What You Need to Know When Traveling to the U.S. from Italy or Vice Versa (Updated for September 2021)

First of all, the most obvious (and surely incendiary) thing I can tell you is: just don’t. Please don’t.

It is not a good time to travel right now. Health and safety issues aside, it is just plain a pain in the you-know-what. So unless you have a very good reason (i.e., something more than you just can’t wait to see the Trevi Fountain or enjoy the fresh air of the Italian countryside), please help to keep everyone safer and saner and just stay put for the time being.

Here are some reasons why I say that, and some things you’ll need to know if you do ultimately decide to travel soon (I won’t judge you, I did it myself, even if I felt my reason was noble at the time!).

 

Things Are Constantly Changing

Back in August, at the (frequent) request of my family, I decided to finally try to go back to the U.S. for the first time in a year and a half to see my nephew for the first time in person on his first birthday. When I booked the ticket in July, things were relatively calm in terms of air travel, as the EU was open for American summer tourists.

But by the time August rolled around, everything had changed. You needed a COVID test to get in the U.S. regardless of whether you’ve been vaccinated or not, you needed a mountain of paperwork, and flights were being delayed and canceled all the time. America did not want foreign visitors, even if Americans wanted to be free to visit Italy all they wanted (but I won’t go there...).

I made it to the U.S. after jumping through a million hoops, and foolishly thought everything would be fine for my return trip to Italy three weeks later, since they stated clearly on the ticket that only a Green Pass was necessary to re-enter the country. Well, just four days before my trip, they came out with a new order and said that you can only come to Italy for certain (non-tourist) reasons from certain coutries, and you have to have had a negative COVID test within the last 72 hours, which is ridiculously hard to book at the last minute.

Oh yeah, and they also canceled and moved my flight three times after this order came out and everyone started changing their plans.

And I wasn’t allowed to check-in online.

This is one of the biggest things to keep in mind if you’re traveling now, especially if you are doing it for a short-term visit: the rules and procedures you had to follow when you leave will almost surely not be the same rules you have to follow to get back home, so you have to constantly keep checking to make sure you know what you need to do.

 

You’re Going to Need a Lot of Documents

Still not convinced you shouldn’t travel? Okay, I warned you! But I’ll prepare you anyway.

It used to be a ticket and a passport were all you needed to travel. Not anymore. In these “trying times,” everyone is toting around a whole folder full of papers, and a lot of people still find out at the check-in desk that they don’t have everything they need.

As of September 2021, here are the documents you need when traveling to and from Italy:

 

Documents Needed to Travel to the U.S. from Italy

  • U.S. Passport or Green Card
  • Negative COVID test taken within the last three calendar days or proof or recovery from COVID in the past 90 days
    *Your vaccine card or green pass DOES NOT COUNT for this requirement. Do not try to convince the airport staff it does, as they will not budge. I saw several people get denied access to boarding over this (and one would-be passenger break the check-in desk and hit an airline employee because he said her father couldn’t fly because he didn’t have this proof)
  • Passenger Disclosure and Attestation form
  • European Vaccine Certificate (unless you just had a COVID test within 48 hours or proof of recovery from COVID in the last 6 months)

 

Side note: Those who are not U.S. residents are going to have a really tough time getting into the U.S., so if you are trying to bring your Italian spouse, you may not be able to do it (I wasn’t, not without a ton of endless paperwork that may not have even worked in the end), so check all the rules in advance.

 

Documents Needed to Travel to Italy from the U.S.

  • Passport
  • Negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of ARRIVAL in Italy (not three calendar days, and not 72 hours before you leave home)
  • EU Digital Passenger Locator form
  • Green Pass (or other vaccine card) or proof of recovery from COVID issued by local authorities
  • Carta di soggiorno or permesso di soggiorno or other proof of residency (you may not always need this, but I did, as Italy only wants Italian residents entering the country right now)

 

Technically, according to Italian law, if you don’t have a negative test, you can undergo a 5-day quarantine upon entry into Italy. But to be honest, I highly doubt the airline would let you get that far, as they checked everyone’s COVID test results multiple times over the course of the trip to make sure no one was sneaking by without them.

Also, getting that COVID test is going to be a lot trickier in the U.S. than it is in Italy. In most places, you have to have an appointment, and those appointments are currently almost all full because the pandemic is exploding again there and there are new rules (and they closed a bunch of testing sites because people were getting tested less often...).

And you have to be really careful to get a test that will give you results fast, as many of the clinics in the U.S. use tests that don’t give results for 72-96 hours, which is too long in this case. (I spent a lot of time scrambling around and calling people about this, trying to find an appointment at the last minute for a test that would give results in one day).

A rapid test works for entry into Italy, though. This is one of the most common questions I have heard recently, and I can answer it with absolute certainty.

 

No Matter Which Way You’re Traveling

Masks are required. Period. There is no time during the trip where you can take off your mask. You must wear it at the airport and on the plane, even when you are sleeping, and even when you are eating you are expected to lower it to take a bite, then put it back in place.

Please don’t try to get around this or complain about it or start one of those viral video-worthy fights about it. Just wear the mask. Whether you believe in their efficacy or not, it saves everyone around you a lot of trouble and a lot of delays.

 

Final Thoughts/Observances

I already brought this up in one of my previous posts, but one thing you will notice when you are traveling is that the U.S. is a lot more lax about the above-stated rules than Italy is (for example, they checked my COVID test three times over the course of two flights before I left Italy, but in the U.S. they got annoyed when I tried to show it to them because they said I was slowing things down in the line). You will probably see a lot more people there not wearing masks, social distancing, etc., so you have to be in charge of your own safety and do things the right way anyway, regardless of what others are doing. Flight attendants will remind people about the masks on the airplane, but at the airport and beyond, you’re on your own.

Also, just please try to stay calm in general. I know traveling is stressful right now, but it doesn’t do anyone any good if people are starting fights with airport or airplane staff over wearing masks or not having the proper documents. Things will go a lot more smoothly if you are prepared and patient.

I wish things were not this way, but as I said before, if you can avoid traveling at the moment, that would be ideal. I had been missing my family, but the trips there and back were the most stressful, arduous journeys I’ve ever been on in my life. If I had to do it over again, I would have waited until things had calmed down some more in the world, even if I have no clue when that will be.

 

Have you traveled between Italy and the U.S. recently? What was your experience? Do you have any tips?

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *