Vatican City travel guide
About Vatican City
The Vatican City is the world's smallest sovereign state and is situated entirely within the city of Rome. Many visitors come for religious reasons, but you don’t have to be a Catholic to appreciate this extraordinary destination.
Famed sights include the colossal monument to Catholicism that is St Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Palace, where the Pope resides. Inside his lavish abode lies the legendary Sistine Chapel, which lays claim to the most famous ceiling in the world. Crane your head to marvel at Michelangelo’s magnum opus, The Last Judgement.
Crowds can make a visit to Vatican City a bit of a trial – it’s busy throughout the year and at most times of day – but putting up with swathes of tourists seems like a small price to pay to bask in the state’s assorted treasures. Join the queues and follow the masses through the Vatican Museums to see an astonishing collection of paintings by the likes of Raphael and Giotto in the Pinacoteca Vaticana. You’ll also find extraordinary artefacts from classical antiquity, as well as museums dedicated to older finds from the Etruscans and Egyptians.
As leader of the Papal States for more than 1,000 years until Italian Unification in the 19th century, the Vatican has a long and uneven history. But the new Argentinian pope, formerly known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, has breathed new life into the old office since his appointment in 2013. As a result, visitors from far and wide have been flocking in ever-greater numbers to catch a glimpse of the new Roman Catholic leader and the city he lives in.
Pope Francis is known to give a general audience on Wednesdays, either in Audience Hall or St Peter’s Square. On Sundays, he usually gives a midday blessing from the window of his office, which overlooks the square.
0.44 sq km (0.17 sq miles).
801 (UN estimate 2016).
1,818.2 per sq km.
The State of the Vatican City came into existence in 1929.
Pope Francis since 2013.
Pope Francis since 2013.
This travel advice page also covers the Vatican City.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.
Before you travel
No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all of the advice in this guide as well as support for British nationals abroad which includes:
- advice on preparing for travel abroad and reducing risks
- information for women, LGBT and disabled travellers
If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities, and expenses in an emergency.
This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Italy set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how Italy’s entry requirements apply to you, contact Italy’s embassy, high commission or consulate in the UK.
Countries may restrict travel or bring in rules at short notice. Check with your travel company or airline for changes.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.
You should also read TravelHealthPro’s general COVID-19 advice for travellers.
Travel to Italy
There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for passengers entering Italy.
More information on entry requirements from the UK and other countries can be found on the Ministry of Health website.
Public spaces and travel within Italy
If you are visiting a hospital intensive care ward or care home, you must wear a FFP2 mask.
Passport validity requirements
If you are travelling to an EU country (except Ireland), or Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino or Vatican City, you must follow the Schengen area passport requirements.
Your passport must be:
- issued less than 10 years before the date you enter the country (check the ‘date of issue’)
- valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave (check the ‘expiry date’)
You must check if your passport meets these requirements before you travel. If your passport was issued before 1 October 2018, extra months may have been added to its expiry date.
Check with your transport provider or travel company that your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Travellers who arrive without a valid travel document, or a passport that has previously been reported lost or stolen, will be denied entry to Italy and returned to their point of departure.
At Italian border control, you may need to:
- show proof of your accommodation, for example, a hotel booking confirmation or proof of address if visiting your own property (for example, a second home)
- show proof of insurance for your trip – check FCDO’s travel insurance guidance
- show a return or onward ticket
- prove that you have enough money for your stay. The minimum amount required depends on your accommodation
- follow procedures if you are hosting a guest at your property in Italy
Check your passport is stamped if you enter or exit the Schengen area through Italy as a visitor. Border guards will use passport stamps to check you’re complying with the 90-day visa-free limit for short stays in the Schengen area. If relevant entry or exit stamps are not in your passport, border guards will presume that you have overstayed your visa-free limit.
You can show evidence of when and where you entered or exited the Schengen area and ask the border guards to add this date and location in your passport. Examples of acceptable evidence include boarding passes and tickets.
