Planning a trip to Italy? Here’s how to get there on points and miles
Between pasta, pizza, wine, beaches, designer stores and some of the world's fastest supercars, Italy is the perfect place for both a relaxing getaway and a jam-packed adventure. One of the most populous countries in Europe, Italy is home to dozens of different historical and tourist destinations.
All three of the U.S. legacy carriers fly to Italy, and there is even a cool fifth-freedom route you can fly to make your trip a little more exciting. However, if you want to travel there without the need to quarantine, you'll need to book a “COVID-tested flight.”
Today we'll take a look at the best ways to get Italy on points and miles. We'll discuss how you can book the special quarantine-free flights, as well as where you could stay on points.
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Airlines that fly to Italy
While Italy has several major airports, we're going to focus on the three most popular international gateways: Rome (FCO), Milan (MXP) and Venice (VCE). Note that both Rome and Milan offer alternative airports, but if you're booking from the U.S., chances are quite good that you'll arrive into or depart out of one of these three.
And other than a few exceptions (which we'll talk about later), your award tickets will cost the same, no matter which destination you pick and regardless of whether you're flying from the East Coast of the U.S. or the West Coast.
To make this list a little more approachable, I've broken it down by the three major alliances as well as notable non-alliance carriers.
United normally flies to Rome from its hubs in Newark (EWR), Washington-Dulles (IAD) and Chicago-O'Hare (ORD), and from Newark to Milan and Venice. However, some of these routes have been temporarily suspended and aren't slated to resume until 2022.
Here are the COVID-tested flights Untied currently operates:
- Three-times weekly service between Newark (EWR) and Rome (FCO)
- Four-times weekly service between Newark (EWR) and Milan (MXP)
If you're willing to have a layover, the following Star Alliance carriers also fly to Italy:
- Air Canada flies from both Montreal (YUL) and Toronto (YYZ) to Rome, and also from Toronto to Venice
- Austrian flies from Vienna (VIE) to Milan, Venice and Rome
- LOT Polish flies from Warsaw (WAW) to Milan and Venice
- Lufthansa flies from its hubs in both Frankfurt (FRA) and Munich (MUC) to Milan, Venice and Rome. Some flights are operated by Lufthansa's subsidiary Air Dolomiti.
- SAS flies from its hubs in Copenhagen (CPH), Stockholm (ARN) and Oslo (OSL) to Rome and Milan, and from Copenhagen to Venice
- Swiss flies from Zurich (ZRH) to Milan, Venice and Rome
- TAP Portugal flies from Lisbon (LIS) to Milan, Venice and Rome
- Turkish flies from Istanbul (IST) to Milan, Venice and Rome
American Airlines flies a number of routes from the U.S. to Italy. The carrier flies from Chicago-O'Hare (ORD), Philadelphia (PHL) and Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) to Rome, as well as from JFK to Milan. It also offers seasonal service from Chicago to Venice.
American’s COVID-tested flight schedule is as follows:
- Daily service between JFK and MXP
- Three-times weekly service between JFK and FCO, increasing to daily on July 1
- Four-times weekly service between Dallas (DFW) and FCO, increasing to daily on July 1
The following Oneworld airlines also fly to Italy:
- British Airways flies from its hub in London-Heathrow (LHR) and London-Gatwick (LGW) to Rome, and from Heathrow to Milan and Venice
- Finnair flies from Helsinki (HEL) to Milan, Venice and Rome
- Iberia flies from Madrid (MAD) to Milan, Venice and Rome
Delta serves all three of the main Italian destinations from its hub in New York-JFK. It also flies from Atlanta (ATL) to Rome.
Delta’s COVID-tested flights are as follows:
- Daily service between New York-JFK and Milan (MXP)
- Three-times weekly service between New York-JFK and Rome (FCO), increasing to daily on July 1
- Daily service between Atlanta (ATL) and Rome (FCO)
The following SkyTeam airlines also fly to Italy:
- Air France flies from Paris (CDG) to Milan, Venice and Rome
- KLM flies from Amsterdam (AMS) to Milan, Venice and Rome
- Emirates flies a fifth-freedom route from New York-JFK to Milan. It operates daily using a three-cabin Boeing 777.
Best mileage options
Given how much of the market share between the U.S. and Italy is dominated by U..S airlines and their European partners, it's easier to think about your top mileage options in terms of which alliance you're using instead of which specific program offers the best sweet spots. Once you've found award availability, you can then determine which program offers the best combination of mileage rates and out-of-pocket costs.
