Note: Traveling during the COVID pandemic is a highly personal choice and should account for your personal comfort, tolerance for risk, and overall health. The conditions, status, and entrance requirements of various destinations are in constant flux, so please check local authorities for the latest information. Also, please review the State Department and CDC’s latest guidelines to ensure you’re ready and able to travel.
To say it was a very personal decision to travel to Italy in the middle of a global pandemic would be an understatement.
My dual citizenship between the United States and Italy made it possible, and I safely arrived in Sicily in October 2020. I quickly fell in love with la dolce vita and decided to move to Rome.
While Italy’s government tried to get a handle on the pandemic, I spent the first six months living under tight restrictions. (Think absolutely zero dinners at restaurants, periodic lockdowns, and life under curfew.) A lot has changed since then
Now that we are two years into the pandemic, vaccines and rapid tests are readily available, making international travel more manageable.
So, is it safe to travel to Italy right now?
The Italian government announced that Americans could resume travel to Italy for tourism purposes in May 2021. While tourism still isn’t back to normal pre-pandemic levels, it certainly has been ramping up since then.
That said, the number of cases is rising again in Italy, and consequently, the rules are constantly changing. The CDC recently updated its recommendation and has assigned Italy a Level 4 Travel Advisory, up from Level 3 over the summer, advising Americans not to travel.
I’ve recently spotted plenty of tourists here and would say it is a highly personal decision. Whether you decide to hop on a flight to Rome tomorrow or wait a couple of months until spring is in the air, now is the perfect moment to get informed on what daily life is like in Bel paese. That way, you’ll know exactly what to expect when it’s time to take that highly anticipated trip!
What It’s Like To Be In Italy During The Pandemic
After several months of living in and out of lockdown, a new pandemic normal has emerged. Curfews are a thing of the past, and life is operating pretty close to normal for those who are vaccinated. Events at outdoor and indoor stadiums are taking place, and gyms, pools, ski resorts, and thermal baths are all fully operational. (A trip to the Dolomites could be the perfect destination this winter!)
To get a complete picture of what life is like in Italy right now, you should know that there are rules that apply to the entire country, as well as regional rules.
First, There Are The National Rules
The entire country is operating under the “green pass” and the “super green pass” which offer different privileges. (Keep reading for more specifics.) The mandatory use of masks outdoors started up again at Christmas, so wearing masks both outdoors and indoors is currently required throughout all of Italy.
While using any sort of public transportation, the use of a specific FFP2 mask (meaning KN95 or N95) is required. Masks of any kind must also be worn at restaurants when moving to and from your table. You might hear a server say “La mascherina, per favore!” if you forget. Fines start at 400 euros for noncompliance.
Social distancing of at least one meter (approximately three feet) should be adhered to, especially when in shops and restaurants. The nationwide curfew, which was in place for eight months, was officially removed in June 2021 and hasn’t been implemented again since.
And Then There Are The Regional Rules
Starting in November 2020, additional restrictions have been applied to Italy’s 20 regions based on a tiered color system: white (very low risk), yellow (moderate risk), orange (medium-high risk), or red (very high risk). Colors are set based on the covid-19 rate of transmission (Rt index) and are updated approximately every two weeks by the Prime Minister.
All regions were in the white zone over the summer, but now 70% of Italy is back to yellow. Since the entire country is currently operating under the overarching green pass rules, there isn’t much of a difference in day-to-day life between white and yellow, and there are talks about the government reconsidering the tiered color system altogether.
Things can still change at a moment’s notice, so be sure to check local news sources and follow the Ministry of Health when you’re ready to travel to Italy.
Red zone (“zona rossa”): Sometimes referred to as “lockdown,” this is the most restricted zone. You must have an approved reason for leaving your house and carry a self-declaration form (autocertificazione) that states your intention for movements, such as exercise, grocery shopping, or health matters. Restaurants are limited to takeout and delivery, and non-essential businesses are closed.
Orange zone (“zona arancione”): More freedom than the red zone, non-essential shops and schools are open, and residents may travel freely within their city (not region).
Yellow zone (“zona gialla”): Currently following the same rules as white zone.
White zone (“zona Bianca”):The white zone is the closest return to pre-pandemic normalcy. To receive this classification, there must be fewer than 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants on record for three consecutive weeks.
To get a better understanding of how to travel within Italy for tourism, it’s important to understand Italy’s new two-tiered system: the “green pass” and the “super green pass”.
A green pass indicates that someone has either been vaccinated from covid-19, has fully recovered from the virus, or has received a negative rapid or molecular test within the past 24 or 72 hours. This pass is also referred to as a green certificate and is used to streamline travel throughout the EU for residents.
A super green pass is a reinforced version of the basic green bass and unique to Italy. It is only given to those who are considered fully vaccinated or have recovered from covid-19. In order to be fully vaccinated, you must have received the second dose of your vaccine, or a booster, within the last six months. A controversial topic, a negative test will not give you this pass, greatly affecting non-vaccinated tourists and residents alike.
The super green pass allows entry to restaurants, museums, cinemas, and soon non-essential businesses as well. It is also required for all means of public transport–local, regional, or national.
While Americans will not technically receive an electronic green pass, all conditions of the certificate must be met to enter and travel freely around Italy. The CDC card works as a replacement, and it is very common practice to show it here. Simply smile and say “Sono americana” (I’m American) while showing your physical card, and sometimes, ID.
And last, but certainly not least, here is how to travel to Italy from the United States safely…and bypass quarantine. Due to rising cases, the United States was bumped to the group of countries on List D in December, which means very specific measures need to be followed to enter Italy without quarantine.
All travelers need to register and fill out a Passenger Locator Form prior to departure. At the airport, you will also need to show the following to enter the country and bypass a 5 day quarantine: proof of full vaccination or recovery from covid-19, AND a negative antigen test result taken within 24 hours of arrival in Italy, or a PCR within 72. On the flight, you’ll be asked to wear a FFP2 mask as well, so come prepared with several. You’ll need them on public transportation in Italy as well.
Since multiple tests are no longer required to enter the country, the “covid-free” or “covid-tested” flight is no longer in place. Read more and stay up to date with the latest airline changes at Delta.
While planning may require more due diligence than before, the borders are indeed open to travel to Italy, and things are on track for what is sure to be a fantastic tourist season sipping spritzes in the piazzas. Until you’re ready to make the trip, I recommend brushing up on Italian greetings and formalities and making a delicious aperitivo at home. Italy will be waiting for you!
Have Us Plan Your Italy Trip
Looking to travel to the Bel Paese? Speaking of, if you are heading to Italy soon, check out our Ultimate Guide To Planning A Trip To Italy or reach out to have us plan a custom trip for you!
Our Italy travel planning services are here to help you achieve the ideal vacation. After discussing your preferences during a short consultation, we’ll plan your perfect itinerary. Head here to get started!
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Updated January 12, 2022