For Aldo Melpignano, co-founder of the luxury hotel Borgo Egnazia in Italy’s Puglia region, the country’s reopening is palpable in the piazza, where people dance while local musicians play.
“It’s refreshing and makes you feel like we’re back, and sort of almost forgot about all that’s happened the last couple years,” he said.
Like destinations around the world, Italy has relaxed many of its covid restrictions, and Melpignano and other Italian travel experts are gearing up for a busy summer. “In terms of tourism here in Italy, it’s definitely back on,” Clio Morichini, head of travel and events for Italy Segreta, said in an email.
If you’re thinking about visiting this summer, here’s what you need to know before you go.
How to get there
As of June 1, Italy has lifted all its pandemic-era entry restrictions, no longer requiring international travelers to show proof of vaccination, proof of recovery from the coronavirus or a negative test.
Italy requires travelers to wear FFP2-grade masks on planes. Despite the European Union ending a mask mandate for air travel, Italy will keep its rule in place until June 15.
Elizabeth Minchilli, an author and food tour operator who lives in Rome and has a vacation home in Umbria, said your airline’s website is typically your best source of information regarding any remaining rules.
How to show your vaccination status
Italy discontinued the use of its Green Pass — which captured proof of vaccination, recovery from covid or a negative test result — for most indoor settings this month. The pass is no longer required for many places including restaurants, bars, museums, theaters, spas and gyms. However, it is still mandatory for others, like hospitals and nursing homes.
Some tour operators such as Minchilli, are also asking customers to be vaccinated before being allowed to join group excursions.
How to dine and explore
You may have competition finding a seat, room, ticket or beach chair this summer. Simone Amorico, CEO of the private tour operator Access Italy, estimates that his company’s bookings are up about 40 percent from 2019.
He advised travelers to plan ahead by booking hotels and activities two months in advance. “I mean, the sooner the better, but two months is a good bracket,” he said.
Even so, Amorico said, during a visit to Rome’s Colosseum last week, he noticed shorter lines now that guests do not need to present a Green Pass.
Minchilli said the Italian capital is already packed. “It’s hard to drive through the streets, there are so many people wandering around,” she said. “But that’s normal for May and June … For those of us who lived the last two years in Rome, it’s sort of shocking because we got kind of used to it being empty. But now, things are starting to get back to normal, which is a good thing.”
Her tours are fully booked through 2023, though she is adding more next year.
Annabella Cariello, general manager of Hotel Vilòn in Rome, also advised purchasing train and ferry tickets ahead of time and making reservations when going out to eat. She said the situation is much different from last fall or summer.
“I think that we have indeed switched gears and are ready to bring back our Italian-ness and celebratory approach. … The atmosphere is rather festive as the weather is getting better and we see summer just around the corner,” she said in an email.
What to know about restrictions
Morichini said by email that while coronavirus case numbers are relatively high, many restrictive measures have been “removed or softened and life is slowly and gradually going back to normality.” Italy saw a 12 percent drop in daily cases over the past seven days, with 22.85 reported cases per 100,000 people reported Monday, according to tracking data compiled by The Washington Post.
That number is higher than this time last year but represents a dramatic decrease from counts during the omicron wave, which saw 378.33 reported cases per 100,000 people on Jan. 18. Daily deaths also dropped 10 percent over the past week.
While Italy dropped its indoor mask rule this month for most places, masks are still recommended indoors and at crowded outdoor events. In addition to airports and public transportation, FFP2 face coverings are also still required at indoor sporting events, cinemas and concert halls.
Minchilli gives her guests a pack of masks to wear out of consideration for staff at businesses such as stores and restaurants. “I suggest that if you walk in and somebody working in a place is wearing them, you might want to put them on just in respect of that person,” she said.
As the world battles the spread of coronavirus variants, too, remember that mandates and restrictions may change at any time.
Where to get a coronavirus test before returning home
While the testing requirement to return to the United States has dropped, you may still want to test before your flight home.
PCR tests cost about $70, and antigen tests run about $20, according to the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Italy.
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.
Amorico said test-seeking travelers can find them at Italian pharmacies. Otherwise, instead of finding a test locally, travelers can pack an at-home test with a video option to test in front of a provider, such as the Abbott BinaxNOW kit, to take themselves within that one-day window.
In case you do test positive for the coronavirus while you’re in Italy, Melpignano, Minchilli and Amorico all recommend getting covid-specific travel insurance. You should check whether your health-insurance plan covers issues abroad, too.
Those who test positive will need to self-isolate for seven to 21 days, depending on the circumstances, and will be on the hook for the cost, per the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Italy.
Otherwise, while you’re there, have fun. Minchilli said there is a positive energy right now, from locals and tourists alike: “Even when you’re in a crowded piazza in Rome, you can just feel how happy everybody is."
Natalie Compton contributed to this report.