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TOURISM

What you should know before you book cheap flights from the UK to Italy

As airlines begin to announce their summer flight schedules to Italy, here's what you should bear in mind before you plan an Italian holiday.

What you should know before you book cheap flights from the UK to Italy
Can you book your holiday to Italy now? Photo: Oli Scarff/AFP

Low-cost carrier Ryanair is betting on a successful vaccination rollout and expanding its summer flight schedule between the UK and Italy.

Tourists can now book flights across 480 routes to destinations throughout Europe. The airline is inviting people to plan summer summer breaks to “Europe’s top cities” – including Italian historic hotspots such as Rome, Venice and Bologna.

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“The UK’s roadmap for the re-opening of air travel, coupled with their highly successful vaccination programme, gives UK families confidence that summer 2021 holiday travel will be possible,” read a statement on their website.

That confidence has encouraged the aviation firm to programme 2,300 flights per week and to make investments across Italy. It announced its biggest summer programme in Puglia with an extra ten new routes from Bari and Brindisi and an additional aircraft. From Puglia alone, there are over 290 flights scheduled each week.

The airline will also boost its Milan Bergamo base with ten new routes, as well as Bologna’s Marconi airport with eight new routes. Other Italian airports targeted for investment are Catania, Treviso, Naples, Palermo, Trapani, Alghero and Pisa. 

And to entice cautious customers, the airline has launched a seat sale until March 28th.

Given strict restrictions on international travel – and since most of Italy is currently in some form of partial lockdown – how feasible is it to book flights between the UK and Italy right now?

READ ALSO: How soon can Italy hope to restart tourism this summer?

Photo by Andreas SOLARO/AFP

According to the UK’s roadmap out of lockdown, May 17th is the date when international travel can resume at the earliest. 

For Italy’s part, travelling rules mainly vary depending on the country of origin and destination, as well as the reasons for travel.

The latest emergency decree remains in force until April 6th. The government has not yet announced how the rules will change after Easter.

EXPLAINED: What are the rules on travel between Italy and the UK?

Travel between the UK and Italy is currently banned, according to a special ordinance issued in January. People who have been in Great Britain or Northern Ireland in the previous 14 days are not allowed to enter Italy for tourism.

British people who own second homes in Italy but aren’t residents are also unable to enter the country until further notice.

The ban also affects people hoping to visit family members, partners or friends in Italy.

There are exceptions, such as for those who have registered residency in Italy or who have proven reasons of absolute necessity. These people can travel as long as they can show the relevant paperwork, get tested before and after travelling, and observe a 14-day quarantine.

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The current restrictions make holidays all but impossible.

But airlines don’t seem deterred. Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary said: “UK families can now book a well-earned summer holiday safe in the knowledge that if their plans change for any reason they can move their travel dates up to two times with a zero-change fee up until the end of October 2021.”

So for this particular carrier, you have a total of three shots, including the initial booking, if travel restrictions prevent you from going on holiday in Italy. Note that there is no surcharge for changing your flight, but if your amended flight costs more than the original one you booked, you’ll need to stump up the difference.

The bookings must be made before June 30th to benefit from the surcharge-free deal – and what happens if continuing travel restrictions block you from taking your flights by the end of October isn’t specified.

Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

With such confidence from Ryanair, are other airlines following suit?

EasyJet announced on Wednesday that it plans to “operate as many flights as possible over the coming days”. Due to the current travel restrictions, the carrier has proposed some flexibility with booking, including switching to another flight for free, requesting a flight voucher that is valid for 12 months or applying for a refund. 

Airline company Alitalia has published details on getting a flight voucher for cancellations of scheduled flights until October 31st 2021, which are valid for 18 months and are non-refundable.

If you are booking a flight to Italy this summer, check the individual carrier’s policies on refunds and cancellations and any amendments specific to the Covid-19 containment measures. Be sure to check whether you can get your money back if you’re unable to travel or simply a flight voucher, and how long you’ll have to rebook.

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Italy’s tourism minister has indicated that the country is keen to restart tourism as soon as infection rates and vaccination campaigns allow for it. But it’s too early to say yet when this could be.

And while the EU has discussed plans for a ‘health passport’, members states have not yet agreed on the scheme. 

Until a further easing of restrictions is announced, it’s still a gamble on whether you’ll be able to book a summer holiday in Italy.

We will publish any updates from Italian authorities relating to travel from the UK as soon as they are announced. You can see all the latest travel news from Italy here, and you can keep an eye on the Italian government’s travel updates here.

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STRIKES

Calendar: The transport strikes to expect in Italy this February

Travellers in Italy will face disruption again this month amid a new round of transport strikes. Here's what you can expect in the coming weeks.

Calendar: The transport strikes to expect in Italy this February

Travel in Italy was disrupted by dozens of localised strikes in January, and this is set to continue into February as Italian unions announced a further round of demonstrations affecting rail and public transport services in many areas, as well as airline travel.

READ ALSO: Should you travel in Italy when there’s a strike on?

Here’s an overview of February’s main strikes, which are again mainly local or regional, but include a national public transport strike on February 17th and a nationwide walkout by airport ground staff on February 28th.

February 5th-6th: Trenitalia staff in the southern Calabria region will strike from 9pm on Sunday, February 5th to 9pm the following day. 

A list of guaranteed services in the region is available here.

February 9th: Staff from Lombardy’s Trenord will take part in a 22-hour strike – from 2am to 11.50pm – on Thursday, February 9th.

It’s currently unclear whether Trenord will operate minimum services on the day. See the company’s website for further information. 

February 12th: Air traffic control staff at Perugia’s San Francesco d’Assisi airport will take part in a 24-hour strike action on Sunday, February 12th. 

It isn’t yet clear how the walkout will affect air travel to and from the airport on the day.

Travellers at an Italian airport

A national strike from ground service staff may cause delays and queues at many Italian airports on Tuesday, February 28th. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

February 12th-13th: Trenitalia staff in Emilia-Romagna will strike from 3.30am on Sunday, February 12th to 2.30am on Monday, February 13th.

A list of guaranteed rail services in the region is available here.

February 17th: Public transport staff will take part in a national 24-hour strike on Friday, February 17th. 

The strike was called in late January by Italian union USB to protest against precarious work contracts and privatisation attempts by the Italian state.

There currently aren’t any details as to what percentage of workers will take part in the action or how widespread the disruption is likely to be.

February 19th: Trenitalia staff in the Veneto region will strike from 9am to 5pm on Sunday, February 19th. 

Guaranteed services are available here.

On the same day, there will be no service between Milan’s Milano Centrale station and Paris’s Gare de Lyon due to a strike from staff at France’s national railway company SNCF.

READ ALSO: Trains and planes: Italy’s new international travel routes in 2023

Empty train platform in Codogno, Lombardy

Staff from Lombardy’s regional railway operator Trenord will strike for 22 hours on Thursday, February 9th. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

February 20th: Trenitalia personnel in Lombardy are expected to strike from 9am to 5pm on Monday, February 20th. 

Guaranteed services haven’t been made available yet. 

February 28th: Baggage handlers and other airport ground service staff will take part in a national 24-hour strike on Tuesday, February 28th. 

It isn’t yet clear how the strike will affect air travel during the day, though a similar demonstration caused significant delays and queues at some Italian airports in late January.

ENAV air traffic operators based in Calabria are also expected to strike on February 28th, with the walkout set to start at 1pm and end at 5pm.

You can keep up to date with the latest strike news from Italy HERE.

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