TRAVEL: Italy reopens to US tourists – but only on ‘Covid-free’ flights

Two US airlines have announced their 'Covid-free' flights are open to "all customers" from Sunday after a change to the Italian travel restrictions.

TRAVEL: Italy reopens to US tourists - but only on 'Covid-free' flights
Covid-tested flights have been available fro the US to Italy since December, but travel will now be allowed for non-essential reasons. Photo: Piero Cruciatti/AFP

American Airlines (AA) and Delta have confirmed that they are now allowing passengers to travel to Italy for any reason on certain routes.

“With the recent change in Italy’s travel restrictions, any customers, whether traveling for leisure or essential business, are eligible to fly on American’s flights from New York to Italy starting May 16”, AA stated.

Delta Air Lines stated that its Covid-tested flights between the US and Italy “will open to all customers effective May 16th, following the Italian government lifting entry restrictions enabling American leisure travelers to visit the country for the first time in more than a year.”

READ ALSO: ‘Our tickets are booked’: the Americans who can’t wait to return to Italy

The announcements came shortly after Italy’s Foreign Minister stated in a Facebook post on Friday evening that the country is ready to welcome US tourists again – but only if they arrive on a Covid-tested flight.

“Travel for tourist purposes will be allowed from the USA, Canada and Japan, countries with which we’re strengthening Covid-free flights,” Di Maio wrote.

“We are thus opening up to safe tourism from all the G7 states after more than a year.”

“Until now, with Covid-free flights, it was not possible to come to Italy for tourism from non-EU countries. Now we’re reopening to this opportunity, which allows safe travel without quarantine.”

READ ALSO: How the Italian government has left tourists angry and confused about summer plans

Taking these flights allows passengers to skip quarantine on arrival in Italy, provided they test negative for coronavirus at both ends of the journey.

Di Maio’s social media statement came amid a raft of changes to the Italian travel rules under two new Health Ministry ordinances on Friday, and following more than a week of announcements by Italian ministers which have left hopeful US tourists unsure of whether to book summer flights or cancel them.

While Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has said the country wants to cut quarantine for vaccinated tourists from the United States, Canada and Japan, there has been no confirmation yet of when rules could be relaxed for any visitors other than those on the special Covid-tested flights.

Delta stated that American travelers will be able to board the Covid-tested flights regardless of vaccination status.

There are no exemptions to the testing requirement for those who are vaccinated.

The US airline, which currently operates Covid-tested flights in partnership with Italian airline Alitalia, also confirmed that it plans to increase the number of flights from next week, and the number of routes from July.

The carrier plans to launch three more of the special routes in time for summer, including two to Venice, which will soon equip its airport for the arrival of Covid-tested flights according to the Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza

Naples airport is also expected to be able to accept Covid-testing flights this summer.

AA is expected to make more of its routes, including Dallas-Rome, Covid-tested within the coming days.

Other airlines may now follow suit and begin offering Covid-tested flights to Italy.

While Di Maio stated that Italy will also allow tourists to arrive on Covid-tested flights from Canada and Japan this summer, it is not yet known which airlines will be operating Covid-tested flights from these countries, or when they’ll begin.

How do Covid-tested flights work?

Travelers must undergo a series of coronavirus tests to be allowed to enter Italy on the special flights.

Testing protocol varies by airline. Delta says it requires passengers to provide proof of a negative PCR test result, taken no more than 72 hours before departure.

Passengers must then test negative in a rapid antigen test at the airport before boarding and they must get tested again immediately on arrival at their destination

All travelers must also fill in a digital location form before boarding: the Digital Passenger Locator Form (dPLF).

Passengers will then receive an email with a QR code, which must be given at the check-in desk in order to be allowed on the flight.

Also during check-in, you must provide a completed self-declaration form, which is specific to these Covid-tested flights.

If all the tests come back negative, you’ll be able to enter Italy and enjoy a quarantine-free trip. If you test positive on arrival, you will need to quarantine in Italy.

A pre-travel Covid-19 test is also required before returning to the US regardless of vaccination status.

Stay up to date with Italy’s travel rules by following The Local’s travel section and checking the Italian Health Ministry’s website (in English).

Member comments

  1. I am part of a group of six US tourists that had to postpone a long-scheduled trip to Italy originally planned for Oct. 2020 (now tentatively postponed to Oct. 2021). Although I am encouraged that Italy is beginning to re-open to US tourists through Delta’s COVID-tested flights, that will not be an acceptable approach for our group to proceed with our travel.

    All members of our group are now fully vaccinated with either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. Despite its high efficacy at preventing and/or mitigating the effects of COVID, there is still an albeit small possibility that any one of our group could test positive and either be denied flight boarding privileges to depart the US or be required to quarantine upon arrival in Italy. That possibility leaves the remaining members of our group with the untenable choice of either cancelling all of our plans at the last second (with the attendant costs of such cancellation) or proceeding without the person who tested positive. Neither choice is acceptable. It must be all of us or none of us.

    Thus, until proof of vaccination becomes a sufficient basis for non-testing/non-quarantine travel, our group will be collectively dissuaded from traveling to Italy via a COVID-tested flight. Our hope is that conditions will continue to evolve in that direction.

  2. Clare thank you so much for staying on top of this and helping get information to all of us. As of today, American Airlines announced their COVID flights will also be open to all Americans and we will not have to quarantine. When I read the statements the other day, I changed everything again and booked us on an American Airlines flight, having no knowledge that only Delta was eligible at that time, so it could have been a disaster but has worked out. Hopefully, all further changes are for the better. It is still ludicrous to have to take two covid tests if you are fully vaccinated but we are willing to do it.

    1. Thanks a lot Angela, we’ve now added AA’s update to the report. Glad to hear you may be able to come to Italy after all!

      1. It has been a rollercoaster ride! I had cancelled and rebooked to Spain, then cancelled all of that and rebooked on the AA flight to Milan. It seems like Delta knew all about this (probably because they partner with Alitalia).

  3. It is very difficult to get any information from American Airlines about what they call their Covid-tested flights.
    Apparently they have a flight 3 times a week from JFK to FCO and also another flight from NYC to Milan that
    are covid tested. However, if you try to book the flight, it does not say it is a covid tested flight. We have our
    tickets booked out of DFW and those are not covid tested flights at this time. But I did receive an email response from
    someone in the corporate office at American that they hoped in the next coming days that covid tested flights would
    be offered from DFW to FCO. Nothing specific and the reservations people really do not know what I am talking about.
    They refer me to the April news on their website. Cannot believe that American is going to let Delta leave them in the dust on these flights.

    1. It is odd that AA does not alert you that these are Covid tested flights when you book, as Delta does alert you. We are booked on the JFK to Milan route. This is just my guess but I would imagine they will get the DFW to Rome route worked in ASAP, so they can fill up the planes again. It should just take getting the testing capacity up at FCO since you don’t have to test at DFW.

  4. Anyone have any news about if United Airlines will be offering these flights in conjunction with lufthansa? I am booked for June 25th and am vaccinated. Will there be a new decree before then?

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Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”