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

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 until January 31 due to the pandemic, although it is likely this will be extended. The current entry regulations are valid until January 15, when they will be revisited.

After being hard hit in the early stages of the first wave, the country was one of the first to reopen to visitors in June, although entry is largely limited to European Union residents.

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 like 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 effectively went into a second national lockdown over the Christmas and New Year period, designating the entire country a “red zone” over the holiday dates. The borders were effectively closed, until January 6.

Countries currently allowed in, with quarantine, are divided into two lists:

Low risk countries are Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Rwanda, Singapore and Thailand. Residents of those countries are allowed unrestricted entry.

Also allowed are arrivals from most of Europe: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Hungary, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Arrivals from these countries must produce a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 48 hours of arrival.

Arrivals from the United Kingdom are banned until January 15.

Tourism is not currently allowed from any other country, including the United States. Since overnight stays must be registered with the authorities, there’s no chance of sneaking in via a secondary country.

What are the restrictions?

Arrivals from Europe must provide a negative PCR test result taken within 48 hours of their arrival. They are also required to fill in a self-declaration form and report to the local health authorities. Anyone arriving without a negative test result must quarantine for 14 days, regardless of any negative tests taken on arrival.

Any arrivals traveling for essential reasons, from countries which are normally barred from entry, must quarantine for 14 days on arrival.

Because of the new variant, flights have been banned between Italy and the UK until January 6, and only residents and Italian nationals are allowed to make the journey from the UK until January 15.

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. However, cases started rising in September and spiking sharply in October. It holds Europe’s second highest death toll (after the UK), with over 2.2 million infections and 77,000 deaths as of January 8.

App Immuni uses Bluetooth to track contact with potential infection.

What can visitors expect

Until January 15, non-essential travel between towns and regions is not allowed. It is likely this will be extended until January 31.

Italy’s state of emergency has delegated power to individual regions, so it depends where you are. But across the country, masks must be worn at all times in public, even outside.

On November 6, the country was divided into zones, depending on infection levels: red, orange and yellow.

In yellow zones (lowest case numbers), bars and restaurants close at 6 p.m.; restaurant groups are limited to six people. Local festivals have been banned, and museums, theaters, cinemas and gyms are closed. Shopping centers are closed at weekends. There is a nightly curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

In orange zones (higher risk), restaurants and bars are closed entirely and regional borders are closed. 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 only for work, health reasons or to go to a place of worship.

The entire country was designated red and orange over the holiday period, turning yellow on January 7 for the first time since December 23. However, that was only for two days — going forwards, weekends will be orange countrywide until the rules are revisited on January 15. Outside weekends, regions will receive individual ratings — Veneto, Lombardy, Emilia Romagna, Calabria and Sicily will remain orange from January 10, while the rest of the country will go back to yellow during the week.

The 10 p.m. curfew remains country-wide until further notice.

Useful links

Italian Health Ministry

Immuni track and trace app

Countries currently allowed in

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.

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