Unlocking the World

Traveling to Italy during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go

CNN StaffUpdated 1st December 2021
Italy remains one of Europe's least affected countries.
Editor's Note — Coronavirus cases are in flux across the globe. Health officials caution that staying home is the best way to stem transmission until you're fully vaccinated. Below is information on what to know if December 1.
(CNN) — If you're planning to travel to Italy, here's what you'll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The basics

Italy is currently in a state of emergency because of the pandemic. Although the country has emerged from a third-wave lockdown, case numbers are being continuously monitored, and individual regions could bring back restrictions at any point -- as some already have.
After being hit hard in the early stages of the first wave, the country was one of the first to reopen to visitors in 2020. For 2021, entry is largely limited to residents of the European Union, plus a select list of non-EU countries, including the United States, Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom. The entry regulations differ depending on a traveler's vaccination status and whether they've recently recovered from Covid.
On November 26, Italy banned arrivals from South Africa and seven other countries in Southern Africa, following the discovery of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
From December 6, a tightening of rules means it will be difficult for unvaccinated people to carry out day-to-day activities.

What's on offer in Italy

This is one of Europe's big hitters, known for its historic cities of art such as Florence, one-off wonders such as Venice and the seat of the Roman Catholic Church in Rome.
Incredible food, fantastic wine, unspoiled countryside and a string of beach resorts mean it's always in demand.

Who can go

Italy's borders have been open to visitors for most of 2021, with some restrictions in place. The entry regulations were updated on October 25, and are valid until December 15.
Countries currently allowed in are divided into two lists:
List C is for Europe: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Denmark (including Faroe Islands and Greenland), Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal (including the Azores and Madeira), Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
List D comprises the following countries: Australia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Canada, Chile, UAE, Japan, Jordan, Kosovo, Israel, Kuwait, New Zealand, Qatar, Rwanda, UK, Korea, Singapore, USA, Uruguay, Ukraine, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao.
The rest of the world is classified as List E. Only essential travel is allowed from these destinations.
On November 26, following the discovery of the Omicron variant, Italy banned travel from eight southern African countries: South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini until further notice.

What are the restrictions?

Regardless of their vaccination status, all visitors must fill in a self-declaration form. Additionally, the following requirements must be met, depending on where you are arriving from.
Passengers coming from List C countries (and having spent the past 14 days in them) must produce a Passenger Locator Form, and a Green Pass or equivalent (a Green pass shows you have been fully vaccinated with an EU-approved vaccine more than two weeks earlier, or have tested negative within the past 72 hours). Travelers arriving without this must quarantine for five days and then take another test.
Travelers arriving from List D countries must present proof of vaccination (with the conditions above). Travelers from Canada, Japan and the US can alternatively show proof of recovery from Covid-19, instead of proof of vaccination.
Additionally, arrivals from List D countries must show a negative test (PCR or antigen) taken within 72 hours of arrival. This is reduced to 48 hours for those coming from the UK.
Those who do not present the correct evidence must quarantine for five days, and test at the start and end of quarantine.
Only essential travel is allowed from List E countries. Arrivals must present a negative test taken within 72 hours of arrival, then quarantine for 10 days, and test negative to leave quarantine.
Wherever they are arriving from, children under six years old do not have to take a test. Furthermore, unvaccinated kids follow the rules their parents are following -- in other words, if their accompanying parent does not have to quarantine, neither does the child.

What's the Covid-19 situation?

As the first hit European country, Italy has been through a lot. However, a strict lockdown brought things under control and it held out against a second wave for longer than its European neighbors. The third wave, however, has had a big impact, despite the country going into more or less full lockdown for the first quarter of 2021.
Italy holds Europe's second highest death toll (after the UK), passing the milestone of 100,000 deaths on March 8. However, the numbers are slowing right down as summer continues. Over 5 million people have been infected to date, with the death toll at 133,828 as of December 1. Following a rapid rise in infection rates in July (in which they tripled, and then doubled again), August saw the numbers level out, but they are currently rising again. The week leading up to October 28 saw 26,481 new infections, compared to 19,000 the week earlier. There were 32,214 new cases reported in a week in mid September, while the week leading up to November 16 had 52,666 new infections reported, and 86,412 were reported in the week leading up to December 1. The government is keeping a close eye on the situation, as case numbers climb.
The much-delayed vaccination campaign has also picked up speed, finally. Anyone over 12 can now book, though appointments for some are weeks away. Around 80% of the population has now been fully vaccinated. All over-18s can now receive a booster dose, five months after their second dose.
App Immuni uses Bluetooth to track contact with potential infection. "Green passes" were introduced in summer 2021 (see below).

