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


CNN Staff

Editor's note: Coronavirus cases are in flux across the globe. Health officials caution that staying home is the best way to stem transmission until you're fully vaccinated. Below is information on what to know if you still plan to travel, last updated on March 18.

(CNN) -- 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 renewed its state of emergency status on December 14 and will remain so until March 31, although the government has suggested it will not be renewed after that. Case numbers are being continuously monitored, and regions are following a traffic light-style system with varying restrictions dependent on hospital capacity and infection rates.

Since March 2021, entry has been widened to arrivals from anywhere in the world. The entry regulations differ depending on a traveler's vaccination status. Testing restrictions for entry have also been eased considerably, and the non-vaccinated are allowed entry, even for tourism.

However, since December 2021, a tightening of rules means it is now difficult for unvaccinated people to carry out day-to-day activities. Masks must be worn at all times inside and on public transport.

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 such as 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's border regulations were considerably simplified on March 1, 2022 -- instead of countries being rated by risk level it now depends on your vaccination status. The current rules are valid until March 31.

Non-EU arrivals are now subject to the same, lighter entry regulation rules as EU arrivals. This means that everyone is allowed entry to Italy for any reason, quarantine-free, as long as they are fully vaccinated or have recently recovered from Covid-19. This includes arrivals from countries previously on List E, which allowed only essential travel.

What are the restrictions?

The previous lists of countries, formulated by risk, were abolished on March 1. Now, the entry regulations are the same for everyone, regardless of their country of origin.

Anyone flying to or from Italy must wear an FFP2 mask -- for more information, see below.

Regardless of their vaccination status, all visitors must fill in a self-declaration form.

Additionally, they must present a certificate of a completed initial vaccination cycle within the last nine months, or a complete cycle with booster, which can be longer than nine months ago. Alternatively, you can present a certificate of recovery from Covid-19 within the past six months, or a negative test result, taken within 48 hours (antigen) or 72 hours (PCR) of departure. This means that fully vaccinated arrivals no longer have to take a further test before travel to Italy.

Anyone not in possession of the correct documentation must quarantine for five days on arrival, and then test negative before exiting quarantine.

Non-vaccinated children under 12 do not have to quarantine, as long as they are traveling with fully vaccinated adults, and children under six are exempt from any testing requirements.

What's the Covid-19 situation?

As the first hit European country, Italy has been through a lot. Restrictions have consistently brought things under control, with Italy holding out longer than European neighbors in each subsequent wave. However, the winter waves of 2020-21 and 2021-22 have taken huge tolls.

Italy holds Europe's second highest death toll (after the UK), passing the milestone of 100,000 deaths on March 8, 2021. Over 13.6 million people have been infected to date, with the death toll at 157,442 as of March 18, 2022.

With the arrival of the Omicron variant, case numbers soared. Cases reached a record high the week of January 10, with 1,269,976 cases recorded. Before Omicron, the record infection rate for the pandemic was 248,000 infections in a week, registered in November 2020.

Numbers are now yo-yoing. Having dived in February and early March -- under 280,000 were recorded in the week leading up to March 9 -- they are now climbing again, with 431,666 new cases registered in the week leading up to March 18.

Around 90% of the adult population has now been fully vaccinated, and children are now being vaccinated as well. A vaccine mandate for the over-50s was announced on January 6. All over-18s can now receive a booster dose four months after their second dose.

App Immuni uses Bluetooth to track contact with potential infection. "Green passes" were introduced in summer 2021 with "super green passes" from December 6 (see below).

What can visitors expect

Italian regions are currently graded by their infection and hospitalization rates, running from white (lowest risk) through yellow and amber to red (highest risk). The zoning rules have changed for 2022, meaning that the previous severe restrictions of orange and red zones are a thing of the past.

This year, what you can and can't do depends more on your vaccination status than the zone you are in. Those who are fully vaccinated and boosted, with a super green pass (see below) are not subject to any zone restrictions, even in a red zone.

Note that, even if you're happy to abide by the zoning rules, proof of vaccination is required for most everyday activities, from entering shops to taking public transport.

