Postcards from Italy

Travel to Italy Summer 2021: Covid-19 and What to Expect

It has been over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic first swept across the globe and finally its grip on the US and Europe seems to be weakening. Most willing adults in the US have been able to access at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and Italy, though trailing behind, is also beginning to speed up its national vaccine campaign.

For the first time since February of 2020, Italy is welcoming visitors. Even more importantly, this move to open borders promises a sense of normality and carefree “la dolce vita” atmosphere that the country hasn’t enjoyed in months. 

If you have had to delay your plans to visit Italy, it is time to dust off your passport. Tourists from the European Union, UK, and Israel were able to enter the country after May 15th if they met certain criteria, and US tourists are also currently welcome. We have booked our trip to Italy, departing on July 2nd, and are confident that leisure travel between the US and Italy can be confirmed from July going forward.

But what should you expect if visiting Italy this summer? We will answer some common questions below, with regular updates to this blog post as the situation on the ground evolves. 

Italy’s Current Covid Rules and Restrictions

Last update: June 9th

Color-Coded Regions

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. There are currently seven “white” zones, or Covid-free regions; Abruzzo, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Liguria, Molise, Sardegna, Umbria and Veneto. The remainder of the country’s regions are currently all classified as “yellow”, or low-risk zones. There are currently no regions classified as “orange (medium risk), or “red” (high risk). The colors are assigned based on a number of parameters, including number of active Covid-19 cases in the region, death rate, and hospital capacity. 

There is complete freedom of movement within the entire country. In white regions there is no curfew. Tourists who have met the entry criteria can move freely once inside Italy. Masks and social distancing are required in all regions.

Additional “yellow” region rules include:

  • Curfew from midnight to 5 a.m. There is no curfew in “white” regions.
  • 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 sports are allowed; gyms and fitness areas are open.
  • Outdoor pools and beach clubs are open.
  • Spas, thermal baths, and amusement parks can reopen on July 1st.
  • Discotheques will remain closed.

Hotels

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 without any time limit (regardless of any regional curfew) but fitness areas may be closed until June and spas may be closed until July. 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 until the curfew. Indoor service has resumed with table occupancy and distance limitations. 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. Tickets must be booked online at least one day in advance for weekend or holiday visits. You are required to wear a mask and have your temperature taken at the entrance.

Shopping

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.

Car Services

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.

Guided Tours

Private outdoor walking tours, hikes, and boat tours can resume with the proper social distancing and safety protocols. 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, etc.) and outdoors except when exercising. 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? 

Most of Italy is now classified as a “yellow” zone, where active Covid-19 cases and hospital occupancy rates are quite low.

How is the vaccine campaign proceeding in Italy?

After a slow start, Italy’s vaccine campaign is hitting its stride and the country hopes to have at least 30 million people (about half the total population) vaccinated by July. Certain areas of the country that depend almost exclusively on tourism for their local economy have reached full vaccination, including the islands of Capri and Procida. Ischia is also nearing the completion of the island’s vaccine campaign, and Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast are not far behind.

What could change soon?

There may be a number of changes regarding Covid-19 restrictions throughout June, depending upon Italy’s rates of active infection and hospital capacity. These will probably include: 

  • More regions turning “white”.
  • Extended or eliminated curfew.

What are the rules for traveling to Italy?

US citizens who take a Covid tested flight (American, Delta, and Alitalia all offer them) can visit Italy for tourism without having to quarantine. To enter, visitors must meet the following conditions:

Is a pre-flight test required?

Yes, but there is a possibility that the requirements for entry will change to meeting one of the three criteria below:

  • Be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 (two doses of Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca; one dose of J&J);
  • Show a negative Covid-19 test (antigen or molecular) taken 48 hours before entry;
  • Show certification of having recovered from a recent Covid-19 infection.

What are the rules for returning to the USA?

At present, all travelers returning from Italy to the US must have a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours of travel, though this testing requirement is expected to be eliminated for vaccinated travelers (see above). Quarantine requirements vary from state to state. Many hotels offer an in-house testing service for departing guests and there are public clinics that can perform antigen or molecular 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 who take a Covid tested flight (American, Delta, and Alitalia all offer them) 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.

Further information:

Covid-19 Information for Travelers

Covid-19 Situation in Italy

Travel Specialists

Maria Landers

Brian Dore