Q&A: Italy’s new rules on going outside in lockdown phase two

As Italy began to slowly relax its quarantine restrictions on Monday, there was still plenty of confusion about what exactly had changed. Here's what we know.

Q&A: Italy's new rules on going outside in lockdown phase two
It's now possible to buy ice-cream from Italy's gelaterias again. Photo: AFP

As Italy moves into fase due, or “phase two” of its lockdown, there's a new set of rules now valid from May 4-17th.

The new measures, set out in a government decree signed on April 26th, offer a lot less freedom of movement than many had hoped for: travel remains strictly limited, group gatherings are off the cards, and you'll still have to justify your reasons for being outside.

PHASE TWO EXPLAINED: What changes in Italy from May 4th?

The details were unclear last week, and there was widespread confusion following the prime minister's initial announcement.

At The Local we received a large number of questions from readers about what would and wouldn't be allowed. Here we've attempted to answer the most common queries, based on the decree text itself, subsequent government statements, and a newly-updated official online FAQ (here in Italian).

Keep in mind however that some rules can vary from one region to another. Check your local comune's website if in doubt. Here's what we know so far:

Do I still need a form to leave the house?

Yes: the autocertificazione ('self-certification') form will remain a requirement until at least May 18th, when the rules are set to be revised.

“So long as you need a reason to go out, self-certification will be necessary,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in his televised address announcing the changes.

The government has released an updated version of the form that you'll need to carry from May 4th, reflecting changes to the list of accepted reasons for going outside. You can download a copy of the new form here.

The form is only availble in Italian and must be completed in Italian. Find our complete guide to the new form and how to fill it in here.

Photo: AFP

When am I allowed to go outside?

You're allowed to leave the house for all the same reasons as before – buying groceries and other essentials, doing a key job, visiting a doctor or pharmacy, walking the dog, exercising – plus one new one: visiting relatives.

“Travel to see relatives is considered necessary so long as the ban on gatherings is respected, interpersonal distance of at least a metre is maintained and respiratory protection [a mask or other face covering] is used,” the new decree states.

Who am I allowed to visit?

The rules allow us to visit 'congiunti', a confusing term which was later offically defined as meaning spouses, partners, parents, children, in-laws, siblings, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, cousins and cousins' children – but not friends.

You can only expect to see family members living in the same region as you, no further away. And big family gatherings are forbidden.

Meeting up with anyone except relatives will not be considered a valid reason to travel.

Do I need to wear a face mask?

Italian authorities have made the use of face masks mandatory on public transport and in stores as they gradually loosen lockdown measures.

Face masks should be worn on the street in cases when it is hard to maintain a safe distance from others, ISS public health institute director Silvio Brusaferro said.

But masks “must not give a false sense of security,” Brusaferro told reporters. “It is an additional element, but personal hygiene and distancing are more important.”

Italy and other countries are now debating whether people should wear masks outdoors at all times – even while not in a confined space.

The rules on face masks also vary by region. We have more details about when and where face masks should be worn here.

Can I go for a walk or exercise outside?

The limit on outdoor exercise has been dropped: so you're allowed to run or cycle (within your own region) as long as you stay at least a metre from anyone else. Team sports are still banned. 

The rules on going for a walk are less clear. According to the government's latest advice, leisurely walks are not allowed despite the loosening of restrictions
“You may leave your home only to go to work, for health reasons, out of necessity […], or to do sport or physical activity outdoors. Therefore, walks are allowed only if strictly necessary for a trip justified by one of the reasons just indicated,” states the government's official FAQ.
Can I travel to another region?

The current ban on travelling between regions of Italy will remain mostly unchanged, with one important difference: from May 4th, if you are currently staying outside your region of permanent residence you will be allowed to travel home, something that hasn't been permitted for several weeks.

Like now, you'll also be allowed to travel between regions for urgent work demands, health reasons or other emergencies.


Can I go to my second home?

The national government has not signed off on visiting second homes: the only property to which you're allowed to travel must be your main place of residence

Some Italian regions have different rules, however.