We'll start with Star Alliance for a couple of reasons. First, it offers the most extensive routing options from the U.S. to Italy. Second, there are many loyalty programs through which you can book. Round-trip award costs are shown below:
|Program||Transfer partners||Round-trip mileage costs|
|ANA Mileage Club||Amex|
|Aeroplan||Amex, Capital One, Marriott|
|Avianca LifeMiles||Amex, Capital One, Citi, Marriott|
|Turkish Miles & Smiles||Capital One, Citi|
|Singapore KrisFlyer||Amex, Capital One, Chase, Citi, Marriott|
|United MileagePlus*||Chase, Marriott|
* United no longer publishes award charts. The prices shown here are the minimum you should expect to pay when there's saver availability.
ANA offers the lowest mileage rates for many destinations, but there are a few caveats to point out. First, you must book a round-trip award, which isn't a problem for most people but gives you a little less flexibility. In addition, ANA also adds fuel surcharges to award tickets, which can get expensive on select partners like Lufthansa, especially in premium cabins.
However, you are allowed both an open jaw and a stopover, meaning you could fly from Chicago to Frankfurt on Lufthansa, stop for a few days, and continue to Milan. You could then make your way down to Rome before flying back to Chicago, all on the same ticket. That gives you three destinations for the price of one, an absolute steal.
If you're willing to redeem a few more miles, you can book with Turkish Miles & Smiles and have the flexibility to book one-way awards instead. That said, unless you're flying United or a select few other partners, you'll still be on the hook for fuel surcharges, which can cost a couple of hundred dollars.
If you want to avoid fuel surcharges, you can book with Aeroplan. When it updated its award chart in late 2020, it eliminated fuel surcharges, significantly improving the value of awards on partners like Lufthansa. Now, you'll just pay a flat CA$39 ($29) per-person partner booking fee plus minimal taxes and fees.
Another program worth considering is Avianca LifeMiles, which has rapidly emerged from the shadows to become one of the most popular (and cheapest) Star Alliance loyalty programs. While it doesn't pass on fuel surcharges and offers incredibly low award rates, its customer service leaves much to be desired. If you think you might need to change or cancel your ticket, it might be worth paying more to book with a different program.
In a little-known yet wildly consumer-friendly move, Avianca will actually discount mixed cabin awards. Take, for instance, a Lufthansa first class award from New York to Milan via Frankfurt. Since the second leg of the flight is in business class, not in first, you don't have to pay the full first-class award rate across the entire itinerary. This actually makes it cheaper to fly New York-Frankfurt-Milan over New York-Frankfurt, but you won't hear many complaints about that.
Of course, another Star Alliance booking option is with United. Unfortunately, ever since United removed its award charts, most awards, including those operated by partners, have become less valuable. The chart was never the most generous option out there (though, like Avianca, United doesn't pass on fuel surcharges), but it was a good option for people looking to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
If you've been planning a trip to Italy, it's easy to get more than enough miles for a round-trip flight with the current offers on American's cobranded credit cards. The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® is currently offering 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
Meanwhile, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® offers 65,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 4 months of account opening. That's a perfect sum, as round-trip awards on American Airlines or Oneworld partners typically cost the following amounts:
- Economy: 45,000-60,000 miles
- Premium economy: 80,000 miles
- Business: 115,000 miles
- First: 170,000 miles
The best deal here would be landing an off-peak economy award and saving a full 25% (or 7,500 miles each way). Off-peak dates to Europe are from January 10 - March 14 and then November 1 - December 14. You can see that as soon as the calendar turns over to November, one-way economy awards drop from 30,000 miles to 22,500.
The information for the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Alternatively, you may be able to save by booking a Web Special award. Although not always, these dynamically priced awards are sometimes cheaper than saver awards. They can also be a good option when there's no saver availability and you don't have flexibility in dates. These awards are not changeable, but you can cancel them and redeposit miles for free.
You can also consider using distance-based programs like British Airways Avios or JAL Mileage Bank, though these are best for travelers based on the East Coast or to catch a short, intra-Europe flight. Longer flights, or flights that require a connection, noticeably increase the cost of your award. No matter what program you book through, you'll want to actively avoid flights on British Airways metal or with a connection in London, as those come with some very nasty taxes.
If you choose to book a flight with Avios, you should aim for a direct flight on American from the east coast. JFK to Milan is just under 4,000 flight miles, meaning it should cost 20,750 Avios each way in economy or 62,000 in business class. When you factor in the frequent Amex transfer bonuses to British Airways, you can potentially get a good deal here.