What can visitors expect

Italian regions are currently graded by their infection and hospitalization rates, running from white (lowest risk) through yellow and amber to red (highest risk). Since the end of August, almost all regions have been designated white. Sicily, which was yellow, returned to white in October. However, Friuli Venezia Giulia will turn yellow on December 1. Alto Adige (South Tyrol), Veneto and Umbria are at risk of turning yellow on December 8.
With the fourth wave picking up pace, outdoor mask mandates have been introduced in Milan, Bologna, Padova, Bergamo and Bolzano. Expect other cities to announce similar plans in the run up to the holiday period. This means that you must wear a mask at all times, even when walking outside in the street. The government is considering an outdoor mask mandate in every region, according to one member.
Everywhere in Italy, masks must be worn at all times inside or on public transport (the outdoor mask mandate has now been lifted). Social distancing restrictions remain in place, including on public transport. Only high-speed trains are not subject to social distancing rules, since anyone accessing them must hold a green pass (see below). Currently, green passes are checked onboard but a new decree signed November 15 states that stations with barriers -- currently Rome, Milan and Florence -- will perform checks before allowing passengers to board. Additionally, the authorities will be given the authority to halt any train on which a passenger is showing any symptoms of Covid-19.
Only two people may sit in the back of a taxi, if they are part of the same family.
Previous restrictions on travel between regions have also been lifted -- at least, between white and yellow regions. If traveling to, or coming from, an orange or red region, essential reasons must be proven.
Since October 11, social distancing rules have been relaxed. Cultural venues can now operate at 100% capacity. This includes cinemas, theaters and concert venues. Sports stadium capacity have gone up from 35% to 60% for indoor venues, and from 50% to 75% for outdoor venues. Nightclub capacity has gone up to 50% for indoor venues and 75% for outdoor venues. All entrants must have a "green pass" (see below).
White zones are almost back to normal, qualifying as extremely low risk -- where there are under 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. These areas are exempt from restrictions, but regions can bring in their own rules. So far, none has done so.
In yellow zones, bars and restaurants can stay open throughout the day, but only for outdoor consumption. Indoor dining restarted June 1. Diners must be home for the 11 p.m. curfew (which has effectively been abolished since all regions turned white).
In yellow, shops are still open. People can have guests at home -- up to four adults, plus an unlimited number of children. Trips to second homes are allowed, and sports have resumed -- you can now have up to 1,000 spectators outside, and 500 inside, socially distanced. Museums can reopen but on weekends and holidays tickets must be booked at least one day in advance.
In orange zones, it is up to local authorities as to whether people can have home visits. Trips to second homes are allowed, though without mixing with others. Restaurants offer takeout only and people can move freely within their own towns, but cannot leave their area unless for work or an emergency.
In red zones (highest risk), all shops are closed other than grocery stores and pharmacies. People may only leave their homes for work, health reasons, to go to a place of worship or to take exercise once a day.
Since August 6, a "certificazione verde," or green pass, has been needed to enter cultural sites such as museums or galleries, entertainment and sports venues, theme parks, spas, and to eat indoors.
This was extended to included domestic flights, high-speed train travel between regions as well as sea travel on September 1. Any employee in Italy must also hold a green pass.
The pass shows that the holder has been vaccinated, has tested negative within the past 48 hours, or has recovered from the virus within the past six months.
From December 6, a "super green pass" will be introduced. This can only be obtained through vaccination or previous infection, but not through testing negative.
This super green pass will be required to eat indoors in bars and restaurants, as well as to access entertainment venues, gyms, nightclubs, ski lifts and stadiums. Hotels and public transport will also be covered by the new pass.
Those vaccinated in other countries are not eligible for the Italian pass, but those with EU vaccination passports will be fine, as there is a reciprocal agreement.
On July 29, the Italian government announced that vaccination certificates from the following countries would also be accepted in lieu of a green pass: Canada, Israel, Japan, UK and US. Those holding a certificate with a QR code can normally have their passes read as an Italian one. Check whether yours is valid by downloading the VerificaC19 app. Travelers from the UK should note that English and Welsh QR codes can be read, but Scottish and Northern Irish certificates cannot be. You should take a paper copy of your certificate if your QR code is not readable.

Useful links

Our latest coverage

Can't get to Italy right now? You can always buy a house for 1 euro -- the price of a cup of coffee.
A new website has just launched offering visit-free sales around the country. If you're not looking to buy, the country's alberghi diffusi, or scattered hotels, are the perfect travel solution in the time of Covid-19. Or check out our list of small towns perfect for social distancing.