Italy was one of the countries hit hardest by the coronavirus outbreak early on, at one point recording more fatalities than anywhere else in the world. The northern section of the country was particularly affected, but despite the dire situation in the spring, Italy flattened the curve of new cases and travel restrictions are beginning to lift. Here’s the latest.

Editor's note: This story was last updated on August 12, 2020. We will update this piece regularly to stay on top of the latest travel advice.

Travel restrictions in Italy

According to the latest guidance from the Italian government, travel for tourism purposes is currently allowed between Italy and EU member states and non-member Schengen area states, along with Andorra, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, San Marino, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay, the UK, and Vatican City. This applies to citizens and foreign nationals in those locations, as well as members of their households.

Anyone who has stayed in or passed through Armenia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bosnia Herzegovina, Brazil, Chile, Kosovo, Kuwait, North Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Oman, Panama, Peru, Dominican Republic, and Serbia during the previous 14-day period will be refused entry. (For exceptions, see points 1 and 2 here.)

Foreign nationals temporarily living in Italy are always allowed to return home. For residents of other countries who need to pass through to return home, flight transfers are allowed as long as you don’t leave the airport (for exceptions, see point 8 here); cruise passengers can return to their country of origin, and ferry passengers who disembark with a vehicle can continue on to their home country, as long as they don’t stay in Italy for more than 36 hours. (Depending on where you’ve been prior, a quarantine may be required before you’re allowed to continue on; see below for details.)

Before boarding planes or ferries, travelers must complete a self-certification form vouching that they’re just passing through. And anyone arriving from abroad should be prepared to provide a self-declaration justifying their reasons for traveling to Italy if they’re stopped for a security check by airline officials or or law enforcement.

Will I have to quarantine when I arrive in Italy?

If you’re arriving in Italy from countries other than EU and Schengen area states, the UK, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City, you’re required to self-isolate for 14 days. (For exceptions, see point 4 here). Once you’ve quarantined as needed, travel between regions is allowed, but you’ll need to pre-register if you’re visiting Sardinia, Puglia, Sicily, and Calabria.

As of August 11, residents returning to Puglia from travel to Spain, Greece and Malta have to self-isolate for 14 days upon re-entry. The rule does not apply to Spanish, Greek or Maltese residents visiting Puglia. In Campania officials now require residents returning from any foreign country in August to take either a swab or a blood test and notify their local health authority. While the region of Emilia-Romagna is introducing mandatory testing for residents returning from Spain, Greece, Croatia or Malta, as of August 12. Tourists visiting the region must also be tested within 24 hours of arrival. The rules follow a recent spike in infections linked to citizens returning from holidays abroad.

Across the country, masks are required indoors, on public transit, and outdoors if a safe distance can’t be maintained – except in Lombardy, where they’re required inside and out.

Orange glow of sunrise over the red rooftops of Florence and the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
Florence city and the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore at sunrise. ©Rastislav Sedlak SK/Shutterstock

Current lockdown status in Italy

Most restrictions have been lifted, but temperature-taking and hand-sanitizing may be required at restaurants, bars, beaches, pools, amusement parks, shops, museums, and hotels, and social-distancing is a must practically everywhere. For restaurants and bars, masks must be worn when you’re not seated at your table.

Hotels are technically open, but according to one report, only 40% were actually welcoming guests as of early June. Many attractions are limiting entry and requiring visitors to book in advance, so check websites before you go. 

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Rome: The Vatican Museums have introduced timed entry, and advanced bookings are required. Visitors must wear masks and have their body temperatures taken upon entry, and social-distancing is mandated once inside. Similar rules are in effect for the Colosseum and its surrounding archaeological park.;

Florence: The Duomo Cathedral and its museum are providing visitors with wearable social distancing technology, and the Uffizi Gallery is limiting the number of patrons allowed, with temperatures taken at the entrance and masks mandatory once inside. The Galleria dell'Accademia and Palazzo Pitti have also reopened with restrictions in place. 

Venice: Doge’s Palace is currently open from Thursday to Sunday, and ticket prices have been reduced to from €15 to €13; it will be open daily as of July 31. Restaurants like the famous Caffè Florian have reopened, and gondolas have reportedly taken to the canals once again.

Elsewhere: Visitors to the Leaning Tower of Pisa must purchase tickets in advance for timed entry, with 15 people allowed for each 15-minute increment. Designated entry is also standard at Pompeii, with 150 people allowed per 15-minute time slot, and visitors must follow one of two one-way routes around the historic site. 

What they’re saying in Italy about COVID-19 and travel

Ahead of Italy’s reopening this spring, foreign minister Luigi Di Maio voiced objections to some European countries’ travel policies for the one-time virus hotspot. “If anyone thinks they can treat us like a leper colony, then they should know that we will not stand for it,” he wrote on Facebook, per a Politico translation. His indignation notwithstanding, domestic travel is down, and international visitors have been slow to return, with one report predicting an 82% drop in airport arrivals this summer and another indicating that nearly half the local population is without holiday plans this year.

But some research shows that Italians are increasingly eager for vacation, and between mad dashes for the beach and some high-profile parties and gatherings, news reports reflect an urge to be out and about after months of quarantine. Still, others describe a scene across the country that’s very different from pre-pandemic times. “Rome – usually wildly frenetic and inundated with noisy trucks, buses, bikes, motorcycles, not to mention careening taxis – is now actually calm and restful,” one American wrote in late June, noting that while Italians were out “in sizable numbers,” English-speaking tourists were nowhere to be seen. “In future, just as Venice is now considering ways of controlling the annual tides of visitors, so surely will Rome,” he wrote.

Venice’s problems with overtourism have been a topic of conversation for years, and now that there are more locals on the streets than travelers, conservation groups are working toward sustainable solutions. “We are using this time in a positive way," Melissa Conn of Save Venice told CNN. "What will follow will be slow tourism, not mass tourism anymore. We are confident that we can rebuild, reestablish and rethink Venice, concentrating on helping the city withstand the elements and tourism."

COVID-19 snapshot

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This article was first published July 2020 and updated August 2020

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