As Italian towns are put on lockdown due to coronavirus, travellers are beginning to ask: is it safe to visit Italy? Here we look into the latest Italy travel advice, and how the outbreak could affect your holiday.

The Italian Prime Minister has introduced “extraordinary measures” to control the spread of coronavirus, as Italy becomes the first European country to deal with a significant outbreak.

An estimated 100,000 people have been banned from leaving or entering parts of the northern Italian regions of Lombardy and Veneto without permission.

At least 3,089 people in Italy have tested positive for coronavirus, and 107 people have died from the virus. This means Italy has the fourth-highest number of cases after China (80,430), South Korea (6,088) and Iran (3,513). Japan has 361 cases to date and Germany has 444.

As it stands, the European Commission has said that the European Union is not currently considering travel suspensions within the Schengen area. This means people can still cross the border into Italy by rail or road. 

Some airlines, including British Airways and Ryanair, have cancelled flights to Italy. Ryanair announced it will be cutting up to 25 per cent of flights in and out of Italy between 17 March and 8 April. British Airways has cancelled a total of 216 flights from March 16–28.

Here we take a look at the full picture of coronavirus in Italy, and whether it is safe or advisable to visit Italy now. You can follow our coronavirus live blog here.

The numbers: coronavirus in Italy

  • 3,089 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Italy (March 5)
  • 107 deaths
  • 295 in a serious or critical condition
  • 276 have recovered

Where is there coronavirus in Italy? (as of March 5)

Of the confirmed cases of coronavirus, we know there are at least:

People wearing face masks near the Colosseum in Rome

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  • 1,820 in Lombardy
  • 544 in Emilia Romagna
  • 360 in Veneto
  • 82 in Piedmont
  • 84 in Marche (2 deaths)
  • 26 in Liguria
  • 31 in Campania
  • 38 in Tuscany
  • 18 in Friuli Venezia Giulia
  • 18 in Sicily
  • 30 in Lazio (Rome region)
  • 6 in Abruzzo
  • 9 in Puglia
  • 9 in Umbria
  • 5 in Trentino-Alto Adige / South Tyrol
  • 1 in Calabria
  • 3 in Molise
  • 2 in Sardinia
  • 1 in Basilicata

The timeline

January 30: Some 6,000 passengers are quarantined on the Costa Smeralda cruise, docked at Civitavecchia port, after a passenger is suspected to be infected with coronavirus.

January 31: Italy suspends all passenger air traffic to and from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Passengers are allowed to disembark the Costa Smeralda after the passenger tests negative for coronavirus. 

February 6: A 29-year-old Italian national who had travelled back to Italy from Wuhan is diagnosed with coronavirus.

Around 6,000 passengers were quarantined on the Costa Smeralda, docked at Civitavecchia port

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February 20: A 38-year-old man is in intensive care near Milan after being diagnosed with coronavirus. Total number of cases in Italy up to 4.

February 21: 21 cases of coronavirus confirmed – including the wife (eight months pregnant) and friends of the 38-year-old man. Some 160 contacts of the man are put under quarantine, and emergency procedures put in place at the firm where he works.

February 22: 79 total cases in Italy and two deaths. Italy becomes the country with the highest number of cases and deaths in Europe; 11 towns and areas affected by the outbreak are put on lockdown, the first in Europe

Football fans wearing face masks at a Serie A match between AS Roma and US Lecce

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February 23: 157 cases in Italy. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announces “extraordinary measures” in northern Italy. 3 cases are announced in Rome and 2 in Venice’s historical centre. Armed forces are mobilised to form a “health belt” around the contagion areas. The Carnival in Venice is cancelled and more than 40 football matches, including 4 Serie A games, are postponed. The Duomo in Milan is closed. A train from Austria to Italy is halted for four hours, and then allowed to continue, after two travellers tested negative for coronavirus. Armani holds its Milan fashion week show from behind closed doors.

February 24: Steep falls in European stock markets following coronavirus outbreak in Italy. In a bid to slow the outbreak, schools, universities, museums and cinemas are closed across the north of Italy for at least a week, and public gatherings are banned. Number of cases rises to 229. Ireland issues warning advising citizens against travel to areas affected by coronavirus. Serbia has advised against all travel to Italy.

February 25: Number of cases rises to 232. Filming of the latest Mission: Impssible film is halted over fears of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy. Health Secretary Matt Hancock appears on BBC Breakfast saying Brits should self-quarantine if they return from northern Italy and show flu-like symptoms, and should self-quarantine regardless of symptoms if they have returned from a northern Italian town on lockdown. New cases of coronavirus in Florence and Palermo, Sicily.

February 26: A number of schools in England and Northern Ireland close after pupils return from school ski trips in the virus-struck Lombardy region. British Airways announces that anyone travelling to parts of Italy up to March 2 can re-book at a later date up to 31 March. This covers Milan, Turin, Bologna, Venice, Bergamo and Verona.

February 27: Lombardy governor announces self-quarantine after his close assistant tests positive for coronavirus. The US issues an “exercise increased caution” travel advisory to Italy. A fourteenth person in Italy dies after testing positive for coronavirus.