Unless you are staying in a hotel or B&B, if you are entering from a Schengen area country (for example, France) you must declare your presence (‘dichiarazione di presenza’) to the local immigration authority (‘questura’) within 8 days of arriving. The ‘questura’ will provide a form to complete.
If you are resident in Italy, read our Living in Italy guide for passport stamping information.
You can travel to countries in the Schengen area for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa. This applies if you travel:
- as a tourist
- to visit family or friends
- to attend business meetings, cultural or sports events
- for short-term studies or training
If you are travelling to Italy and other Schengen countries without a visa, make sure your whole visit is within the 90-day limit. Visits to Schengen countries within the previous 180 days before you travel count towards your 90 days.
To stay longer (to work or study, for business travel or for other reasons), you must meet the Italian government’s entry requirements. Check which type of visa or work permit you may need with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs or Italian Consulates in London, Manchester or Edinburgh before booking an appointment.
If you are travelling to Italy for work, read the guidance on visas and permits.
If you stay in Italy with a residence permit or long-stay visa, this does not count towards your 90-day visa-free limit.
British citizens who cannot return to the UK before the expiry of their visa or permit, or the end of their visa-free limit should contact their local immigration office (‘questura’).
Vaccination requirements (other than COVID-19)
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and vaccination certificates you may need on TravelHealthPro (from the UK’s National Travel Health Network and Centre).
There are strict rules about goods that can be brought into and taken out of Italy. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.
Taking food and drink into the EU
You cannot take meat, milk or products containing them into EU countries. There are some exceptions for medical reasons, for example certain amounts of powdered infant milk, infant food, or pet food needed for medical reasons. Check the rules about taking food and drink into the EU on the European Commission website.
Accommodation and under-18s
Under Italian law, under-18s cannot check into hotels or holiday accommodation without an accompanying adult.
There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant at all times.
UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.
Terrorism in Italy
Terrorist attacks in Italy cannot be ruled out.
Demonstrations may occur with little or no warning in cities. Avoid any protests, political gatherings, or marches.
Crime levels are generally low but there are higher levels of petty crime (particularly bag snatching and pickpocketing) in the big city centres, such as Rome and Milan. Thieves can use a variety of methods to distract you.
Take care on public transport and in crowded areas in city centres including main stations and particularly in and around Termini station in Rome, where incidents of street muggings have been reported.
Be particularly careful with your belongings on trains to and from airports and cruise ship ports in Italy (especially Fiumicino airport), as well as on the Circumvesuviana train between Naples and Sorrento, and when unloading your baggage from trains and coaches.
Theft from cars
Robberies from parked cars have been reported, in Rome, particularly the Colosseum area, Ostia, Milan and Pisa. Coastal areas and towns have been targeted as well as motorway service stations. Always lock your vehicle, never leave valuables in cars and avoid leaving luggage in cars for any length of time. Thieves may use a variety of methods to distract you or encourage you to stop your car, including asking for help or directions or pointing out a fictional fault with your car.
Use a hotel safe for valuables where possible.
Be drink aware
Drinks served in bars overseas are often stronger than those in the UK. Be careful about taking drinks from strangers or leaving your drinks unattended. Victims of spiked drinks have been robbed and sometimes assaulted.
Laws and cultural differences
By law, you must always be able to show some form of identification. In most cases a photocopy of the data page of your passport should be enough, but you may also be asked for a second form of photo ID. The police will normally ask for your full passport if you are stopped while driving.
Tickets on public transport must be validated in a ticket machine before you start a journey. Officials patrol public transport and will issue an on the spot fine of 100 to 500 euros (reduced to 50 euros if paid immediately) if you don’t hold a validated ticket.
Many major cities in Italy impose a small tax on tourists. The tax is paid at your hotel and is usually not included in any pre-paid arrangements or package deal. The rate of tax varies from city to city and can depend on the star rating of the hotel. Hotels often ask for payment in cash. Make sure you get a receipt. For more information, check with the local tourist information office.