While United was the most recent U.S. carrier to shift to dynamic award pricing, Delta removed award charts years ago. This makes it hard to talk about award rates through the carrier's SkyMiles program in consistent terms. For example, economy awards might cost 35,000 miles each way, or they might cost 62,000. The only way to know is to fire up delta.com and see what price you get on your desired date(s) of travel.
Delta One business class can get even scarier, with awards often pricing out at 320,000 miles one-way from New York-JFK to Rome. Ouch.
Before booking any of Delta's egregiously-priced flights, you should check with Virgin Atlantic, as the carrier's Flying Club program can get you some terrific value on Delta-operated award tickets.
Although Flying Club recently devalued most Delta award tickets, it kept the old pricing for award tickets to Europe. This means you can book nonstop Delta flights to Italy for just 50,000 points one-way in business class.
While you can get Delta SkyMiles through transfers from Amex, Virgin Atlantic partners with Amex, Chase and Citi ThankYou Rewards, giving you an array of options for boosting your Flying Club balance.
Another SkyTeam option for flights to Italy is Flying Blue, the loyalty program of Air France, KLM and a handful of other (smaller) carriers. Like Delta, it too uses a variable pricing model, so it's not always the most valuable option. You should start with the program's award calculator to get an idea of the starting price for your trip, though if you're looking to fly a premium class, prices can vary significantly. You'll also be subject to fuel surcharges on many carriers.
Your best bet for leveraging Flying Blue might be the program's rotating promo awards. This often allows you to book flights in specific classes of service from select cities to Europe for 25% or more off the standard award rates. When you consider that Flying Blue partners with Amex, Capital One, Chase and Citi, you have an array of options for quickly earning many miles to put toward these redemptions.
Emirates fifth-freedom flights
While it's not the cheapest way to get to Italy, Emirates' fifth-freedom route between New York-JFK and Milan is certainly the most luxurious way to make this trip. The flight is operated by the airline's flagship, double-decker A380, featuring fully enclosed, gold-studded first-class suites, an onboard shower and a walk-up bar. That's a lot of entertainment packed into an eight-hour flight, and it might be too tempting to party all night instead of resting and hitting the ground running.
Still, Emirates isn't just all flash and no substance; it's earned its reputation by providing top-notch food and service in addition to its world-class hard product. If you want to try it for yourself, you can book one-way awards at the following rates.
|Frequent flier program||Transfer partners||One-way award costs|
|JAL Mileage Bank||Marriott|
|Emirates Skywards||Amex, Capital One, Marriott|
|Qantas Frequent Flyer||Citi ThankYou, Capital One, Marriott|
|Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan (only until July 31, 2021)||Marriott|
Earning airline miles
If you're looking to plan a trip to Italy, what's the best strategy to ensure you earn enough points and miles to cover your flights? I'd personally recommend going after transferable credit card rewards like American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards. Many of these programs' cards appear on our list of top travel rewards credit cards, and the best part is the flexibility each one offers. Instead of being locked into a specific currency, you can earn points that can be converted into various airline programs when you're ready to book. This minimizes the risk of a sudden devaluation and allows you to potentially choose the perfect combination of miles and taxes/fees for your award ticket.
Some of the top cards that can help with this endeavor include:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve ($550 annual fee): Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening. You'll enjoy 3x points on travel and dining along with a $300 annual travel credit, Priority Pass Select membership and primary car rental coverage (among many other perks).
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card ($95 annual fee): Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening. You'll earn 5x total points on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3x points on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out, 3x points on select streaming services, 3x points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs), 2x points on all other travel, 1x point on all other purchases. Plus, get valuable travel protections any time you pay for travel. You'll also enjoy one year of complimentary DashPass membership with DoorDash if activated by March 31, 2022.
- The Platinum Card® from American Express ($695 annual fee, see Rates and Fees): Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership. You'll earn 5x points on airfare booked directly with the airline and enjoy an array of perks like Priority Pass membership, Delta Sky Club access (when flying Delta), Centurion Lounge access and an up to $200 annual airline fee credit. Enrollment required for select benefits.
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card ($95 annual fee): Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. You'll earn 2x miles on all purchases. Miles can be redeemed directly for travel or transferred to various airline partners.
- Citi Premier® Card ($95 annual fee): Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. Enjoy 3 ThankYou points per dollar on air travel, hotels, gas stations, restaurants and supermarkets, and 1 ThankYou point per dollar on all other purchases.
