Italian Football Post-COVID Travel Guide and Checklist

Serie A games played out in empty stadia during lockdown were a morbid spectacle; watching on from home, many of us will have dreamt of standing on a vibrant curva once again. However, for a long time, the idea of returning to Italy seemed a distant prospect, initially due to the risks of COVID itself and later due to quarantine requirements.

Happily, the situation has improved markedly in recent weeks, with fans back in the stadia, infection rates much lower in Italy than the UK and a newly-simplified testing and quarantine regime. Several administrative hurdles still remain, but these are relatively straight forward (once you’ve deciphered what they are) and low-cost too.

This guide is designed to help you navigate those hurdles and mitigate any lingering anxieties about whether you’ve done it all correctly. These details reflect my experiences at the end of October 2021:

Preparing for departure

The first thing to note is that if you’re double-vaccinated then everything is a lot easier – this guide is written from that perspective. Italy has become quite hard-line about vaccinations for adults, going so far as to make double-vaccination (or a recent negative test) a condition of employment along with participation in most other aspects of life.

Booking flights was no different to pre-COVID, though I noticed that the range of budget flight options was more limited when compared to pre-COVID. We ended up flying from Stansted (Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton are all closer to home) and flew into Turin, despite ultimately wanting to end up in Genoa.

There are two key requirements for entry to Italy, both of which can be evidenced in either paper or digital form:

  • All travellers, regardless of age, need to provide evidence of a negative lateral flow test taken in the 48 hours leading up to departure. The crucial point to note here is that you can’t use a free NHS lateral flow test. It needs to be taken through a private provider who will then provide you with a QR code. The Government has a list of approved test providers here; prices vary considerably from £25 to £100, so shop around. In theory, tests can be taken at home and submitted virtually (and these tend to be cheaper), however, a slightly ominous warning on the .GOV website says that some countries may not accept ‘at home’ tests. We paid £29 per head for in-person tests through DAM health and the results arrived to our phones in about 90 minutes.
  • Before boarding the plane, travellers must have completed an Italian passenger locator form. This essentially provides details of your trip and your whereabouts whilst in Italy. All adults in the party need a separate form, though minors can be covered on one of the adults’ forms.

Obviously, this pre-travel test creates an element of jeopardy; if you test positive then the trip is off! My advice here is to make sure you book accommodation and hire cars with a good cancellation policy (i.e. free cancellation up to 24 hours beforehand) and also to check that your travel insurance covers you for cancellation of your trip in the event of contracting COVID.

Whilst in Italy

Whilst the above paperwork was checked by our airline prior to boarding, it perhaps won’t surprise you to hear that passport control on the Italian side had no interest in checking these documents! However, they remain necessary once in the country too.

To enter most indoor public indoor spaces, Italy requires adults to have a Green Pass – this is essentially their version of proof of double-vaccination (or a recent negative antigen test). This is needed for entry to the stadium (see below), to any hotel, bar or restaurant and some non-essential shops. This is typically checked either visually or more formally using the Verifica19 app.

The good news is that Italy recognises proof of vaccination from the NHS as an equivalent to the Green Pass. You will need your NHS QR code in either printed or in digital form with you at most times (obtained via NHS App, not the NHS test and trace app).

The slight wrinkle is that we found the NHS QR codes rather erratic; the Verifica19 app only recognised the QR code for my second dose, whilst for my wife, it only recognised the first dose and not the second. However, every establishment seemed satisfied that they had something that was scannable for each of us. If you want peace of mind, you can download the Verifica19 app yourself (for free) and test scan your QR codes before you go.

Face masks are worn much more routinely in Italy than in the UK. You’ll need one when on public transport and for entering a shop, bar or restaurant (though you can remove it once seated). We took a packet of disposable surgical-style masks given the frequency with which they are worn.

At the game

Stadium capacities in Italy are currently limited to 75%, though this isn’t as problematic for securing tickets as it sounds. Very few games would normally sell out so this limit doesn’t bite for the majority of games. It is also the case that some ultra groups are still boycotting the stadium in response to the Green Pass requirements, though they are beginning to return.

Tickets can be bought in the usual way online (most teams use either ticketone.it or vivaticket.com) or in person from local outlets detailed on the above websites. Buying tickets for Sampdoria v Spezia online was straightforward, though I was unsuccessful in my quest to get tickets for Spezia v Genoa. The combination of restricted capacity and a local derby in a small stadium made this impossible, though it meant we had an unexpected opportunity to sample some Serie D football.

On entry to the stadium, stewards were checking for the Green Pass (or equivalent). At Sampdoria, the steward very briefly looked at our proof of vaccination and waved us through. At the Sampdoria Primavera and Sestri Levante (Serie D) games the steward used the Verifica19 app to check our vaccination status.

Coming home

Again, to return home two key steps must be completed before boarding the plane:

  • You do not need a negative lateral flow test to return to the UK, but all travellers do need to provide evidence that they have booked a “day 2” lateral flow test. This is a test which you take within 48 hours of return to the UK. The Government has a list of providers here; we opted for a test-at-home kit for £25 from Boots. This gave us a reference number that is required for our return passenger locator form.
  • The UK version of the passenger locator form must be completed in order to board the plane home (NB this is different to the Italian form). Each travelling adult must have their own and minors can be added. The main purpose of this form is to set out your whereabouts and to declare that you haven’t experienced any COVID symptoms. An important point to note is that this can only be completed within 48 hours of departure, so if you’re away for more than two days you’ll need to complete it while you’re out there on your phone or a computer. Paper or digital copies are accepted, but you’ll need to find a printer if your preference is for the former.

In summary, you need to take two lateral flow tests in the UK (one before and one after your trip, with a total cost overhead of £50-60 per person) and complete two pieces of paperwork (an Italian and UK passenger locator form). And don’t forget your mask!

If you’ve got any specific questions, drop me a message and I will try to help.

And while you’re here, why not check out our calcio travel guides to places like Milan, Sampdoria, Atalanta, Torino and Salernitana.

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