Italy travel: Am I allowed to visit, what rules are in place and do I need a Covid test?

Is a Roman holiday back on the cards?

Helen Coffey,Qin Xie
Monday 19 October 2020 15:47 BST
Roman Forum
Roman Forum

While it may have started out as the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic in Europe, Italy has since managed to admirably flatten the curve and open up to visitors again.

So are British holidaymakers welcome in Italy? And do they have to quarantine after a visit?

Here’s everything you need to know.

Am I allowed to travel to Italy from the UK?

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCDO) issued a blanket warning against all non-essential international travel in March, but this was lifted for various destinations on 4 July.

The list of “low-risk” destinations has constantly evolved since then.

While Italy managed to remain on the safe list for weeks after its neighbours in the Mediterranean were removed, it too has been struck off as of 4am on Sunday 18 October.

While it’s not illegal to travel to Italy, doing so will invalidate most travel insurance. In addition, you will need to self-isolate for two weeks on return.

How could I get there?

EasyJet, British Airways and Alitalia are all offering direct flights between London and Rome; easyJet, Ryanair, Wizz Air and BA are flying to Milan; and BA, easyJet and Ryanair are operating direct services to Venice.

Many cheap fares are available, currently costing from around £19.

Alternatively, trains are still operating across Europe; you can travel from London to Milan by rail in around seven hours.

Will they let me in when I arrive?

Yes – from 3 June, Italy reopened its borders to travellers from the EU and Schengen area and the UK as long as they have not been outside the bloc in the previous two weeks.

However, it has recently updated its policy and now requires travellers from “high-risk” destinations – including the UK – to provide a negative Covid PCR or antigen test on arrival, taken no more than 72 hours before travel. You should get a private test for this rather than use the NHS service.

Alternatively, visitors can opt to get tested for free when they arrive in Italy – some airports offer rapid testing, taking no more than an hour, and passengers must wait to receive their results. Where rapid testing isn’t available, travellers must self-isolate in their hotel or accommodation until they receive their test result.

Some airports or station don’t have testing facilities, in which case arrivals must quarantine and get tested within 48 hours of entering the country. 

According to the FCDO, “you should call the Covid-19 helpline for the region you are in to arrange this. You can be fined if you do not comply with this requirement. Even if you don’t need to book a test, you still need to call the Covid-19 helpline for the region you are travelling within 48 hours of your arrival to inform them of your visit.”

All visitors are also expected to download and complete a self-declaration form from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before travel. You must provide this to your airline/transport provider, or to the border police if you are stopped for checks.

Will I have to quarantine when I arrive?

Provided you haven’t been to a country on Italy’s mandatory quarantine list, then you only need to quarantine if you test positive for coronavirus when you get to Italy. If you do test positive, you will be quarantined until two consecutive negative tests have been recorded. 

“The time spent in quarantine can vary greatly from a few days to several weeks,” warns the FCDO. “Travellers should be prepared for this eventuality.”

Can I travel within Italy?

Yes: travel between Italian regions is now permitted. However, individual regions can impose certain conditions on entry should they wish.

Rail services are returning to their usual timetables, but there are still some reduced domestic services and international travel is limited. Some cross-border bus companies have cancelled their services.

Be aware that transport hubs and modes of transport will have measures in place, such as requiring travellers to wear masks and social distance, designating difference doors for entry and exit on buses, and installing temperature scanners at train stations and airports.

Are hotels open?

Yes, many of Italy’s finest hotels have been opening since early June. These include the Il Palazzo Experimental in Venice, Villa Lena in Tuscany, Palazzo Naiadi, The Dedica Anthology in Rome and the Mandarin Oriental in Lake Como. Some seasonal ones may have now closed for winter, however.

Are restaurants, shops and attractions open?

Yes; Italy has been easing lockdown measures since mid-May.

“Italian society has broadly reopened,” according to the FCDO.

Restaurants, pubs, bars, shops, hairdressers, salons and beaches are open, as are libraries. All are required to have measures in place to enforce social distancing.

Museums and archaeological sites are open but entry must be pre-booked.

However, from 16 August dancing in enclosed nightclubs and open air venues has been suspended.

Local mayors have also been given the power to shut venues at 9pm, and there may be other local restrictions.

What rules are in place?

Social distancing of one metre must be observed and the use of masks is mandatory in all public spaces, whether outdoors or indoors. You should pay close attention to signage when travelling and carry a mask with you at all times.

In addition, many restaurants, beach facilities and other venues are asking patrons to provide their name and contact details before using their services.

Will I have to quarantine when I come home?

Yes. Anyone who returned to the UK from Italy after 4am 18 October must self-isolate for two weeks on arrival, unless they are exempt because they are employed in certain jobs.

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