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COVID-19 RULES

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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MONEY

How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

If you're visiting Italy from outside the EU you risk running up a huge phone bill in roaming charges - but there are ways to keep your internet access while avoiding being hit by extra charges.

How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

Travelling without access to the internet is almost impossible these days. We use our phones for mapping applications, contacting the Airbnb, even scanning the QR code for the restaurant menu.

If you’re lucky enough to have a phone registered in an EU country then you don’t need to worry, thanks to the EU’s cap on charges for people travelling, but people visiting from non-EU countries – which of course now includes the UK – need to be careful with their phone use abroad.

First things first, if you are looking to avoid roaming charges, be sure to go into your settings and turn off “data roaming.” Do it right before your plane lands or your train arrives – you don’t want to risk the phone company in your home country starting the clock on ‘one day of roaming fees’ without knowing it.

READ ALSO: Ten ways to save money on your trip to Italy this summer

But these days travelling without internet access can be difficult and annoying, especially as a growing number of tourist attractions require booking in advance online, while restaurants often display their menus on a QR code.

So here are some techniques to keep the bills low.

Check your phone company’s roaming plan

Before leaving home, check to see what your phone plan offers for pre-paid roaming deals.

For Brits, if you have a phone plan with Three for example, you can ask about their “Go Roam” plan for add-on allowance. You can choose to pay monthly or as you go. Vodafone offers eight day and 15 day passes that are available for £1 a day.

For Americans, T-Mobile offers you to add an “international pass” which will charge you $5 per day. Verizon and AT&T’s roaming plans will charge you $10 per day. For AT&T, you are automatically opted into this as soon as your phone tries to access data abroad.

READ ALSO: Seven things to do in Italy in summer 2022

These all allow you to retain your normal phone number and plan.

Beware that these prices are only available if you sign up in advance, otherwise you will likely be facing a much bigger bill for using mobile data in Italy. 

Buy a pre-paid SIM card

However, if you are travelling for a longer period of time it might work out cheaper to turn off your phone data and buy a pre-paid SIM card in Italy.

In order to get a pre-paid SIM card, you will need your passport or proof of identity (drivers’ licences do not count).

READ ALSO: TRAVEL: Why now’s the best time to discover Italy’s secret lakes and mountains

Keep in mind that you will not be able to use your normal phone number with the new SIM card in, but will be able to access your internet enabled messaging services, like WhatsApp, Facebook and iMessage. Your phone will need to be ‘unlocked’ (ask your carrier about whether yours is) in order to put a new SIM card in.

Here are some of the plans you can choose from:

WindTre

WindTre, the result of a 2020 merger between the Italian company Wind and the UK network provider Three, currently offers a “Tourist Pass” SIM card for foreign nationals. For €24.99 (it’s sneakily marketed as €14.99, but read the small print and you’ll see you need to fork out an additional €10), you’ll have access to 20GB of data for up to 30 days.

The offer includes 100 minutes of calls within Italy plus an additional 100 minutes to 55 foreign countries listed on the WindTre website. Up to 13.7GB can be used for roaming within the EU. The card is automatically deactivated after 30 days, so there’s no need to worry about surprise charges after you return from your holiday. To get this SIM card, you can go into any WindTre store and request it.

A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.
A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.

Vodafone

Vodafone has had better deals in the past, but lately appears to have downgraded its plan for tourists, now called “Vodafone Holiday” (formerly “Dolce Vita”), to a paltry 2GB for €30. You get a total of 300 minutes of calls and 300 texts to Italian numbers or to your home country; EU roaming costs €3 per day.

Existing Vodafone customers can access the offer by paying €19 – the charge will be made to your Vodafone SIM within 72 hours of activating the deal. 

READ ALSO: MAP: The best Italian villages to visit this year

The Vodafone Holiday offer automatically renews every four weeks for €29 – in order to cancel you’ll need to call a toll-free number. The Vodafone website says that the €30 includes the first renewal, suggesting the payment will cover the first four weeks plus an additional four after that, but you’ll want to double check before buying. You’ll need to go to a store in person to get the card.

TIM

TIM is one of Italy’s longest-standing and most well-established network providers, having been founded in 1994 following a merger between several state-owned companies.

The “Tim Tourist” SIM card costs €20 for 15GB of data and 200 minutes of calls within Italy and to 58 foreign countries, and promises “no surprises” when it comes to charges.

You can use the full 15GB when roaming within the EU at no extra charge, and in the EU can use your minutes to call Italian numbers. The deal is non-renewable, so at the end of the 30 days you won’t be charged any additional fees.

READ ALSO: MAP: Which regions of Italy have the most Blue Flag beaches?

To access the offer, you can either buy it directly from a TIM store in Italy, or pre-order using an online form and pay with your bank card. Once you’ve done this, you’ll receive a PIN which you should be able to present at any TIM store on arrival in Italy (along with your ID) to collect your pre-paid card. The card won’t be activated until you pick it up.

Iliad

Iliad is the newest and one of the most competitive of the four major phone companies operating in Italy, and currently has an offer of 120GBP of €9.99 a month. For this reason, some travel blogs recommend Iliad as the best choice for foreigners – but unfortunately all of their plans appear to require an Italian tax ID, which rules it out as an option for tourists.

Contract

Though buying a pre-paid SIM card is a very useful option for visitors spending a decent amount of time in Italy, as mentioned above, there’s a significant different difference between buying a one-time pre-paid SIM versus a monthly plan that auto-renews.

Make sure you know which one you’re signing up for, and that if you choose a plan that will continue charging you after your vacation has ended, you remember to cancel it.

UK contracts

If you have a UK-registered mobile phone, check your plan carefully before travelling. Before Brexit, Brits benefited from the EU cap on roaming charges, but this no longer applies.

Some phone companies have announced the return of roaming charges, while others have not, or only apply roaming charges only on certain contracts.

In short, check before you set off and don’t assume that because you have never been charged extra before, you won’t be this time.

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