Italy Travel Q&A
Ciao a tutti!
I’m finally back from my trip to Firenze where I presented some of my research on economic sanctions and arms embargoes.
I wanted to take a moment and share some of my observations about traveling to Italy during COVID-19. I decided to interview myself about my experiences. Please note that as I am a US citizen, most of my answers are based on what I had to do to travel to Italy. If you are of another nationality, please check your country’s requirements.
Q. How did you feel traveling during the pandemic? Was Italy safe?
The vaccination numbers for Italy are better than the USA. There were no huge outbreaks or spikes in cases, and, according the Italian media, the caseloads are lower now than a year ago today. The Omicron variant doesn’t seem to be as established here, although there are just under 100 cases the last time I checked. If you are coming from parts of southern Africa or the UK, you may face additional restrictions/screening.
Mask compliance in Italy was very good, although a fair number of people wear the mask below their nose (like, seriously, why bother even wearing it). I would recommend an N95 or KN95 for flights, crowded piazzas, and museums as these offer better protection.
Social distancing is largely nonexistent. Boarding several domestic Italian flights demonstrated that very few people practiced social distancing when there was a rush to get onto the stationary airplane. A crowded tram will result in people sitting or standing next to or quite close to you. Again, the mask and vaccines are probably your best protection.
Did I feel safe? For the most part…it took me several days to adjust. My first two days I had a lot of anxiety about being outdoors in open spaces around so many people. By the third day, I felt much better. I tried to patronize as many restaurants and cafes as possible, as I know the tourism industry has been hurt by the pandemic. I typically had lunch and breakfast in cafes and “on-the-go” places. I will say that I was uncomfortable being in crowded restaurants. I rented a small apartment in Florence, so I had my own kitchen. I ate out two times at places that I had been to before, but I felt rushed eating and found it difficult to relax.
Q. Do I need the Green Pass or Super Green Pass?
The Green Pass is an Italian electronic document. Italians can get the Green Pass if you have tested negative for COVID-19 within a certain span of time, have been vaccinated, or have recovered from COVID-19 and have produced your own antibodies. If you are from the USA, your CDC vaccine card (the white one you get when you get vaccines that list the doses and vaccine type) serves as your Green and Super Green Pass.
The Super Green Pass is issued only to individuals in Italy who have received the necessary vaccinations (2 doses or 1 dose depending on the vaccine you’ve taken). Keep in mind that if you are in Europe traveling to the US, not all European vaccines will be accepted by the US so make sure you check with the airline and/or relevant health authorities first. This question popped up a lot on online forms as I was trying to check in for my flight so make sure you have the right vaccination(s) and have completed your shots before you plan your trip.
The Super Green Pass cannot be obtained by negative testing, only through vaccination. The Super Green Pass is required if you want to still go out and do things but the region you are in has elevated case levels (Italy has a color coded system; you can find the map of that here). The Green Pass still allows you to do things, but if your region has elevated warnings, you will be denied entrance. For US citizens who go to Italy by quarantining and negative testing (i.e. you have no CDC white card), your ability to use public transport, go out to eat, and travel by train/air in Italy/Europe will be limited.
The Green or Super Green Pass is required to use public transport (although it was never checked on the tram or buses I took). The high speed conductors will check it. If you don’t have it, be prepared to get tossed off the train; you won’t be allowed to travel. From my observations walking around, the police and military have no tolerance for people who flout the rules.
US citizens cannot get the Green Pass or Super Green Pass that the Italians use; the CDC white card serves as your “Super Green Pass.” Make sure you have an electronic copy or a paper copy with you (I had a couple of instances where I had to show the original and another instance where the establishment I was entering wouldn’t accept the CDC card). I always traveled with my original as you will need it for the airport, especially.
Q. Should I fly direct to Italy or transit through Europe?
I first stopped in Amsterdam. I think it is easier to land in Amsterdam or Paris and then fly through to your Italian destination, but everyone is different. I found it cheaper (strangely enough) to fly directly to Florence then to Rome - my round trip ticket was half the price. I’d shop around unless you are loyal to a particular airline rewards/miles program. I don’t fly enough anymore to make it worth while so I chose the less expensive flight.
