Residency permits For Members

Explained: Do foreigners in Italy have to carry ID at all times?

Clare Speak
Clare Speak - [email protected]
Explained: Do foreigners in Italy have to carry ID at all times?
Carrying ID in Italy is useful, but is it mandatory? Photo by Georgi Dyulgerov on Unsplash

You may have heard that you need to carry ID with you at all times in Italy. We look at whether this is actually true - and what happens if you don’t.


There are some questions about life in Italy which even Italians themselves ask frequently, and which don’t always seem to have a clear answer.

A prime example of this type of query is whether or not it's compulsory to carry an identity card with you at all times. There’s a lot of confusion surrounding this question due to the fact that Italian law doesn’t make the rules especially clear.

Italy does not have a specific law that explicitly states a requirement for ID cards to be carried at all times by either foreign or Italian nationals, as explained by Italian legal consultancy website La Legge per Tutti (‘The Law for Everyone’).

This effectively means that if you go out for a walk and don’t have your ID card with you, you haven’t committed any sort of offence.

However, in practice, you do need to carry ID with you whenever you go out in Italy, since a different law states that police officers have the right to ask for identification at any time, and failure to show it could result in a lot of wasted time and potentially even a fine.

“If a public official, usually, but not only, an officer from the Carabinieri, State Police, Guardia di Finanza (financial police), or the Vigili Urbani (city police), requests it, you are required to provide them with your complete personal details,” explains law firm Merlino on its website.

According to Italian law, not being able to give these details when required by police can lead to a fine of up to €280, and police can take you to the station for questioning, where you can be detained for up to 12 hours, if they suspect your ID is invalid or otherwise feel it's important to identify you for any reason.

READ ALSO: How to get an Italian identity card

And if you refuse to hand over your ID, this could result in criminal charges which theoretically carry a prison sentence: Italy’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, recently confirmed that refusal to identify yourself to the police when requested is considered a criminal offence.


These rules apply equally to both Italian citizens and foreign nationals who are legally resident in Italy. 

There’s no mention of carrying identification documents being a legal requirement for visitors to Italy, but it’s likely that anyone who refuses or is unable to identify themselves when asked could face an unpleasant interruption to their trip if police feel it’s necessary.

READ ALSO: How to use your Italian ID card to access official services online

Whatever your residency status, it’s advisable to keep some form of ID on you at all times in Italy.

Documents that are considered valid forms of ID in Italy are the Italian identity card (Carta d'Identità Elettronica, or CIE), passport, driving license, or your residency permit (permesso di soggiorno).


Your Italian health insurance card (tessera sanitaria) is not technically supposed to be accepted as a valid identity document for these purposes.

If you live in Italy, chances are you’ll already have plenty of reasons to carry various forms of ID with you most of the time: you’ll need ID when dealing with government offices, banks, post offices, and other institutions.

You’ll also need it when checking in at a hotel in Italy, as well as for certain types of transactions. ID checks when buying alcohol tend to be less stringent in Italy than in some countries, but younger adults will need it for this purpose, too.

You may find that the police never stop you and ask for identification, but it’s always a good idea to carry your ID with you to avoid any potential hassle.


Several readers have asked whether you need to carry around the original copies of documents, or if a photo or copy of your passport or ID would suffice.

This has long been a point of contention in Italy as the law doesn't make this expressly clear, meaning different people will tell you different things.

All of the legal sources The Local has consulted point out that the law states police can ask you to identify yourself, i.e. to provide your personal details (name, surname, address, etc.), but that it doesn't specify that they can require you to hand over a physical copy of a document.

So, theoretically, you may be able to give the information verbally or show them a photo of your passport or ID. However, as with most such rules in Italy, some police officers may decide to interpret the law differently.

And this doesn't apply if police stop you when driving, as Italian law states that drivers must have their licence available for inspection.

Otherwise, realistically, you're unlikely to end up in trouble if asked for identification unless you point-blank refuse to identify yourself.

From the anecdotal experiences of The Local's members and writers, it seems the worst thing that's likely to happen if you don't have your documents with you (and encounter a particularly strict police officer) is that you may have to go back to your home or accommodation to retrieve the original copy of your ID.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

Marshall 2023/07/20 18:27
Is this something that you need to tell young people? I have always carried ID with me my whole life, and I still do. Especially when I'm traveling, I carry a laminated copy of my passport photo page. It's ridiculous that this would even be a question, or an issue, please!
Ed 2023/05/08 14:37
We were asked by the police on a train trip to show ID. I had my carta d’identità but my friend only had a photo on her phone. The police spent very little time with the photo of the front of the card but took much more interest in the numbers on the back side. They thanked us and went on to check other travelers. We were never sure why they were checking but there was no incident for us that day. Maybe we were just lucky. I don’t know.
Tim 2023/05/08 12:12
Is it enough to have a copy of your ID, or do you always need to have the actual card or original document? I have a scan of all my important cards and documents accessible from my phone but I rarely carry the originals with me unless I know I need them for something specific. This is what my Italian wife does. I am from the UK where you are not required to carry ID anyway, but I would never walk around with my passport for fear of losing it.
  • Clare Speak 2023/05/08 14:13
    Hi Tim, that's a good question and we've updated the article to mention this. In theory, a photo of your passport or ID should be acceptable, but the law is not particularly clear either way. I won’t walk around with my passport either, and I’m still not completely used to the idea of carrying ID even after 12 years of living in Europe (I’m from the UK too). So I frequently forget it and have to show a photo at post offices, banks, or hotels. This is always fine, but I’ve not been stopped by the police yet! Thanks for reading, - Clare
Allison 2023/05/05 21:38
My question is, does a photo of the ID suffice? Then does one have 24 hours to produce the actual document, for example?
  • Clare Speak 2023/05/08 14:15
    Hi Allison, that's a good question and we've updated the article to mention this. In theory, a photo of your passport or ID should be acceptable, although the law is not clear on this. You're unlikely to get into any trouble unless you refuse to identify yourself at all, though. Thanks for reading, - Clare

See Also