Italy is Reopening to US Travelers: What to Know Before You Go

Written by Katie Parla on May 16, 2021

For the past 6 months or so, Delta has been offering COVID-tested flights for essential travelers only between the U.S. and Italy. During this long and successful trial run, travelers who had a negative PCR test 48 hours (or 72, depending on your source!!) before departure, and tested negative at the departure AND the arrival airports could enter Italy without quarantining. I took one of these flights from Atlanta to Rome in February and the efficiency was impressive. I never thought I would be so ecstatic about transatlantic travel but it was a breeze and I loved it.

The COVID-tested flights were so successful that the Italian government is now allowing all U.S. citizens, regardless of vaccination status, to book them. According to the Delta website states, “Covid-Tested flights are available for purchase on select flights for departure through June 30, 2021 on the following routes: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) and Rome-Fiumicino International Airport (FCO) on DL62/DL63; JFK and Rome-Fiumicino International Airport (FCO) on DL182/DL174/DL183/DL175; JFK and Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP) on DL118/DL119…Customers may also purchase select Covid-Tested flights for departure through June 30, 2021 on our trusted partner, Alitalia, between John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Rome-Fiumicino International Airport (FCO) on DL6616/DL6679.”

In a nutshell, specifically labeled COVID-tested flights between select cities allow any U.S. citizen to travel to Italy without quarantining upon arrival, provided the 3 required tests are negative. The rules and routes are subject to change so be sure to check Delta and Alitalia sites for updates. Visitors not arriving on COVID tested flights are required to self-isolate for 10 days.

As someone whose income is mainly derived from tourism to Italy and who cares about the survival of businesses in Italy, I should be stoked about US tourists being allowed back here for the first time in over a year. But truthfully, I am a bit conflicted and the situation feels fragile and precarious. Only 14.1% of Italians are fully vaccinated (30.8% have received their first dose) while the pandemic continues to rage and inflict suffering across the globe. And as much as I love visitors I can’t shake the feeling that treating COVID like a national rather than a global issue is problematic at best and a recipe for disaster at worst. Regardless of how I feel, the floodgates are open and beginning today, travelers arriving on COVID tested flights from the US and vaccinated travelers from the E.U., U.K., and Israel may resume tourist travel. Here’s what you need to know before you go:

Couldn’t Book a COVID-Tested Flight but Want to Visit Anyway?

Congrats on having a ton of vacation days because if you don’t arrive on one of the certified flights, you must self isolate for 10 days. That’s a real deal quarantine, not an “I’ll just pop out for lunch and dinner” kinda thing.

Mask Up! 

Wearing a mask in most circumstances, both indoors and outdoors, is still required. You can take off your mask while seated at a cafe or restaurant or while exercising. Many of the service professionals tourists will come into contact with indoors (hotels, for example) are in an age range that is not yet eligible for the vaccine. Protect these people and wear a mask.

A Curfew is Still in Effect

As of today, Sunday May 16, Italy has a nationwide 10PM curfew. It’s likely that the curfew will be extended to 11PM later this month (the decision will be made tomorrow and is said to go into effect May 24) and potentially eliminated later this summer. For now, restaurants have a single seating at dinner during which they have to maximize revenue. For the love of God, do not no-show to reservations. 

How Far in Advance Should You Make Restaurant Reservations?

I would start now, tbh.

Restaurants Close at 10PM and Offer Outdoor Seating Only

Restaurants in Italy are not allowed to offer indoor dining yet and many are running at shockingly low capacity with just a handful of outdoor tables. Please be very conscientious of this. If you only want a plate of pasta for lunch or dinner, be aware that you are occupying precious space in a place that could otherwise derive additional revenue from someone eating a whole meal. If you’re not super hungry, eat at a wine bar or pizzeria instead and let restaurants get their maximum income during the short hours of operation. As mentioned above, don’t no-show or cancel reservations at the last minute for that matter.


Where Your Visit Makes the Biggest Impact

There’s no doubt that Rome, Florence, Venice, and the Amalfi Coast will be absolutely flooded with visitors this summer. These places have of course struggled through more than a year of closures and the absence of tourism. However, secondary and tertiary destinations are in even worse shape. Support the people of Italy’s less popular destinations.  Instead of Amalfi, why not visit Cilento? The Sannio and Irpinia sub-regions of Campania are incredible for food, wine, and outdoor activities. The entire region of Molise (just under a 2 hour drive from Rome) couldn’t be more beautiful or delicious. The Parco Nazionale del Pollino on the Basilicata-Calabria border is freaking spectacular. Palermo is incredible and has so many incredible outdoor markets. I will be publishing guides on these destinations in the coming weeks and will add links here but reach out with questions about other in the comments!

Can You Visit Museums?

The rules for Italy’s color coded restriction zones outline the rules for museum and gallery openings. In the yellow and white zones, museums run at limited capacity (book tickets in advance if the site allows). Museums shut down in orange and red zone-labeled regions. At the moment there are currently no regions in the white zone. Restrictions are subject to change and do often.

Can’t Wait to Party and Get Your Drink On?

No. If your agenda is to be a drunk idiot, may I suggest a trip to Miami? We’re still in the midst of a pandemic and incremental openings, while promising, can be easily reversed if cases begin to grow, as they have in the past, due to irresponsible behavior.

How Can You Stay Up to Date on Travel Restrictions?

It’s kind of hilarious (or maybe the opposite) that the Italian government’s official website Viaggiare Sicuri isn’t actually up to date right now. The Italian Consulate websites in the U.S. also have outdated information. The Italian Embassy in Washington press release page does publish updates. For current rules, see their post from yesterday.

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