For more details on how these programs can help you book awards across the major carriers, check out the following posts:
- Best ways to redeem Amex points: Star Alliance, Oneworld, SkyTeam
- Best ways to redeem Chase points: Star Alliance, Oneworld, SkyTeam
- Best ways to redeem Citi points: Star Alliance, Oneworld, SkyTeam
- Best ways to redeem Capital One miles: Star Alliance, Oneworld, SkyTeam
- Best ways to redeem Marriott points: Star Alliance, Oneworld, SkyTeam
Hotels you can book with points
Italy has points hotels for everyone, with boutique properties, budget options, luxury hotels and beyond.
Marriott Bonvoy alone has more than 60 hotel properties in Italy, from Category 2 AC properties to luxurious Category 8 St Regis hotels. Meanwhile, Hilton has nearly 30 hotels and Hyatt has more than 50 properties. IHG and Radisson also have a presence in the country.
If you're planning a trip to Venice and want to splurge, look no further than the St. Regis Venice.
This relatively new property offers modern rooms, beautiful canal views and a convenient location. It's a top-tier Category 8 hotel, so rooms here range from 70,000 to 100,000 points per night. Or, for a more classic Venetian luxury experience, you can spend the same amount of points for a stay at the Gritti Palace, a Luxury Collection Hotel. Considering rooms here often cost over 1,000 EUR per night, these can be great redemptions.
For slightly fewer points, you can stay at the JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa. It's located on a private island but still offers easy access to the heart of Venice, thanks to a complimentary boat service to St. Mark’s Square. As a Category 7 hotel, rooms cost 50,000 to 70,000 points per night. Another cheaper but nice option is the AC Hotel Venezia, which costs 40,000 to 60,000 points per night.
In Rome, top options include the Category 8 St. Regis and, Category 7 Westin Excelsior and Rome Marriott Grand Hotel Flora. For a more trendy stay, consider the G-Rough, a Member of Design Hotels (Category 8), The Pantheon Iconic Rome Hotel, Autograph Collection (Category 7) or the W Rome, opening in September 2021.
Some more budget-friendly options in the city include the Le Méridien Visconti Rome (Category 6), which costs 40,000 to 60,000 points per night and the Courtyard Rome Central Park (Category 4), which costs 20,000 to 30,000 points per night.
Naturally, Milan is home to some of the most design-forward options. Many of them are also easier on your wallet. Here are some options:
- STRAF, Milan, a Member of Design Hotels (Category 5): 30,000 to 40,000 points per night
- Hotel Viu Milan, a Member of Design Hotels (Category 7): 50,000 to 70,000 points per night
- Sheraton Diana Majestic, Milan (Category 6): 40,000 to 60,000 points per night
- The Westin Palace, Milan (Category 6): 40,000 to 60,000 points per night
- AC Hotel Milano (Category 4): 20,000 to 30,000 points per night
- Milan Marriott Hotel (Category 4): 20,000 to 30,000 points per night
- Excelsior Hotel Gallia, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Milan (Category 7): 50,000 to 70,000 points per night
Unfortunately, you can't earn or redeem Marriott Bonvoy points at the Bulgari Hotel Milano.
How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points
Although you can transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards to Marriott, it usually isn't a good deal. A better option for earning Marriott Bonvoy points would be through a Marriott cobranded credit card.
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: Earn 3 Free Night Awards (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first three months from your account opening. Certain hotels have resort fees.
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card: Earn 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership.
- Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card: Earn 100,000 bonus points after you use your new card to make $4,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership.
- Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.
Hilton offers several options in Rome, ranging from the DoubleTree by Hilton Rome Monti (44,000 to 60,000 points per night) to the Aleph Rome Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton (72,000 to 80,000 points per night) to the luxurious Rome Cavalieri, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel (66,000 to 80,000 points per night). Then, in summer 2022, it will open the highly anticipated Hilton Rome Eur La Lama, where rooms will start at 39,000 points per night.
In Venice, you can stay at the Hilton Molino Stucky Venice. Stays here range from 35,000 to 70,000 points per night.
Again, the Milan hotels are a bit more budget-friendly:
- Hilton Milan: 31,000+ points per night
- DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Milan: 30,000+ points per night
- Hilton Garden Inn Milan North: 30,000+ points per night
- Grand Hotel Villa Torretta Milan Sesto, Curio Collection by Hilton: 27,000+ points per night
If you're looking to visit Lake Como, the Hilton Lake Como is a great option. Rooms here start at 49,000 points per night but often cost much more as most rooms are classified as "premium."
