Do I have to Carry my Passport in Italy?

Wondering – do I have to carry my passport in Italy? Find out the answer to this surprisingly controversial question!

Wondering - do I have to carry my passport in Italy? Find out the answer to this surprisingly controversial question!

In my private Italy Travel Facebook Group, I receive this question at least once a month:

Do I have to carry my passport in Italy?

Yes, you have to carry your passport in Italy. Italian law requires that anyone in a public area must carry an identity document issued by their national government. According to the law of DLGS, 25 July 1998, N.286, you are always required to carry with you the original passport in Italy. For US citizens, the only such document is a valid passport.

The law states:

“The alien that, upon the request of officials and police agents, does not comply, without justified reason, with the order to exhibit passport or other identification document and residence permit or other valid travel document certifying the legal presence on the State’s territory is punished with arrest up to one year and with a fine up to Euros 2,000.”

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and do not assume responsibility for anything that happens to you in Italy!

You obviously need a valid passport to enter Italy, but there is a good chance that you could be randomly stopped by the carabinieri and polizia (police officer) and asked to show your passport in Italy, so should you carry your passport with you at all times? Yes!

Is there a chance that a copy or photo of your passport will suffice? Absolutely? Do you I want to risk it? No.

Police in Italy do have the right to ask for identification, and if you cannot provide it, they may detain you until your identity can be confirmed.

You don’t want to end up with a fine or wasting any of your precious vacation time to go back to your hotel and get your passport. Yes, I have seen this happen!

Keep in mind that regulations and enforcement may vary, and local laws may change. It’s a good idea to check with your embassy or a local legal source to understand the current requirements specific to your situation.

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Is a Copy of my Passport Enough?

I see so many people concerned about having their passport stolen in Italy, and that is a very valid concern. Pickpocketing in Italy is quite common. Many people and websites will tell you it’s ok to carry a copy of your passport in Italy or a photo of your passport on your phone.

A copy may be sufficient in most cases, but I prefer to have my actual document to be safe.

Local Police officers in Italy

What about my driving license?

A driver’s license or state ID card is not issued by your country (if you live in the USA), so driver’s licenses are not technically valid national identification documents or national identity card.

Carry passport or leave in hotel?

A common question I’m asked is if you should leave passport in hotel or carry it. Again, my personal preference is to carry my actual passport rather than a copy of a passport card. If anything should happen and you need to leave your destination quickly, you’ll have everything you need.

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I was in Paris the day of terrorist attacks 8 years ago. We needed to leave quickly. I was so glad to have my passport and be able to get out of the city as quickly as possible. I don’t want to tell you to live your life in fear, but these things happen and it’s best to be as prepared as possible.

I also take my passport with me even when I’m traveling in my own country. You just never know.

Who can ask for my Passport in Italy?

Italian authorities, including personnel at airports, ports, hotels, train, and metro stations, as well as other entities like employees at monuments and public offices, may request passports.

It’s worth noting that the passport is your only international identification document, so it’s quite common and even expected that you may be asked to present it in various situations in a public place.

ID checks may happen in train stations or other public areas. It’s also common to be asked for it at random when going through any type of security.

Police checking documents

What is the difference between Carabinieri and Polizia in Italy?

The formally titled Arma dei Carabinieri is the military force of Italy that will also carry out law enforcement duties for the country. The other policing department in Italy is known as the Polizia di Stato, which is the national police force composed of civilians.

Why are they making copies of my passport at my hotel?

It is also Italian law to take a copy of your visa and/or passport in Italy at hotel check in. This seems to take a lot of tourists by surprise, but this is standard procedure any time you check in to a hotel or home rental. You will also be asked to pay a city tourist tax in Italy for each accommodation.

What should I do if I’m asked to show my passport in Italy?

If you’re asked to show your passport by local police officers (carabinieri or polizia), local authorities, or other officials, stay calm. This is most likely a routine check and doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong.

Calmly get your passport out and show it to them, then be sure to put it away securely when they are finished.

If you are asked by someone and you’re not sure who they are, it’s ok to ask them for identification first.

family travel to Italy
Two of us carrying my favorite travel bag on both ends.

How to Carry Passport when Traveling

If you’ve decided follow Italy passport rules and need to carry your passport, let’s talk about how to carry your passport when traveling.

Do’s of Carrying Your Passport:

  • Do use a travel-safe bag
  • Do put your passport in an inner-compartment or safe place
  • Do keep your bag in front of you
  • Do keep your bag zipped at all times
  • Do have your hand on your bag at all times during public transportation

Don’ts of Carrying Your Passport:

  • Don’t keep it in an expensive designer bag (just don’t use a designer bag when traveling at all)
  • Don’t put your passport in the outer pocket of your bag
  • Don’t put your passport in a backpack or cross body that goes on your back
  • Don’t leave your bag open
  • Don’t lose sight of your bag on public transportation
  • Don’t let kids carry their own passports

The Best Way to Carry Passport When Traveling – My favorite bags

Carrying your passport in Italy doesn’t have to be scary. There are plenty of great anti-theft travel-safe bags that I love.

Travelon Messenger Bag

This is one of my favorite travel bags and makes me feel super safe carrying my passport to Italy and while I’m out. there are plenty of inside compartments, the zippers all clip into place, and it’s got a nice cross-body strap, making this bag nearly impossible to steal or lose. The best feature of this bag is that there’s a side pocket for your water bottle! I have the black, but I like the nutmeg and navy colors as well!

All Night Festival Bag

This is a bag I take on almost all of my travels! I have it in black and brown. I love that it folds over, so getting inside it is nearly impossible. It doesn’t have the zip locks that Travelon bags do, but I do feel that it is secure enough and has enough inside pockets that I feel safe traveling Italy with it.

Everywhere Belt Bag

If you’re looking for something smaller to carry your passport in, this belt bag is a great option. It’s big enough to hold your passport, hotel keys, wallet, and phone, which is really all you need on most days. You can wear it around your waist like a true belt bag or fanny pack or you can wear it cross body style, which seems to be really in these days.

Slim Under Clothing Money Belt

If you want to be extra cautious, these are designed to go under your clothes. These are great if you’re traveling in colder months, but I find them too hot traveling in the summer and not big enough to hold the things I need to take with me.

Cross Body Backpack

I only recommend this one if you’re not wearing the bag on your back and keep your passport inside!


You should carry your passport with you while traveling in Italy because it’s the law. You may be randomly stopped by officials and asked to show your passport. You shouldn’t leave it in your hotel. You should use a travel safe bag to store your passport in and keep it in safe at all times.

Ok, I hope this helps you feel more prepared to carry your passport in Italy and feel more confident about keeping it safe! I know that you will hear lots of stories of people whose passport was never checked or people who were able to use a copy or a photo of their passport. But you will also hear stories of people being checked and detained due to not having their passports. I personally choose to be safe than sorry. Ultimately, the decision is yours. Either way….buon viaggio!

2 thoughts on “Do I have to Carry my Passport in Italy?

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