In Puglia,  for example, people are allowed to visit and maintain agricultural land and smallholdings.

In Veneto, from April 28th residents will be permitted to travel to a second home (or boat) within the region in order to carry out “maintenance and repair”. 

Can I travel within my region?

Not freely. So long as the authorities require a reason to be outside, you could potentially be stopped and asked to justify yourself, then told to return home or even fined.

READ ALSO: Why the coronavirus quarantine rules aren't always the same around Italy

But as more and more things reopen over the coming weeks, it seems likely that the restrictions will be loosened in practice, at least to allow people to visit shops and other businesses within their own town.

Each region of Italy has a certain amount of authority to make its own rules, so check the website of your regione or comune to find out the rules where you are. 

So where can I go?

The national government gave the OK for parks to reopen – although the final decision rests with each local mayor. Some cities, such as Bari, have opted to keep parks shut as a precaution against overcrowding.

If you're lucky enough to live by the beach, a lake or the mountains, you are free to visit – not in a group, maintaining social distancing and so long as local authorities haven't blocked the area off.

Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

Construction, manufacturing, wholesale and real estate companies will also be allowed to reopen from May 4th, which means more people will be returning to work. 

Restaurants, cafes, bars, pasticcerie and gelaterie can allow customers to come and pick up takeaway from the same date.

Shops, libraries and museums will reopen on May 18th, giving us several new reasons to leave the house.

The government has tentatively said that restaurants, cafes, hairdressers and beauty salons could resume service from June 1st, though it is waiting to see how the first wave of reopening goes before it lays out the next stage of Phase Two.

TIMELINE: What will reopen first under Italy's lockdown phase two?

Member comments

  1. Will it be possible to go to a garden center which is not in my own community as long as it’s in the same region. I live in a small comune and the garden center here doesn’t offer much in the way of trees and other perennials.

  2. Rita, we have been told in our small comune that we can’t go elsewhere for food shopping, because we have a shop here which sells essentials. I think it all depends on the application in your own comune. I was hoping I’d be able to go to my usual supermarket from tomorrow, but it appears not.

  3. Thank you, SP, for your response. We’ve been allowed to go to the supermarket in the next commune which has been helpful. I’m still not sure about the garden center so I’ll be waiting until May 18.

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How many travellers are turned away at European borders because of 90 day limit?

Many Non-EU nationals, including Britons since Brexit, need to make sure they don't go over the 90-day rule in the EU/Schengen area. But how many people are turned away at European borders because they overstayed?

How many travellers are turned away at European borders because of 90 day limit?

The 2021 Ironman 70.3 World Champion, UK’s Lucy Charles-Barclay, may not be able to participate in the next race of the season, on the 21st of May in Kraichgau, Germany.

The reason? She has already used 88 of the 90 days she could spend in the Schengen area over a 180-day period, the athlete said on Instagram.

Non-EU travellers, who since Brexit include Brits, have to be aware of the 90-day rule when it comes to visiting the EU and Schengen area.

People can travel without border checks within countries that have signed up to the Schengen Agreement. These include EU members except for Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland and Romania. Non-EU members Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are also part of the Schengen zone.

Non-EU passport holders who are allowed to visit Schengen countries without a visa can stay for maximum 90 days in any 180-day period, regardless of the number of states they go to. This means frequent visitors to EU countries, such as those who own second homes there, need to keep a careful check on how many days they have built up.

READ ALSO: How does the 90-day rule work for the EU/Schengen area?

The 90-day limit is meant for visits only, so people who intend to become residents have to follow different procedures.

Anyone who wants to stay longer than 90 days in every 180 must apply for a national visa for the country they intend to visit.

Passengers wait under panels at Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport, in the northeastern outskirts of Paris, on March 4, 2023.(Photo by Geoffroy Van der Hasselt / AFP)

If overstayers are caught they will most likely be ordered to leave, fined or even banned from the Schengen zone for a period of time. Since Brexit, these rules also apply to UK citizens, to the frustration of many second home owners in France and Spain.