Some Italian towns and cities have specific laws, which you may be fined if you break. For example, there may be laws to prevent you from:
- dropping litter
- sitting on monument steps
- eating and drinking next to main churches, historic monuments and public buildings
- defacing historic monuments
It’s also an offence to enter or bathe in public fountains in many towns and cities, including Florence and Rome. A fine of up to 10,000 euros can be imposed for urinating in a public place.
On the island of Capri, you must not use or bring onto the island any disposable plastic objects such as bags, cutlery, plates, cups, food packaging, trays and straws. If you do, you can be fined up to 500 euros.
Illegal traders operate on the streets of all major Italian cities. It is illegal to buy items from unlicensed street traders. If you do, you could be stopped by the local police and fined.
It’s illegal to remove sand, shells or pebbles from coastal areas in Italy. Doing so may result in large fines. It’s also forbidden to collect various species of flowers, plants and herbs from mountain and wooded areas. For more information, check with the regional authorities of the area you’re visiting.
If you are planning a skiing holiday, take advice on weather and avalanche conditions before you travel and familiarise yourself with local skiing laws and regulations.
You can contact the Italian State Tourist Board for advice on safety and weather conditions before you travel.
Regulations for the ski season include:
- third party liability insurance is a legal requirement and can be purchased locally with a ski pass
- you must wear a helmet if you are under 18
- you must not eat or drink on ski lifts or boarding areas
- you must not climb a slope with snowshoes unless in a case of emergency
- you must not ski under the influence of alcohol or drugs
Off-piste skiing is very dangerous. Follow all safety instructions meticulously given the dangers of avalanches in some areas and go with a qualified guide. For more information about the avalanche risk, visit the European Avalanche Warning Service website.
Check your insurance covers off-piste activity. It is a legal requirement for skiers and snowboarders to carry tracking equipment, a snow probe and a shovel if they go off-piste.
Find more information about staying safe while skiing and preparing for winter sports abroad.
Outdoor activities and adventure tourism
Hiking, mountaineering and other adventure sports have specific risks.
If you’re taking part in these activities, check that the company is well- established in the industry and that you’ve arranged for your insurance to cover this specific activity.
For sports activities like skiing, potholing and mountaineering, and for sports classed as particularly dangerous (for example off-piste skiing, mountain biking, climbing, paragliding or BASE jumping), your insurance should include:
- mountain rescue services
- helicopter costs
- repatriation to your country of residence or possible transfer to neighbouring countries for treatment
Check weather forecasts and conditions and make sure you’re properly equipped for the worst-case scenario with items such as a map, compass, GPS and telecommunication equipment.
Risks are greater if you undertake any activity alone. You may want to hire a guide for expert advice. Always leave copies of your itinerary with someone.
Transport risks in Italy
Only use officially licensed taxis. These will have a taxi sign on the roof and a taxi company name and number written on the side. Taxis should be called or taken from an official rank rather than hailed in the street.
Transport strikes are often called at short notice. You can find information on the Ministry of Transport website (in Italian).
Traffic can be busy, fast and chaotic, especially in the larger cities. Take care when crossing roads. Pedestrians should cross roads using a crossing. You can be fined for crossing the road if you are within 100 metres of a pedestrian crossing but do not use it. Drivers don’t always stop, even though they are required to. The green pedestrian crossing signal also allows cars to turn right onto the crossing, so cross with caution.
Licences and documents
If you are visiting Italy, you can drive on a full, valid UK driving licence, insurance and vehicle documents. If you’re living in Italy, or planning to live there check the living in Italy guide for information on requirements for residents.
Driving a British car abroad
You may need a UK sticker to drive your car outside the UK. Since 2021, UK stickers have replaced GB stickers. Check the government guidance on displaying number plates for more information on what to do if you are driving outside the UK.
Private and hire cars must not enter the historic centre of many Italian cities without an official pass. You can buy a pass from most car hire companies. The boundaries of historic centres are usually marked with the letters ZTL in black on a yellow background. If you pass this sign, your registration number is likely to be caught on camera and you will be fined.