March 1: Lombardy region urges anyone over the age of 65 to stay at home and not go outside for 2 to 3 weeks. First case in Sardinia (currently hospitalized in Cagliari).

March 2: British Airways and Ryanair announce they are cancelling hundreds of flights to Italy, as demands drops amid fears of coronavirus spread.

March 3: Death toll rises to 52, an increase of 18 in two days. Rome confirms its first cases – a police officer and a firefighter.

March 5: Six Nations organisers postpone England vs Italy match. All schools and universities to close for at least ten days.

The view on the ground

Milan

Sasha Slater, Head of Magazines at The Telegraph, was in Milan over fashion week, when Italy had its first cases of coronavirus: “We were in Milan for fashion week, and there was absolutely no alarm from Monday to Friday. Suddenly on Saturday, people started shying away from each other if they went in for a peck on the cheek. Handshakes suddenly became a lot more popular. By Sunday morning, people walking down the street were covering their mouths with their hands if they didn’t have a mask on. At the airport, desk staff at British Airways were wearing surgical gloves, heavy-duty masks, and protective glasses. And they had hand-sanitisers hanging on lanyards round their necks. There were still a lot of people walking about but many fewer than normal.”

Veneto

Andrea Vogt reports from Veneto, where many towns are now in lockdown.

“I have reached the checkpoint outside the quarantined town of Vò Euganeo.

“I arrived here via a back route, along a very small provincial road, and the streets were absolutely deserted. I saw just one small bottega open in the neighbouring town, a fruit and vegetable vendor, with no customers. 

“The officers who approached my car at the roadblock did so very cautiously, keeping at least two meters distance. I was not allowed to pass. Near the main entrance of town, however, I did see very few vehicles pass by, and most of them were lorries, which are allowed to bring in supplies to the red zone areas.”

A group of participants at the Venice Carnival wearing protective clothing

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Is it safe to visit Italy? Foreign Office advice

According to the Foreign Office, it is still safe to visit Italy, except for specific regions in Lombardy and Veneto.

“The FCO advise against all but essential travel to 10 small towns in Lombardy (Codogno, Castiglione d’Adda, Casalpusterlengo, Fombio, Maleo, Somaglia, Bertonico, Terranova dei Passerini, Castelgerundo and San Fiorano) and one in Veneto (Vo’ Euganeo), which have been isolated by the Italian authorities due to an ongoing outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19).

“If you’re returning to the UK from northern Italy, consult the latest advice from the Department of Health and Social Care on actions to take.

“On 22 February, the government of Italy introduced extraordinary measures that allow regions to implement civil protection measures in response to coronavirus, including the isolation of the towns above. The regions of Lombardy, Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Piemonte and Emilia Romagna have announced measures that include the suspension of events that involve meeting in public or private places, the suspension of schools and higher education and the suspension on the opening of museums and other cultural institutions for 7 days.

These measures were extended on 4 March to include school and university closures throughout Italy and the requirement that all sporting fixtures be played behind closed doors. You can find more information on measures on the Ministry of Health website (in Italian).

“Call Italy’s 112 emergency number if you believe you have symptoms. English speaking operators are available.

“Further information on coronavirus, including advice on preparing for foreign travel and helping reduce the spread of the virus, is available on the TravelHealthPro website.You can find more information about cases in Italy on the TravelHealthPro country page.”

The Venice Carnival has been halted two days earlier than planned

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Do I need to self-quarantine if I visit Italy?

Britons who are returning from northern Italy have been instructed to “self-isolate” in the UK, if they show flu-like symptoms. The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said anyone returning home from anywhere north of Pisa with symptoms should stay home for 14 days.

The advice also says that anyone who has recently returned from Italy’s quarantined towns should self-isolate, even if they are showing no symptoms. This also applies to Iran, parts of South Korea and the Hubei Province in China.

What do I do if I get stuck in a lockdown situation?

The advice is that UK citizens stuck in a lockdown town in Italy should contact the embassy in Rome.

Would I get money back if I cancelled my trip to Italy?

If the Foreign Office changes its travel advice for the country you are visiting to “avoid all but essential travel” or “avoid all travel” and you have booked with a tour operator, you should be eligible for a refund, or your tour operator will organise alternative travel arrangements. If you have booked your holiday independently and a foreign office warning is put in place before you travel, you will have to check the terms and conditions of your bookings and your insurance policy.

If you want to cancel a package holiday to a country that does not have a Foreign Office warning in place, then you will not be eligible for a refund. If you have booked independently and the region is still considered safe by the FCO, you are unlikely to be able to cancel our change your trip without losing money. Your best course of action would be to contact your hotel, tour operator or airline to ask if you can change your plans.

Is my insurance valid if I travel to Italy?

Your travel insurance will be valid so long as the Foreign Office has not issued a warning before you travel. If the FCO issues a warning while you are in an affected region, you will be covered as normal so long as you follow the latest FCO advice for British nationals. Some insurance policies will provide support if, when you are abroad, you are prevented from travelling home due to travel restrictions caused by coronavirus. Always double check your policy, and check Foreign Office warnings, before you travel.

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