This summer was supposed to mark the world’s big travel comeback from COVID-19, as pandemic-grounded adventurers rushed to shake the cobwebs off their passports. We all know, however, that the situation turned out to be a bit different as the Delta variant pushed infection rates back up and vaccinations slowed to a crawl in the US.
That said, about 60% of Italians are fully vaccinated at this point and almost 70% have received at least one dose, so the country is on track to hit immunity targets soon. Like most countries, Italy saw a rise in cases through the early summer but the curve seems to be flattening as continued masking mandates and a robust vaccination campaign has kept the worst numbers at bay.
Italy continues to welcome visitors from the US, Canada, and the EU without the need to quarantine; visitors from the UK are currently required to self-isolate for five days. What that means on the ground is that most tourists tend to be from North America and Europe, and crowds are far less dense than they would be during a normal high-season summer.
We traveled to Italy from the US in July without a hitch and look forward to returning this October. Though leisure travel hasn’t completely bounced back yet, 2022 is expected to be a busy year as vaccinated travelers feel safe on international flights again.
In the meantime, this fall is a great time to visit Italy. Hotels and restaurant owners are particularly welcoming, the top sights are rarely crowded, and Italians are generally very respectful of social distancing and other rules so visitors can feel comfortable.
If you’re pondering a fall trip to Italy but don’t know what to expect, here are answers to some of the most common questions. We’ll update this post regularly as the day-to-day situation evolves; many of these rules are slated to be revisited on September 1st.
ITALY’S CURRENT COVID RULES AND RESTRICTIONS
Last update: August 19th
ITALY’S GREEN PASS
Italy activated its Green Pass system, a digital or paper Covid-19 certificate that includes a QR code, on August 6th. The Italian Green Pass certifies that the holder has received one of the following:
- at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at least 15 days prior (even for vaccines that require two doses like Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca)
- a negative Covid-19 test from the previous 48 hours
- a certification of recovery from COVID-19 in the previous six months
A Green Pass (or equivalent; see below) is required in Italy for anyone aged 12 and up for the following:
- indoor dining and imbibing in restaurants and bars (no Green Pass needed for outdoor seating or consuming drinks at the bar counter)
- entrance to museums (including open-air cultural sites like Pompeii)
- indoor and outdoor concerts, theater performances, and cinemas
- sports stadiums
- theme parks
- swimming pools, gyms, and spas
- sagre (open-air local fairs)
- other venues like hospitals
- large public and private events, including weddings
For visitors traveling from the US, the CDC vaccination certificate shown alongside a photo ID like a passport is accepted in lieu of a Green Card. The CDC certificate must refer to one of the four vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA): Pfizer-BioNtech’s Comirnaty, Moderna, Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca), Janssen (Johnson & Johnson).
After September 1st, the Green Pass or equivalent will also be mandatory for domestic flights, ferries, and long-distance trains and buses.
Though the CDC vaccination card is recognized as a Green Pass equivalent by law, there can be some hiccups as restaurant owners and other businesses grapple with this new system. We will always check with the restaurant or other venue to make sure your Covid-19 document will be accepted before reserving.
Italy adopted a color-coded regional system to indicate the level of Covid risk and the related restrictions early on, and this system is still active. All the regions of Italy are currently classified as “white” zones, or minimal-risk Covid regions. There are currently no regions classified as “yellow” (low risk), “orange” (medium risk), or “red” (high risk). The colors are assigned based on a variety of parameters, including the number of active Covid-19 cases in the region, death rate, and hospital capacity.
There is complete freedom of movement within the entire country and no curfew. Tourists who have met the entry criteria can move freely once inside Italy. The mask mandate has been lifted in outdoor settings but is still required in indoor public spaces and public transportation. Social distancing is still required in all regions.
- There is no curfew.
- Restaurants and cafés are open for delivery, take-away, or table service outdoors. Indoor service has begun with table occupancy and distance limitations.
- Cinemas, theaters, stadiums, and concert halls are open with reduced capacity (generally around 50% of total capacity). Advance reservations are required.
- Outdoor cinemas and performance spaces are open.
- Outdoor sports are allowed; gyms and fitness areas are open.
- Outdoor pools and beach clubs are open.
- Spas, thermal baths, and amusement parks are open.
- Indoor dance clubs and discos remain closed.
Hotels have reopened with extra protocols for safety and hygiene, including the use of masks and hand sanitizer by staff and guests. Hotel restaurants can serve food to hotel guests and the public but the use of fitness areas and spas is only allowed for Green Pass (or equivalent) holders. Many hotels do not currently offer buffet breakfast but have opted for table service as a precaution.
RESTAURANTS AND CAFÉS
Restaurants have reopened for delivery, carry out, or table service outdoors. Indoor service has resumed with table occupancy and distance limitations for Green Pass holders. Many have opted for a digital or QR code menu to avoid passing printed menus between customers.