There is a congestion charge for Milan city centre. For more information see the Milan Municipality website.
To reduce pollution, city authorities in Rome sometimes restrict traffic on specific days so vehicles with odd or even number plates are not allowed on the roads in the green band (fascia verde) area, which covers most of Rome. For more information, including exceptions, see the Rome Municipality website.
Extreme weather and natural disasters
For severe weather warnings, visit the European Meteorological Services website.
Forest fires are a risk during the extended summer months. They are highly dangerous and unpredictable. Wildfires are currently affecting some Italian regions. Check latest alerts and weather forecast and follow advice of local authorities if you’re considering travelling to affected areas. Take care when visiting or driving through woodland areas and report fires to the emergency services.
For information on what to do in the event of a forest fire, visit the Civil Protection Department website.
Heavy rainfall is common throughout Italy in winter, which can cause local flooding. Monitor local media, weather reports and follow the advice of local authorities in affected areas.
High waters are a common occurrence in Venice during the winter months and can cause flooding in parts of the city.
Many parts of Italy lie on a major seismic fault line, which means that minor tremors and earthquakes are a regular occurrence. Learn more about what to do before, during, and after an earthquake.
Before you travel check that:
- your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
- you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation
This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.
Emergency medical number
Dial 118 and ask for an ambulance.
Contact your insurance or medical assistance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.
For more information, read our guidance on healthcare when travelling in Europe.
Vaccinations and health risks
At least 8 weeks before your trip check:
- the latest information on health risks and what vaccinations you need for Italy on TravelHealthPro
- where to get vaccines and whether you have to pay on the NHS travel vaccinations page
Altitude sickness is a risk in parts of Italy, including the Alps and the Dolomites. More information about altitude sickness is available from TravelHealthPro (from the UK’s National Travel Health Network and Centre).
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.
TravelHealthPro explains best practice when travelling with medicines.
The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.
Health insurance cards
Apply for a free UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) or European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. If you already have an EHIC, it will still be valid as long as it remains in date.
The GHIC or EHIC entitles you to state- provided medical treatment necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Italian nationals. If you don’t have your EHIC with you or you’ve lost it, contact the NHS Overseas Healthcare Team.
It’s important to take out appropriate travel insurance for your needs. A GHIC or EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance and you should have both before you travel. An EHIC or GHIC does not cover all health-related costs, for example, medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment and non-urgent treatment. Read more about what your travel insurance should cover.
You can find details of English-speaking doctors in Italy on our list of healthcare providers.
EHIC and or GHIC cover state healthcare only, not private treatment. You will be responsible for the cost of any treatment provided by a private doctor or private clinic.
Pharmacies and doctors
Unlike in the UK, you will need to go to a pharmacy to get most over-the-counter medicines. Pharmacies are widely available and are usually identified by a green cross. UK prescriptions are not accepted, though you may be able to buy an equivalent medication from the pharmacy. Alternatively, you can visit an Italian GP to obtain a local prescription. Prescription medicines are not free in Italy, but with an EHIC or GHIC, and an Italian prescription, you will pay a reduced rate.
Travel and mental health
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.
Emergency services in Italy
If you need to contact the emergency services, call these numbers:
You can also download the 112 Where Are U app, the official European emergency number app. It is only available in some parts of Italy.
Contact your travel provider and insurer
Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.
Refunds and changes to travel
For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.
Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:
- where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
- how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim
Support from FCDO
FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:
- finding English-speaking lawyers, funeral directors and translators and interpreters in Italy
- dealing with a death in Italy
- being arrested in Italy
- getting help if you’re a victim of crime
- what to do if you’re in hospital
- if you are affected by a crisis, such as a terrorist attack
Find more support for British nationals abroad.
Help abroad in an emergency
If you are abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
You can also contact FCDO online.
FCDO in London
You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.
Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)
Risk information for British companies
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.