Q. Do I need a COVID-19 test before Italy?
Yes, you do! Always check the Italian web sites and airline sites for the latest, but you will need a negative COVID-19 test and quarantine for several days.
If you are vaccinated, you just have to show a negative COVID-19 test to board the flight, and you will not have to quarantine.
Q. What the digital locator form? Did you have to fill that out?
The EU has a digital passenger locator form. After you book your flight and have all your lodgings sorted out (and before you arrive in Europe), you will need to fill out this form. You can find the form here: https://app.euplf.eu/#/
The form asks for your flight details. If you don’t know where you will be staying, you can update the form (I edited mine several times before leaving for Italy as my flights and lodgings changed a couple of times). After you fill it out, you will be emailed a QR code, and the form will be transmitted to immigration authorities throughout the EU.
No one ever asked for my code or to see the form, but I assume that it was connected to my passport as I was asked if I had filled it out on some of my flights.
Q. What are the authorities doing in Italy to combat COVID-19?
I flew from Amsterdam to Florence from the US. I didn’t see it or perhaps was too tired to notice, but temperature checks occur at various places. In Rome, these happens automatically, usually airport officials monitor passengers for elevated temperatures. To get into the airport, you need a boarding pass or proof of travel. When I was in Rome briefly, security wouldn’t let several people into the airport because they couldn’t produce travel documents/receipts. Make sure you have these on paper if you won’t have access to your phone.
The airport in Rome was very organized! I almost didn’t recognize where I was. The airport has been redesigned to deal with COVID-19. My temperature was checked four times. Bathrooms have limited occupancy; you won’t be able to enter or use the restroom if too many people are inside.
Q. Where can I get a COVID-19 test in Italy?
The airport in Palermo offers testing to passengers, and it is free. You won’t have to pay if you have a ticket or can show proof of travel. Make sure that you do your COVID-19 test to return to the US the day before your travel. For example, if your return flight is on a Monday, you will need to do the test on Sunday. I was going to do my test in Palermo, but then I was cautioned that if it were positive, I’d be stuck there so I organized it for Florence.
Florence and Palermo both offer online booking for appointments. Florence’s airport charges 20 euro if you have a boarding pass/travel receipts (you can pay online or at the tent where they do the testing). If you just want to get tested because you are under the weather, you pay more money - only travelers get discounts.
They do the rapid antigen test (and several others, but these may require a lab), which takes a couple of minutes. In Florence, make sure you go to the side of the tent (it’s in front of the main entrance to the airport) marked “Partenze” (Departures) even if you are not departing that day. The tent has two “rooms” - one for arrival screenings and one for departure screenings. No one was in the arrival tent, so go to the departure side if you need a test. Testing starts at 8:00 AM in Florence. The web site is here where you can book either at Florence or Pisa airports: https://www.aeroporto.firenze.it/en/the-passengers/covid-19/swab-test-reservation.html
The nurse or doctor will swab both nostrils and then give you the results and a notarized document that attests the negative (or positive results). If your result is positive, you will not be allowed to board the flight. The good thing about Florence is that you can book your antigen test even the same day very early if spots are available and then go to your flight. Keep in mind that they require 2-3 hours between test and departure (although I was only there 15 minutes). Several other Americans who also showed up early got their results and headed to the airport for their flights home.
Rome’s airport offers testing, too: https://www.adr.it/web/aeroporti-di-roma-en/test-areas-at-the-airport.
Pharmacies will also offer it, although I only saw this service at one pharmacy in Florence. I observed this more in Palermo.
I suggest asking your hotel or lodgings where you can get a test or friends in Italy if you know people. Remember, the test must be done the day before you travel. You most likely won’t be able to board your flight back to the US without this.
Q. After all is said and done, would you do it again?
I enjoyed presenting at the workshop I attended and seeing the few friends I had time to see. I would do it all over again!