This summer, when he finally returned, “of course it was emotional,” Amorico said. “Seeing it more alive gives a sense that things are slowly coming back.”
Like the travelers on Amorico’s tours, more and more Americans are returning to Italy. But even tourism behemoths like the Colosseum and the Vatican are not nearly as crowded as they were pre-covid.
“It’s actually a great time to come back [to Italy] because it’s not filled with tourists,” said Marina Cacciapuoti, founder of Italy Segreta, an Italian lifestyle magazine and popular Instagram account. “It’s a bit like last summer, but it feels even better now that there’s a vaccine and people are back to semi-normal — like everything’s open, nobody’s wearing masks outside.”
If you’re one of those lucky Americans contemplating a late-summer trip to Italy, here’s essential advice from Italian travel experts to help get you prepared.
How to get there
Since the European Union removed the U.S. from its safe travel list at the end of August, the rules for entering Italy have changed for vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans.
All travelers need to provide a negative rapid molecular or antigenic test result from a coronavirus test taken 72 hours before arrival, plus proof of vaccination or recent recovery from the virus. A negative test result is required for everyone over six years old.
Unvaccinated travelers also have to present a negative test, but will have to self-isolate for five days and submit to health monitoring by the local health authorities on arrival to Italy, then take another rapid molecular or antigenic test. You can find more info on testing on the U.S. Embassy site.
“The best source of information is usually the website of your airline carrier,” said Elizabeth Minchilli, an author and food tour operator who lives in Rome and has a vacation home in Umbria. “Really make sure that you’ve read everything and done everything correctly.”
Minchilli’s other tip is for travelers to fill out their passenger locator form, a document required for contact tracing, ahead of the flight. “A lot of people show up at the airport thinking you do it there, but try to do everything ahead of time,” she said.
How to show your vaccination status
Italy implemented its version of the European Union’s vaccine passport, the “certificazione verde,” or green pass, on June 17 to facilitate safer travel within Europe and allow access to large gatherings. On Aug. 6, its use will become more widespread, and either that passport or another proof of health will be required for most things travelers love — including going to restaurants, museums, bars, spas, pools, gelato shops, gyms, concerts, sporting events and as of Sept. 1, long distance train travel.
In lieu of having an Italian green pass, American travelers should carry around their CDC vaccine cards, covid test results or proof of recent recovery from covid and have them ready to present throughout their visit to Italy. (Those who aren’t vaccinated will have to keep getting coronavirus tests every 48 hours of their trip to meet the green-passport requirements.)
“Really what they’re saying is ‘Come to Italy, but you really should be vaccinated,’” Minchilli said. “You could travel here without being vaccinated, but you should for everybody’s sake.”
In addition to the national regulations, some tour operators, including Minchilli, are asking customers to be vaccinated before being allowed to join group excursions.
How to dine and explore
While there are fewer tourists in Italy this summer, keep in mind that August is when most Europeans go on vacation. In addition, some hotels, restaurants and other tourism-related businesses are not yet back at full capacity. That means you may have competition finding a seat, room, ticket or beach chair, particularly in destinations popular with European tourists, such as coastal cities and lakes.
In Rome, even though the city itself isn’t crowded, “you need to book a table in advance, because all restaurants are full,” said Flavio Scannavino, hotel manager at the city’s boutique Hotel De’ Ricci. “Trust me: It’s incredible.”
Consider which museums, events, restaurants or tours you would like to include in your trip agenda, and make reservations ahead of time whenever possible to avoid disappointment.
As you head to your reservations or stumble into local trattorias, Cacciapuoti encourages travelers to be patient and respectful to employees. Because of the pandemic, you may find smaller menus, fewer tables and longer wait times than in the past. Like in the United States, “a lot of places have less staff” right now, she said. “I mean, we’re not the quickest in service in general, but now it’s a little bit slower sometimes.”
What to know about restrictions
Aside from capacity limits and an indoor mask mandate, travelers to Italy will not be hamstrung by pandemic rules at this time. Still, “it’s a slightly different experience compared to the years before,” said Aldo Melpignano, co-founder of the luxury hotel Borgo Egnazia in Puglia.
Melpignano’s hotel, for instance, has transformed its traditional parties in the piazza into dinner parties, with spaced-out tables under the stars accompanied by local music performances to comply with the country’s large-gathering restrictions.
As the world battles the spread of covid variants, though, remember that mandates and restrictions may change at any time.
No matter what protections are in place when you arrive in Italy, “I think it’s just more of a form of respect to follow the rules that we have,” Cacciapuoti said. “There are not that many.”
Where to get a coronavirus test before returning home
Before you return to the United States, you will need to get a covid test — regardless of whether you’re vaccinated. All travelers entering the country must show their airline a negative test result taken within three days of departure or show proof they have recovered from covid-19 in the past 90 days.
Melpignano — who is also vice president of the Altagamma, a foundation that represents high-end Italian cultural and creative companies — says most upscale hotels will arrange tests for guests to make life easy. For those not staying at a hotel with such options, workarounds are “doable,” he said.
Amorico said test-seeking travelers can find them at Italian pharmacies, where the prices for tests are capped to keep them affordable. Rapid tests should cost about 22 euros and PCR tests about 60. Otherwise, instead of finding a test locally, travelers can pack an at-home test, such as the Abbott BinaxNOW kit, to take themselves within that three-day window.
In case you do test positive for coronavirus while you’re in Italy, Melpignano, Minchilli and Amorico all recommend getting covid-specific travel insurance. You should see whether your health-insurance plan covers issues abroad, too.
“Play it safe and get insurance, but don’t let that prevent you from traveling,” Melpignano said. “It really is a good time to enjoy Italy, so I would encourage everyone to come and visit us.”