What is it Like to Travel to Italy Right Now?

Published: 19 October 2021

TRAVEL DATES WERE SEPTEMBER 17 – SEPTEMBER 27, 2021

With international travel slowly resuming, there is still a lot of uncertainty over what to expect if you go abroad. After a recent visit to Italy, I am happy to report some of my findings, so that travelers can decide if it’s worth considering a trip for themselves right now.

L’Arco Della Pace | Milan, Italy | Photo Credit: David Bernard

PRE-DEPARTURE

In the weeks leading up to the trip, the most important thing to do was continuously monitor Italian news. Despite them doing well with containing the virus, and most things operating fairly normally, anything can still change rapidly and therefore it is highly recommended that the situation is closely monitored.

Thankfully, the situation did not deteriorate and finally the week came when we departed for the Italian Republic! In advance, the following is required until AT LEAST 25 October:

  • Vaccinated Travelers from the USA
    • The EU Passenger Locator Form
    • A Negative Test, taken within the previous 72hrs of arrival (please verify if rapid is acceptable, we used a PCR)
    • Your CDC card (in physical form, not a picture – even if the airline accepts it, you need it within Italy to do many things)
  • Unvaccinated Travelers from the USA
    • The EU Passenger Locator Form
    • A Negative Test, taken within the previous 72hrs of arrival (please verify if rapid is acceptable, we used a PCR)
    • a 5-day self-isolation
Fontana di Trevi | Rome, Italy | Photo Credit: David Bernard

DEPARTURE FROM THE US, AND ARRIVAL IN THE ITALIAN TERRITORY

We flew nonstop from New York (JFK) into Milan-Malpensa (MXP), with Delta Air Lines. Upon arrival into JFK, there were some important things to note. As it has been with ALL airlines recently, the check-in process was much longer than normal. This was not because of any operational errors with Delta, but rather because everyone traveling internationally likely requires a check of recent negative COVID tests/vaccine cards. This takes significant extra time, and ALL passengers on these specific flights are required to show these documents, so please plan accordingly to account for this extra time. You CANNOT use the automated check-in machines if you are traveling internationally, in most cases.

Upon arrival into the Italian territory, it was actually quite smooth. EU passport holders were directed to the automated E-Gates, although there were not many on this flight since most European passport holders are currently ineligible to re-enter the US. Each flight was separated into separate lines (likely to contain any possible small outbreaks, should they occur) but processing for New York was fairly quick! No second test on arrival was required.

Masks were required throughout the ENTIRE journey, at ALL airports, and while onboard the plane, per laws from both the Italian and US governments.

The Spanish Steps | Rome, Italy | Photo Credit: David Bernard

SO WHAT WAS IT LIKE IN ITALY?

Believe it or not, it was actually not very different from previous visits! There was the obvious use of masks around the territory (Italy still requires masks to ALWAYS be worn by EVERYONE while indoors, unless you’re eating, and even if you’re vaccinated). The “COVID Green Pass” was also required at almost every attraction. For US travelers, your CDC card is acceptable in its physical form, as is. There is no need to convert it. For unvaccinated American visitors, you can still partake in the activities, however you will require the alternative option for the green pass – which is a recent negative test in the last 48 hours. Rapid antigen tests can be obtained at many pharmacies (call ahead to avoid waiting) and upon completion they will give you the results in the form of a “Green Pass”. Negative tests however are ONLY VALID for 48 hours from the time of the sample collection. Therefore, some travelers may find themselves taking rapid tests every other day!

Pretty much all museums, attraction sites, and restaurants were operating normally – however, now with a check of the “Green Pass”. CDC cards were accepted everywhere with no issue (in our case). Indoor dining also required the pass, however sometimes it’s more fun to dine outside in Europe – especially if the weather is nice.

We also traveled by train from Milan to Rome, the “Green Pass” was required for that travel, and was checked on-board during the scan of our tickets. Currently, all commercial travel crossing regional borders requires the “Green Pass” (whether that be a vaccination or recent negative test). Persons who wish to skip this requirement should consider renting a car, and traveling privately. In that case a pass is not required.

The Colosseum | Rome, Italy | Photo Credit: David Bernard

RETURN TO THE USA

There are still several important notes to make regarding a traveler’s return to the USA. In fact, we even briefly made one mistake and almost learned quite a lesson! While pharmacies are abundant in Italy, and many of them do the rapid antigen test (acceptable for entry into the US) it is VERY IMPORTANT to know their operating hours. We were delayed leaving the Colosseum in Rome and ended up missing the cut off for a rapid test at the pharmacies by 2 minutes, on the day before our return! Thankfully we had a later flight and were able to get a rapid swab at 9am immediately as the pharmacy began testing. There was just one problem, they sometimes take up to 2 hours to email the results. Our flight to NYC was at 1pm, and almost immediately after testing we needed to depart for the airport so that we had 2-3 hours for all the required checks. It took some convincing, but the pharmacists were able to agree to prioritize the results so that we would get our emails as soon as possible. They ended up being received within 30 minutes, but this is certainly NOT the way to go about it. It was too risky, and it involved the staff going out of their way to make up for our poor planning.

The best advice would be to do your test on the morning prior to the day you depart – before you do any other activities. It’s best to get it out of the way and just have the results received timely. You can print them at your hotel, and save yourself a lot of stress!

Como, Italy | Photo Credit: Andrew Smith

SUMMARY

In short, traveling to Italy right now is arguably much easier than expected. However, there are still many important factors to consider. It is almost surely much easier for a vaccinated person to enjoy their trip, Unvaccinated travelers can still enjoy their time, but only if they’re willing to commit to a 5-day isolation as well as pay for rapid testing every other day, in order to be able to access attractions.

Attractions are mostly open, but reservations are highly recommended for most everything. There are still many places requiring capacity restrictions. The concierge at your hotel can also help make these reservations, if it helps! Overall, Italy seems to be mostly returned to full speed!

Published by dbernard2000

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” -Saint Augustine

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