Note that children under the age of 12 are exempt from the vaccination requirements.

As of March 18, there are no red or orange zones but four yellow zones: Calabria, Lazio, Marche and Sardinia. The rest of the country is white. See the map here.

The nationwide outdoor mask mandate ended on February 11. However, masks must still be worn indoors, including FFP2 masks on public transport -- you can be fined up to $450 for not wearing one. Individual cities and regions can also bring in outdoor mask mandates in crowded places.

Masks must be a safer FFP2 model on public transport (including flights to and from Italy), and during any kind of performance whether indoors or outdoors -- cinemas, theaters, music venues and sporting events. Eating and drinking inside at these events is also banned.

It is rumored that the indoor mask mandate may be removed at the end of April.

Nightclubs finally reopened on February 11, with a 50% capacity indoors and 75% outdoors.

Social distancing restrictions remain in place, including on public transport -- except for high-speed trains, which can run at capacity. Authorities will be given the authority to halt any train on which a passenger is showing any symptoms of Covid-19.

Only two people may sit in the back of a taxi, if they are part of the same family.

The 2022 rules for the white, yellow, orange and red zones are as follows:

White zones:

The least restricted. The mask mandate and green pass restrictions are enforced.

Yellow zones:

White zone rules apply, plus:

• Cinemas and live entertainment venues are capped at 50% capacity.

Orange zones:

Yellow zone rules apply, plus:

• Numbers allowed on the ski slopes have been restricted (the exact number depends on the region). Only a limited number of ski passes will be sold each day.

• On weekends, only those with a super green pass (or three vaccinations) are allowed in shopping malls.

• Stadium capacity is capped at 35% indoors, 50% outdoors.

• If not fully vaccinated with a booster, traveling from one comune (council area) to another is only allowed for essential reasons.

Red zones:

No region has so far turned red in 2022, but if they do, this would see the return of 2020/2021 restrictions -- even for the fully vaccinated and boosted.

Red zone status would still mean closures of bars, restaurants, museums and entertainment venues. Restrictions on travel and a nightly curfew would be reintroduced.

Green passes and super green passes:

Enter almost anywhere in Italy and you will be asked to show your "certificazione verde," or green pass.

As of January 2022, there are two types of green pass: a basic one and a "super green pass" or "certificazione verde rafforzata."

The regular pass shows that the holder has been vaccinated, has tested negative within the past 48 hours, or has recovered from the virus within the past six months.

The "super green pass" can only be obtained through vaccination (including a booster) or previous infection, but not through testing negative.

As of February 4, these are valid for six months after completing the vaccination cycle or recovering from previous infection. This has been reduced from nine months' validity. However, the government has announced plans to make the super green pass valid indefinitely for those who have been boosted. No further details have yet been announced.

Currently, a green pass is required to enter any nonessential shops and services, including hairdressers, post offices and shopping centers. Only supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations and pet stores are exempt.

A super green pass is now required to eat both indoors and outdoors in bars and restaurants, as well as to access entertainment venues, museums and exhibitions, gyms, nightclubs, theme parks, ski lifts, pools, wellness centers, spas and stadiums. You must also hold the super green pass to use public transport (including internal flights and ferries), stay in hotels or attend events such as fairs, festivals and conferences.

Those vaccinated in other countries are not eligible for the Italian pass, but EU vaccination passes are recognized and scanned as domestic ones are. Those holding a certificate with a QR code -- including UK NHS certificates -- can normally have their passes read as an Italian one. Check whether yours is valid by downloading the VerificaC19 app.

If your QR code is not recognized by the app, or you don't have one, you must show a paper copy of your certificate from your home country.

Foreign vaccine certificates are not subject to the same time limits as Italian green passes. For now, a full cycle including booster is valid indefinitely. A full initial cycle with no booster is valid six months.

The Italian government has suggested that the super green pass may start to be retired in April.

Italian Health Ministry

Immuni track and trace app

Countries currently allowed in

Verifica C19 app (iPhone)

Verifica C19 app (Android)

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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