise to avoid travelling across the country by car on these days.

Health rules

Italy has extended its international travel rules until the end of April, which means that people travelling from the UK need either need proof of vaccination or recent recovery from Covid, or a recent negative test, to enter Italy – full details here.

There are no Covid-related requirements to enter the UK.

High-grade Ffp2 masks are required on all public transport in Italy and in transport hubs such as airports and stations. For services running from the UK to Italy, check the policy with your operator.

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