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Traveling to Italy? Italian Law Requires You Always Have Your Passport on You

Italy Travel Safety
by Katie Scott Aiton Jun 27, 2024

We’re well-practiced at carrying our driver’s licenses in the US, but it might surprise you that there are countries in Europe where it is illegal to venture out without your passport.

While it might be rare to be stopped and issued a ticket, Italian law mandates that all citizens and foreign visitors must carry a valid form of identification at all times. For non-EU citizens, this means a passport – the only official document that proves your nationality and immigration status. Your US driver’s license will not suffice.

While the enforcement of this law may vary, it’s important to note that police in Italy have the authority to conduct random checks. If you fail to produce your passport, you could face a fine or even a brief detention.

Carrying your passport everywhere presents a security concern, particularly in crowded areas with a higher risk of pickpocketing. Italy recently topped the list of Quotezone’s European Pickpocketing Index, which pulled data from reviews of the top five tourist attractions in each European country left by visitors on TripAdvisor. Popular Italian tourist attractions like the Colosseum and Trevi Fountain in Rome and the Gallerie Degli Uffizi in Florence saw the highest number of pickpocketing mentions in online reviews.

Of course, there are things you can do to help keep your documents safe, such as wearing a secure money belt or hidden pouch to keep your passport close and minimize the chance of theft. You might also consider carrying a photocopy of your passport or a digital copy on your phone, keeping the original in a hotel safe. This might be acceptable to some police officers, but it’s not a guaranteed solution and taking that risk is ultimately yours.

The Italy Travel Reddit forum discusses travelers’ experiences. Many commenters mentioned that tourists are asked to produce passports for proof of the children’s age at some of Italy’s main sites, such as the Vatican. You’ll also need an ID to take the train, even for a day trip within the country.

“On travel days, we needed our passports at the train station in Naples. There were roving police checking passports at the Naples terminal. We were checked twice in a fifteen-minute period,” says one commenter who visited Italy last summer.

In another community thread on the European advice blog Rick Steve’s Europe, an American told of their experience on a private wine-tasting tour.

“We were pulled over by the local polizia at a routine traffic stop,” they write. “Even though our guide was driving, the officer requested the ID of one of the passengers. Luckily, we all had our passports because I insisted that everyone have theirs on their person at all times,” the commenter continues.

Ultimately, what might happen — nothing, a fine, or detention — will depend on the person in authority who pulls you over. However, if you are questioning whether it’s a legal requirement to carry your passport while on vacation in Italy, the answer is yes: always have your passport on your person.

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