Foreign purchases: what goes through customs?

What items can we safely take with us when we travel, without having problems at customs? When we make purchases abroad and then bring them back to Italy, what can pass through customs? Here are all the rules to follow for foreign investments and travel within the EU and Extra-EU.

When we go abroad for a trip, we often ask ourselves what we can take back to Italy without having problems with customs. For example, how many of us have been on holiday and wanted to take some souvenirs to relatives and friends?

To avoid you running into unpleasant surprises, we decided to dedicate this article to check the rules to take abroad or bring to Italy, goods, items, money, or animals. Therefore, here is our guide with all the valuable information for your foreign purchases.

Foreign purchases from non-EU countries: what to bring into Italy?

Let’s dive into the rules associated to import of goods in the EU.

Traveler’s personal effects

Valuable personal effects (such as, for example, photographic equipment, video cameras, personal computers, watches), brought by the traveler when leaving for countries outside the European Union, require documentation (purchase receipt, certificate of guarantee, or import bill) that demonstrates, in case of control at the time of return, their regular purchase or their regular importation into Italy.

Personal items which the traveler, arriving from a non EU country, brings with him in his baggage do not attract custom duties, if destined for the personal or family use of the traveler. The goods value must not exceed € 300 per traveller, increased to € 430 if the arrival is by air or by sea, and reduced to € 150 for travellers under 15 years of age.

The traveller holding goods exceeding the above mentioned threshold must report it to customs, declare the goods value and pay the required custom duties.


The carriage of cash or similar valuables is free for total amounts of €10,000 or less. Should the amount exceed € 10,000 the traveller must fill in a declaration when entering or exiting the country.

The measure applies to all movements to and from non-EU countries. Failure to make a declaration constitutes a breach of currency regulations and entails:

  • For movements of cash above € 10,000 – administrative seizure to the extent of 30% of such excess and the application of an administrative penalty of 10% to 30% of the amount exceeding the limit;
  • For cash movements above €10,000 – administrative seizure to the extent of 50% of such excess and the application of an administrative penalty of 30% to 50% of the amount exceeding the limit.


The offender may apply for the oblation, allowing the offense extinction paying the fine:

  • Immediately at the customs office, of a sum equal to 5% of the amount exceeding the fixed limit, if the excess is not greater than €10,000 and equal to 15% of the excess if between €10,000 and €40,000, with a minimum amount of €200;
  • Within ten days from the infringement by executing the payment amount due, favoring the Ministry of Economic and Finance.

Should the offender opt for the oblation and pay immediately to the Customs Office, the Office cannot seize the goods. The offender cannot opt for the oblation if the goods are worth € 40,000 or more or if the same offender already claimed the oblation in the previous 5 years.


Pets can cross the national borders upon reaching 3 months of age, alternatively the competent authority must investigate the case. In any case, the pet must have a health certificate issued by the competent health authorities of the country of origin.

The certificate must contain the identification data of the animal and the owner, it must state that the animal is healthy and has undergone a valid rabies vaccination. For several third countries, it has experienced rabies antibody titration three months prior to travel.

If performed for the first time, the anti-rabies vaccination must be carried out at least 21 days before departure. If it appears that the animal does not meet the requirements, the competent authority, in consultation with the official veterinarian, may decide to return the animal to its country of origin or to place it in quarantine.

Animal and vegetable products

Public health reasons forbid the import personal consignments of meat, meat products, milk, dairy products, and game and specific preparations containing milk or meat (e.g., stuffed pasta and pet food) from third countries – regardless of their total quantity – unless proven by a health certificate issued by the country of origin.

Before going to the Customs Office, the passenger with this certificate will have to go to the Veterinary Control Office, called PIF, for the required checks.

This is without prejudice to the possibility of further controls by the health authorities also in the above cases. Passengers found in possession of goods of the species not adequately certified and controlled during the controls will have them requisitioned and charged with the costs of their subsequent destruction.

Protected species


The animals listed in the Washington Convention (such as, for example, parrots, lizards, snakes, aquatic turtles, ornamental fish, certain species of birds and monkeys) constitute “protected species” under the Convention.

Travelers wishing to make foreign purchases of such animals must show the CITES certificate of export authorization in addition to the health certificate.


Some specimens of plants (such as cacti and orchids) have been recognized as “protected species.” Therefore, foreign purchases of these specimens will be allowed only upon presentation of an authorization certificate issued by the authorities of the country of origin.

Cultural Heritage

Cultural heritage goods must be reported to customs which then apply the relevant taxation upon showing the purchase invoice.


No regulations apply to medicines imported by the traveler, except narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances, and doping substances.

Foreign purchases from EU countries: what to bring to Italy?

Since 1 January 1993, the European Union member states have been a single area of free movement for people, goods, and capital.

Therefore, travelers moving within countries of the European Union, can bring along any goods purchased in any commercial establishment with no restriction. Exceptions are alcoholic beverages and manufactured tobacco products which are allowed in restricted amounts.

The above mentioned goods might be considered purchased for commercial purposes based on the mode of transport chosen by the traveller.

Moreover, amounts of € 10,000 in cash do not require any disclosures; amounts greater require the carrier to disclose it to the customs by filling a specific form.

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