The European Union plans to introduce a new border system, the EU entry/exit system, that will require biometric data, including facial images and fingerprints of all passengers entering the EU, helping authorities to systematically identify overstayers.

Travellers refused entry over the 90-day rule

Overall, some 141,060 non-EU citizens were refused entry into the EU in 2022 for various reasons, which are explained below.

Overall the largest number of refusals were reported by Poland (23,330), Hungary (15,780), Croatia (11,800) and Ireland (9,240). Ukrainian citizens accounted for the largest number of refusals, as has been the case in recent years.

According to the latest data published by the EU statistical office Eurostat, in 2022 almost 20,000 people (19,290) were refused entry at the Schengen area’s external borders because they has already exceeded the 90-day limit on previous trips.

This figure was a slight rise on the 2019 figure of 17,695. In the 2020 and 2021 the number dropped to around 10,000 travellers refused entry for having passed the 90-day limit, but the drop can be explained by fewer people on the move due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Of the 20,000 refused entry in 2022 over the 90-day rule, more than two thirds were stopped at the Polish (7,570) and Hungarian (5,475) borders. Again most of them were from Ukraine as was the case in 2019. It is not clear whether these were recorded before Poland and Hungary opened their borders to the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian’s fleeing the Russian invasion in late February.

Among the countries covered by The Local, Italy refused entry to 695 non-EU citizens because of the 90/180 Schengen rule; Germany denied entry to 465; Spain 345; Switzerland 175; France 170; Austria 125; Sweden 40; and Denmark 30, according to data published recently.

Despite the confusion for Britons after Brexit it appears most travellers are at least aware of the 90 day rule given the small number that were refused entry.

Only 195 British citizens were refused entry into European countries in 2022 because of the 90 day rule. Of these, Switzerland rejected 25; Sweden, Austria and Denmark 10 each; France 5. The figure for Spain read “zero”, suggesting Spanish authorities had not made the data available.

For US citizens the number of travellers turned away at the EU borders last year for having already passed the 90-day limit was 90. The numbers were even smaller for Canadians and Australians but this will be likely linked not only to a low number of frequent travellers to the EU from distant countries. In other words if they have passed the 90 day limit they are unlikely to return within the 180 day period.

As for travellers from India, the 90-day rule does not apply to them because they need a visa to enter the Schengen area.

Other reasons non-EU citizens are turned away

Apart from the 90 day rule there are other reasons why non-EU travellers will be turned away at Europe’s borders ranging from whether they are considered to be public threat or an alert has been issued about them to the fact their passport may be out of date or they have no valid visa or residency permit. Officially non-EU visitors could be turned away if they are not considered to have the means to pay for their trip, however the figures show only 10 people were refused entry (all to the Netherlands) for this reason.

READ ALSO: Are UK tourists in Spain really being asked to prove €100 a day?

Whilst most non-EU travellers have been aware of the rules around valid travel documents it appears many Britons have been caught out since Brexit.

Visitors entering Schengen countries must have a document issued in the ten years before the date of entry and valid until three months after the planned departure date. Since Brexit many British travellers, unaware their passports were invalid, have been turned away at airports and ports.

France for example denied access to its territory – and the Schengen area – to 105 UK citizens because they held no valid travel document.

The total for British citizens turned away from European countries because of invalid travel documents was 335, with 40 denied access to Italy and 30 to Switzerland.

In total 1,305 UK nationals were denied entry at the European external borders in 2022 because of reasons ranging from overstays to no valid visa or document, insufficient means of subsistence or being considered a public threat.

France – which has the largest number of arrivals from the UK due to its proximity – recorded the largest number (440), followed by Switzerland (150), Sweden (75), Italy (60), Germany (45), Denmark (40), Austria (15). Data for Norway was not available at the time of publishing.

Sweden, where authorities have come under pressure over their treatment of British residents after Brexit, refused entry to 40 Britons in 2022 who did not have a valid visa or residence permit.

When it comes to other nationalities, some 1,020 American citizens were turned away at Europe’s borders for various reasons in 2022 and the figure for Indian nationals was 2,045. Just 140 Canadians were turned away and 50 Australian nationals.