MUSEUMS AND CULTURAL SITES
Museums and archaeological sites have reopened with reduced capacity, but visitors must show a Green Pass to enter. Tickets must be booked online at least one day in advance for weekend or holiday visits. You are required to wear a mask inside and have your temperature taken at the entrance.
All shops are open for business, though smaller stores may limit the number of customers admitted inside to comply with social distancing protocols. You must wear a mask and use hand sanitizer when shopping indoors.
Only four passengers are allowed per vehicle if they are not members of the same family; there is no limit for family members. Passengers are not allowed to sit in the front passenger seat next to the driver and must wear masks while inside the vehicle. Car services sanitize their vehicles inside and out between clients and provide fresh masks and hand sanitizer.
Private outdoor walking tours, hikes, and boat tours can resume with the proper social distancing and safety protocols and no Green Pass requirement unless the tour includes a museum of cultural site visit. Shared group tours can resume with a limited number of participants.
COVID-19 AND ITALY TRAVEL: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
DO I HAVE TO WEAR A MASK IN ITALY?
Yes, absolutely! Masks are still mandatory in public indoor spaces (museums, shops, restaurants, public transportation like trains and buses, etc.). Masks are currently required outdoors only in crowded situations when social distancing is not possible. Mask compliance is very high in Italy and you will be fined if you are caught without one.
WHAT ARE THE COVID AND HOSPITAL OCCUPANCY RATES IN ITALY?
All of Italy is now classified as a “white” zone, where active Covid-19 cases and hospital occupancy rates are quite low. To see updated stats, you can check the WHO website.
HOW IS THE VACCINE CAMPAIGN PROCEEDING IN ITALY?
After a slow start, Italy’s vaccine campaign is hitting its stride and more than half of the country is now fully vaccinated; most health and safety, transportation, and hospitality workers are fully vaccinated. Certain areas of the country that depend almost exclusively on tourism for their local economy have reached full vaccination, including the islands of Capri, Ischia, and Procida, as well as Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast.
WHAT COULD CHANGE SOON?
There are a number of Covid-19 restrictions that are expected to be evaluated and perhaps tightened or loosened depending upon the infection and hospitalization rates between August 23rd and September 1st. The country is keeping a close eye on the rise of the Delta variant in a handful of regions and some tightening of restrictions may be necessary. These could include the following (but keep in mind that this is only conjecture and no official announcements have been made):
- A limited number of regions turning “yellow”, with a return to curfew and limited indoor dining (the islands of Sicily, and Sardinia and the southern regions of Calabria and Basilicata are currently considering a reclassification).
- A return to outdoor mask requirements.
WHAT ARE THE RULES FOR TRAVELING TO ITALY?
US and Canadian citizens can visit Italy for tourism without having to quarantine for five days within certain limitations, according to the new EU directive valid from August 31st to October 25th, 2021. To enter, visitors ages 6 and up (children under six can enter without vaccination or testing) must meet all three of the following conditions:
- Certificate of vaccination (CDC-issued vaccination card or EU Green Certificate). To be considered “fully vaccinated”, you must have had your second vaccine dose of Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca or one dose of J&J at least 14 days before departure OR a Certificate of Recovery from COVID dated no more than 180 days before arrival to Italy.
- A negative antigen or PCR COVID-19 test result from a test taken within 72 hours of arrival in Italy.
- A Digital Passenger Locator Form, filled out before departure.
For updated information regarding travel between Italy and the US, see the official Italian government site here.
IS A PRE-FLIGHT TEST REQUIRED?
Though preflight tests into Italy are required only for those passengers who cannot present a certificate of vaccination (CDC-issued vaccination card or EU Green Certificate) or certificate of recovery, it’s always a good idea to double-check with your airline before traveling. This is especially true if you are connecting via a third country.
WHAT ARE THE RULES FOR RETURNING TO THE USA?
At present, all travelers returning from Italy to the US must have a negative PCR or antigen Covid test taken within three days of travel, even for fully vaccinated travelers.
We arrange for pre-departure Covid tests for our clients and many hotels offer an in-house testing service for departing guests. In addition, there are are public and private clinics, as well as many pharmacies, that can perform PCR or antigen Covid tests with 24-hour results. U.S. State Department COVID-19 Traveler Information
DOES THE STATE DEPARTMENT LEVEL 3 TRAVEL ADVISORY (RECONSIDER TRAVEL TO ITALY) PROHIBIT ME FROM VISITING ITALY?
No. US citizens can visit Italy for tourism without having to quarantine (see above). State Department Advisories are just that: advice. The State Department/CDC Advisory was downgraded from Level 4 (Do not Travel) to Level 3 (Reconsider Travel) on June 9. The CDC encourages Americans to be fully vaccinated before traveling to Italy.
WHAT IF I GET SICK IN ITALY?
Italy has a national health care system and medical care is guaranteed to anyone who is ill or injured, regardless of their residency or insurance situation. If you suspect you may have Covid, you must call the Coronavirus hotline at 1500. Do not go to the emergency room, as you may spread the virus to others.