How to earn Hilton points
If you’re low on Hilton points, consider opening a Hilton cobranded credit card. Each comes with a solid welcome bonus and valuable perks like automatic elite status
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: Earn 150,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership.
- Hilton Honors American Express Card: Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership.
- The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership.
The information for the Hilton Aspire Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
World of Hyatt
All World of Hyatt properties in Rome are part of Hyatt's partnership with Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH). At all of these properties, you'll get extra perks like free breakfast, early check-in, late check-out and a room upgrade, regardless of your World of Hyatt status. Here's the full list of Rome hotels you can book with World of Hyatt points:
- Villa Spalletti Trivelli: 30,000 points per night
- Hotel Splendide Royal: 30,000 points per night
- Palm Suite: 25,000 points per night
- Hotel d'Inghilterra: 25,000 points per night
- Palazzo Manfredi: 40,000 points per night
- Margutta 19: 30,000 points per night
- Babuino 181: 25,000 points per night
- Hotel Lord Byron: 20,000 points per night
- Hotel De' Ricci: 25,000 points per night
There are five hotels you can book with your World of Hyatt points in Venice. One of them is a budget-friendly Hyatt Centric, while the rest are higher-end SLH properties.
- Hyatt Centric Murano Venice: 12,000 points per night
- Palazzo Sant'angelo Sul Canal Grande: 30,000 points per night
- Ca' Sagredo Hotel: 30,000 points per night
- Hotel Ai Reali: 30,000 points per night
- Centurion Palace: 40,000 points per night
In Milan, you can stay at the luxurious Park Hyatt Milan. It’s a Category 7 hotel, with redemptions starting at 30,000 World of Hyatt points per night. Given that cash rates are usually over $600 per night, this would make an excellent use of your points. A less expensive yet still centrally located and comfortable option is the Hyatt Centric Milan Centrale, which costs 15,000 points per night.
There are also several SLH hotels in Milan:
- The Gray: 25,000 points per night
- Galleria Vik Milano: 25,000 points per night
- Magna Pars Suites: 25,000 points per night
- Hotel de la Ville: 12,000 points per night
In addition, at Lake Como, there's the beautiful Vista Palazzo Lago di Como available for 40,000 points per night, also part of SLH.
How to earn World of Hyatt points
You can transfer World of Hyatt points in from Chase Ultimate Rewards if you have a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card. Alternatively, you can earn them with the Hyatt cobranded credit card:
- World of Hyatt Credit Card: Earn 30,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 more bonus points by earning 2 bonus points total per $1 spent on purchases that normally earn 1 Bonus Point, on up to $15,000 in the first six months of account opening.
IHG Rewards Club
IHG offers a smaller selection of hotels in Italy, though they are a bit more budget-friendly. For instance, in Venice, you can stay at the Hotel Indigo for as low as 23,000 points per night. However, be sure to compare the award rates with the paid rates, as the cash rates are sometimes so cheap that it makes more sense to save your points for another redemption.
There's another Hotel Indigo in Rome, as well as a Crowne Plaza and two Holiday Inns in Rome. Then, there will be the InterContinental Rome Ambasciatori Palace opening in 2022, which will offer a more luxurious option.
There are eight IHG properties in Milan and two boutique luxury Mr & Mrs Smith hotels you can book in Lake Como. The Milan hotels include a Hotel Indigo, multiple Holiday Inns, Crowne Plazas and a new Voco hotel.
How to earn IHG points
You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to IHG or earn with an IHG cobranded credit card. Cobranded cardholders can save even more thanks to the fourth-night reward perk.
- IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card: Earn 175,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
- IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card: Earn 120,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
Despite the small number of airlines that actually fly nonstop from the U.S. to Italy, there are many options for redeeming your travel rewards to reach this popular destination. You can opt for a nonstop flight for convenience or leverage an alliance partner like Lufthansa to experience a world-renowned foreign airline. However, if you're originating in New York, you should absolutely consider splurging for an Emirates first-class award.
Then, once you're there, you have plenty of options for points hotels. Milan offers more affordable accommodations, though you can still find budget-friendly options in Rome and Venice.
Regardless of how you choose to get there or where you choose to stay, however, your hard-earned points and miles will have you saying, "Ciao!" to an Italian vacation before you know it.
For rates & fees of the Amex Platinum, please click here.
Additional reporting by Ethan Steinberg.