Italy abandons quarantine for jabbed UK travellers

I know lots of you have been following my experience of quarantine in Italy and asking subsequent questions on Twitter. Well now the situation has become a lot clearer… for the time being.

The Italian government has decided to stop demanding five days in quarantine for all visitors from the UK after August 30.

This seems a sensible move, perhaps sparked by the fact the Italian Covid apps can now recognise the NHS double jab barcode. I won’t be back in Italy for a little while so I’ve no way of trying this out in real life (and perhaps things will have changed again by the time I do try to get back).

But the key points to remember it seems to me are…

  1. You need to be double jabbed and capable of proving it through the NHS app.
  2. You still need to fill in the EU passenger locator form on the way out and get a proven negative rapid test before flying.
  3. You still need to meet the UK rules on your return, which currently mean one rapid test before you go for your return flight and, for the double jabbed, a PCR test two days or less on your return. The PCR test, as we now know, is an unnecessary expense and ought to be replaced by a cheaper, easier rapid test. Not that the UK government seems minded to listen to the many people pointing this out.
  4. Don’t rely on your phone or iPad. As I emphasised here more than once, print out all your essential documents. It’s easier to locate a printout than find a file on your phone a lot of the time. And, most importantly, print out a copy of your NHS jab proof certificate. There have been reports of phone codes not being accepted by some places in Italy while a printout has. And remember, too, that the code the Italy apps need to scan is the one that confirms your second jab. The one for the first isn’t enough.

I can’t, of course, guarantee all this works because I’m not there right now. But it’s my understanding of the situation. The decision to remove quarantine simplifies travel a fair but the process is still more complex than it ever was before Covid. Best understand what you face before you face it than try to cope as you go along.

Buon viaggio.


The Appian Way, a year on

The pandemic has done something very strange to my perception of time. Shorn of appointments, deadlines, targets, travel plans and all the waypoints that once shaped the framework of daily life, I feel I’ve been drifting through a foggy ocean, only occasionally seeing land. It only just occurred to me that it’s just over a year since I published my first travel book in thirty years, my exploration of that seminal ancient Roman road the Appian Way.

For ages I’d ached to explore the length of the road, all three hundred and fifty miles running south from Rome. At the end of summer 2019 I finally set off piloting my a little Abarth 595 into Rome to start the journey, finishing it in a chilly but sunny city the following January, just as a mysterious virus began to work its way around Italy.

But my connections with that trip are tenuous. In a way it feels like only yesterday that I was pointing the car south through Nemi, Formia, Benevento, Santa Maria Capua Vetere, and Taranto, headed for the via Appia’s end in Brindisi. I’ve made no real journeys since which is doubtless why this memorable one sticks in the mind so vividly.

Yet, in another way, this small personal odyssey seems to belong a different, lost world. One where we could move freely, hire a car, venture out into the unknown and see where it took us. I’d love to be able to do that now. If I was living in Italy, I probably could. But not easily from the UK. And I wonder if that ease of movement will ever return.

If or when it does, another trip down the via Appia has to be on the cards. It was an eye-opening insight into a different Italy, one with few tourists yet more sights than I ever expected. History and beauty everywhere, from the mystical lake of Nemi in the Alban Hills where Caligula once sailed his pleasure boats to the arena of Santa Maria Capua Vetere, where an angry gladiator named Spartacus began a revolt that shook the Roman empire to its core.

You can read more about the book here and follow my route by clicking on the Google Earth link in the image below.

In many ways it’s the story of how the freedom to travel has made us what we are: a curious, restless species, picking up bits and pieces of other cultures as we go. I can’t wait to rediscover that freedom on the road in Italy before long.

Here are a few photos to whet your appetite. You’ll find the e-book in all the usual places, including Kindle, Apple Books, Kobo and on Google Play. And there’s a print version on Amazon too.


Confirmed – Italy Covid app won’t read NHS pass

Kudos to Leonardo Impett for spotting what the media at large seem to have missed. Durham computer professor Leonardo took to perusing the development status of the app on Github (no, me neither) and uncovered the reason why everyone’s NHS app has been rejected by the current VerificaC19 when people try to go inside restaurants, cafes and other places.

The current version simply doesn’t know it’s supposed to recognise it. You can read the technical details here. Not that I understand a word.

It’s a shame the NHS app wasn’t made compatible with VerificaC19 in time for the introduction of the new green pass rules in Italy on August 6. That would have saved lots of difficult conversations with cafe owners who wanted to let you in but felt they couldn’t. It’s a shame, too, that communication about this issue has been so poor.

But anyway — now you know. When VerificaC19 is updated the NHS pass should be read. No clue when that might be or how you can get the NHS pass accepted in Italy before it happens.


Quick way to check if your NHS jab certificate will work in Italy

The new Green Pass rules only came into force in Italy on August 6, the day before I left Venice. They mean you can’t get inside museums, galleries, restaurants or cafes without showing a certificate saying you’ve been vaccinated.

I didn’t have time to test them out properly and a quick check revealed I could have got into one museum but a restaurant ruled me out.

However there’s a simple way to work out if your NHS certificate will be accepted and you don’t need to be in Italy to try. Restaurants and the rest have been given a free app by the government to scan the relevant bar codes of Covid certificates. It’s called Verifica C19 and you can find it for Android here and for Apple here. If you download it you can then see if it will read your UK or US bar codes and deem them acceptable in Italy.

I haven’t tried it myself but UK residents who have the NHS certificate don’t seem to be having much luck.

The same seems to be happening with some US users too.

The Italian authorities really need to get this sorted quickly. They’ve said these certificates are good to go. At the moment it’s easy to dine outside but not for much longer. And the idea of going to Italy and being locked out of museums and galleries is simply ridiculous.